I am at work, but my office for today doesn’t have the conventional four walls. I’m sitting at my local coffee shop, sipping on a foamy (and ultra strong) latte and writing this article. Between paragraphs, I give my eyes a break and check out the other folks; some are typing away furiously on their laptops while others laze and peruse the latest headlines in the paper.
This is my office for the morning and no one is judging my attire: yoga pants, flip flops and a sweatshirt. Working remotely might just be a slice of heaven.
Technology has given us more freedom than ever before. You can run a business from a coffee house in your hometown or a beach in Zanzibar as long as you have a few key essential tools at your disposal; even if you have just the internet and a phone, your office can be anywhere.
As ironic as it may seem, the best remote employees and contractors know that the secret to their success is not making it seem as though they run a virtual business. Customers and clients don’t need to know that you conducted your afternoon meeting from the back seat of your car, elbows deep in wayward Goldfish crackers and waiting for your kid to get out of school.
If you’re thinking about starting up your own virtual business, or hiring remote employees, there are a few things you’re going to need beyond the internet and a phone to be successful. Here are the top five things your business needs to run a virtual office without looking like you do.
An Updated and Modern Website
A current website full of rich content and a powerful strategy for generating web traffic is essential to any virtual business. A quick and easy method for creating your own website is WordPress. Whether you are tech savvy or not, you can find a template and some plug-ins that will suit just about any business need. Or, for a more custom look, search for a developer on Upwork and have your website built from scratch just for your business.
Next on the list: software to help keep you organized no matter where you are in the world. I am a huge fan of Evernote. I have it on all of my devices so I can quickly look up information, jot down ideas, or even write a blog article on the go. Basecamp is another favorite of mine for organizing projects and collaborating with others. You should also consider a cloud-based CRM, like SugarCRM or Zoho CRM, to track your customer information and notes in one location.
A Cloud-Based Phone System
This one is a little self-serving because it’s what we do. But seriously, how can you run a business without a phone system? For your business to succeed, you need to be able to connect with your clients or customers no matter where you are. Using a phone system in the cloud allows you to stay in touch with those who are most important regardless of where you choose to work.
Whether you want to use Dropbox, Google Drive or some other cloud-based file storage system, it’s a critical component of a virtual business. Don’t fall into the trap of having everything on your local laptop. Take it from someone who lost a laptop – you don’t want to go there. And always remember to backup, backup, backup your data.
Readily Accessible Financial Information
You can go with the old standard of Quickbooks, or explore newer cloud-based options like Freshbooks. Having you access to your financials, no matter where you are, is a great way to keep tabs on where you money is going.
Perhaps you have a couple of people on your team who also work from home or in various locations around the world. A chat tool like Slack or HipChat helps to keep teams united and on the same page about projects. It also gives you the feeling that you’re in the office, even if you aren’t.
Have some other tools that you think are critical to a great virtual business? Please share them with us!
An iteration of this blog was originally published at PATLive.com.