Since 2008 I have been fulfilling my dream of returning to my entrepreneurial roots after spending nearly a decade behind an executive desk. One of the core desires of this dream was to have the ability to work from anywhere to enable more time with my family and increased flexibility for travel.
I am now living that dream. Through the use of some amazing tools I find myself spending less than 5% of my time meeting with clients in person. Most of my larger projects have been referred through Twitter relationships. Many times projects are delivered and invoices are paid before I even have the opportunity of meeting these “virtual” clients in person. Some I have never met but we communicate on a consistent basis, many times face-to-face.
Here are the Top 10 tools that I use
on a regular basis in my virtual endeavors.
1. Google Apps
No, this is not Gmail. It’s Gmail on steroids using your personal domain with many other perks and collaboration tools. For years I have managed Microsoft Exchange servers and maintained my own email accounts to achieve synchronized bliss between Outlook, smart-phones, and web based clients. I am now free, minus the $50 per year per user for a 25GB mailbox. I use the Premier Edition and manage email for all of my domains in one easy and reliable platform.
My good friend Sweetie Berry introduced me to DropBox. It changed my digital life. I currently run two desktops, a PC laptop, a MacBook Pro and my iPhone. DropBox provides seamless file syncing across all of my computers without any effort on my end. It’s the easiest file sharing, online syncing, live backup, cross-platform transferring service that I have ever experienced. The first 2GB of storage is FREE and through inviting friends to the party you can get up to 8GB without upgrading to a paid service. It is a standard install for any client that I work with to allow easy and secure file-sharing. It’s a must-have.
I believe it was Chris Brogan that first introduced me to Evernote. Evernote is like DropBox for every thought, note, screen capture, client note, blog post idea, picture, or video that you have. It seamlessly synchronizes through all my devices and has great sorting and searching capability. It is my brain dump receptacle.
If you are not on Skype, just do it. Sign up, start chatting, save on minutes, collaborate more effectively through video calls and screen sharing. It’s 2010… you’re not on Skype? 🙂
5. RackSpace Cloud Servers
Once you have lived in a cloud nothing else compares. I exclusively host all of my websites and my client websites on RackSpace’s Cloud Servers. I can launch a new server with a new IP address using one of my pre-built installs literally in minutes. I can even provision and launch a server from my iPhone. I work with personality driven brands and organizations that many times experience traffic spikes through TV and radio appearances. The “cloud” has taken hits for the team on many occasions and just delivers. Configuration is not for the faint at heart but the payoff is worth it.
It is hard to beat the value and simplicity of GoDaddy’s domain management (if you can look past the endless upsells). I can always find a coupon, strike a deal, and quickly buy a domain name without hassle. Hosting on GoDaddy? Sorry… no thank you. Most of my projects involve large Drupal or WordPress installs. GoDaddy hosting + any platform with significant database traffic to MySQL = PAIN. Take another look at RackSpace for that.
7. Verizon MiFi
Simply one of the best investments I have ever made. This is my mobile WiFi hotspot. I can have up to five computers using 3G high-speed (most of the time) access almost anywhere I go. This includes iPods and iPads. This little card has saved my you-know-what many times. Comcast should be paying my MiFi bill considering how many times this gem has covered for their frequent outages.
I use TweetDeck as my social media console managing my Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Foursquare, and Google Buzz profiles. It is free but I would pay for it if I had to. In my world it is essential.
9. Power Inverter
Electricity is the Achilles’ heel of the virtual work life. For less than $50 you can run your laptop and just about any other AC powered device in your car. I have knocked out many projects on road trips sitting in the passenger seat with my laptop charging and my Verizon MiFi providing internet access. It’s worth it!
I am a Mac and a PC. I’m not a brand-snob (except for Starbucks) but my iPhone has been good to me. It works for me. It works well with everything listed above but it’s particularly fond of #9.
Did I miss it?
Is there an amazing tool, gadget, service, or utility that I skipped? Please let me know. I love what I do and the tools that enable my world but I am sure there are cooler things out there than I missed. Please help tame the Lyons Den.
Oh, one more thing. A few of the items above have affiliate links attached to them but that is not my motivation in listing them.