Especially at this time of the year, one of the options increasingly seized upon today is to develop a business that moves with you.
With the right business model and design, many entrepreneurs have the freedom to be totally nomadic – travelling the world working in different cities each week.
In reality though, not all of us can or wants to adopt the full-on life of a nomad. Little things like face-to-face customers, children, schools, partners and family can kind of get in the way.
That said, many individuals do enjoy the flexibility to work away from their home, office, shop or workshop, even for short periods. . . so let’s look at how to go about doing just that.
First is getting really clear on what equipment you need to have with you so that you can operate your business efficiently and effectively in a mobile format.
Certainly for me, when I was full-time in my consulting and coaching business, if I felt I needed a change of scene it was very easy to up sticks and work pretty well from any location. All I needed was my laptop, good internet access, and I was ready to roll.
I could keep all my client-report forms online, access my calendar, do all my banking and invoicing; in short, I could carry on my work regardless of location and my income didn’t dip at any point.
Indeed for many of our holidays, when our son was pre-school, I was able to just take my laptop with me, find a quiet corner in whatever holiday apartment we’d chosen and carry on generating income and working in my business.
And for a number of entrepreneurs - particularly in the Professional Services side of things: writers, designers, coaches, consultants and so on - it can be relatively easy to have a mobile business and is very attractive to do so.
As with many aspects of small business life, it can take time to get things just right. Clearly to be nomadic you need to have a few things around you to be assured of success, starting with ready access to the tools of your trade.
If your laptop is one of the key things of your mobile business, do you have a good, reliable backup? Do you have enough battery life? What would happen if your laptop was lost or stolen?
All of these factors need to be carefully thought through because if something can go wrong, at some point it probably will.
What are your insurance policies like? What if you lose access to your files and data for an extended period? How would you handle that?
For pretty well every eventuality, there are solutions; it’s just a matter of thinking these things through, planning out what might happen.
If you're going to be truly nomadic, particularly one who hops between time zones, you’ll need to let your clients know what to expect when it comes to contact and response times. You’ll need to establish how and when you’ll interact and communicate.
Keeping your clients under control
Establishing guidelines and boundaries with clients is an essential ingredient of any successful business regardless of where you’re working, but it’s crucial when your time and availability are subject to constant change.
In the early years of my consulting and coaching business when my son was very young, while I wasn’t particularly nomadic, I did move around a fair bit invariably pounding the pavements with a pram. In such instances it was important to me that I didn’t take phone calls. To balance my need for control while maintaining a strong sense of accessibility I established guidelines with my clients whereby contact with me was only via email. I had a dual-sim mobile phone and simply let all work-related calls go through to voicemail outside of my chosen work hours.
I set up this understanding with clients from the start with a ‘how we’ll work together’ document that I provided for them at the start of a new relationship. One agreement was that I would be the one who would initiate any phone conversation, but I did also make a pledge that I would be super responsive to any messages.
So if a client wanted me, I positioned myself as available, but with me controlling the nature and time of dialogue. Clients like to know what they can expect from you and in my experience will always respect boundaries once they see that we do.
Costs and productivity
Being nomadic can be quite a cost saving. If you don’t need a ‘proper office’ you’ll clearly save money on leases, office fit-outs, electricity, internet and so on and with all essential business tools online these days - accounting, communications, collaboration, marketing - there’s really no need to compromise on productivity.
Indeed, working remotely can have a positive impact on productivity as you’re forced to organise yourself more and this in turn gives you increased focus in the hours you spend working.
And by moving around you’ll increase your horizons and view of the world, resulting in fresh ideas and strategies. After all, rarely do we get our best ideas at our desk, staring at our monitor!
Robert Gerrish is the founder of Flying Solo, author of The 1 - Minute Commute and host of the Rekindle podcast. Read more of his work at www.robertgerrish.com