running a mobile businessIt’s the dream of just about any entrepreneur: to be able to travel freely in the world, working that ever-elusive 4-Hour Workweek, running a mobile business. But how can you go mobile? Is it possible for you to live the dream? Today I’ll show you what you need to know about working anywhere in the world—how to truly go mobile with your business.

What Does Running a Mobile Business Mean?

Running a mobile business means you pick up and work from anywhere. Sounds great, but it’s not as spontaneous as it seems. You’ll want to plan well to go mobile with your business, so that you can stay engaged and involved with your team and not fall into the cursed trap of the “absentee business owner.

What Your Business Model Needs for You To Go Mobile

Your business needs to be flexible enough for you to go mobile without everything falling apart.

The Easiest:

Consultants and coaches will find it easiest to start running a mobile business, as our businesses are already designed to be mobile. I do virtually everything on the phone and via email, which means I can pick up and go any time I want. In fact, whenever I’m heading for Uruguay to spend time with my in-laws, for example, I still work with my clients at least one or two days for each week I’m down there. That way my clients experience no interruption in their progress and I can still pay the bills.

The Less Easy:

What if you have a product that get shipped? You’ll want to find a warehouse to handle that for you, if you don’t have one of your own. But no worries! It’s not hard to find warehouses that offer “pick and pack” for small businesses at reasonable rates (hello, Amazon does it!). In fact, you can have your orders sent directly to them to fulfill.

What if you have a service that requires you to be there, in person? In that case, you’ll find it harder to go mobile, I’m afraid, but you can add a “traveling” element to your service offering. If you’re used to thinking locally, this shift will require a little bit of tweaking in terms of how you think about your business. There are many ways to re-think your business so you can go about running a mobile business!

running a mobile business

This guy has WAY too many redundant devices! You don’t need all of these! Also, why does he have four arms? Scary!

The Strategies You Need to Go Mobile

Train your team

You’ll need to train your team to get comfortable with you not being present full-time. It’s often easiest if you have a virtual team, because they’re already used to working with you virtually. For example, I work in Indianapolis, IN, but I only have a few team members who are local, and they work out of their own offices. The rest of my team is located all over the place – Pennsylvania, Georgia, California, Vermont, Florida, Illinois, and more.

If you have a team working in an office space, you’ll want to make sure to plan to be in your office at least some of the time to check in. And you’ll need to have solid management in place and strategies for staying on top of what’s going on at home, lest you fall into that absentee owner trap that causes so many businesses to fail.

Train your brain

You have to start thinking in terms of going digital, rather than doing things on paper. For a coach or consultant, that means transferring your client notes that might have been on paper to a CRM (Customer Relationship Management Tool) and keeping track of calls and meetings within the CRM. Once you transfer paper files to a CRM, you’ll be traveling a lot lighter.

The first time I went to Uruguay and planned to meet with clients, I carried a backpack full of file folders with client notes. And let me tell you, for those clients I’ve been working with for years, their files were getting pretty hefty. That was the last time I used paper notes. As soon as I was back home, I had my assistant scan every page and ever since then, I’ve been working in the CRM.

Use the Cloud

You’ll want to make use of the Cloud wherever you can, to protect yourself and your business files from the risk of a damaged computer. While you’re traveling, if you drop your laptop and you haven’t backed up, you could lose everything. That’s why a CRM is so useful.

The Tech You Need to Go Mobile

When you’re running a mobile business, you want to keep things lean. You don’t necessarily need a laptop, a Kindle, an iPad, and a smartphone. In fact, with e-reader software available for your smartphone and laptop, it’s better to focus on what you really need to keep your business going.

Laptop

You’ll definitely want a solid laptop for running a mobile business. You’ll want something that’s robust and stands up to a little bit of abuse, since you’ll be traveling with it, even if you’re just heading for the local Starbucks. I’m biased towards the Apple MacBook Pro, because I’ve been using mine for years and it’s practically a part of me. But if you’d rather go the PC route, you’ll find no shortage of tough laptops out there.

Skype/VoIP

If you want to make calls to your team without paying fees (see mobile plan info below), you’ll want a system like Skype, which allows you make calls from anywhere you have internet access. Skype-to-Skype calls are free (and you can make video calls) but you’ll want to check rates to ensure you’re not paying for international calling.

Headset

If you plan to use a service like Skype, you’ll want a good headset so that you can speak directly into a microphone, rather than speaking through your laptop microphone. When you talk through your laptop, the person on the other end can hear you typing (if, for example, you’re taking notes), which is very distracting. On the other hand, a headset (I like this one) filters out extraneous noise so the other party can really hear you well.

A Great Mobile Plan and a Smartphone

Imagine my glee when T-Mobile launched their international calling plan that lets you call and text a long list of foreign countries for free and the rest at very reasonable rates! If you’re using wifi in another country, your call is still free. That used to cost $1.99 per minute. Having a great mobile plan means you don’t pay those insane rates for overseas calling or data and you can stay in touch with your team when you go mobile.

Of course, you’ll want a decent smartphone to go with your calling plan, so make sure you have something that allows you to take notes on the fly in your CRM, at the least.

The Bottom Line

I could talk all day about steps you need to take for running a mobile business, but these are the basics. Stay tuned for more mobile business hacks on the way (and be sure to share yours in the comments).