Thanks to mobile technologies like smartphones and tablet PCs, it’s becoming easier for modern small-business owners to run their companies without an official office. Skipping this formality saves overhead costs and offers tremendous flexibility in scheduling. But running a business without a fixed location requires some planning.
Here are five tips to running a small business on the go:
1. Invest in essential technologies. When managing a company without an office, you are only as productive as the tools at your disposal. Budget for — and buy — the devices and systems you truly need. In addition to common essentials like a laptop and a smartphone, a tablet, a portable printer, and a wireless network card may also prove critical. For example, if you need to edit a client document on a laptop in the car, but you don’t have wireless signal, your customer service may suffer. If you need to take notes in meetings or make quick changes to documents, having a keyboard for your tablet may also increase your efficiency.
2. Find the right software, too. There’s an app for nearly everything these days, so you’ll want to narrow the field to those best-suited to running a small business. Start with a reliable file-sharing program, such as Dropbox, Evernote, or Google Drive — especially if you are collaborating with employees or clients on documents. Other must-haves include a payment-processing app (such as GoPayment), an invoicing app, and a payroll app (such as Intuit Online Payroll).
3. Scout locations for meeting with clients or vendors. You may do a lot of work from your breakfast nook or on the road, but you don’t want to hold a client meeting amid cat hair and dirty dishes or in the passenger seat of your minivan. Find several reliable places where you can meet with clients or vendors. A local coffee shop may work fine for casual meetings, such as talking with a graphic designer about updating your website. For formal meetings with prospective clients or investors, consider renting a conference room in a shared office space.
4. Keep office supplies in your car. While staples and paper clips may seem trivial, you’ll look unprofessional if you hand a prospective client a bunch of loose papers as a proposal. Carry common office supplies in a plastic bin in your car, so you will always have access to pens, paper, a refill printer cartridge, sticky notes, and the like.
5. Set a schedule. Just because you can work anytime or anywhere, doesn’t mean you should. Maintain regular office hours whenever possible. Make a point of turning off your cell phone and stepping away from the computer for at least an hour a day. The freedom and flexibility of running your own business remotely are worthless if you don’t take advantage of the perks!