Business doesn’t stop because you’re traveling. You still have deadlines to meet, issues to resolve, emails to answer, and a company to run. If you travel often, learning to stay productive while you’re on the road is essential.
To that end, here are eight tips from a few small-business owners who spend a lot of time away from home.
1. Know where to find Wi-Fi. There’s an app for that! Actually, there are quite a few. One worth trying is Wi-Fi Finder for Android or iOS. It provides a directory of free and paid hotspots at 650,000 locations in 144 countries. Another tip: Stay loyal to a hotel chain and join its rewards program to secure free Wi-Fi as your status increases.
Some hotels, like Courtyard by Marriott, Best Western, and all Holiday Inn properties offer free Wi-Fi regardless of your membership status. If Wi-Fi is essential, check with the specific property before booking.
2. Rent a hotspot. The FBI warns international travelers to avoid unsecured Wi-Fi locations (because hackers might use them to obtain personal information), notes Joe Fennell, COO of XCom Global. Renting a mobile hotspot costs around $15 and will pay for itself by keeping you from racking up international roaming charges on your phone.
3. Invest in the right mobile devices. Tour guide Halle Eavelyn says, “The iPad didn’t meet all of my needs, so I traded it for a MacBook Air, which I swear by. I also adore the voice-to-text [feature] on both the Mac and iPhone, so I’m using Siri to help me set reminders while on the road.” Jennifer Fong, managing principal for Luce, Murphy, Fong & Associates, suggests that entrepreneurs also invest in a keyboard for the iPad and a headset to use for conference calls.
4. Store your data in the cloud. “Computers that travel a lot die faster than computers that don’t,” notes Justin Handley, owner of Narasopa Media and a professional musician. He advises keeping all data in the cloud by using services like SugarSync or Dropbox as a backup and failsafe. Both function like a hard drive on your computer and come with a mobile app, so important files are always with you.
5. Rent an office (or a desk). If you’re spending an extended amount of time in a metropolitan area, rent a temporary office space or a desk in a shared space for the duration of your trip. “Our offices are ideal for business travelers and start at $30 per month with no long-term commitment,” says Grant Greenberg, a PR manager for Regus, which rents space. “The monthly fee gives you unlimited access to any of our 1,500 locations. There is Wi-Fi, administrative assistance, free refreshments, and a more professional environment for holding meetings and doing business than a coffee shop or hotel lobby.”
6. Take advantage of any free time. Physician Barbara Bergin uses her travel time to complete online continuing-education requirements that are hard to schedule while she’s at home. “That reduces the amount of time I have to schedule away from the office going to courses.”
7. Don’t let anyone know you’re gone. “We live in a borderless world where you can do business just about anywhere, thanks to phones and laptops,” observes author Maureen Francisco. “The key is to make sure people have no idea that you’re not in the office. That’s why it’s important to be professional and reply to emails and calls in a timely manner.”
8. Turn off the music. Yes, airports are full of strange people, but the person sitting next to you at the gate or on the plane could be a valuable professional contact. Take the time to at least introduce yourself and learn a bit about your seat mate(s).