Making My Business Location Independent
Over the last few years, I have been exploring technologies that would allow me to make my business location independent. As a solo-entrepreneur, I want to work from where I want to work and when I want to work.
My wife and I have relocated to Ajijic, Mexico in the 2nd half of 2018. We did a lot of exploration and experimentation before we decided to move outside of the U.S.
We made trips to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, Cuenca, Ecuador, and 3 trips to Ajijic before we made the move.
I have done a lot of experimentation with telecommunications, video, mobile, and cloud-based technologies.
Let me tell you about the technologies that have allowed my business to be location independent.
Note: This post was originally published in March of 2017. I updated and republished it in April of 2019.
In order to make my business location independent, I must have good Internet service. I am defining good Internet service as having enough bandwidth to handle reasonably reliable video calls over Zoom or Skype, be able to synchronize files with cloud-based storage apps like Google Drive and DropBox in a reasonable amount of time, and be able to upload files to other cloud-based applications like auphonic.com and vimeo.com in minutes not hours.
If you are in cities like Guadalajara, Mexico, high-speed Internet is available and affordable. I am defining the term high-speed Internet as 100MB per second or better bandwidth. If you are not in a major city then your choices dwindle.
Carrier Based Internet
On the North Shore of Lake Chapala, the service is typical for most other parts of the third world. There is the incumbent telephone company, which in Ajijic is TelMex. Think of AT&T from the late 1990s. In Ajijic, all that is available is a technology called ADSL or Asynchronous Digital Subscriber Line. It is asynchronous in that it is much faster to download data than upload. Download speeds range from 2 -10MB and upload speeds range from .1 – 1 MB. It is the upload speed that is critical.
With ADSL the speeds will vary greatly from house to house, and if there is no existing service in a home you want to rent or buy, make sure the service is installed and tested before you sign the contract. It can take months to get service installed and there is no guarantee of the speed of service.
As in the U.S., you can also get an Internet connection from the cable company. I have not tried a cable connection but the cable company is loved in Mexico about as much as any cable company is loved in the U.S. Service tends to go in and out and speeds vary a lot.
You can also get Internet service via the cellular providers.
Today, AT&T has LTE service in and around the North Shore of Lake Chapala area. I state in and around because there are big holes in the service and the service is oversubscribed. LTE service might be available one moment and have it drop down to 3G in a split second.
I currently have an iPhone 8 with a 9GB data plan which I tether to my MacBook Air via a USB cable. I know where I will get reliable LTE service in town and use AT&T service when needed. The LTE service delivers around 20MB of bandwidth up and down. I could also buy a modem from AT&T and for a very modest price get unlimited LTE service. My problem is I cannot get an LTE signal inside of my casita or house. I can go one block in any direction and get service. You must test before you buy.
I also have an iPhone 6S which I brought from the U.S. It is unlocked and by “packets” of service from TelCel. I pay around the equivalent of U.S. $10 for 3 GB of data. If I need more I buy another “packet” and a “packet” is good for 30 days. I can get fairly reliable 4G service around town and in my casita or house, with the exception of my office. My office has no windows and has brick, covered with concrete walls. You might say it is a bunker.
When I tether my iPhone 6S to my MacBook Air and I get 20 MB up and down. When I have a large file to upload, I switch from my TelMex ADSL connection to one of my iPhones and let it upload.
Like AT&T TelCel offers an unlimited bandwidth Internet service as a modest price after you purchase a modem. Now that my wife and I have resident visas for Mexico, I am capable of purchasing a modem and signing a contract for home Internet service from AT&T or TelCel.
I often go to the Lake Chapala Society campus during the day and hold video calls using the network from one of my iPhones.
If you want to be location independent you need to get creative and always have a backup plan.
Skype and Zoom
I run at least 4 mastermind meetings a week over Zoom as part of the Career Pivot Community. I also run a community-wide call over zoom every other week. In general, I need .4MB of upload speed to make a video call work over Zoom. I get that “most of the time”. There are evenings when there is plenty of download bandwidth but not enough upload bandwidth. I turn off my camera when that happens.
My podcast interviews are recorded using Skype, audio only, using my Apple MacBook Air using my Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB microphone. I use Piezo from RougeAmoeba to record my podcast.
I have created a little recording studio in my office that is still a work in progress. Unfortunately, this forces me to be in my bunker (office) and limits me to my ADSL connection. My office is buffered from outside noise but my Internet choices are limited.
I use DropBox and Google Drive to share files with my podcast vendor, PodFly Productions, my virtual assistant, my co-author, and anyone else I work with.
Each week I record and edit a podcast recording, record the intro and outro, and share those files with my folks at PodFly. All I needed to do was copy them to a directory on my Mac, and automatically those files were replicated to the audio editor, and the show notes writer could access them.
PodFly uses Google Drive for show notes. On Monday, my virtual assistant opens a Google Doc file and copies the show notes to my Career Pivot website. I have no idea where in the world the show notes editor or the person who proofreads the show notes works or lives.
I have found that upload speeds using DropBox and my ADSL connection are slow but adequate. The upload speeds with Google Drive are painful. It sometimes can take a day or more to upload a large file, over 500 MB. I queue up files to be uploaded when I go to bed.
I also have to make sure and pause any file synchronization while I am on a video call.
When used properly DropBox and Google Drive make my business location independent.
You can type in text in the Google Translate website or use the App on your mobile phone. The App is capable of locating text in a picture and translating. You can talk directly into the App and it will translate. It is the last option that has proven invaluable when dealing with service people who do not speak English and they are using vocabulary that I do not know.
Other Cloud-Based Tools
I want to close out this discussion with the other tools that I use to make my business location independent.
- Gmail – CareerPivot.com email uses Google mail service
- Vimeo – All videos in my Career Pivot community website are hosted on Vimeo and are locked down to only viewed within the community.
- ScheduleOnce to schedule time on my calendar with a key feature being able to manage time zones
- Auphonic.com to perform audio magic on my podcast recordings
- Slack is used to communicate with my virtual assistant
- Google Analytics and Adsense to monitor the website and ads
- WP-Engine is my web host and has lots of cloud-based tools to manage the website.
I originally wrote this post over 2 years ago and both the technology available has changed and my knowledge on how to leverage has changed. ilox Telecommunications is currently wiring the area with fiber optic cable to bring in high-speed Internet. This is forcing TelMex to do the same. I should have high-speed Internet available to me in a year or so.
Similarly, 5G wireless will get here eventually but I suspect it will not be in my area for at least a couple of years.
We will be exploring other parts of Mexico, Panama, Costa Rica and Belize in the coming years. I just know I want to keep my business location independent.Marc Miller