I’ve worked in many rural areas including Lander, Wyoming (Pop: 7800) where if the wind blew just a little too hard, my Internet connection went down - and you know how the wind blows in Wyoming! I’ve even worked from an old RV on the road, in state parks and at other campgrounds. And soon, I’ll be working from my new home in Tok, Alaska (Pop: 1800) along the Alaska Highway.
Here are some of my tips for working from remote and rural areas. I also turned to a Twitterfriend, Becky McCray, who provides some additional tips. I’ll introduce her after the jump.
Doing Business in Rural Places
1. Invest in fast Internet access. Sometimes it has to be satellite which can be pricey, but you can write it off your taxes as a valid and essential business expense.
2. Identify wifi hotspots - or Internet-enabled locations - in your area. If my Internet connection went down, I’d drive into town to connect at a cafe or restaurant or even a hotel or campground. Some McDonalds and Wendys even offer wifi so find out which businesses are wired and use them as backup when your access goes down.
3. Stock up on car chargers. Even when house power went out - particularly in my RV - I could rev up the engine and power up my essential tools and gadgets including computer and mobile devices. Invest in a USB car charger to charge your handhelds such as the SynCh from Malleable Devices.*
4. Sign up for shipping accounts. FEDEX, UPS, DHL - they all claim to reach from every door to door. Find out which ones offer the most reliable pick up and shipping services and take advantage of their services to save yourself time and the cost of gas driving to town to ship things.
5. Join online forums or social networks. Isolation can be hard when you’re living in a rural area and your nearest neighbor is miles away. Stay connected with peers by joining social networks relevant to your industry or other professional networks where you can get answers to business questions, hear about the latest trends or just have contact with other people.
Small Biz Survival
I asked Becky McCray, a rural small business expert, for some of her tips for very rural small businesses. Becky blogs at Small Biz Survival. She is also a small town entrepreneur, the co-owner of a liquor store and cattle ranch. She writes about small business and rural issues based on her own successes and failures. As a consultant, she helps small businesses and small town governments to get things funded and get things done.
Here’s what she advises:
6. Don’t forget the library for wifi or public internet access.
7. Look for online support and advice from professionals, like business counselors with the Small Business Development Center. (Note from Aliza: A good example is WyomingEntrepreneur.biz. Disclaimer: They are one of my clients, however, they are delving more and more into social media to interact with Wyoming entrepreneurs, particularly those in remote areas.)
8. Take advantage of online resources, like Inc.com, Entrepreneur.com, or WillItFly.com.
9. Take advantage of small town friendliness to find your local support services. For example, who will receive a package for you? Besides the office supply, where can you make a quick photocopy? In my town, you could try the library, the post office, or the bank. Think about what services you are likely to need, before you need them.
10. Be sure you track your mileage every time you drive somewhere for business. That trip to the state capital or county seat to file some obscure form? Deductible.
11. Consider your business insurance coverage. Rates can be cheaper in rural areas, so don’t just ignore it. Especially consider general liability to protect you from many different risks and equipment coverage to replace any business equipment, because home owner’s insurance typically won’t cover it.
12. Check for small business services at your local schools, including junior colleges and technical schools. Even in small towns, many have an economic development person, a business incubator, or a business support service. You may be able to access wifi, equipment, basic services, a conference room or even high quality video conferencing at low or no cost.
13. Have local utilities or cooperatives? Ask what business services or consulting they provide. You might be surprised!
14. Join relevant trade associations. Extra connections within your industry can help you network and improve your skills.
You may be rural and remote, but you are not alone!
Are you doing business from rural and remote places? How do you stay connected, save time, save money, and not just survive but thrive?
*disclaimer: they are also one of my consulting clients…
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