by Fred Roed on 29/09/09 at 12:57 pm
Over the past 8 months, my wife Yolande has been working on a business idea* and has set about creating a work space at home. We have 3 kids, so these things tend to take a little time. Setting up a home office is not as easy as you may imagine. A critical element, as we’ve found out along the way, is to make the office ‘virtual’. This means that you’re not confined to one space – usually a cramped corner of the spare room, with a tiny Formica-surface table and a dirty old lamp. I define a virtual office as ‘not confined to that one space’. This can mean working in the garden, the lounge… or the coffee shop down the road. This is particularly important when you have children that tend to break into your space, screaming “Mommy / Daddy! I hurt my toe!” when you’re in the middle of an important sales call.
Moms – this is your cue to breathe a big sigh of relief. There is respite around the corner. Here are some tips that we can share after our process this year.
Tip #1: Get a BlackBerry!
Probably the single most important development in your move towards a virtual office. Apple fanboys will cry “Foul!” (for the record, my iPhone is on its way) but for your virtual strategy, trust me, BlackBerry is the crack. For someone working at home, your virtual office space will be infinitely more effective with one of these bad boys. In case you don’t know this already, BlackBerry provides you with unlimited email and unlimited internet browsing (the browsing is a little clunky, but hey, it’s unlimited!). You also get free chat with other BB buddies, which, together with the always on email, can be addictive. Once you’re signed up, you’ll wonder how you ever did without it. Since she got it, Yolande’s BlackBerry Curve 8310 has practically been glued to her hand.
Tip #2: Get wireless at home
This is an important step in your evolution to doing business 21st Century style. We currently use Afrihost, purely because it’s cheap. We used to use WebAfrica, who were also pretty good. You’ll need a router and a laptop that’s got wireless connectivity. Telkom also allows you to add a router to your line rental. We got ourselves a Billion 400G, which has worked pretty well for us. From time to time Telkom offer free routers, but you have to sign up for their internet offering. Don’t be intimidated by all this. Once you’ve got your gear, the kind people at Afrihost or WebAfrica will take you through the installation over the phone – it’s not that hard.
Tip#3: Get a Netbook
…unless of course, you’re a designer or a editor or some other profession that requires a big screen with heavy computing power. For most mobile business folk, in these budget sensitive times, Netbooks are the way of the future. Probably more responsible for Bill Gates’ grey hair than any other factor, a Netbook is a small laptop that’s cheap (around R3 – R5,000), light, mobile, wireless-enabled, and best of all, doesn’t require Microsoft products for you to be productive. You can use a variety of free software from Ubuntu Linux to Google Docs, Google’s free online version of MS Office. That said, Yolande’s still using Windows purely because we haven’t got round to making the leap yet.
Tip #4: Get a 3G stick
Most coffee shops, office blocks and public spaces in South Africa have wireless connectivity nowadays, but you can’t always access the internet from these. Also, when you’re in a coffee shop, it can get pretty expensive (R2 per mb, ouch!) so a 3g stick from your cellular service provider is worth the expense. At around R2000 (try get one second hand on Gumtree), it makes life a whole lot easier. What it does is allow you to access the internet anywhere on your terms. I suggest getting a pay-as-you-go, since the contract can be a little dicey. I went over my 3 gig cap and got charged a fortune for my troubles. Pay as you go allows you to monitor your expenses, and you can buy more airtime / data easily through your internet banking.
That’s it for now – 4 tips learned while setting up our little home business. I’ll share more when we’re a little further down the road. Please share your thoughts and ideas with us.
*I’ll share more about Yolande’s business idea in another post.
Fred Roed is the marketing guy in the Ideate crew. Fred is the CEO of web marketing company World Wide Creative and the co-founder of online learning portal Heavy Chef. Fred loves writing about people out there doing marketing right. Follow Fred on Twitter here. View more articles by Fred Roed.