How do you manage a business when your office is on wheels? For many busy real estate professionals, your car often does double-duty as your office. The key to an effective mobile office is setting yourself up with the right tools in advance. These tips can help REALTORS® on the go make the most of their office-away-from-the-office.
1. Be safe out there! No ifs, ands or buts about it, your safety and the safety of your passengers is priority #1. According to the latest research, drivers are 23 times more likely to crash while texting. That’s a frightening statistic. So no matter how busy your day gets, how many details you’re juggling at once, or how many deals you’re trying to close, do not give in to the temptation of texting while driving.
2. Go hands free. In California, drivers must use a speaker phone, wired headset, or Bluetooth device while talking on the phone. Another effective alternative is to route your phone through your car’s audio system if possible. Many voice-activated apps like Speaktoit Assistant are available to dial clients for you, read texts and emails aloud and allow you to dictate your response, all without touching your phone.
3. Know where you are. If your car didn’t come equipped with a navigational system, there are plenty of great apps to choose from for your smartphone. Be sure to look for apps that offer audible turn-by-turn navigation, driving directions, and trip planning. When in unfamiliar territory, apps like Where, AroundMe, Urban Spoon, Gas Buddy and Bathroom Scout can help you find good restaurants, cheap gas and clean restrooms.
4. Power up. Battery technology never seems to quite catch up with the gadgets they power. Avoid surprise low battery warnings with a small, inexpensive adapter that plugs into your car’s cigarette lighter. The three-pronged outlet and USB port keeps your devices charged up and ready for action. Lighter plug-ins can generally handle a max of 200 watts, so for more intensive needs you may want to invest in a power inverter. Inverters provide up to 10 times the capacity of a small adapter, but may require professional installation.
5. Be your own hotspot. You need to be able to get online anytime, anywhere, so setting up a mobile hotspot is a must. You can enable tethered internet access via your smart phone, or by purchasing a separate mobile router that works for laptops, tablets, or any other WiFi-enabled device. When shopping for a router, look for fast speed, long lasting battery life, and a microSD card slot.
6. Printing and scanning. While the goal of a mobile office is to be completely paperless, it’s smart to have back-up options. An app like Document Scanner will let you create a PDF by using your phone’s camera. For in-car printing, look for a printer that’s small, light-weight, wireless, has a good battery life, and doesn’t draw much power. If you don’t want to deal with printing in your vehicle, sign up for a remote service that allows you to forward your job to a designated printer for pickup later.
7. Avoid paying for data overages. Smartphones, tablets, notebooks and business apps tend to consume significant amounts of data, especially when incorporating property photos and video. So pay attention to your rates and find out if your service provider offers an unlimited data plan that might save you money.
8. Load up with the right apps. Some handy apps for REALTORS® include HomeSnap (get full MLS info just by taking a photo of a house), Supra eKey (turns your phone into an electronic lockbox), Dropbox (document cloud storage), CamCard (scans business cards to your contact list), and NeverLate (live traffic info updates travel time and offers routes to your next destination). C.A.R. also offers an array of helpful apps including ZipForm® Mobile and My C.A.R., featuring market data, current loan information, and other association resources.
9. Going car shopping? Some auto manufacturers now include office-friendly features like automatic phone/audio system integration, multiple built-in outlets, WiFi, secure drawers for storing valuables, and passenger seats that fold down to create a flat desk space. Some higher-end vans also offer rear seat power outlets, DVD screens, and work tables that can double as a makeshift conference space.
10. Pack it in. A trunk organizational system can help store and organize files and equipment. Stock your trunk with a first aid kit, emergency road kit, bottled water, and non-perishable snacks like nuts and dried fruit. Keep a stash of travel size toiletries for freshening up, and a back-up set of clothes just in case of a coffee-in-lap incident. Other items you’ll be happy to have on hand include wipes (for getting the grime off), umbrellas (small, fold-up models will do just fine), a county map (the kind you can spread out to show buyers the lay of the land), note pads and pens for clients, and a decent sized tape measure.