A connected world means many professionals can work anywhere. Two GearJunkie contributors detail how they moved their careers out of the office and onto the open road.
Do pictures of laptops by the sea (or deep in the woods) leave you yearning for a remote, outdoor office? Two years ago, my wife Lindsey and I were determined to figure out how to make that our reality. I’m a CPA and Lindsey is a writer and photographer.
After two years of running businesses from around the globe, we have a few tips to help you transition from an office cube to a comfortable outdoors space.
1. Establish A Mobile Office
We live and work out of a 2009 Casita Spirit Deluxe model camper. The pull-behind model has 113 square feet of living space, and it doubles as an office. We work inside during foul weather but step outside (and move the desk out there) whenever possible.
2. Power Your Devices
This is the biggest puzzle to solve. Remote work and travel may put workers in different places each night. From night to night, you may be in a hotel, friend’s house, campsite, or even boon-docking deep in the woods.
A wall socket is an easy answer to power. But the easy way isn’t always the most fun. For us, part of the adventure is immersing ourselves in wild locations far from a traditional power source.
Solar power dramatically extends our workdays off the grid. We use EnerPlex’s Generator 1200 coupled with a pair of Commandr 45 panels. This leaves us with plenty of juice to crank out days of work and have fun in more remote locations.
3. Get Connected To Wi-Fi
In true wilderness, we are out of luck. But cell networks are ever-growing, and we have found service in unlikely (formerly off-grid) locales.
To get online, we have two potential sources. Our first choice is to tether our phones as an AT&T hotspot. When AT&T doesn’t have a good signal, we use a Verizon Mi-Fi hotspot. Multiple options from competing service providers improve the odds of a connection further off the beaten path.
4. Create An Ideal Workspace
Don’t plan to run your “office” from a campground picnic table. A dedicated workspace is important. Well-designed, it’ll reduce aches and pains in the hands and back caused by crouching in a tent or car.
I’m a fan of standing desks. All those years in my cube as an auditor really took a toll on my back. I spent my days hunched over analyzing spreadsheets on my screen.
Once we hit the road, and I was doing my own thing, I knew it was time to convert to a stand-up desk. Bel Espwa Designs makes a slick mobile stand-up desk. I couple the desk with my Roost stand to bring my computer to eye level. This keeps my back posture tall and I feel better cranking through a day.
5. Prioritize Productivity
Building a small business enables some freedom to choose a unique path. But there’s no one to set deadlines, check in on you, or keep you accountable. You must be self-motivated and remain productive.
Almost anything can be a distraction from work. To keep my mind focused on work (and not the mountain bike trails nearby) I use the Pomodoro Technique.
The technique involves segmenting tasks into 30-minute time slots. Complete 25 minutes of highly focused work, then take a five-minute break. Repeat that cycle until all the day’s tasks are complete.
Using this technique, I work harder and more efficiently because the timer keeps me driving forward. During my five-minute breaks I do some push ups, sit ups, and then roll out any tension in my back using my Rumble Roller.
6. Shield Screens From Sun
When the sun is out, we roll out our awning to help see the laptop screen. We also use the f.lux application to automatically adjust the brightness on our screens.
Despite all of those picturesque views of folks working in front of a beach or mountain range, it sucks to squint at your screen in the bright of day. An awning or other shade are critical to a productive work day in front of a screen.
7. Work Rain Or Shine
For a while, we lived and worked from a four-person tent and a Toyota minivan. Bad weather is a reality, and it led to uncomfortable work days hunched in camping chairs in the tent. We needed a change, and we found it with the pull-behind camper (see tip no. 1).
We now have more comfortable options to choose from in bad weather. We can kick back on the futon or sit at a two-person dinette. Our awning provides some good coverage if it’s not dumping rain. If all else fails and we get stir crazy, we head over to the nearest coffee shop or library and treat the drive as a commute to work.
8. Tell Clients The Truth
We explain to clients up front that we work remotely, from across the country, and even around the world. We try our best to screen folks that would have a problem with a mobile team, and there hasn’t been any issue yet.
Yes, that means forgoing some revenue in the short-term, but we believe it is better in the long term not having to devote energy and time to unmet expectations. Mostly, no one really asks, or cares, as long as the work is done.
I make it a point to be available for clients on their schedule. That means having the occasional 2:00 a.m. phone call when working from Thailand.
We never “fake it” to make people think we have a real office. I think it’s best to be honest and transparent from the beginning. This saves a lot of headache in the future and makes for a much more pleasurable relationship.
9. Don’t Forget The Break Room
One of the greatest parts of running a mobile business? We make the rules of the break room. First thing in the morning we brew some Javazen to start off the day. In the afternoon, we crack open a craft brew from the nearest brewery. This month it happens to be the Long Trail Ale since we are settled in Vermont for a while. Gotta support the local scene when you’re on the road.