Working from anywhere
It's becoming easier and easier for us to work remotely.
Remarkable technological developments over the last few years have made it possible for us to work pretty much everywhere from the local coffee shop to a sun-drenched Mexican beach.
However, you need to make sure you have the right equipment. So, what do you need to make this viable? We look at the latest gadgets, services and apps that can enable you to turn anywhere into your office.
This is obviously crucial. Without a reliable way for you to be in contact with customers and suppliers your venture will be in peril. While a Blackberry was once the essential phone for business use, it now has plenty of rivals, including Samsung and Apple.
Having 4G enabled on your phone – which is a fast data network – is now a prerequisite and it won’t be long before even this system will seem outdated as providers are already working on the 5G mobile technology.
According to uSwitch’s mobile awards, Three has the best network for data and for roaming, while EE comes top for network coverage and having the fastest mobile network. Apple, meanwhile, was voted number one phone manufacturer, while Samsung had the best phone.
With the increasing use of instant messaging, it can be easy to dismiss the importance of emails but it’s still a vital communication tool. In fact, the number of worldwide email users will top 3.7 billion in 2017, according to the Radicati Group.
The research organisation also predicts the number of business and consumer emails sent and received per day will hit 269 billion this year – and grow at an average annual rate of 4.4% over the next four years to reach 319.6 billion by the end of 2021.
There are plenty of providers but it makes sense to have at least two email accounts, just in case one crashes. The ability to log on to the internet to download your emails, as well as picking them up on your mobile, is also needed.
Email forwarding – or having an address linked to your company website – also looks more professional than, for example, a generic Gmail account or one that uses your name and a random collection of numbers and letters.
Copying all your files to a portable hard drive means you can simply plug it into your laptop and get to work immediately. However, while the best on the market are reliable, there’s always the risk that they will develop a fault or get lost.
Another solution is to use cloud storage. In this way all your documents, photographs and files will be available for you to access if you have an internet connection. Even if you never left the office, backing up to the cloud makes a lot of sense.
As with email, it’s sensible to use a couple of cloud storage providers. Consider well-established names in the market such as Dropbox, OneDrive and Google Drive. For just a few pounds each month you can get up to 1TB of storage.
Having a landline number alongside your mobile phone can give your business a more professional edge. Providers such as Windsor Telecom offer a range of memorable numbers as well as new technologies such as digital faxing.
You also have an option where anyone ringing your number will be diverted to wherever you happen to be working without them knowing you’re not at your desk. For example, if you’re visiting family, you can put their home number into the system.
One of the most useful aspects of the service is the phone app which enables you to log in, divert calls as necessary, and pick up any messages left. Statistics as to how many calls have been answered also enable you to make sure you’re not missing out on potential work.
PO Box address
You might not want to publicise your home address in connection with your business so consider a mail box, such as PO Box offered by the Royal Mail. These are also ideal if you want to seem more professional than working out of a residential address.
Prices won’t break the bank. Expect to pay less than £25 to have your mail kept at the delivery office until it’s convenient for you to collect. For a little bit extra you can have it delivered to you and there are discounts available for paying for a year upfront.
It’s also worth checking out local innovation centres as many of these offer virtual office addresses. Find out what’s available, how the prices compare and what restrictions are in place. For example, can you get access to mail on the weekends?
Every business needs a website, even if it’s ultra-basic and offering contact information and an overview of products sold or services provided. While some need to be run by specialist web developers there are plenty of others that can be altered quickly and easily.
Providers such as Create.net, which have been in the business for more than a decade, offer a simple-to-use interface that enables users to log on and implement changes, update a blog, or add extra products for sale.
We live in a world of apps that turn our computers and mobile phones into pretty much anything we desire — from mini photo labs to games consoles. It’s no different for businesses with a wide variety of useful tools now available.
Hootsuite enables you to manage all your social media in one place. It also offers real-time analytics that allow you to spot trends and monitor mentions of your company online.
Mailchimp is an easy way to create email marketing campaigns for your venture. The system, which also offers integrated Facebook advertising is used by 15 million businesses.
Just because you’re based in Starbucks doesn’t mean you can’t be in contact with others working on the same project via calls or direct messages. It's easy to do with Slack.
Apps such as Evernote Scannable allow you to quickly scan business cards, notes and other documents – and then either save them or send via email – if you use an iPhone or iPad.
And if you want to ensure you’re being productive away from your desk then consider apps such as 30/30 which help you plan tasks.