My office is now truly virtual. I have worked for myself from home since 2000. I used to say my office is Starbucks and now after many years of meetings at the coffee shop and working at home in my office, I can truly say that I have a virtual office.
In the past year, I have answered important emails while playing with my toddler at a favorite playground, updated a client web site at an internet café and gained emergency access to a difficult client website using a dial up connection at a friend’s house.
I’ve tried a lot of different things over the years including a USB cellular internet connection, using a Palm to display PowerPoint presentations and even a paper (gasp) calendar. Now, I truly feel virtual and organized based on advances in both the technology available and applications to work with that technology.
Here are the most important tools I’ve found in my new virtual office:
My BlackBerry. Without question, the ability to read and respond to emails anywhere, anytime allows me to stay on the grid wherever I am. The BlackBerry Facebook application lets me stay in touch with friends. I would LOVE a Linkedin application ASAP.
Google Calendar. With its Google Sync capabilities, I’ve solved many problems. Keeping calendars on all my devices – BlackBerry, laptops, desktops, Palm – in sync along with the ability to publish 2 different public calendars and keeping most of my appointments on a private calendar. My toddler even has a calendar of important play dates.
Various Social Media Apps. In a future post, I will explain how I have streamlined my social media process for myself and some of my clients. Since we are talking virtual office here, BlackPing has been a lifesaver in allowing me to post from wherever again through my BlackBerry.
Evernote. I think that Evernote was made for me. I am constantly thinking of ideas for my clients, my blog posts, and my other businesses. Evernote lets me keep my random thoughts organized and accessible from any internet connection (including, you guessed it, my BlackBerry).
PassPack. I have a ton of passwords like everyone, but add to that all my client passwords. Since I could be out of the office when a client emergency arises, I need access to all these passwords at all times. PassPack lets me do that and keeps them secure as well.
PayPal. Strange to find on this list? PayPal allows me to bill clients if necessary when I am out of the office, receive payments and transfer to my bank account. This is crucial on long vacations.
Starbucks. The coffee chain stays on my list for not only offering a place to meet with warm, toasty beverages, but the free 2 hours of WIFI a day saves me the $30/month I was paying for cellular internet service.
All of these tools have also allowed me to downsize my laptop, removing applications I am unlikely to use when I’m out and about (read Illustrator and Photoshop), and leave me with a laptop that is super fast.
Honorable Mention goes to my wireless all in one printer which allows me to print from any computer, anywhere in my house.
All that being said, I do have a wish list: a BlackBerry app for Linkedin and Constant Contact. Please, please, please. The playground is calling.