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How To: Run A Mobile Office

mobile-officeAlthough I do most of my work in my office, I am constantly on the move, and as such I need to be able to move my office with me.  If you are a consultant or a road warrior, or just want to be more efficient away from your primary workstation, I hope this post will offer some good suggestions for you. Running a mobile office should be simple, but can get a little tricky.  Don’t be caught coming up short when travelling, just remember that today’s work is important, and in a recessive economy even a simple mistake like not being able to take a phone call when you don’t have a cell signal may cost you a job.  As always, I welcome any tips or tricks you have, please drop a note in the comments to share. With that in mind, let’s get started! 

Hardware

  • Get a good laptop.  This may go without saying, but it must be said.  This is your primary lifeline, so don’t skimp and buy something off Craigslist that is used unless you are positive it is fast and in great condition.  You don’t have to break the bank either, I use an HP Pavilion dv2000 that I bought at Costco for $800.  With a 64-bit processor and 4GB of memory it has more than enough horsepower to run multiple applications. Make sure whatever laptop you get has a built in camera and microphone.
  • Get a 2nd monitor.  I’ve seen 19″ LCDs for as low as $99 lately.  This may not seem terribly “mobile” but I’m not talking about heading down to the local coffee shop…when I need to go out of town for a couple of days (within driving distance) I put the 2nd monitor in my car and it is invaluable to me.  Running dual monitors for work is something you need to investigate, I think it increases my productivity by at least 50%.
  • Get a reliable and usable cell phone.  The newest and the shiniest isn’t always the best in this case (yes, I am talking about the iPhone).  Get a mobile phone that has a full Qwerty keyboard (I’m taking the Sony Ericsson’s XPERIA X1i for a spin currently, and loving it) so you can easily email and text people.  Also, coverage is important.  You need to get a good signal so that you can talk to your clients. 

Software

  • Skype.  The free version of Skype is incredible, it allows you to call practically anywhere in the world, and calling other Skype users is free.  This is my prefered software for video conference calls.   I also use a pay feature from Skype, an online phone number.  My office line (323-774-1269) actually rings into my Skype program, and this is the number that I hand out to clients and people I meet at networking events.  Wherever my laptop goes, so does my office number.
  • Dropbox.  This handly application allows you to store files remotely and sync with multiple computers.  I’ve been using Dropbox for a while and I can’t imagine being without it name.  When I put a file inside my Dropbox folder on my primary desktop (like a proposal for a client), it is there waiting for me when I open my laptop.  I sync on several computers, it works incredibly well. You can get 2GB of space for free, or pay $99/year and get 50GB. 
  • Mozy.  You are going to want to back up your data constantly, and it’s hard to beat Mozy. I know so many people that have dropped their laptops and been unable to start them, or simply had them stolen out of their car.  Either way, you’ll want a cloud service backup, and Mozy is it. Use Code: MAY for 10% off annual and biannual services for the month of May.
  • SpinVox.  I’ve been using this service for more than two years, and I would really be lost without it.  Everytime somebody calls me and goes to my SpinVox voicemail, SpinVox converts the message to text and sends it to me via SMS and email.  This is excellent so I can read my messages, and they are searchable in my email by keyword.  One of the best tools in my arsenal. In the US you can get it here, elsewhere go to the main SpinVox website. 

Miscellaneous

  • Good old fashioined business cards are still important

    Good old fashioined business cards are still important

    Business cards.  Very old school, still very necessary.  Business cards are so cheap and quick to turnaround, you hardly have an excuse to not have them up to date and with you at all times.  Make sure to put your Skype online phone number on them, and please include your Twitter and website links as well.  I have used a small local company called Foffi a couple of times, they are inexpensive and have a great turnaround time.  When I go to conferences I usually print up a unique card for that event, and the guys down at Foffi let me drop by their office in Studio City to pick them up since I’m typically grabbing them on my way out of town. Make sure you keep a few cards on you at all times, I’ve struck up some interesting conversations in coffee shops while I’m travelling, and a couple have even turned into new business!

  • Notebook and pen.  I like the small, 30 page Moleskine that come in a 3-pack.  As digital as I am, I need to sketch ideas and concepts sometimes.  Also, if I come across something that I need to take a quick note about, it’s still easier to write it down than to type it out on my phone or wait for my laptop to fire up.
  • Headphones.  Get some good ear buds, you’ll use them for a lot of things.  I’ve got ear buds in all day long listenin to music, watching online videos or making Skype calls.  I think this last point is critical, since you are calling over your laptop the built in microphone and speakers are usually pretty close to each other…do yourself and the person you are talking to a favor and plug in headphones/ear buds to prevent echoing and unwanted feedback. Also, please don’t be “that” guy or girl that is watching videos online without headphones.  Trust me, the people around you are not enjoying it nearly as much as you are.

I’m sure there are many more road warrior trips and tricks, but these are some of my primary items. Again, if you know a “must have” tip for mobile office use, please let us know in the comments.

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By Matt Singley

Personal: husband to Alison, father to four amazing kids. I used to live a fast but enjoyable life in Los Angeles, now I have chickens on acreage in Charlotte, North Carolina. Just a bit different. I'm an advocate for cycling as much as you can and eating as cleanly as you can afford. Professional: I'm the CEO of Singley + Mackie, a creative digital agency that serves well-known lifestyle and entertainment companies around the world. Clients include Microsoft, Samsung, Hulu, YP and others. If you want to find the more-professional me, go to http://singleymackie.com