For many people, starting a business means that you must have place or premises in order to carry out work. This is true; however on the rare occasion it may be possible to conduct business in a more mobile setting.
With technology growing stronger and becoming even more improved in the future, the possibility of mobile businesses will soon (if not already) take off. I’m not talking about mobile businesses in the form of Mobile Coffee Shops or Hotdog stands at the footy game or that type of thing. What I’m talking about is a business model where you can travel around Australia in hopes to get clients or work. In my business set-up, I have chosen to conduct a service to potential clients and have the advantage of acquiring most of the necessary equipment, devices and skills to utilise mobile friendly sources. So, I thought I would share my tips with you.
Cloud Computing - Cloud Computing is fantastic! You can upload your important files onto a server on the internet and access them from wherever you are, anywhere. With Dropbox you can get a free account with 2 GB of data and for every person you refer you can get up to 8GB free, that’s 8GB of storage data for free. All you need to do is login from a computer to access your files. The other benefit is that if you have an IPad or IPhone you can download the free App and access your files from your IPad as well. I would be lost without Dropbox and Google Docs as I use three computers sometimes and if I can’t find the flash Drive or Hard Drive that has the file I want to access I can just look on one of my ‘Cloud’ accounts and access it from there. You can also edit files from Dropbox or Google Docs which means if you edit a document from your laptop, when you logon to your PC, the updated file will be there ready.
My favourites: Dropbox, GoogleDocs, Microsoft Mobile Office.
Apple iPad /iPod or iPhone – I have to say that the most wonderful thing I have bought recently is the new 3G Apple IPad. I’m hooked. Buying this device for my business was probably the best thing I could have done in regards to setting up a mobile business. There is literally thousands of Apps that you can download (a lot of free ones too) for your IPad, IPhone, or IPod that can allow you to conduct business on the go. I guess it's just a matter of searching for the ones that suit your individual business needs. Below you will see some of the top apps that I’ll be using while travelling.
- Accounting – Easy Books (Free), Bookkeeping (19.99)
- Client Management – My CRM, Mobile CRM (Both Free), Sales Beaver (Free)
- Time Management – Time Master & Billing (12.99) & Free Version, My Hours ($2.49)
- To Do List – Manage (3.99), Todo for IPad (5.99), Easy Note (Free), Sorted (1.19)
- Note-taking – Daily Notes ($5.99), Chronicle ($2.49), Evernote (Free),
- Personal Finance – Bills ($4.99), Cash Flow (Free), Money Dance (Free), Cash Flow HD ($3.99)
- Documents – Quick Office Mobile Suite ($19.99), Documents Mobile Office (Free)
- Productivity – Good Reader ($1.19), My Thoughts (Free)
- Templates – 1001 Letters ($5.99), Email Templates ($3.99)
- Databases – Bento ($5.99), IDatabase ($3.99), Database for IPad (Free)
- Asset Register – Computer Inventory ($2.49), Itemizer ($5.99)
- Transactions – Xpense Tracker ($3.99), Acct Pad (Free), Dragon Dictation (Free)
- Photography – Photogene ($4.99), Adobe Photoshop Express – (Free)
- Remote Desktop – Wyse ($17.99), Teamviewer (Free), VNC Viewer (9.99)
- Decisions – IThoughts ($9.99), SWOT Maker ($3.99), SWOT by IdeasWallets (Free)
- Quotes – IQuote ($1.19), Project Quote Estimate ($5.99)
- Social - Skype for iPhone (can be also used for calls only on iPad) Free, Facebook Friendly (Free) Twitter (Free)
- Printing - Print Central (9.99), ACT Printer ($2.49), Print Utility (Free)
- Other - Mobile Business (free) DeJa Office (Free), Contractor App Box ($14.99), Simple Job Proposal ($5.99), Salient Kiosk ($3.99)
Internet Connectivity – There are many options now to access the internet, including Mobile Broadband, 3G Mobile Networks, Satellite Internet, Hot Spots, PIE Internet Kiosks, and Internet Cafes. With the more and more access points for connectivity you are sure to get some kind of internet capability in about 95% of Australia, which makes mobile business even easier.
Mobile Phones - Your mobile phone can be one of the best devices you could get. With Smart Phones, Blackberries, IPhones and other mobiles you can access not only the internet but also your emails, applications and all sorts of business and personal utilities that you can use while travelling.
Virtual Office /Assistant – There is a service that you can purchase that can help you manage your contacts and clients. What you do is pay a monthly fee to an agency (ServCorp) and what happens is, depending on the services you require; you can get a virtual address in a capital city of the state you wish, where all your mail can be redirected there. A virtual Assistant can monitor your calls for you and when you’re in range she or he can relay those messages to you so you can call them back when you get to the next town. Or if you need exposure in a different state you can access a more business like address in the state you wish. A Virtual Assistant can also use all their own office equipment and do the tasks you need done, then email, phone or upload the work to you, where ever you may be.
Telecentres – Telecentres would have to be the most underutilised resource you can use. They are in almost every town, have office equipment that you can hire to use, you can print, laminate, type, browse the internet, use the computer, use the fax machine and all kinds of things that you would usually need in an office setting but not essential while on the road.
Checklist – Below is a checklist that I have come up with for conducting a Mobile Business. You can add to this list if you wish or amend it to cater for your own situation.
- IPad & IPod
- Laptop - Macbook Air or other small model is perfect
- Dropbox & Google Docs Accounts up-to-date
- Mobile Phone or Smart Phone
- Mobile Broadband
- Web Apps & ITunes Apps up-to-date for IPad/IPod
- List of Telecentres & Contacts
- Wireless Keyboard for IPad
- Small Digital Camera
- Mini Filing System (Portable Plastic one is perfect)
- Portable Hard Drive (500 GB Minimum) & Flash Drives
- Portable Printer (possibly)
- VM Ware Software for Virtual Machine
- 2 Great Notebooks (with Tabs)
- Tricolour Pens ( 4 coloured Red, Green, Blue & Black) - only having to buy 1 pen.
- Wireless Mouse & Mouse Pad
- Portable Desk (Improvised for Mini Desk - if you have enough space)
- Business Card Holder
- Service Proposal & Signs Premade
- Forwarding address
- Virtual Office (Serve Corp, or message service, or a Virtual Assistant service)
So, if you think a mobile business is the way to go for you, then take the plunge and try it, you will see that all the items that you have in your own office can be easily improvised for on the road, and you too can enjoy the both the travelling lifestyle and the business you always wanted.
Important: I do advise that you should consult your business advisor or the Small Business Development Commission in your local area about tax commitments, legislation, type of business structure, and other factors that you may need to consider in conducting a mobile business. It is definitely not for everyone and you may not be able to do it, so do your homework first!
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