You’ll have to forgive me, for I am biased. My home writing and marketing business centers on the latest technology. So of course I think it’s important.
What’s more, I think entrepreneurs working from home can use these gadgets to great advantage. A smartphone might seem like a toy, and a tablet even more so. But used wisely they can be tools that help us do our jobs even better.
The essential smartphone
My father is a stubborn man. Once he gets something into his head, it’s impossible to get it out. At some point in the past he decided that he didn’t need a smartphone.
“I work at home,” he said. “Why do I need email on my phone when I have it right in front of me?”
Apparently he was so adamant in his stance against smartphones – especially the part about paying an extra $30 per month for data – that he blocked out part of the equation. Yes, he might work at home. But he doesn’t want to spend all his time there.
He likes to take trips to the beach with my mother. He has to visit clients. He uses his flexibility to run errands when stores aren’t busy.
And you know what? There are a number of reasons he could benefit from having email on his smartphone at those times.
1. At the beach. Yes, Dad loves the flexibility of working from home, because he can go to the beach on weekdays when it’s not so crowded. Yet the working world continues around him. Maybe someone sends him an email that he would benefit from. Maybe someone needs an answer to something. in any case, having his email with him would help.
Yes, if it’s an important matter the person will call Dad. But what if they need something that’s in his email box? He can’t fetch it for them until he gets home. Oops.
2. Visiting clients. This is again an issue where he might not have all the information on hand. A smartphone is essentially a massive storage device. You can store files directly on it, or you can store them in the cloud. Either way, you can access all the documents you need, so if a client has an issue you can get them the information right away.
3. Running errands. Anyone who is good with email won’t respond to messages right away. Instead they’ll have designated times that they check their inboxes and reply as necessary. Wouldn’t it be nice to schedule those times when you’re waiting in line at the grocery store or at the bank? That’s down time that can turn into productive time.
You don’t need to be like me to benefit from a smartphone. Tech geek as I am, I have the shiny new T-Mobile Galaxy S3. It’s a heavy duty tool, to be sure. But you can get by with a BlackBerry or an iPhone just as easily. The basic benefits are present with all smartphones.
Oh, and about Dad. Last week he called me up and started asking questions about smartphones. I wonder if he’s turning around on this?
The desktop computer
I’ll be brief here, because this is really just a segue to the next section. Given the nature of computing, we tend to buy new computers every few years. Software keeps getting better, and our old machines aren’t properly equipped.
When it’s time to buy a new computer, I always recommend that at-home entrepreneurs select a desktop over a laptop. Why? There are a number of reasons.
- Desktops stay in one place and so don’t have wear and tear issues.
- Desktops have more processing power, so you can do more.
- Desktops have larger screens, also so you can do more.
- Desktops are cheaper than laptops.
My feeling is that you’ll get far more value for your dollar from a desktop than you will a laptop. But there’s an element missing here.
Many at-home entrepreneurs value portability. I know that when I’m working on an arduous project sometimes I need to get out of the house and work somewhere else — a coffee shop, the park, or anywhere I won’t see the same things I see every day.
Fortunately, I’ve found a useful and entertaining replacement for my laptop.
Tablet as a tool
If you think that tablets are nothing more than expensive toys, I don’t blame you. The way most people use tablets, they’re exactly that. But the enterprising entrepreneur can find plenty of value in a tablet. I’ve used mine to completely replace my laptop.
No, you’re probably not going to pound out a business proposal on a tablet. Nor are you going to write full documents. But you can perform plenty of other tasks.
- Deal with email in a comprehensive manner.
- Browse the web just as you would on a laptop.
- Read with the ease of magazine or newspaper.
- View interactive materials for clients.
- Run video and audio conferencing apps such as Skype.
- Access your desktop remotely.
- Edit web pages.
The list goes on and on. Indeed, there are few functions you can perform on a laptop that you can’t on a tablet. It takes a while to get used to the all-touchscreen control, but once you get the hang of it the tablet becomes a powerful tool.
And, of course, it does double as a powerful entertainment device. I honestly read a lot more since I got a tablet than I did before I got one.
Make no mistake: modern technology can be one big distraction.
Used improperly a smartphone is just a video game system, a tablet a video player, a computer a web-surfing tool.
But used properly, and in conjunction, these gadgets can make an at-home entrepreneur’s job easier.
The investment you make in these technologies can pay itself back tenfold.
Image credit: Samsung GALAXY SIII Media Launch 29, Vernon Chan, via Flickr, Creative Commons