Part of the challenge with working and being a permanent traveler at the same time is how to do everything you normally do, but do it in a compressed time frame. To enjoy your life abroad, you have to compress your work into tighter period, otherwise you’ll spend endless hours on your computer just like you do at home, and miss out on the perks of being abroad in the first place. I fell into this trip during my 2 month experiment in Japan last year.
First of all, let’s do a quick tech rundown. The following are the services that I consider essential for being able to cloud surf:
- VirtualPostMail.com or EarthClassMail.com for converting postal mail into digital format
- RingCentral.com, Nextiva.com, or HelloFax.com, as the IRS will not communicate by email, but willingly fax stuff
- Web-based email service
- Cloud storage service – I use DropBox, Amazon Cloud Drive, Apple iCloud, and Google Drive all to some extent
- Google Docs, plus a web-based PDF editor (there are several, just search for one)
- Google Voice and Skype, for voice communications.
- Click2Mail.com, the web platform contractor for the US Postal Service, allows me to send outgoing correspondence and direct mail marketing.
My current incarnation of cloud surfing bypasses possession of a laptop — I’m not taking this machine with me in two days when I leave for Europe. Theoretically I will only ever need a computer during tax season, as my tax software only runs on a full machine. Many people are discovering that an iPad or other tablet works well for them, others not. Personally, I’m opting for just using the iPhone 4S (it’s basically a tablet, in my mind) over wi-fi and Internet cafes when I need to.
So what about the time management stuff? Here are some of the things I’ve already started doing and will continue to do as I travel:
- Cater to a more specific clientele in both my tax practice and my marketing and practice management consulting business. I no longer accept any or all cases that come my way, and I have structured my client intake flow to better fit my lifestyle design objectives (require client financials before starting work, retainer paid before filing Power of Attorney, etc.).
- I no longer accept live calls. All calls go straight to voicemail, no matter who it’s from. I simply can’t take phone calls from clients, prospects, even IRS agents while I’m out hiking the Alps.
- Batch process everything. One or two days per week, make all phone calls I need to make, and do it within a set time block. Do all my IRS paperwork for the entire week in one sitting. Do all my blog writing in one sitting (and keep in mind, I write for 5 blogs each week and write two paid newsletters).
- Use webinars as a key prospecting tool.
- Have a strict “no fires” policy. Most business owners spend most of their time putting out “fires”, rather than working on their business. The reality is that, in business, there is no such thing as an emergency. Unless something is on fire or somebody is getting shot or mauled, it’s not an emergency. In my situation, even a bank account levy by the IRS is NOT an emergency — it can wait a few days to address (the money doesn’t go anywhere for 3 weeks).
My properly utilizing technology tools, batching tasks, and ensuring that everybody that works with you does so on your terms and by your schedule, you can successfully cloud surf and still keep your business intact.