We’re a mobile society these days, always checking our phones or pulling up email on the go. Your freelance business should be portable too. Having a mobile office can give you greater flexibility, whether you need a break, a vacation or simply to be prepared for the unexpected.
What’s It Look Like
You’re no longer chained to a desk. Freelancers today have incredible freedom to pack it up and do their work wherever they want. Technology has enabled all kinds of changes, from tiny yet web-connected devices to cloud-based storage and apps.
The result is you can do your work from wherever you want. You can get out of the office and work at a coffee shop. Or go on vacation and not be out of touch. Or just travel, because you can.
All the while you’ve got a laptop or a device that’s giving you full access to your work. You’re still able to get things done. You’re not just a scout running ahead with minimal access to what you need, faking it until you can get back to the office and pull out the big guns. No, you’re doing your work on the go. You’re tracking hours, writing the code, uploading a finished product and sending an invoice. All while on the move.
That’s pretty cool.
Why Have a Mobile Office?
Let’s talk about why portability is important in today’s freelance climate. Why would you want to be able to work on the go?
Good question. Lots of answers:
- Change of scenery – One of the hardest things for freelancers can be the lack of human interaction. If you’re stuck in an office all day by yourself, you start to go crazy. You talk to the cat. That’s bad. Having the flexibility to go work somewhere else—a coffee shop, library, coworking space, etc.—and actually get work done is a major stress reducer.
- Vacation – Pulling yourself away from work and taking a vacation can be hard for freelancers. While taking your work with you isn’t much of a vacation, sometimes having that access allows you to get away. You can check in and do a little bit of work, maybe put in an hour to put out fires and keep things going, then be able to unplug and enjoy the rest of your day. It’s a little counter-intuitive, but having that freedom while still being connected is a big shift.
- Travel – While going on a vacation once in a while might be nice, other people realize that freelancing means you’re no longer tied to a location. Period. If you’ve got the travel lust, this is your opportunity to see the world. You can work in a Starbucks down the street, or you can work in a Starbucks near the beach.
- Portability – Sometimes being on the go isn’t a choice. Life happens: Your desktop crashes, the power goes out, the Internet is on the fritz, or God forbid, your house burns down. Taking a break is certainly justified in these cases, but sometimes you just need to keep working. The ability to work from anywhere means you can. If your hard drive fails, turning your desktop into an expensive paperweight, being portable means you can get back to work immediately.
So a mobile office offers a mixture of sanity, flexibility, enjoying life and simple crash coverage.
It’s not very hard either. More than likely you’re already mostly able to work on the go.
How to Create a Mobile Office
Here are some specifics you can work on to enable your mobile office:
- Internet access – Unplugging might be a good way to get work done, but to actually have a mobile office and work on the go you have to be able to connect. Getting some sort of Wi-Fi connection is going to be a priority. You might be able to rely on Wi-Fi hotspots or sharing your cell phone’s connection (extra charges may apply). If you’re a truly dedicated road warrior, you’re probably going to want a mobile router so you can create your own hotspot.
- Docs in the cloud – Once you’ve got access to the Internet, you should be able to get access to all your files. This is where the cloud comes in handy. You probably don’t want to completely rely on cloud storage for all your files, but as much as you can put the files you’re currently working on in the cloud, the more you can work from anywhere. Use services such as Dropbox, Amazon S3, Microsoft OneDrive, Apple’s iCloud or something else to get access to your files wherever you are.
- Apps in the cloud – Now that your files are in the cloud, you need software to do your work. There are a lot of cloud-based apps, such as Google Drive or Microsoft 365 that can get you some of what you need. With services such as Adobe Creative Cloud you can even get Photoshop on the go. You can’t always work in the cloud, sometimes you need real software on your computer. That’s where buying in the cloud can come in handy. If you make purchases through the Mac App Store for instance, it’s easy to duplicate programs on any computer, which makes it easy to switch from desktop to laptop or even laptop to laptop.
- Tools in the cloud – Like software, the more tools you can put in the cloud, the more productive you’ll be. Find online apps for finances, time tracking, invoices, productivity, to do lists and more.
- Sync – Anything you can do to sync your stuff is also a bonus. You can sync settings, bookmarks and even open tabs in your browser, which makes it practically seamless to jump between computers. Sync your calendar across your devices (and with your family members or team) so you always know what’s going on. Keep your contacts synced so you always have current contact info.
- Virtual signing – Use DocuSign to sign documents on the go and not mess with printing or mailing.
- WordPress – iThemes Sync is a good way to keep multiple WordPress installations current and up to date. You can access it from anywhere so you can handle your client’s maintenance needs from the beach. Score.
- Security – Use a password service such as 1Password or LastPass so you can keep all the logins secure for all these various online services. Protecting your data is one thing, but your laptop is expensive. Have a plan to get it back. Consider apps like Prey or Absolute LoJack to track down stolen devices.
- Music – OK, all the important stuff it taken care of. But you still like music to keep yourself productive, right? Well, find a way to sync it. If your music collection isn’t enormous, you might be able to keep it synced across your devices with iTunes. Or turn to an online radio like Pandora or Spotify so you always have your playlists or favorite source of tunes. Make sure you’ve got good headphones so you can rock out even in a crowded room.
Basically anything you use to do your job on a daily basis you need to be able to access on the go. Find ways to set it up and you’ve got yourself a mobile office.
And if you have your mobile office set up from the get go, then you won’t have to waste time transferring files or setting things up. You’ll always be ready to roll.
There’s also a minimalist mindset at work here. The more you can strip away what’s really required to do your job, the better. That’s less stuff to get in the way. Less stuff to blow your profit margin on. Fewer distractions that keep you from getting paid.
Working lighter and being more portable can turn you into a freelance road warrior with your own mobile office.