Many aspiring entrepreneurs are forced to work out of their homes during the nascent stages of their company, and the growing phenomenon of “telepresence” has also contributed to an increasing work-at-home population. There are pro’s and con’s when working out of your home with one of the main drawbacks being a sense of isolation and social deprivation. Consequently, many who work out of their homes decide to venture out occasionally seeking public venues where they are able to temporarily set up shop. The most common locale conducive to this sort of activity is a coffee shop, but over the past several years the upgrades in WiFi service enable anyplace within the great outdoors to be your alternate “office”.
The first area of focus when working away from home is your batteries. Sometimes you’ll be fortunate enough to have access to a/c power, but the majority of the time you will be highly dependent upon your batteries. Without power, your work session comes to an immediate and abrupt end. A good strategy to ensure this does not happen is to use two batteries. The more a battery is used translates to the faster it depletes. Therefore, it is smart to primarily use the first battery, and keep the relatively unused battery solely for back-up purposes. This ensures that you have a good battery on hand at all times as opposed to two batteries which both quickly are depleted.
Another point of interest is how you back up your data. Obviously, backing up data while working away from home is critical, but lugging around and keeping track of thumb drives can prove to be a real pain. The easy solution to this dilemma is a secure online storage locker. Services like DropBox.com allow you to store up to 2 gigs of data within their cloud — for free. Those who have need to store larger amounts can do so with a small fee. The odds are quite high that a reputable online storage company will have far less chance of losing or screwing up your data than you would left to your own devices.
Reliable connectivity for your laptop can prove to be another issue. Some locations have bulletproof connections, but others tend to be spotty. A poor Internet connection can substantially decrease your productivity, and steps should be taken as a back-up for when this happens. One option is to pay your carrier fees for tethering your laptop to you smartphone connection, but this can prove to be pricey especially for those who desire to work outside of their home often. A more economical — and just as reliable — solution is to use PDAnet. If your phone is supported by PDAnet, then for a low $25 one-time fee you can use it to facilitate connection between your smartphone and your laptop when necessary — for no incremental charges.
Security is also a prominent concern when working on WiFi connections in public spaces. Many WiFi providers leave a lot to be desired when it comes to encryption and other security measures, so it is incumbent upon you to take the requisite steps to protect yourself. Several tweaks can be made to your laptop settings towards this end — read up on the ample free advice available at reputable tech sites concerning combating current WiFi related security threats.
Useful advice can be gleaned from hardened road warriors who are used to working on the road because of their job functions. Via interviews with several businessmen who view Starbucks and the local libraries as their offices away from home, we’ve assembled the following list of “must-haves” when working in public spaces:
Paper & Pen
Many today leave home forgetting to bring along an old fashioned pen along with a small notebook or other paper. Although the vast majority of your work is now done digitally, there are always scenarios where a good old pen comes in handy. Your laptop might not always be powered up, and there are other occasions where physical notes more serve your purposes. Forgetting these items inevitably has you asking to borrow some else’s which is not a good way to ingratiate yourself.
Offline Mail Client
Keeping your laptop connected while laboring on long emails is a complete waste of precious battery life. Using a simple offline mail client helps you maximize your battery life. A popular choice is Thunderbird which functions with virtually all email clients.
Keyboard & Screen Cleaner
Dust and other undesirable substances inevitably get on your laptop screen and in your keyboard (especially if you choose to work out of a strip joint). Bringing along a good microfiber cleaner helps avoid damage to your laptop as well as ensuring a clear screen without having to cause damage with Starbucks napkins.
Surge Protector & Prong Converter
A small and inexpensive three prong to two converter is an absolute must when working away from home, as is a surge protector to ensure no damage occurs to your laptop.
You very well meet valuable contacts when working in proximity to other aspiring entrepreneurs — having a business card immediately establishes a basic level of professionalism. Having to scribble your contact information on a napkin is not the best of ways to initiate a potential business relationship.
Many businesses are now becoming wary of those who simply use their space for the WiFi connection. To ensure you remain welcome, make sure you are courteous to the staff within the establishment. Getting to know them by name is an excellent step and can help to extend your welcome.
Hopefully the above advice can help you be more productive when escaping the confines of your home office. Maybe one day your garage company will grow into a sprawling corporate campus — but until then, getting out of the house every so often helps maintain both your productivity as well as your sanity.