More and more people are yearning for freedom in their careers and lives. We no longer want the be a part of the ‘daily grind’ or amongst the perils that seem to come associated with that. Even if we are happy to continue to work full-time for an employer, we still want flexibility, to be able to work from home, have meetings in cafes instead of the boardroom and move our working hours around to suit our own lives.
I am no different. I wanted complete freedom in my business. Step one was starting my own graphic design and development business, but I wanted more than that. I wanted to be location independent and to no longer be tied to one place, I dreamt of being able to work abroad from Paris and ultimately from anywhere in the world. This is no longer a dream, it has become my reality.
The benefit of being in a society that embraces technology, is that becoming location independent, cloud based or a digital nomad if you will, isn’t actually that difficult. It comes down to having the right software for your business, streamlined processes and managing client expectations.
While still living in Sydney, I made the move to the cloud a gradual one. In some parts it was a natural transition to make things easier in my business, even without the goal of being location independent, while others were specific moves, knowing I was going abroad. The process of working gradually, best suited me and my business. It took time to float client files, (especially design files) and mirror structures I already had in place. I would then test it all out by working remotely from my parents house in the ‘bush’, at a friends place, or at a cafe and then shuffle things around so they worked more seamlessly and so I was less reliant on hard drives etc. Testing is vital, it irons out any kinks and allows you to improve on things before you finally cut the strings that tie you to one location.
There are a variety of tools and combinations of software you can use. All you have to do is Google what you are looking for and the choice is most certainly abundant. Below is a list of what I use personally, and the way I like to do things specific to my business. When choosing applications I’m generally looking for a few things. These include:
- multi-device use
I want to be able to access anything from anywhere, my iPhone, laptop or sometimes another computer
- efficiency + ease of use
It doesn’t matter how great an application is, if it’s going to make my life harder or take months to learn I don’t want it, plain and simple
- User experience + design
This one may not be important to all, but being a designer, I like pretty things and I like when something is intuitive and knows my next move before I do
- Price vs value
While I am absolutely happy to pay for great software, I also want value for money and to keep control of my business overheads
I’m sure by now, everyone has heard of dropbox. It is the best software I have found when it comes to being cloud based. Dropbox mirrors my folder structure I used to have sitting on my computers’ hard-drive and syncs between all my devices, which for me is a must. What I really love about it is that it works exactly like other folders on your computer which makes it very easy to shuffle things around, copy, delete, you name it, or you can use the website interface if you prefer. Another handy feature is being able to email/share a document to a client from my iPhone when I’m out and about.
Dropbox is something I have been using pretty much since I started my business, mostly for collaboration projects, and I wasn’t maximising the full feature list on offer. Since moving abroad I have definitely extended my use of dropbox and really can’t see myself using anything else.
NB* this is an affiliate link, if you sign up through this you get a bonus 500MB of space for FREE
It’s important to maintain a level of professionalism with clients, even if you aren’t physically working in the same city as them. So naturally you need to find something to replace the usual meeting environment. Skype is great for this. Again I have it both on my laptop and iPhone and can also login from another computer if need be. The best part about skype is that it’s free, or very cheap if you are making calls to landlines or mobile via skype. One feature I haven’t used yet but will be looking at in the future is having a skype number that clients can call and can also be diverted to another number if I choose.
I use Drive and Calendar everyday. First lets talk about Google Drive. I have the free app for iPhone and what is great about this is you can select files to be available for offline use, perfect if you know you won’t have access to wifi and will need a file to reference. My use of Microsoft products, Word, Excel etc. is now minimal so I am less reliant on having my laptop with me at all times and more able to change up the scenery of my work day. It is also great for sending out surveys to gain interest in new products being released or valuable customer feedback.
Moving on to Google Calendar. Again this syncs with my iPhone, (starting to see a pattern emerge yet?), and holds my entire schedule. I have items colour coded so I can easily tell at a glance if I have a meeting, client work and that important lunch break locked in next. Sharing a specific calendar with a client or a team is fantastic, making sure everyone is on the same page with timings for projects and deadlines for editorial content for example. This also has removed the need to carry around a physical diary which, when travelling, might be taking up valuable real-estate in your suitcase.
The great thing about Google Apps is pretty much everyone has a gmail account. So you already have these apps ready to go, you need to start using them.
Freshbooks moves your accounting to the cloud. Track all your expenses and also upload and attach a photo of the receipt, (no more need to keep the actual receipt*), create and manage projects and assign clients and contractors, track time on a project and invoice it straight to the client. It takes no time to create a financial year or quarterly report for income or expenses and email to the accountant at tax time. I mostly use the iPhone app to add expenses and a photo of the receipt on the fly. I cannot articulate how much time Freshbooks has saved me on book-keeping, lets just say it’s worth the investment.
NB* this is an affiliate link 🙂
Getting paid is important to any business. Building clients around the globe means implementing a payment method that is easy and pain free, hopefully for both parties. I’m not completely happy with Paypal but it works for what I need at the moment. Having a business based in Australia does create some limitations around this, especially if I want the package deal as apposed to doing it myself with a separate shopping cart, payment gateway and merchant facility. I have been looking at other options but they are either in beta phase on not yet available to the Australian market. I will do an update if I change to another product in the future.
So, what do you think of my recommendations? Are you looking at moving your business to the cloud? Or have you already made the move and have other suggested apps and software to use? Please leave your comments below. Also signup for email updates to make sure you never miss a blog post.
*Taxation rules vary depending on the country. This is based on Australian tax law that you now only are required to keep a digital copy of receipts and no longer physical copies as well. Please refer to you own countries regulations.