How to Run Your Marketing Agency From A Smartphone (While Overseas)
I hope this post also explains my hiatus from the blog. I just got back from travelling Australia and New Zealand for 3 months (and California- does that count?), and this is what I have to report back… Enjoy and let me know your thoughts in the comments!
I like to travel. A lot. Sometimes my travelling puts me in a town, village, or a deserted farm without WiFi and where the locals don’t even know what an iPhone looks like.
The odd thing is that in most of these countries, they are advanced enough to have cell phone coverage and even 4G speeds. There are more cell phones than people on this planet. More Africans have access to cell service than piped water. The stats go on.
But it’s not always about the connectivity that will determine how successful you can be at this. It could be about the time, space, and location you’re in. For example, I spent 3 weeks travelling New Zealand on a bus and while I could technically pull out my laptop and tether from my phone, it would have been very uncomfortable and, frankly, pretty antisocial. There are also countries I would never pull out a sleek Macbook Air in because of safety reasons.
I spoke about running your business while travelling, but not quite like this. So if you ever find yourself in a similar predicament or if you’re just curious how to streamline your business to be able to run it from just your phone, here is a breakdown of my process including the exact tools and apps I used.
First things first, you’re going to need a decent smartphone that’s powerful enough to have multiple applications open in the background without lagging. I know some of the android phones coming out are able to run multiple apps at the same time in split screen mode which may be useful if your screen is big enough.
I’m currently using an iPhone 6s, but there’s no doubt I will be moving to a bigger screen in the next release. It does make a huge difference.
Your phone needs to be unlocked in order to use it with carriers around the world. Most modern phones sold by bigger carriers will have multiple radio bands inside so you can connect to different GSM wavelengths, but it still does need to be unlocked. If you buy your iPhone straight from Apple (which is a cheaper option in the long run), it will be unlocked. Flagship Androids come unlocked from the factory.
Other than that, you will have to wait until you are a certain amount of months in on your contract in order to ask your provider to unlock the phone for you. There are a ton of services online selling unlock codes as well.
The biggest problem I ran into while using my phone heavily everyday (pictures, social media, email) was how quickly the battery died. You would think you have the latest and greatest phone with a fresh battery, and I can promise you it will die within a couple hours of consistent, heavy usage. You’re using it for personal reasons as well, don’t forget.
What drains the battery the most is the amount of screen time you give it and the connectivity. Lowering your screen brightness and turning off WiFi and Bluetooth when not in use will make a big difference. If you are stuck at 1-3 “bars” with a poor connection, this kills the battery much faster too. So if you’re not using it, turn off the phone altogether to preserve it’s precious life (and save on data).
Another tip for iPhone and Android users alike is not to wait for the prompt when you are at 20% and below to switch to Low Power Mode. I drain from 100% to 60% very fast, so once I’m fully charged I’ll actually switch to low power mode right away. It just reduces some background usage, will save you on data, and I haven’t noticed any lack of processing power (except while on Android where it was significant, but so was the amount of battery saved!).
I picked up one of these things in a convenient store after being stranded with a dead phone in a city and no way to contact a friend who I was supposed to meet up with in 5 minutes. It will extend your battery by a couple of hours, and can even charge your phone from completely dead to full in one shot.
You have to recharge this thing separately and they can be expensive, so the best alternative that I haven’t switched to (in order to preserve the aesthetic beauty of my phone) is to get a case with a built in battery. Mophie is the most popular brand, but Apple released their own version which looks super ugly but actually has very decent reviews. The biggest plus is that you don’t have to charge it separately with a micro USB. Two birds killed with one stone.
The SIM Card
Never, ever buy a travelling data pack from your provider at home. The prices are astronomical and don’t really make sense. Never completely roam either unless you want to spend a couple thousand on your phone bill when you get home.
The best place to get a SIM card is in the airport once you land. I can’t tell you the headache of entering a new city, not having data, not being able to use Google Maps to find the nearest provider’s store, not being able to call an Uber, etc.
In most international airports, right before you exit to the taxis you will usually be in a large hall with family members and limo drivers waiting. Here is where you will find cafés and several network provider stores selling prepaid plans.
The best part about the airport stores is that they understand travellers and that you are looking for a prepaid plan for a couple of weeks/months. Most mobile service providers nowadays are prepaid as opposed to postpaid- just make sure you’re not signing a fixed term contract or anything of the sort.
The only things you really need to worry about is:
- the amount of data
- the speed
- and the coverage of the network
In that order. I don’t care much about local minutes or calling (the lowest I’ve ever gotten was 200 minutes and I never placed one local call. If I really need to, I’ll use the Skype app to call landlines or call over Facetime Audio). Most stores will have very comparable rates, but which do you choose?
A little hack I found is to keep your SIM card in and turn on your phone for a moment in when you land. See the network name at the top of your phone’s notification tray? It will be different than the network you have at home, but it automatically connected to that one because your provider back home has a roaming agreement with this company, which generally means they are dependant on them as a partner and believe in their quality of service. So in short, if you’re happy with your provider back home, you can be pretty confident that going with the provider you are connected with will be just fine.
If you’re getting a SIM from the provider, they will be able to break into different sizes to fit every phone, and will have the little pin to open your iPhone’s SIM tray. I won’t tell you about the nightmare I had to go through when I bought a SIM from a convenient store in Nicaragua and had to use scissors to eyeball the perfect cut to slim it down so it would fit in my phone.
The provider has to allow you to tether internet from your phone to other devices through bluetooth or WiFi or USB. The networks that offer “unlimited” data almost always don’t allow it (it just won’t work when you try). I’ve ran coaching sessions and even closed some of my biggest deals in the middle of nowhere by tethering to my MacBook Air from my iPhone.
It’s still surprising how fast your laptop browser can run on 4G (and 3G) when tethering. There’s been countless times when the tethering was MUCH faster than the WiFi I had and even paid for. Right now I am writing this from a ferry that claimed it had free WiFi but wasn’t working for anyone. Somehow I have 3G on my iPhone in the middle of the ocean between two islands while my friends are all complaining about the WiFI. 😛
At the end of the day, your plan is going to be what connects you to your clients and the rest of the world, so treat it as a business investment and don’t cheap out on the data package or company that you go with.
Most modern networks have their own app that you don’t even need to register with to view your stats. It detects the device and SIM you have inside, and will display your data usage information in a useful dashboard, and even allow you to “top up” to buy more data.
*Quick note on topping up: If you’re in a scenario like me above where I didn’t use the local calling and number, it will be much cheaper to walk into another store and buy a completely new SIM and plan if you need more data, rather than topping up. For example, one company had 6 GB that the plan I bought came with and had a promotion for 10 GB extra for “new users”.
If I topped up I would be paying $50 for another 6GB. Or I could walk into the store again and get that same 10GB promo from scratch with a new number. Many companies don’t even ask for ID or even an email address, and shouldn’t really mind if you decide to get another SIM and plan with them.*
If the provider doesn’t have an app, there is usually a number they have you can text that will text you back with the same stats. You will get initial texts with all of this information from the network once you pop the SIM card in for the first time and it is newly activated.
Android has an incredible data tracking feature built in that iPhone is lacking. In your settings you can set your monthly billing cycle dates and it will show your usage, you can set warning limits, and even force the data to turn off once you reach a certain threshold. It is great for seeing which apps are consuming the most data so you can be reminded to stop watching YouTube videos and start closing more deals.
On iPhone, use the data section in your settings to see which apps are using the most background data, and turn off data completely for the ones you don’t use. Then turn off Background App Refresh for the ones that are consuming data when you don’t even have the app open. Thank me later.
The Apps That Ran My Business
There are two ways I could have written this post. I could have shared the general process of dealing with clients and how I managed to do it all from a small screen. The second is to list out all the apps I use and within that share some nuggets. I chose the latter so I wouldn’t miss out any tool that would be crucial to your success.
Inbox by Gmail
- I personally hate checking email on my phone. Obviously I had to, so I like to turn off notifications so I feel that I’m in control of when I can be bothered with business. I strongly recommend to turn off push notifications for email if you want to keep your sanity and social life at the same time.
- Gmail apps usually require you to swipe down and refresh for the new messages to show up. With Inbox, everytime you open the app, it updates automatically and the new messages are there waiting for you.
- One thing I teach my private coaching students is how to setup Gmail to be a free, private CRM by utilizing labels and filters. I love how these settings transfer over to Inbox.
- The search bar isn’t perfect but great for finding very old stuff.
- The app is designed to “finish your work” and get to inbox zero as soon as possible. The default usage is to archive, pin, or remind you later about messages. In the settings, change the default swipe to delete rather than archive. They basically want your storage to fill up with random emails so you start paying.
Overall, Inbox has been my main way of communicating with current clients. My inbox is always empty. If a client is properly labelled and I respond, I check mark it which archives it, and they will only appear again once they respond. If it is junk mail, I’ll just delete to save space. No reason why something should be in your inbox unless it is something you have to get to later. In that case you can use the remind me later feature which is what Inbox is all about to turn your emails into tasks.
It’s amazing what you can do with just the browser on your phone, for example how I created an invoice on the go for a client that needed the records immediately. I’ve always used chrome, so it made sense to use the app version as well. Here are some cool things you can do with it.
- It stores everything in the cloud and shares logins which is a crucial time saver for being on the go. No more remembering passwords!
- You can even pickup tabs and continue a browsing session on your phone that you were just doing on your computer.
- Most sites are mobile friendly or don’t really even need to be if your screen is large enough. For example, my SEO rank tracking tool isn’t mobile friendly but it was no problem at all to login with my chrome passwords saved and generate a report for a client while on a moving bus on a mountain.
- Many tools are being developed for the mobile web (because people hate downloading apps). I generated an invoice using the invoiced.com generator on the fly. I think that was so cool how it worked so smoothly on mobile.
Facebook has been the most crucial tool to my business in 2015. Dealing with the ScopeRush brand, connecting with new people every day, and even finding prospects could not have been easier with Facebook.
- To manage my multiple coaching groups, you can use the separate app for that or just use the main app. Click on “More” at the bottom right of the app, and see group and page updates.
- Notifications only when someone posts in a group or tags me, so I can help my groups out instantly. All other notifications should be turned off (again, to save your sanity).
- Facebook Messenger, the separate app, is a crucial tool in communication. It’s very good quality, dedicated only to messages with people on Facebook, and it is universal on any device. So I can pickup my conversation I was having on desktop onto my phone if I’m on the go.
- If you remember from my last post on travelling, Skype is $3/month for unlimited calls to North American numbers. This applies when you login on the app as well. So with just a data plan you have a phone that works anywhere in the world! I added $15 years ago to my Skype account for international calls. Till this day I still have $9.39 left.
- It even has screen sharing! If someone is showing me something on their screen through Skype, it will show up as video on the mobile app as well. Super neat!
- There’s no call recording on the app which is probably the biggest downfall as I use that heavily on desktop.
- In your Skype account online, set up the outgoing number to show as a local number of your area back home. Then, buy a forwarding number from that number to your local number (of whatever country you are in) with your travelling plan. Now when you call new prospects they will see the local number of their country and will be able to call you back locally and you will be able to also answer it locally without extra fees!
Whatsapp is the same idea as Facebook Messenger, but even more broad. I don’t have to depend on someone having an iPhone for iMessage or having me as a friend on Facebook, or even one at a time emails to communicate with my staff.
- For example, my developer will message me on WhatsApp with questions. That way he can continue working quickly without stopping for an entire day with a roadblock that he is waiting to be cleared.
- Make sure not to register it with your new local SIM number when it prompts you, or else your friends from back home won’t be able to contact you on it unless you message them all first (creating a duplicate profile on their phone), or if you tell them all your new local number.
This is your money hub if you’re a heavy user. Transfer, receive, send, and withdrawal money on the fly. Really, why use anything else.
- I don’t even have to login with my password to use the app. It is super secure, using my fingerprint to open my account.
- A bit buggy when refreshing or showing recent transactions. Some don’t show at all if they are a specific type of transaction.
- I wish they had a search feature. For now you can go to all transactions and have to scroll back to find anything you need.
- I wish they had an app or section for business users to create payment buttons/links on the fly in order to get paid. So many times I will close a deal but not be able to send over a payment link until I get to a computer.
WorldTimeBuddy or WorldClock
Can’t add 18 hours to the time back home, flip AM to PM, and are generally lost when it comes to time zones? Use these apps to quickly see what time it is where your prospect is at.
- WorldTimeBuddy will show you all the hours in the day in a chart fashion so you can easily compare the two time zones and plan accordingly. You can only add 4 locations at a time though, and $2.99 will unlock that limit as well as other features.
- World Clock is the built in iPhone app inside of Clock app, and can list unlimited cities so you can compare. But you can’t see future times or calculate.
The basic iOS Calendar is everything I need. It connects to Google Calendar which is a must for me, as I need a proper cloud calendar that connect to different apps. iOS Calendar will also push back to Google on any updates. You can have as many calendars as you want connected, local or in the cloud!
- When prospects book a call to speak with me on ScheduleOnce, it automatically books the event on Google Calendar. Which of course will then push to the Apple Calendar and mark the time as busy, give me reminders, notifications, etc.
- Inbox/Gmail will pull events from flights and AirBnB emails straight into my calendar or I can manually add something to Google Calendar as an event/reminder if it detects a date in an email, or if it detects a command in the incoming email (Ex. “Remind me tomorrow to send you the proposal.” will offer you to add that as an event in your calendar). So cool.
- Amazing time zone detection. The app knows where you are, and so the time you book on new events will be set in local time. But it will show the time in other zones if you turn on time zone assistance. Or, when you book an event in another country you can choose the time zone of that country to plan accordingly. Useful if planning meetings back home while you are using the app overseas.
Riding on the back of an elephant with one hand, and need to type with the other? SwiftKey will allow you to use just your thumb to swipe through the keyboard and never lift your finger.
- Google Keyboard for Android has this built in and is way better, so enjoy if you have an Android!
- Over time, it will start to learn the words you use, so you can eventually swipe through slang words, and it will suggest next words in the phrase based on your previous sentences and what other users use.
It definitely wasn’t easy doing what I did, or necessarily smart. However I hope that if you ever find yourself in a similar situation, at least now you won’t be discouraged from doing business if all you have is your phone!
The smartphone isn’t perfect yet, although with everything moving to mobile, there is a lot of room for improvement and the experience will only get easier. For example, I would love an app that allows you to copy/paste multiple things to the clipboard, just like I do on my mac with JumpCut. If you made one I’d buy it right away!
What other apps do you use that are crucial to running your business while on the move? Let me know in the comments below. And if you have friends that travel a lot with their businesses, make sure to share this post with them so they can benefit too!