Pop quiz: Roughly one in five Americans now works from home some of the time. How is this great news for you as a small business professional? (And trust me, it is.)
First, the evidence: According to a 2012 Telework Research Network study covered in Forbes, of the 140 million members of the workforce, 30 million — a bit more than 20 percent — work from home one day a week or more. Indeed, the researchers predict this work-from-home contingent will increase by 63 percent within five years.
So why is this great news for you? As research mounts supporting Telework’s findings — that we’re undergoing a massive shift toward home-based work — software makers, cloud-service providers and other innovators have been hard at work developing tools to make work and life easier for the mobile professional. In 2014, these tools have become robust enough to make a real difference in your productivity. A few examples:
1) Mobile Office for Microsoft Office 365 Subscribers
As I said, innovators taking note of the move toward work-from-anywhere have been working feverishly to bring great tools to mobile professionals like you. Case in point: Microsoft 365, a subscription service offering cloud-based access to MS Office, now includes mobile versions of Word, PowerPoint, Excel and the suite’s other tools.
For just under $10 a month, you can access Office in the cloud, including storage for your documents. And with Mobile Office, you can use Word, Excel and other Office tools from any mobile device — and keep the formatting intact when you save or share your work.
2) CardMunch Business Card Reader
This innovative service simultaneously takes a high-tech and low-tech approach to pulling that business card you just received into your contact database. Snap a picture of a business card, send it to CardMunch, and people (yes, real people) transcribe it, drop the contents into all the right fields, and add it to your smartphone’s contact list.
Other clever features include a single-tap method to connect with your new contact on LinkedIn (CardMunch is a LinkedIn service), and the CardFlow Mobile Rolodex feature that lets you flip through your virtual cards on your phone’s screen, just like a real Rolodex. Here’s a service designed for on-the-go professionals like you! Oh, and it’s free.
3) eVoice Virtual Phone Service
If yours is a very small business — and you’d rather not advertise that to every caller — try the cloud-based virtual phone solution eVoice. Here’s a service that gives you a toll-free 800 number, professionally recorded greetings, advanced call routing, and multiple extensions (Sales, for example, or General Inquiries) — even if they all forward to your mobile phone. It’s the perfect phone service for a small business professional who’s always out and about.
With eVoice, you even get the clever voicemail-to-text feature, which records and transcribes your voicemail, sending you the audio file and a transcription — so you can “read” your message instead of having to listen to the whole thing. eVoice starts at just under $13 a month and requires no hardware or software — it’s all handled in the cloud.
4) Evernote Organizational App
Here’s a service that understands we’re always brainstorming, always coming up with ideas and finding stats, images and thoughts we want to capture. With Evernote, a free service, you can work on projects; jot notes; drop images, websites or even audio clips into a file — and store it all in the cloud.
Evernote syncs your files with all of your devices through the cloud. Say you start a project at your desk and then think of great point to add while you’re at the mall. Just open your Evernote file on your phone and update the text or — even easier — record yourself on your phone and upload the audio to Evernote. It’s a small business professional’s dream!