First, a disclaimer. As much as I’m a workaholic sometimes, I’m a firm believer that when you’re on holiday you should be doing just that: holidaying.
I’ve just returned from an amazing five weeks travelling overseas without working, except for blogging my travel photos. Bliss!
With that out of the way, there are times when you will have to work while you’re away from the office or studio. You’ll want to fire off your line sheet straight to that shop owner at the trade show or arrange dinner with your fellow conference-goers. Sometimes life will throw a curveball and a family emergency will have you a thousand miles away from your desk, but still with your regular workload to deal with. Or perhaps you actually want to go all-out and embrace location-independent working.
Whatever your reasons, you’ll need a bit of preparation before you leave the office, including a few well-chosen tools.
Note: This post will assume you have a laptop or tablet, plus a smartphone. I’ve tried to be as device- and platform-neutral as possible. You should also read the previous post about holiday-proofing your business, as this post picks up where that left off.
In the clouds
Working remotely no longer means dialling into some expensive server back at head office. With cloud computing it’s never been easier or cheaper for business people (no matter how small the venture) to access files on the go.
Dropbox is a fantastic tool for storing your work and sharing large files. I particularly loved it on our trip for backing up our (many!) photos every evening using the hotel’s wifi. To have the storage space I need I have the premium version at $10/month but the peace of mind that our precious memories were safe was priceless.
Now that Google Docs has changed to Drive and can be used for all kinds of files (not just the in-built Docs formats), its potential rivals Dropbox. Its advantage has always been the functionality for collaborations, so if you work with colleagues and other collaborators I’d opt for Drive over Dropbox. Existing Google users will also appreciate the integration with other apps.
While my own business doesn’t use Basecamp, I have experienced it on the client end and I was super impressed with how it stores all the necessary information for project management. There’s no switching between your email here, your project calendar there and your file storage somewhere else, everything is contained in the one online home. If you’re in a service-based industry, especially if you work alongside virtual assistants/employees, I would highly recommend looking into it.
Don’t come home with pocketfuls of scrunched up receipts and transport tickets that you’ll then have to sort through to lodge your expense claims. Instead, sign up for Expensify and take photo records of your receipts. It can even pull data straight from your bank account and integrate with Google Apps and Evernote.
Of course, to access of these tools you’ll need to remember your passwords! Sign up for Last Pass and you’ll never be caught out.
As awesome as cloud working is, it does require the internet which can be problematic when on planes, in remote locations, outdoors or places like conference centres. Many apps now have an ‘offline’ mode for those times when we can’t be connected. Even if you have data on your device, if your fees are high (particularly if you’re on global roaming) it pays to stay offline unless necessary.
Catch up on emails and access info from your archives using Gmail Offline. You never know, you might just find you love the interruption-free productivity that you start working offline even when you do have internet access! To install it, open your Gmail and go to Settings > Offline.
If you’ve installed Evernote on your laptop, you’ll have all of your data stored locally, however if you’re relying on a mobile device you normally need an internet connection to access it. That is, unless you activate offline notebooks. You’ll be able to access to your itinerary, conference timetable and reading material no matter how shoddy (or non-existent) the network connection is. It’s supported on most devices but I believe there are some limitations with the free version. Here is a great article to walk you through it.
While you can’t publish your Instagram images without a network connection, you can set it to airplane mode. You can still take your photo as usual and instead of posting it online it will add it to the photo album on your phone so you’ll have it handy when you then want to add it your Facebook or blog.
You can ditch the bulky paper maps because you can now access maps offline! While you can’t use it as a GPS to direct you, you can use it to navigate yourself as you would with a regular map. Be sure to save the relevant maps beforehand while you still have a connection, so that they are pre-cached to your phone. Save the location of your hotel, conference, sights, train station and meetings. Note that they only save within a 10 mile radius, so they’re perfect for your business trips and inner-city sightseeing. There’s Google Maps offline for Android and Apple Maps offline for the iPhone.
Keep on bloggin’
If blogging is a big part of your business (or if it is your business), you likely want to maintain the momentum even while you’re away from home. Here’s what was in my on-the-road blogging arsenal:
I closed my studio while I was away, but I still wanted to check in with my blog readers and share my travel diary. While the limited functionality and different workflow of the WordPress app compared to the desktop version did take some getting used to, ultimately it did the job. Use one of the various mobile app versions instead of the browser version and you’ll be able to work on your drafts and publish them when you have connection again.
To transfer photos from my DSLR to my iPad for backing up and blogging, I used a camera connector. Simply plug in your regular camera cable and the other end fits into the iPad plug.
I used Filterstorm Pro for some serious photo editing while travelling. At $15 it’s pricey for an app, but the amazing advanced functions and bulk exporting tipped me over (the regular version still has very impressive capabilities but without the premium price tag). With one click you can export your photos to your backup Dropbox or share on social media, so you can make the most of your travel time instead of sorting out your photos. If you’re after something a bit simpler, try Photoshop Express, Photoshop Touch or Picasa.
Set up your editorial schedule using Google Calendar so you can access it anywhere.
Stay in touch
Personally, I find one of the best things about going away is being unconnected for a while. It helps you fully experience the moment and have a clear head without the constant noise of news and social media. That said, you’ll still be wanting to contact family and (if you’re travelling for work) colleagues, peers and clients.
Phone calls are great but there’s nothing like seeing your loved ones when you’re calling home. Particularly great if you have little ones who may not be able to communicate well over the phone. Install the Skype app on your tablet or phone for free communication. Alternatives are Hangouts (for Google users) and Facetime (for i-device users).
If you can’t get away without having a phone while you’re overseas, check the global roaming fees on your plan. If they’re exorbitant, you’ll want to look into an international SIM card such as TravelSim. You can use your own handset and while they do give you a new number, you can set up a diversion so people can still use your regular number. Best of all, it’s prepaid so you won’t get any nasty surprises when you return! It looks like it’s aimed at Australian travellers so folks located elsewhere will want to check out local alternatives.
I was trying to avoid using my email while overseas, so when I needed to contact industry friends to arrange a meetup or ask for local recommendations, I used Twitter. I didn’t have internet access on my phone, but it’s not too hard to find cafes and public hotspots while you’re out and about.