An entrepreneur is a business nomad. The nomadic lifestyle, by definition, has no place to call home – until they make a place their home. Entrepreneur tools are often improvised when making this home. The important thing for the nomad is that wherever they go, they can do what they need to with what they have, with very little outside help.
Hence the need to “set up camp”. For the nomad (or entrepreneur), this might be pitching a tent, finding a suitable cave, or even finding an abandoned building. The important part is that it provides safety, protection from the weather, a place to talk with others, and a place to plan the next move.
Entrepreneurs are no different to nomads in this respect. They need a place to plan their next move, to check out the lay of the land, to communicate with their friends and business partners.
Many choose to enter their camp through places like a coffee shops.
Entrepreneur Tools On The Road
With the rapid advances in internet, wireless and communications technology, it is becoming easier to run and interact with businesses whilst not having a traditional bricks-and-mortar business. A lot of business transactions run through the internet, and email, video conferencing and online banking play a big part in this.
For the business nomad, “camp” can be cloud based apps and a device connected to the internet – wherever you go, it will be there, ready when you are.
But what comprises a good camp?
The Running Man
Hundreds of years ago, when a message needed to be passed between provinces and kingdoms, the postal service left a lot to be desired. To be fair, in many cases there wasn’t even a postal service in existence.
News traveled by word of mouth, or by the hand (and legs) of a healthy runner. Legends of such runners exist worldwide, noting the speed and distance that they traveled in a day – from Pheidippides running from Marathon to Athens, to the Native American runners passing messages and trading between tribes.
The thing they all had in common was their ability to pass on a full message, with little chance for ambiguity. Pheidippides message was clear enough – “We win!” – what else did he need to say? The tradition of the runner has changed through the centuries and we now see it continued by the work of the mailman (although not in such dramatic and fatal style). Of course, the mailman has an online counterpart.
The step from mailman to email has been gradual, but is now overwhelming. The mailman used to bring you piles of letters and bills to pay every day. Now it seems that the art of letter writing has virtually died out, and long messages are sent by email. And of course, bills are sent just as easily in the same way.
The truth of the matter is that businesses now prefer to communicate with you by email rather than by regular mail, as they know there is greater chance of the message reaching you much more quickly – and they don’t have to pay postage.
A conversation via email can happen in minutes. A conversation by conventional mail may take weeks – hence the nickname, “snail mail”.
So to begin with, you need an email account. But not just any email account – you probably have had an internet connection at home at some stage, and the provider most likely gave you an email address associated with it.
The chances are that this email address would disappear if you canceled that connection, and there is no guarantee of worldwide connectivity – some email addresses will only allow you to send email via the ISP that originally provided the address. And worse, you may only be able to access your messages from a single device.
What you need is an accessible address. You need something that is centrally hosted, that you can connect to and read your messages whenever and wherever you please. In the “good old days”, when you accessed your email, the messages were downloaded to your PC, and that was that.
When new ones arrived at the mail server, they were downloaded too. And when your PC died, your messages went with it. With centralized hosting (often known as “the cloud”) a copy of the message is shown on your screen, but it lives on a server – usually a server with redundancy and backups built in, so a spare server is available should the first one go down, and you should experience no loss of data or connectivity.
There are several ways to access messages like this – the most popular being webmail, IMAP, and Microsoft Exchange.
You probably already know about webmail – GMail, for example. Outlook too. Many others provide similar services, but for storage space and performance Google Mail (GMail) is often declared the winner. Additionally, GMail can be accessed from a tablet or smartphone app very easily, and is an ideal solution for a nomad entrepreneur.
IMAP on the other hand is simply a way of accessing messages. You can use a desktop/laptop program like Outlook, or various apps on smartphones. IMAP requires that each device be configured with settings to access the mail server – the mail server address, the connection port, etc – which makes it slightly more complex to set up than using a GMail account, which just requires a username and password. However, if you are used to using desktop programs, this can be the way to go – GMail also supports access by IMAP, so you can have the best of both worlds.
Microsoft Exchange is, of course, Microsoft’s take on this. Exchange offers email synchronization, as well as calendars, notes, etc. Large businesses may already have an Exchange server, and it’s simply a matter of connecting to that server whilst on the go (apps are available for smartphones, Outlook is available for PC). You can also rent an Exchange mailbox monthly from many internet providers. If properly configured, Exchange supports not only its own native protocols, but also webmail and IMAP.
Sending letters and bills is one thing, but whatever happened to talking to each other? Well, you can still do it – notice how many people have phones now, whether they are smartphones, “dumb” phones, or just phones in their home fastened to the wall. You are probably going to need a cellphone of some kind, even if it is only for emergencies.
“But wait”, you may think. “How do I get my emails if I’m travelling and don’t have a smartphone?”
Because you chose your email service carefully, you can now go to an internet cafe and check your mail there. Or perhaps you have a laptop with you, and can connect to the free WiFi offered in many restaurants. There are always ways.
But supposing you do have an internet connection and a laptop, or a smartphone, or a tablet…what else can you do?
You can use instant messaging – Facebook has it’s own system. Google have theirs (Hangouts or whatever they’re calling it this week). Skype has a built in system and integrates with the old MSN Messenger system. But there’s more – each one of these systems also supports video calling! You don’t have to type to people, you can see and interact with them!
In fact, the Google and Skype options support calls between multiple parties, so you can have a business meeting in your pocket whenever you want it.
You can also set up numbers that look like standard landline or cell numbers, and make and receive calls as you would with a regular phone (even through your laptop). The major benefit is that the calls are either free, or just cost the local rate – you no longer have to pay a premium for international calls.
And if you want, you can send text messages too. No, not just through your handset – you can send them directly through Skype or your Google account!
Staying in touch and organizing meetings has never been so easy.
Entrepreneur Tools at The Trading Post
How will you manage your money? I mean, in [insert foreign country], do they even have [insert your local bank]? To be honest, it doesn’t really matter. Most banks these days offer “online banking”, so you can manage your account without ever having to deal with a bank employee face to face or even on the phone.
If you have a credit card you will find they are accepted in many countries to pay for goods. And of course you are backed up by all the card security policies and protocols, meaning you are covered for faulty goods and quite possibly theft.
But what if you want to pay for something online? Credit cards again come to the rescue, but so do virtual wallets – the most well know is PayPal, but others exist, for example Payza, Skrill (formerly MoneyBookers), Nochex, and so on.
Many online stores are now beginning to accept Bitcoin as a form of payment. Bitcoin is a distributed, secure, virtual wallet. You can either purchase or “mine” Bitcoins, but that’s a story for another time altogether!
And eBay has reached most of the world too. Search for items locally, or sell things you don’t need. The world is indeed your marketplace!
Entrepreneur Tools for Making Cave Paintings
A lot of “real work” involves such things as spreadsheets and word processing documents. How on earth can you do that when you are travelling?
Simple – Google have Google Drive, Microsoft have MS Office Online – and there are others as well. You can create, edit, collaborate and share documents, spreadsheets, presentations, drawings…whatever you need.
Better still, there are apps for your smartphone or tablet, so you can start that spreadsheet for your accountant whilst you sit on the beach!
If you need something more, Dropbox synchronizes files of all types between your devices. If you install the desktop program on multiple machines, you can even run fully synchronized portable apps from it. Many programs can also make use of Dropbox for file storage – check out their website for more information.
And if you fancy editing some photos while on the go, give Pixlr a try – it’s almost like Photoshop in a browser. But free. (Flash is required to use Pixlr)
Tracking the Seasons
How many things do you need to remember to do? Do you need to stick to a schedule?
The most successful combination I have found for staying organized has to be Google Calendar and Todoist – Google Calendar for fixed appointments and staying on track, with Todoist for reminders of the things required every day, eg “Practice meditation for 10 minutes” – just fit it in when you can, but don’t forget about it!
Microsoft Exchange also features a built-in calendar, and a task list which some people may find more convenient than using several different services; of course, it integrates well with Microsoft Outlook.
Google also offer “Google Tasks”, which can be accessed from GMail – however, it is a very basic system at the moment compared to other task managers.
If you want really simple task lists and a great simple note-taking facility, check out Google Keep. It’s growing on me!
What About Some Tribal Dancing?
There comes a time when you just want to chill out and listen to your favorite groove…but you don’t want to carry a stack of CDs with you, and storage space is at a premium. Enter online streaming!
Some of the contenders in this area include Spotify, Apple Music and Google Music. All are excellent services, with some free and some paid for options. But due to licensing restrictions, not all of these music services are available in every country. Having a free account with each one is a good start, but you may want to read the terms and conditions that apply to each country on your itinerary before you start travelling.
Entrepreneur Tools to Get Started on the Path To Freedom
That’s it. You can break free of the confines of an office – even of your home office if you have one – you don’t need a dedicated device to get your work done and run a business. You may think it’s nice to be able to come back one day and carry on in your office…but it’s also nice to get out there and see what the world has to offer.
Please be aware that the services detailed above are not the only ones available – new service providers pop up all the time. Feel free to do your own research and find alternatives – this is just the beginning!
And don’t forget to let me know in the comments section below if you have any recommendations of web based tools that you use.