Monday, September 19, 2011

How to Run a Home Business… Away From Home

The appeal of working from home is enough to drive many employees down the long and winding road of entrepreneurship. There’s something mythical about the thrill of no longer having to commute to work, or getting to spend more time with friends, or maybe simply working on a laptop in your underpants.

For some entrepreneurs, the home business is an oxymoron. Many of us are still drunk on the promise of books like Four Hour Work Week, and other bibles for a generation that has grown up believing entrepreneurs can take over the world overnight thanks to the power of the Internet.

What we really want to do is grow a business that allows us greater freedom in life. We want the ability to travel, to break the Monday to Friday grind, and to take back control of our lives.

Traveling while running your own business is an enormous challenge, but one of the greatest thrills of the job. The online professional has scores of beautiful countries to work from, but there are some obstacles to overcome along the way. Doing a Truman Burbank and eloping to Fiji isn’t the smartest idea if your business isn’t ready to board the plane.

Who can you trust back home?

Most businesses have a registered office where all post, checks and important mail is sent to. If you’re going to be trawling around mountains or chilling in rainforest hammocks, you’re going to need a trusted ‘secretary’ to deal with any mail that gets sent your way. It doesn’t take long to handle banking, or to open letters, but you need somebody to handle the task.

I would recommend bribing your loved ones with money, or using a mail redirection service – which varies in price from country to country.

Before you leave, switch from paper to online statements across all your major accounts. You can set up a Skype voicemail account to trap any important messages without getting charged to kingdom come in International calls.

Delegate the simple boring tasks to virtual assistants

This piece of advice has surely been thrown around enough times to become gospel.

When you’re slowly topping up your sun tan in a tropical paradise, with a cocktail by the beach and a mental list of all the work tasks you have left to do, do not be surprised if you end up neglecting those annoying little tasks that breach your chipper mood.

Here’s a simple way to look at outsourcing: if the task is easy enough to condense in to a How To guide, it’s definitely simple enough to outsource. Why waste your creative and innovative juices on work that a lemming could handle? Get rid of it! Easy Outsource is a personal favorite stomping ground for recruiting cheap but talented labor.

Become ‘hard drive independent’ with The Cloud

Most people work from laptops on their travels. But if there’s anything you should remember about laptops, it’s that their portability can often lead to their demise. We’ve all heard tales of shattered screens, clumsy accidents and luggage going missing. Unfortunately, theft can also be a concern when you’re traveling in to the unknown.

Protect yourself against the worst-case scenario by utilizing Dropbox, a brilliant synchronization service that saves your data to computers, phones and Dropbox itself.

Prepare for any time difference adjustments

Depending on where you plan to travel, time difference is likely to influence how you stay in touch with any important contacts. If you’re catching forty winks while customers and clients are badgering furiously for your attention, compromises need to be made.

You can do this by delegating to a virtual assistant or simply adopting the email-only line of communication (until a genuine emergency arises where you do actually need to retreat from the hammock).

Switch to online accounting

There is nothing worse than being messaged by the Taxman, in the outer reaches of Mongolia, asking for some information about your financial records, which you conveniently left at home.

Online accounting, preferably by a third party, makes life so much easier when you’re working on the road. Services like Crunch and E-Conomic are matches made in heaven for the entrepreneurial nomad who doesn’t like boarding planes with a copy of the books tucked away in his hand luggage.

Once your accounting is in good hands, and these other steps have been taken, there’s no better feeling than whipping out the passport and adventuring in to the unknown. The home business has never been more portable than it is in 2011. Take advantage!



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