I can run my business from anywhere in the world.
But, this didn't happen overnight. It took me 12 to 18 months to become paperless and, most importantly, have the confidence that I would have everything I needed to work remotely. This is no small feat considering I'm IN the "paper business." I make my living putting ink on paper for small to mid-sized law firms. So as a printer who depends on clients printing things on paper, it's quite the contrariety for me to be paperless.
Going paperless allowed me to freedom to work remotely.
I found several tools critical to successfully working remotely. Most of them are free for the basic level of service, however I have chosen to upgrade my level of service for a very reasonable cost.
Currently, as I write this post, I'm in Hawaii on vacation. But even while on vacation I generally check-in and usually work for a couple of hours each day.
So here are the critical tools I use everyday to work remotely:
No surprise here. But Gmail has served me well for many years. At the suggestion of a network administrator, I switched to Google Apps for Business in 2010 which is a paid version of Gmail. For $50/year per user, I have an email address with my domain name. I don't have to use @gmail.com but can use email@example.com There are many other features and benefits as well. But I've never been disappointed with Gmail.
On my iPhone and iPad I do use a couple of apps to make processing email more productive. First of which is Mailbox and the second is Sanebox. This is a duo of apps that work well together to save tons of time processing 100's of emails each day.
Google Apps for Business
2. Google Docs
I got started with Google Docs to collaborate with other remote employees. We need a live update on job scheduling and WIP. Quite frankly, there are other tools out there but the Google Docs spreadsheet is working well for us.
I love Dropbox. This is the most critical tool for me. Without cloud storage, I would not be able to get away from hard copy client files. And without client files, I can't work. So Dropbox makes the remote working dream come true. I use it just as I would a physical filing cabinet but with a deeply nested folder system. And it's a searchable in a much easier and faster way than hardcopy files.
I must admit this was the scariest adjustment. When you stop keeping a hardcopy of customer files and totally rely on what you save in the cloud, it takes a lot of faith at first. For a year, I kept both systems, hardcopy and cloud. That's why it takes 12-18 months to make this move. But after I saw the repeat business come in and I was using only my documents stored in Dropbox, I had complete confidence in just a few months.
I've written about the Dropbox security concerns here:
How Safe is Dropbox? 4 Reasons to Have Confidence
Enable the Dropbox Two-Step Verification
Take Control of Dropbox
Dropbox Cheat Sheet
Top 10 Dropbox Tips - Tim Baran of Rocketmatter / LegalProductivity.com
I've been an Evernote user since 2008. At the time, I was only using the web clipper function. Now, I'm sure my wife would call me an Evernote evangelist. She is sick of my saying, "Why don't you put _________ in Evernote?"
Evernote is remarkably versatile tool. It can be whatever you need it to be. No two people will use it exactly the same. For me, everything that is not filed into a client's Dropbox file will be stored in Evernote. Invoices from vendors, receipts, research for blog posts, marketing ideas, travel documents. Anything I think I could possibly need in the future. It's all searchable. I can scan it, clip it, email it to Evernote and I can forget it. But Evernote won't. It's like a second brain.
Evernote Essentials by Brett Kelly
Evernote for Lawyers - NC Bar article by Erik Mazzone
A Lawyer's Guide to Evernote- RocketMatter E-book
Evernote Can Make You a More Productive Lawyer - Daniel Gold article on Attorney At Work. He also has an e-book, Evernote: The Unofficial Guide to Getting Things Done
Not part of the free tools. But many ask about this. I'm an Apple convert over the last two years. I'm very happy with the decision and I believe it makes my life much easier. It was another scary move. But after living on both sides, I can say I that I couldn't ever imaging going back.
iPhone - Currently the 4S, but will likely upgrade to the iPhone 5 this summer. Not because I really need to, but because I just love the new technology.
iPad Air - I've only been using this since Christmas 2013. So every week I'm finding more ways to incorporate this into my workflow. I mainly use in processing emails, reading and making notations on PDF's.
Macbook Pro - This is the office workhorse. I have it attached to a 27-inch monitor and use both screens.
For more valuable insights into the working remote, Tim Baran of RocketMatter is doing a series on the 37 Signals book.
Here is a sample:
Working Remotely: The Many Benefits
Working Remotely: A Productive Home Office