I recently had an opportunity to take a break from my business to travel with my daughter on an international tour through 6 countries in Europe as she performed with her music group. I own an ever-growing blogging business and we work with many clients as content providers, bloggers, marketers and website developers. I play a pretty instrumental role in day-to-day operations so the idea of being gone for several weeks was daunting to say the least. Three weeks is a long time and yet, I had to go.
At first I couldn’t imagine taking 3 weeks away. Like children, a growing business requires an immense amount of effort and time and doesn’t allow for a lot of time off, much less 3 weeks. Yet, today I’m going to show you how apps and a mobile device allowed my WordPress business to thrive while I was away.
In January I started prepping and planning for the trip by hiring new team members and creating tons of training videos. I broke down every step of my business and reverse engineered it so others could understand my process. I created email templates and experimented with time saving apps and software. One of my writers began studying the “voice” of my email and responding to clients for me. I laughed out loud when I saw that she emailed someone using the phrase, “I appreciate you,” because it was only then that I realized I must overuse that phrase! I truly DO mean it though!
I researched ways that I could stay in touch while overseas and signed up for an international wireless plan and asked my good friend who happens to be a tech wizard, Jason Tucker, to help me make a tough decision. I didn’t want to lug my 5 pound laptop all over Europe and needed something that had enough power to allow me whip up a logo, blog post or video and add it to a website should the need arise. I wanted a tool that allowed me to access ftp and process payments if required. Jason suggested to me that the iPad Pro might work. At under 1 lb it was the perfect mobile solution, plus it does killer video which worked well for a vacation, too. There are plenty of other solutions as far as tablets go, but since I use Apple products, the iPad Pro seemed the best choice for me.
Still as the days before leaving counted down, I was scared.
- I have a fantastic team but could my business really move forward with me stepping away?
- Would the people, systems and processes I’ve been building for the last 3 years function while I was 6500 miles away, possibly without internet?
- Could I distance myself enough to enjoy the trip and really disconnect?
- Did I have enough space in my carryon to cart the tech I ‘knew” I needed?
In preparation I purchased an iPad Pro and proceeded to load the apps that complimented my laptop software. I boosted the hours of my staff, handed over passwords and keys and created videos of “what if” scenarios.
The day to leave arrived and I still didn’t feel ready. I walked out of the house and put my bag in the back of the car.
Realizing that no one was paying attention to me I ran back in and grabbed my laptop and an external hard drive, just in case the world collapsed while I was away. I shoved it in my purse and we drove to the school bus that was to shuttle us to LAX.
Then I got a text from my husband, “Have you left yet?” he asked.
When I responded that we were loading up the bus he said he’d be right there. He approached the half open school bus window and I smiled. He said, “Let me see your bag.”
Instantly I knew he knew.
I said, “I can’t not bring it – what if there is an emergency, everything isn’t transferred, I could be missing a password…” and he just looked at me and held out his hand. As I glanced at my laptop and then back at him, I honestly felt nauseous. “Jen,” he said, “You bought your iPad so you could travel light. You can’t take your laptop.”
Then, mainly because I had committed to giving a talk at Word Camp Orange County on managing a WordPress business while mobile, I pulled my laptop out of my bag.
Time stood still.
When I realized how fearful I was, I had no choice. I raised it over the glass and hesitated and then released it. I was about to grab for the laptop when I realized several friends outside the bus were clapping and giving me the thumbs up. I smiled back and held up my iPad. Then, before I could reconsider, the bus pulled away from the curb.
Once we boarded the plane, one of my team members and a member of the group, Morgan, and I went to work, testing out what the iPad could do, working our way through accounting apps and drawing with its nifty pencil. However soon the inflight movies took precedence and the vacation and tour really began. These are the apps I used.
The WordPress App is an essential. Providing full admin access, you can connect multiple sites no matter the host. Quick edits, page and post creation are a breeze. Uploading images and pdfs are possible within the app. If you don’t want to use the visual (WYSIWYG) editor, you can disable it and code to your heart’s content. There is a help section and if you need further support, you can get quick response by starting a conversation within the app. The WordPress app lists potential plugin issues, but most have work arounds.
FTP Client Pro
Just before leaving for Europe I was working one developing a plugin for a contest. Knowing code changes were coming, I wanted to have easy ftp access to sites. I knew this could be handy in many other scenarios, so considered it an essential. I found I could log in to most sites, however I had some issues using this app with one of my hosting companies due to security provisions. My advice is to test it out before embarking on an all-app adventure. If you find it works for you, embrace it and go with the pro version so you can login using https as well.
Adobe Creative Cloud Suite
There are a host of apps in this suite of products that are amazing. I think most people are probably already familiar with Adobe’s PhotoShop Express. I’ve been using it on my phone for years. It makes it super easy to create beautiful photos, add filters and share. Adobe Comp is a quick way to draw up a page design in minutes and Adobe Voice and Spark Video makes video editing an on-the-go option.
What the Font
This is an amazing tool that thankfully works as an app. I knew I’d be launching my podcast once I arrived home and wanted to make changes to the artwork while I was on my trip. Problem was, I couldn’t remember the name of the font used in my logo. I shot a picture of my business card, isolated a unique letter and uploaded it to the What the Font app. Within seconds I had the font name and was able to work the file. This app also came in handy as I saw some beautiful fonts on menus, signs and buildings while in Italy and wanted to know what they were.
LogoScopic (Apple only – Android Users can check out Logo Maker & Logo Creator)
I use this program to create placeholder logos while waiting on design files and it’s pretty cool. I use the pro version (it’s less than $5) because it provides more artwork and has specific images that worked for me. Basically you choose an image and add your company name text, move it around, enlarge and reduce, and change colors. Once you have a logo that works well – you can accent it with a color or transparent background and then email or save the file. My son even had fun making logos with this app and you can see his work in the slides.
There are many project management tools out there and all have their advantages. We use BaseCamp 3 to organize tasks and todo’s, send private and team messages, schedule projects and share artwork, PDFs and Google docs. I especially like that it is linkable to my Google calendar. Tracking progress and maintaining websites and related projects is straight forward and simple.
FreshBooks – I love this app. It’s different from the desktop product, but gives an overview that shows recent activity (or all activity if you prefer). You can search current and archived clients easily, send estimates and invoices and accept payments on the spot with a card reader. You can also add new clients and expenses, track time of team members and project allotments. About 6 months ago I was asked how they could improve the app and shared that the major downfall for me was an inability to see received invoices. On my trip I saw that this has been remedied which I thought was awesome. From the overview screen, click on view more reports and you’ll seamlessly be taken to a mobile version of the site where you can access received invoices and anything else you were missing. Clicking on the back to FreshBooks arrow brings you right back to the app.
Google Apps – Most days I live in Google Apps. I find it to be a pretty complete resource and use it to create and store documents, spreadsheets, forms, and even some design files. My Drive stores files, from photos to pdfs allowing access from any device and sharing between team members. Google Apps make collaboration easy for us and we often use the comment feature to note possible changes on posts and ask questions.
MailChimp – MailChimp operates from an app so the interface is the same you would see when logging in from a desktop computer. I logged into MailChimp to send out a newsletter and realized they provide another option – you can email your content to a specific campaign email and it will add it to your draft campaigns, which could be a huge time saver. I prefer the control I feel I have when using the app so didn’t experiment while traveling, but think it’s a worthwhile feature and plan to test it.
Infusionsoft Mobile – While I didn’t work on any campaigns while away, this was a great way to update contacts and client notes while traveling. It also allowed me to monitor orders that came in.
Social Media – Everyone has their own way of posting to social media. I prefer to post natively in social channel apps for my personal use, so of course had my favorite social media apps installed. For many of our clients, however, we use the BufferApp. Buffer is especially helpful when needing to reference a post in the client’s history or check that scheduling is on track at a glance since it can handle multiple accounts all in one place. Due to our account volume, this is the best solution for my company, but similar products exist.
However, even with the best apps, there are limitations when traveling mobile. In Venice and Rome my wifi connection was less than optimal. While this meant it was difficult to post to social media, it also presented a few issues with my apps. They didn’t always sync so sometimes I saw and commented on an older version of a task list than my team was working on.
One of the services we offer clients relates to book publishing. While I was overseas we received edits for a publication that required my touch as the document has already been flowed into its template. I opened the finished manuscript and received a font error in the app that corresponded to the laptop program and realized that it looked completely different. I knew I wouldn’t be able to make the final changes myself and still maintain the layout. I had to reach out to my team for help. The changes were made and deadlines were met however I learned that app fonts may be different than those typically used on my laptop. As most of our documents and posts are composed in Google apps this is typically a non issue, but layout professionals and designers could find themselves in similar situations so wanted to raise the awareness there.
Because you see managing a WordPress business via mobile isn’t only for vacation. It really is a way of life. It’s about utilizing the tools that allow you to be present as life events occur around you, while still contributing to your clients in a meaningful way. It’s about being able to squeeze in a few hours of productivity while traveling to a WordCamp or choosing to make edits to a blog post while waiting for a business meeting to start. It’s about determining how and when you want to make yourself available and using the tools that make it possible, whether you are at home, in the office, or on a cruise in Florida.
So, the moral of this talk is:
If I can do it, so can you.
I started blogging because it was a business I could operate while caring for my children. To say life was busy with eight kids underfoot would be a complete understatement. Yet, I could do it because of the technology available to me. In 2004 I carted a micro laptop mobile device to the park and library and posted to websites as my kids played. I can’t tell you how many websites were worked on and emails answered from school parking lots as I waited for class to dismiss. Family road trips were amazingly productive because mobile tech meant I could work when I wasn’t driving. The opportunity to use mobile devices gave me freedom to be able to help support my family while still being present in their everyday lives. That was a priceless gift. And, I’m happy to report that mobile still does that for me today.
Without incorporating WordPress into my everyday life and having the ability to maintain my business while mobile, I would not have been able to see my daughter singing the mass at the Vatican. I would not have witnessed her smiling and singing, “Set Me As a Seal,” as she rode a gondola in Venice and I definitely would not have laughed with her as we devoured the most delicious Bosnian jacket potato on earth.
Embracing the opportunity to take WordPress mobile allowed me the opportunity of a lifetime and taught me that, “Once you face the fear, you can have the freedom.”
Please view the presentation slides and video below: