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Tips for Working on the Road

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It’s another Expert Briefs, where I ask really smart business owners to answer your burning questions.

If you've missed past Expert Briefs, you can click on the undies to see them all –>

A few years ago, I asked my friends for their tips for working on the road. You can still read that post here: Run your Business from the Road

I wanted to address the issue again, as I now have more experience in travel, having spent 5 weeks in Europe this summer between the adoption travel and visiting friends.

In preparation of my trip, I asked my friends for advice, not just on working from the road, but on longer-term travel.

I asked my panel of experts for the best on-the-road working tips … with a focus on working on the road FAR away from home for longer periods of time.

What do you do to prepare before you go?

Let's see what our experts are up to….


Kristen Eckstein of Finish Writing Your Book Fast: Book Writing for Procrastinators says:

I travel a lot. If I drive more than 6 hours, I try to have a driving buddy go with me so I can take the time in the car to brainstorm new project ideas or work on my iPad. While I'm away at a conference or “vacation,” I put my email autoresponders on alert letting people know when I'll be back in the office, and direct them to my Online Business Manager for support while I'm gone. This gives me peace of mind that they'll be taken care of and them peace of mind that I'm not ignoring them. Also, I always give my active clients a personal head's up as to when I'm leaving, when I'll be back, and the status of their book projects. I've learned that communication is the #1 most important thing in customer service!

kristen working on the road

While I'm on the road or in an airport, I take time to catch up on reading, go through training materials I purchased and haven't had time for at home, make phone calls to JVs and friends, and I travel with a MiFi card so I can access email and internet from almost anywhere (this is also especially helpful in hotel rooms).

When my husband and I toured the UK in the Fall of 2011, many of the places we stayed did not have working internet. It was especially important to me during this time to have all members of my team on the same page, everyone's jobs planned out in advance, and as a result my email newsletter, blog, social media posts, and customer service calls worked seamlessly while I was gone.

I also used HootSuite to pre-schedule Facebook and Twitter posts to update my friends and followers on where I was and what I was doing. This way they could stay in contact with me, though I wasn't actually present online at the time. When I got back to an internet connection, I'd answer their questions, post pictures and make comments. This increased my exposure, made others feel I was making them a part of my life, and it was rewarding for me to see their comments on what I was doing.

One note – it was extremely important to me that we stayed at places in the UK with an internet connection, so we specifically made reservations at such places. In one place in Scotland we couldn't find such a place, so I focused on relaxing and enjoying my surroundings – equally important as staying in touch with my list.

Lastly, something I've added recently to every conference, seminar or workshop I speak at or attend, is to build in at least one full day after the event for some fun to see the local sights. For example, I attended Radical Leadership in Minnesota recently and stayed almost two full days after the event to hang out with my awesome friend and business coach, Bob Jenkins, and his girlfriend, my life coach, Therese Sparby. We enjoyed some pontoon boat time on the lake, local restaurants, and I finally got to cross riding the roller coasters inside the Mall of America off my bucket list. Even though these days of fun occurred on weekdays, I made sure my clients knew when I would be back in the office, and I monitored email once a day to answer any pressing issues.

My biggest tip when you travel at length, especially if you have one-on-one clients, is to set their expectations of how long you'll be gone, when you'll return, and who they can contact in your absence. I've found when this line of communication is open, my list is more responsive and my clients love knowing I care enough about them to keep them “in the know.”


Jeanette S. Cates, PhD of Organize Your Online Business says:

Packing to work on the road depends on the length of the trip and the purpose of the travel. When I cruise (mostly vacation) I just take my ipad, charger, and hot spot (my iPad is wifii so need the hot spot). On the ship I buy an hour's connection time and that will generally last me a week.

Cates Working

You see, before I go, I set up a special email address that only my staff knows about. They check all of my other email addresses and only forward those things that I am uniquely qualified to answer. Or things I need to know. And when you pare it down that way – there really is very little that you need to do while on vacation.

If I'm staying on land with full Internet connections along the way AND I need to upload or record videos, then I take my laptop, USB headset (for recording), extension cord, and chargers. I also have my Flip or Playtouch video camera. And of course my hot spot (to save on hotel connection fees) and my iPad and wireless keyboard – for taking notes in the meetings.

The ultimate packing load comes when I have to do a webinar on the road. The problem is that when you're presenting a webinar AND answering questions during the webinar, the control panel keeps popping onto the screen. So if you're recording that screen – you have a LOT of editing to do. To save that time, I carry a second computer with me – a netbook. Then I just set that computer up to record the webinar, while I present from my regular laptop.

I've been traveling with technology for many years and feel very proficient with it. But you do NOT want to get behind me in the airport security line! With two computers, an iPad, shoes, sweater, two carry on bags…well you can see why you want to choose the other line.


aliceAlice Seba of Step-by-Step PLR You Can Use to Teach your Audience “How To” says:

The best thing is to plan ahead and have as much of the work done before you head out – and to have a team of helpers and partners on your side working on things while you're gone. When you have a team in place, going on a short or extended trip really seems like much less of a big deal.

When I'm getting ready to be away, I always do my blogging, email writing and other tasks in batches…getting as much done before I can as possible. I also write out a schedule of things that need to be done and gives those to my virtual assistant, so she can bear most of the burden while I'm gone. I don't usually take my laptop with me when I travel, but rely on my iPhone and/or iPad to check on emails and to do a few tasks here and there. I can always say I'll do more work on the road, but it just doesn't happen because I'm having too much fun. That's why I prefer to get it all done before going and when you get really focused, it's amazing how much work you can get done in a short time, so you can really enjoy your trip.

I don't have any picture for you. I am not showing you my unbathed, ratty-haired self after an extended camping trip. 😉


Susanne Myers of  Daily Affiliate Tasks says:

I remember writing about this last summer right after we got back from a trip to Germany… well we went again this summer for nearly 3 weeks, and as always I keep learning new things.

While everything in my previous post still holds true, here are a couple more things that have worked well for me this go around.

Dropbox

I used to drag a portable hard drive around with me with “all” of my essential files on it … It never failed though.  I’d get there, start working on a blog post or wrap up a short report and couldn’t find an image or file I needed. Now, instead, I use drop box and have everything I need at my fingertips. And if something were to happen to my little travel notebook, I could easily replace it or use my husband’s laptop and still access all my files.

By the way … if you’re close to maxing out on storage, go ahead and upgrade to the premium edition and use it to store all your travel pictures and videos as well.

Note from Nik – Check out my video here about how I use Dropbox in my Business.

Have Systems in Place

I mentioned getting as much done and scheduled through autoresponder, blog drafts etc as possible. That definitely helped again this summer. I also do some checks in the weeks before our travels to make sure my existing systems are working well (for example, making sure ebooks are delivered to customers via email etc.).

Anything you are doing manually on a regular basis (like publishing that weekly newsletter) should be looked at. See if there’s a way to automate the process, schedule stuff to go out ahead of time (Aweber is great for this), or outsource it to a Virtual Assistant.

Don’t Schedule Any Big Projects To Work On

No matter what your good intentions are… unless you’re wrapping the project up on the plane ride, chances are it isn’t going to get done. At least that’s true for me. I had the best intentions to finally publish a kindle ebook while overseas, but didn’t work on it a lick.

Enjoy your travel, do what needs to be done and get back refreshed to tackle those big new projects.

Be Reachable in Multiple Ways

I mentioned in a previous post on this topic that having a team in place is a big help. This again saved me many times over this summer during our long trip to Germany to visit family. One of the best things I did was to come up with multiple ways to get in touch with my team including email, instant messages, phone and facebook messages. If one or two lines of communication go down, there’s still a way to stay connected.

Also keep in mind that there may be a pretty big time difference and let your team know if you need certain tasks accomplished sooner than usual (because you don’t want to have to get up in the middle of the night to put the finishing touches on that newsletter and send it out).

Travel Light

All I had with me this time around were my netbook and my smartphone. It worked like a charm. I snapped pictures with my phone, answered email and updated social media from there … I did my blogging and writing from the netbook. Anything else could wait until I got back home.

Cutting down on office stuff and various electronic paraphernalia along with cutting down on how many clothes and pairs of shoes I thought I needed allowed us to travel for close to three weeks with carry-on luggage only. It made getting in and out of the airport much quicker and there was less to unpack.

Share Your Travel Adventures With Your Readers

Last but not least, have fun and share your adventures with your readers. This is the first time I’ve posted a few pictures both from Germany and Paris. I’ve also shared some experiences on one of my niche sites. It’s been a lot of fun and was very well received by my readers. Look at this as another opportunity to connect on a deeper level.

Above all enjoy your trip and get back rejuvenated with all those creative juices flowing!


NicoleNicole Dean of .. here! .. says:

I shared a lot about how I manage to run my business from the road in the blog post from last year which you can still access here:  Run your Business from the Road

However, this post is geared more towards longer-term travel, at least that's what I'm going to focus on.

  • When I go to Wisconsin for 4 weeks, I can't run home if I forget something.
  • When I went to Jamaica for a week, I pretty much had to work with what I had access to.
  • And, when I was in Europe for 5 weeks this summer (half for our adoption in Latvia and the other half to visit friends in Ireland), I had to have my poop together or it would cost me a lot of money.

So when traveling far from home, for longer periods of time, some serious planning has to take place for business to continue to run smoothly.

Idea! I intentionally plan a 3 week or longer trip every year, simply to reset my business. If I don't, then I tend to get sucked back into it. However, if I know that I will be gone for 3 weeks or  more it pushes me to systemize, delegate, and automate my business on an annual basis.

When planning a lengthy trip, the most important things to have are, in my opinion…

A plan.

To me, the most important thing to have, hands down, before traveling is a plan. If you can, schedule out all of your blog posts, your product releases and promos, and your emails to your list prior to leaving. Even better, try to have them already done and scheduled to go – without your involvement.

This is BIG. Please don't skip it. If you ignore this advice, you run the risk of running into one of two problems.

  1. You will sit in front of your computer too much – because you're having to figure out your plan while you're away.
  2. You may avoid work all together because you don't know what to do when you get on your laptop. This is even more dangerous as it can cost you more money than you may be able to afford.

During my time in Europe, I saw what both scenarios looked like.

I  had planned out my first two weeks before I left. But only the first two weeks. So, while I was in Latvia, all was well. I worked about 1/2 hour per day because I knew exactly what I needed to do. However, when I went to Ireland (3 weeks into my trip), I hadn't planned my business out that far, so I avoided work all together. This was definitely not ideal and, while I had a brilliant time with friends and wouldn't trade the experience it for the world, in all honesty I did not meet my financial goals during that time.

Your laptop (and a backup plan in case that breaks or is stolen).

You'll need an iPad, Tablet, or a laptop to work from – unless you're one of those weirdos who can write a blog post on their phone (like David Perdew…)

I pretty much always bring three things.

  • My laptop (for writing and scheduling emails to my list)
  • My iPad for checking email and Facebooking
  • My iPhone for pictures, Skyping, answering quick email, Facebook, and other miscellaneous activities. Oh, I use it to make phone calls, too, if I'm in the United States, too. Imagine that. 😉

Warning! While I was on my most recent trip, a woman sitting less than 5 feet away from me had her bag stolen during continental breakfast. It was a terrible terrible situation and I felt helpless to assist her since I was in conversation and didn't see what happened.

It made me really think about my laptop sitting upstairs in my room and what would happen if it were in my bag and stolen in the middle of my trip. So, be sure to have an idea for what you would do, if necessary, to continue working.

Chargers and Converter.

Be sure to pack your chargers for any electronics you have. If you do not, it may be difficult to find new ones wherever you go.

If you have a USB charger and your laptop, then you can buy less converters, we found. While not optimal, we charged the laptop and then charged one phone in the laptop USB, too. It was slow, but required less converter-juggling.

I would recommend, if traveling to a non-English speaking country, to have at least one converter before your plane lands. lol. We ended up in Latvia, with no converters, and no idea where to find one. I thought they'd be everywhere. I thought wrong. Trying to explain what a converter was in charades was interesting to say the least. Luckily we finally found someone at the Electronics store to help.

Access to your passwords.

You won't get far without access to your passwords. (I use Roboform to manage this.

Unfortunately, I also recommend you keep your Roboform access information in a second secure place, in case, heaven forbid, your laptop is stolen or breaks.

Skype

This is only really important if you're traveling overseas so that you can make phone calls easily. I used Skype in Latvia to call cabs and to call home to the US, too. If you have internet, this is a great alternative.

Note! Don't end up with a $300 phone bill. The thing you need to be careful of is leaving your phone on. Depending on your phone plan, you can get charged major bucks. I had my phone on, but had it set on Airplane Mode so that the cellular part was off and I couldn't be charged for incoming calls or data usage.

Dropbox

I can't live without Dropbox anymore. I don't even want to think about traveling without it. It would be so difficult.

I love you, Dropbox!!!

A wifi connection of some sort.

This is pretty critical. Like Kristen said, make sure the place you are staying has wifi.When we were looking at apartments in Latvia, we knew that we had to have one with wifi so I could check in easily while the kids had down time, or late at night. Be sure to inquire. Don't assume you'll be able to find a quiet place to work otherwise. When we were in Ireland, we were able to find wifi pretty much everywhere, but we still make sure when making reservations that we would have access. Just double check.

A team of trustworthy and talented people who have your back.

I adore my team. Without them, I couldn't do what I do.

Your priorities.

If you have all of the above in place, then the thing you need more than anything else is your priorities. It's WAY too easy to say “One more minute… ” and have your entire trip fly by with your face in your computer.

Don't let work let you miss out on these memories…

  My son and I riding bicycles in Latvia.

 

At the top of the Guiness Storehouse in Dublin, Ireland with my husband.

That's what life is all about. Uhhh… the memories. Not the Guiness. 😉

Much love,
Nicole

PS. Did we miss anything? Please share your thoughts, too!

 

6 Comments

  • Ruth P
    Reply

    This is a great post! One of the benefits of running a business online is to be more flexible when it comes to travel. Plus I especially like this idea: “I intentionally plan a 3 week or longer trip every year, simply to reset my business. If I don’t, then I tend to get sucked back into it. However, if I know that I will be gone for 3 weeks or more it pushes me to systemize, delegate, and automate my business on an annual basis.” So true!

    I have been on the road for 8 months now in Southeast Asia with my business. It isn’t easy but it does force you to put systems in place. I know 8 months is an extreme example, but I think any trip can make you think more critically about the way you run your business, and even make you more productive as you go.

    I’m actually going to a country with near unusable internet and frequent power cuts for 18 days in September (Burma) so I have to be super-organized before I go. But when I’m there it’ll be great knowing everything is in place!

  • bryan z.
    Reply

    Love traveling Europe. Hope to do it again at end of coming Sept. (hence this is an interesting read … hehe)
    My rule: each trip at least a month long, because I hate sitting in a plane for 7-8 hours while crossing “the big pond”.
    Noticed: For each trip I see my luggage shrinking and shrinking… Laptop is too heavy and cumbersome. Nothing beats a small Acer netbook … cheap (in case it gets stolen/brakes), small, but it’s still a working computer. I use external USB keyboard and mouse, better for long typing.
    Don’t count on working too much during trips … despite the best intentions, it’s hard to resist getting outside and visiting stuff.
    Last time I was in Madrid, on the metro on my way to the airport (for Lisbon), someone opened a small pocket on my backpack and stole some memory sticks which were there. First time something like that happened to me, and I did some heavy traveling before. Ok, my mistake, I should have put some small lockers on the small pockets of my backpack too, which I didn’t. Next time I’ll know better: lock EVERYTHING, and travel with only one small-as-possible luggage piece. I can buy everything else I need in Europe anyway.
    Happy traveling!
    bryan

  • William
    Reply

    Must of my Travel is to our place in Nayarit, Mexico. We have WIFI, actually my brother-in-law has wifi and I have a little open air office on his rooftop. I just take my laptop up there. Our place is right next door so it’s no problem. When I leave Wisconsin for a day trip, I just carry my tablet. (Headed for Door County this afternoon to enjoy a fish Boil-over so my tablet is all I need) I also use Roboform as well as Dropbox to keep my stuff together. I don’t use Skype to much but it can save you a lot of money. One of my daughters is a Marine and when she was stationed in Iran we would use Skype. (11 p.m. in Wisconsin is 5 a.m. there)
    I like your part about having a plan. I tend to overlook that part. This past July I did take part in a 31 day blog challenge while I was in Mexico…interesting.
    Planning is important.

  • The Mom
    Reply

    I finally stopped admiring your pictures, Nik, so am now reading through.

    Dropbox:

    I can NOT work without it. I don’t even work at home without it anymore. Dropbox is essential. (If you’re reading this and you don’t have Dropbox, scroll up and find Nik’s link and CLICK ON… it’s free!)

    WIFI connections:

    Okay, I have been disappointed numerous times by WIFI availability in hotels. They say they have it but either it’s $$$ or it doesn’t work. I’m thinking there’s an alternative. Anyone? I am tech challenged so have no idea what’s out there to use.

    Stupidest question award goes to me:

    I was going to ask you about this the next time I saw you, Nik, but then thought maybe someone else has the same problem and is too embarrassed to ask. But not me! Here goes… when I’m on vacation, or even when I’m home, I would LOVE to be able to sit outside and work. BUT, my laptop screen just reflects myself back at me or anything that’s bright around me. Which means I’m trapped inside a hotel room working, so why be on vacation? I’m guessing an iPad would be an alternative BUT, is it? Also, I have to type, like really type, with a keyboard, to get my work done. So two things: would an iPad be a good substitute for a laptop outside, meaning is it readable in bright light and can I get my stuff on Dropbox, AND is there a way to attach a keyboard and mouse?

    That may be the stupidest question you’ll ever get on NOTN, so cherish it. I hope you have an answer, once you pick yourself off the floor from laughing at me. 😀

  • Jim Berry
    Reply

    Great post from excellent sources, Nicole!

    I use KeePass to store my password and login info. KeePass stores the info in a secure database on my computer. Then I can sync the main database to my other two computers and laptop.

    As you said, planning ahead and having access to the files you may need is very important. However, I still am not fond of storing files online. I put mine on a USB and bring them along.

    And, as well, I don’t really care for those i-thingies either. A good Droid smartphone that creates a wifi hotspot works for me!

    Thanks for the great tips and advice from all!

  • Kayla
    Reply

    Now that makes me remember that I miss biking with hubby. We will surely do that once his home next week.

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