In the age of technology a lot of people choose the Internet to fund their lifestyle. I happen to be one of them. But despite the great opportunity we have when working online, there are certain things to keep in mind if you want to run your life (and your business) seamlessly – especially when you are on vacation.

digital nomadThere is no direct definition for the term digital nomad. However, I think you’d agree with me when I say a digital nomad is a person who utilizes the Internet for work while traveling the world frequently.

On first observation this sounds exciting and exotic (and it is), but many people on the outside fail to realize that it isn’t as easy as it seems to run a business when you travel. The hardest part is to be disciplined, while everyone around you is in party mood. Meanwhile you are stuck at your keyword, hammering out blog posts, emails and other must-dos to keep your business afloat while on the road.

All of this would be so much harder and near impossible if it wasn’t for the great (and often free) tools we can utilize for our purpose. Thanks to many of these tools my life is made so much easier, and the fact that many of them are free to boost makes collaboration from the road a real treat – even when you are stuck in front of your computer at midnight.

My top 8 power tools as a digital nomad

The following 8 tools are my personal favorites for on-the-road travel. They allow me to stay in touch with my team, my clients and my business without any major issues (emergencies permitted), and turn business travel into something more geeky and fun.

1. iPhone

Yeah, I know that not everyone is a fan of Apple. I totally respect that fact. But for me, living without my iPhone is an impossible  thought because it allows me to collaborate with clients, with the team and friends on the fly. I can do this while I ride a train from central Sydney to the city’s outskirts on the way to a show, or while sitting parked at the airport, waiting for my flight.

You can do the same with a Blackberry or any other smart phone.

2. Gmail

A few years ago I would have sworn by Outlook Express or similar applications. Today, after many frustrating trips where I couldn’t access email because of ISP server issues I’m a happy convert to Gmail. I can access my inbox anywhere in the world from any computer and never have to fear that it won’t download to my machine. What’s even better is the fact that Gmail’s IMAP feature allows me to read my email on the iPhone too.

3. USB Broadband Modem

Even so the iPhone allows me to do a lot of work on the fly I still need to access my laptop at times and connect to the Internet, such as when I write a blog post. Without my own USB modem I would be relying on open wireless networks in coffee shops and hotels and to be honest, I do not trust them.

I also don’t want to pay $6/hour to access the Internet in a hotel. Alternatively I could rig my iPhone to be a modem too, which I guess is easy enough to do if you are a technical geek.

4. Online Collaboration Software

Whether you choose to work with Basecamp, Google Docs, or any other online-based collaboration software doesn’t matter. What matters most is that you can stay in touch with your team while you’re out and about. You need to be able to train them, share files, collaborate and manage the entire team from the road.

The easier this becomes, the less time you will need, giving you more of it to relax and enjoy yourself.

5. Skype

What would we do without Skype? I honestly don’t know. I guess it would result in having to pay more for phone calls or cell phone calls. Skype is a great tool for staying in touch with your business. You can engage into a quick one-on-one chat without major disruptions and clear up some issues that need addressing as soon as possible.

6. Dropbox

Forget pesky external hard drives or backups on your own machine that end up taking up a lot of valuable hard drive space while slowing down your machine. I use Dropbox for backing up my important files and it allows me to access them on any computer in the world as long as it is connected to the Internet. I also use a large external hard drive, but that one stays at home.

Since using Dropbox I no longer have the need to carry an extra hard drive around with me because all the data is safely stored in the “cloud.”

7. Box.net

Box.net is another great tool for those of you who need to store and share files with others in the cloud. It makes for a great training hub where you can store your team training videos for example.Alternatively you can use it to upload and share files, photos and more.

8. PayPal

Invoice your clients, pay you team members and transfer the funds to your bank account. You can do all of this and more from within your free PayPal account.There really is no need for you to go elsewhere, unless you run a corporation with a need for detailed accounting. PayPal lets you export your data in a CSV file so you can hand it to your accountant come tax time.

To be honest, I could probably list a lot more tools here if I was to spend more time thinking about them. These 8 tools are my personal favorites by far, besides my trusted MBP of course. I find that by using all of the tools above I can pretty much run my business from anywhere in the world, provided I have an Internet connection.

Feel free to share your fav tools and why you like them. I look forward to hear from you.

Monika