Renting commercial real estate for lavish office space has become costly and is most definitely out of reach for many entrepreneurs with small businesses. One or two-man-bands are the norm within a new and small company and hiring an executive office in the heart of Sandton is, well, just stupid!
Can entrepreneurs run their businesses and offer services remotely, in other words, in their own workspace at a location of their choice? Of course they can!
I am a small business owner, a one-man band. I own a public relations consultancy and I also act as a freelance consultant to a number of other agencies based around the country. I have been rocking it alone as a creative entrepreneur for close on 5 years. I’ve worked both from home and my own office and, personally, working remotely works best for me. By working remotely, I am not talking about basing yourself permanently in a corner in your living room, but I’m talking about setting up and working where you feel most comfortable. The reality being that you can suitably work from anywhere you want to and for this convenience, we owe an abundance of gratitude to Internet technology.
I’d like to share some insights that I have found useful over the last few years in terms of setting up and operating in a remote office environment.
1. Some basic equipment is needed to run your work function remotely. Aside from a good laptop, you need a printer that you can stash away in a cupboard, a portable hard drive to archive large files and back your computer up and basic office software – Microsoft Office is recommended. You may need a small or even portable filing cabinet. I use a wheelie-box where I can store files as well as bits and bobs like stationery.
2. When it comes to computer equipment, invest in a good and durable laptop. Remember that you get what you pay for and getting a cheap deal from Incredible Connection or Game may be false economy. As an Apple fan, I would obviously recommend a Mac, but go for something that is sturdy enough to be a workhorse. You are going to be carting this machine around with you so size does matter. In addition, buy a great laptop bag that doubles up as a brief case.
3. Speaking of storage, cloud storage is the way forward. For a small fee every month, I have all my documents stored on Google Drive. This means that my documents are constantly backed up and that I can access them from any computer anywhere. This is very useful if your laptop battery runs dry. You can also use Dropbox for the same purpose. If you are scared that things may get lost in the sky and have a host of large multimedia files, then buy a portable hard drive.
4. Internet access is costly so look at your options. 3G is great if you are on the road, and an ASDL line is great if you are based at home. There are some affordable deals out there such as the one that AlwaysOn is offering – something like R30 a month for 5GB. This makes working from Mugg and Bean with a bottomless coffee a very cost effective way of staying online. I must say, however, that AlwaysOn isn’t always on and often struggles, but most of the time, it does work and you are able to do your work and communicate. The best adviceis to shop around, there are always deals on the go. But be cautious – unless you have an uncapped solution, avoid streaming because at R2 a Meg, you could find yourself in cardiac arrest at the sight of your 3G data bill. I speak from experience!
5. The chances are you won’t have a landline and that free minutes and airtime on your mobile phone will last you all of a week. I signed up to Vodacom Red where I get unlimited local calls and 5GB of data. This comes at a cost of about R2,000, which is a fixed cost. Not only has it helped me save money, but this package has lent a hand in me being able to accurately budget for my phone bill each month.
6. The big plus is flexibility. Some days I will work from my kitchen counter, other days I will base myself at The Common Room in Dunkeld West, which is communal office space for entrepreneurs. Hot desking is a definite option for small business owners. Other days I will sit at a Mugg and Bean and also at a Virgin Active, speaking of which, the immaculately stylish and chic Alice Lane club is the place to be if you really want to impress clients! As long as there is reliable Internet and the distractions are kept to a minimum, you can work anywhere.
7. Being a “remote worker” forces a person to de-clutter and strive towards the paperless office ideal. We all know that having a permanent workstation can cause us to become lazy – paperwork and other crap piles up and in trays become a place to dump reams of paper. I have found that although I am a traditionalist and like using a pen and paper, I have shifted my thinking towards having everything in digital format. I have also consolidated the endless bits of paper I use to take notes on into one single Moleskine notebook. It has forced me to be more organized.
To conclude, small businesses and entrepreneurs can save a lot of money by adopting a remote working philosophy. A flexible working environment can be very productive and motivating. This said, working from a multitude of different set ups and locations can be unsettling for some and if you are daunted by the thought of not having a set place to do your job and no-one looking over your shoulder whilst micro-managing you, then this is not for you.
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