The Socially Connected, Rent-Free, Office in a Bag

Look How Far We’ve Come.

When my partner and I launched Activated Multimedia, Inc in the early 1990’s, it took me an hour to load my car for a demo, an hour to set up the demo, and an hour getting my sore back fixed after schlepping all that stuff around town. In those days before the Internet existed,in order to show our Fortune 500 clients the “magic of multimedia” I hauled an entire Mac Quadra with a giant CRT in my trunk, along with enough cables to hang the golden gate bridge. I would arrive at least an hour before the meeting commenced, just to plug everything in, and usually had sweat dripping from my brow for the first 15 minutes of every presentation. To say it was cumbersome would be an understatement.

Today it’s easy to fit your entire office, if not your life, into one carry-on size bag.

The examples are almost infinite. You can take an entire library with you on a Kindle;you can take your “computer” with you in a hand-held device like an iPhone or a Blackberry, which also serves as your movie theater and concert hall to go. As our tools and technology have successfully evolved into true portability (smaller and lighter packages that fit in your pocket), the economics and viability of having that big office loaded with bulky hardware starts to look more and more obsolete.

Many New Professionals Are Investing in Technology Instead of Rent, for Virtual Office Freedom

Today’s smart professionals in the age of connectivity are realizing that by “going portable” the costs and carrying weight of a large fully-equipped office are often mitigated.Like me, they have learned to downsize their physical office, in favor of taking their “virtual office” with them wherever they go.

That’s not to say there isn’t a place for physical offices, especially in real estate. But if you just have to have a formal “street presence,” try going for less square footage, for a shorter term. Or even better, tap into the many offices around the world that rent “by the day”. (For more about that read this summary “How Virtual Offices Work.”)

I have an office that I rarely visit based in St. Louis, and three separate tiny offices in different towns in Chile. But my “main office” is essentially an oversized briefcase. That’s what I use most as my office.

Currently, I live outside the USA more than in it, and travel on flights and connections that often are measured in days rather than hours. Accordingly, I have learned to fit (i.e “cram”) all my clothes, and my office, into one overstuffed carry-on bag.  Yes, even with my laptop, camera, iPhone, and cables, I can fit a weeks worth of clothes in there as well! The only thing I can’t seem to fit in this bag is my secretary.

Here are the key items that give me my office on wheels:


iPhone or Smartphone– I have a chip for the USA and a chip for South America – which is invaluable to avoid roaming charges. I have an original iPhone, and had a friend “jailbreak” or “unbrick” it, to allow for the different carriers in different countries. Sure, Blackberry and Palm Pre work also. In terms of apps, there are way too many to list here, but suffice to say the Zillow and Trulia Apps are great for real estate agents. They geo-target your location and bring up what’s for sale where you are and they give you comps too.  “Around Me” is a great one if you travel in the US because it tells you where they closest “anything” is to where you are (based on the internal GPS). Coffee, hospital, grocery store, resturaunts, hotels etc. But there are over 1.5 million apps out there, so search using Google for the ones that help you the most.

Canon Powershot– Because for business I need high-quality, high-res photos, and phonecams just don’t cut it in terms of pixel size. The all time favorite camera in the world, and easy to download your pictures to your computer or a variety of devices. I have a Powershot 630, but there are other models available.

Plug Converters- Most electronic devices today come with a plug/transformer set for International use. If it says 110-240volts, then you won’t fry your US-made device (110volts) when plugging it in to a South American or European socket (220-240volts). All you need is a converter to make the “prongs” match. Extra batteries for your devices is always a good idea as well.

Laptop– I’ve got 20 years of Mac-love and 15 years with Dell, but after having 2 expensive laptops fry in Airport XRay machines, my techno-gurus gave me a “made in China” IBM stepchild called a “Lenovo”that turned out to perform just as well as the better known brands.Much less painful if something goes wrong- but this little Chevy Nova suits me fine at half the price. Because I travel, my office has our troubleshooting tech Michele hooked up by virtue of an “agent” program, so she can fix anything remotely for me, no matter where in the world I may be.



TweetGrid– Track 9 or more Twitter accounts or terms at once. For monitoring subjects of interest and keywords like “real estate” “housing” “foreclosures” “realtor” and other business-centric terms, I use the 3 x3 array to also follow updates and tweets from other real estate professionals.


TweetDeck– For coordinating your Twitter accounts, following friends, as well as a one-stop shop for Retweeting, posting Twitpics, 12sec videos, and following Social Media trends. Works with Facebook and iPhones in most countries.


Twhirl– Cute little widget that is like a mini-version of Tweetdeck. Boasts a really fast URL-shortener tool as well. I keep this running on my desktop.


AlertThingy– To view and operate both your Facebook and Twitter accounts at once, in harmony. Efficient little app that saves you time.


Microsoft Office Picture Manager– I love Photoshop but this is the most efficient way to size images for quick placement in my blog, TwitPicor websites.Not a huge Microsoft fan but this little tool is fast, and easy to use, and usually is included with Office. Selecting “Edit Pictures” can give me my shot color corrected, cropped, resized and more in less time than it takes Photoshop to open.


FreeTranslations- Remember, even in the prosaic USA, over 20% of your customers speak another lengua materna. May make you sound like a gradeschooler, but 95% of the translations aren’t bad!

Airline WiFi– Most airlines today are equipping their larger wide-body aircraft with Internet Connectivity via Wifi. I usually fly American, because they have my gazillion miles stored since 1981 – and they are retrofitting most of it’s 767 fleet with WiFi for a fee.  But I get it at no charge during this promotion season using this coupon code. Feel free to try it: AAWiFi80208A2

Google Voice– 3 cents a minute and you’re talking worldwide with high-fidelity.

Air Card– For Internet Connectivity anywhere you may be.

Thanks to space and time-saving devices like these, and the proclivity of Internet-based applications, I can literally take my office with me wherever I go, and stay connected in  virtual real time. I can reduce the size of my physical office, lower my rent costs, and probably end up more efficient as a result.

True, there were a few things the old Mac Quadra could do that I still miss.

What I don’t miss is my sore back or the sweat. Today I can easily lift my entire office and put it in the airline overhead compartment, no sweat.

Now, if I can only figure out how to fit my secretary in the same small space!