Working from Your RV
What It Takes to Make It Work
Many RVers combine their professional lives with a love of travel, working while on the road. Here are five important areas to consider and tips from the experts — folks running businesses working from their RVs.
Designate a space that is just for work and keep work items within those “walls.” Organization is key. For a list of helpful suggestions that fit your needs, visithttp://lifeorganizers.com/cm_articles/42_the_organized_home_office.html.
Whether you’re traveling while running your business or operating a mobile service, space is at a premium and excess paper encroaches on this valuable commodity. Trisha Jackson, owner of Crosstown Pet Care in Brandon, Fla. (www.crosstownpetcare.com), uses a transcription service for her voice mail messages. Messages are e-mailed, which avoids bulky notebooks or loose pink sheets.
Other ways to conserve paper include printing only what you absolutely must. Before heading out on the road, transfer as much paper as you can to a digital format by using a scanner. Converting your signature into a jpeg allows you to electronically insert it into documents you need to sign — no printing needed.
Dr. Carrell Chadwell, author and psychologist (www.drchadwell.com), suggests hiring a fax service. The service gives you a fax number to give to your clients, receives your faxes, scans them and then e-mails them to you so you don’t deal with paper.
Use paperless billing for your monthly bills.
Swap a bulky desktop for a laptop with an extra large battery, or try an iPad. Eric Jackson, founder and president of Jackson Kayaks (www.jacksonkayak.com), finds the iPad meets all his needs when used with a wireless keyboard. “Laptop batteries are short lived,” he says. “Before the iPad, I had to run the generator a lot just to keep the laptop battery charged. The iPad battery lasts for days.”
“It’s critical to have a cast-iron backup system,” advises Janet Groene, an author and blogger (http://www.solowomanrv.blogspot.com) who writes about the RV lifestyle. “Back up your files even more religiously than you normally do and keep them in a secure place.”
Reliable access is an important component to business success on the road. Many of the RV entrepreneurs we talked to suggested having two data plan carriers so you always have a backup. “It appears unprofessional if you’re unable to respond to a client in a timely manner,” says Amy Burkert co-founder of GoPetFriendly.com (www.GoPetFriendly.com).
Don’t be fooled by claims of “unlimited” data. No one currently offers a data plan with more than 5GB of broadband speed connection. If you use that prior to the end of your billing cycle, you’ll be knocked down to dial-up speed. Use campgrounds with Wi-Fi or locate libraries and coffee shops for Internet access when you’re not traveling. For more information on ways to get connected while on the road, visit http://betterrving.com/rv-life/plug-in-log-on/.
Leave your color laser printer at home and purchase a small inkjet. “The inkjet uses so little power it doesn’t even really show up in my calculations for how much power I’m using,” says Joe Cooper, co-founder of the software company Virtualmin, Inc. (www.virtualmin.com). He adds that even though they don’t last as long, they’re cheap to replace — around $40 to $50.
For those who value the ability to make quick copies, an all-in-one printer, copier, scanner may work best. You can pick up an inexpensive one for less than $100.
If you don’t need to print too often, use a flash drive and head to a library or office supply store.
Many RVers already use a mail forwarding service, but when you’re running your professional life from the road, it’s beneficial to have one that can offer additional services. Amy Burkert of GoPetFriendly.com uses a service that is willing to open her mail for her. “We get an e-mail that lists all the pieces of mail we’ve received,” she explains. “Then, we get to decide whether we want them to hold, shred, send or open each one. If we need them to open it, they scan the contents and e-mail us a PDF.”
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