Side Hustles

My Mobile Office, A Side Hustle Essential

mobile office, digital nomad, financial independence, FIRE, early retirement, retire early

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As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’m now semi-retired. I expect this mini-retirement to last only a few months. After all, I still have some student loans to pay off.

I’m using this time to be with my family. I also see it as a golden opportunity to focus more on this site and some other side hustles I have in the works.

During my first few days, I quickly found out why having a mobile office is essential to most side hustles.

Why You Need a Mobile Office

On my first day of “freedom”, I sat down to start sketching out what my day would look like and to prioritize where my time is spent.

Mini Moose wasn’t having it.

During the six hours that I sat down to work, I spent maybe three hours productively. Two of those hours were during Mini Moose’s nap.

It is challenging to concentrate while sharing a small apartment with a spouse, kid, and pets. Even if you don’t have kids, pets, or a spouse, I find it difficult to be productive in a space that isn’t a dedicated workspace. Given that we’re short on space, creating a work area anew isn’t a viable option. It’s also nice to be around other people if you’re used to working in an office setting, and suddenly you’re solo.

The next day, I remedied the situation by sitting down in a cafe to work. I’ve also spent time at the local library, though that’s very hit and miss. I managed to do a lot of work, and that resulted in my posts “A Taste of Early Retirement” and “Liquidity Ladder: Survive a Long Term Loss of Income.”

That’s Better, But…

While working outside of our home did wonders for my productivity, there were drawbacks.

  • it was noisy
  • working on a laptop for hours isn’t comfortable
  • I wasn’t able to dual-screen (essential for coding)
  • people could see sensitive info on my screen
  • I learned I dislike using a trackpad when I’m working (fine for casual use)

What to do? I did some searching online and assembled, through some trial and error, the perfect mobile office setup for my needs.

My Setup

FIRE, mobile office, digital nomad, location independent, financial independence, retire early, early retirement
How I pack my mobile office in my backpack.
mobile office, FIRE, financial independence, retire early, side hustle
Clockwise from left: laptop stand, laptop, headphones, mouse pad, tablet, Bluetooth keyboard. Mind the yogurt marks on the iPad’s cover (courtesy of Mini Moose).

The Solutions

The Noise

While generic coffee shop background noise is something I enjoy, I often found myself hearing the mumbling of a deranged conspiracy theorist, loud laughs from an inconsiderate old dude, or vague threats from a Vietnam veteran. This is all at a local library, and I wish I were kidding about this, but that’s the reality of the situation. I managed to reduce significantly these distractions with a great set of headphones that I picked up for around $70. I found that over-ear headphones work much better for me than earbuds. These are great headphones, and they’re much less expensive than the equivalent Bose ones. I hear notes in a lot of my music that I’ve never heard before and the sound is exceptionally rich when the noise canceling function is active.

Note: the current price listed is high (I’m guessing due to holidays), wait for a warehouse deal to buy these cheaply.

The Bad Posture

After the first few days of working at cafes and the library, I came home with a sore back. I quickly realized it was because I was hunched over my laptop. Having the laptop a foot below your natural sight line makes you stoop while you work.

First I tried to buy a very cheap laptop stand, but I found that it didn’t elevate the laptop much. So, I “splurged” for this laptop stand which adjusts to eight different heights and I’m thrilled with it. It’s lightweight, folds up to nothing, and has performed well whether I’m on a low coffee table or at a proper desk in the library.

The Keyboard

Unfortunately, putting your laptop on a stand then makes it very awkward to use its keyboard. The contact points from the stand poke into your wrists as you type (I tried doing this for several days).

To remedy this, I bought a Bluetooth keyboard. I went with a Bluetooth keyboard versus one that uses a dongle or is plugged in via USB because I want to keep the limited number of USB C ports on the MacBook Pro open. I found this fantastic Logitech keyboard after trying a much cheaper (price and quality) keyboard. I found that the keys of the first keyboard I tried were too close together for my mitts and I regularly had to correct typos. With this keyboard, I can type at full speed. It’s made using aluminum and has a similar build quality to a MacBook Pro.

Second Monitor

I’ve always relied on a second monitor at work. After a few weeks of having to pause online coding videos to switch tabs back and forth, I got sick of the inefficiency of my process. I took the iPad Mini my former job paid for and connected it to my laptop with a program called Duet. It has very little lag and efficiently extends your monitor. I mount the iPad on my laptop with this mount. This has made a world of difference, and I’m getting through my coding courses at almost twice the speed I was before. I use this side mount clip to do the job.

Privacy

I’ve tried privacy filters before, with mixed results. This filter has a low-profile and installs easily onto a MBP. It works very well and keeps my sensitive info from prying eyes. While the laptop does not close all the way (it has a tiny 1mm or less gap), it still goes to sleep and I found that the privacy screen has not caused any issues whatsoever. It does what it’s meant to, and that’s it.

The Mouse

Like the keyboard, I also wanted my mouse to connect via Bluetooth. There are loads of different mice out there, and some of them look like something that Skeletor would use. I wanted something basic, minimalist, and functional so I ended up with this mouse. It does the job well, never has any problems connecting, and is compact while still being usable.

Summary

While I’m not into spending money for the hell of it, I found all these items to be extremely helpful for all my digital side hustles. They give me the ability to set up shop anywhere comfortably there’s Wi-Fi, a table, and a chair. I hope they help you too!

With the more expensive items, keep an eye out for certified refurbished, Amazon Warehouse Deals, or used-very good items and get a significant discount. I used some credit card points to buy the backpack to carry this gear in. Never pay full price if you can avoid it!

What are some of the work items you find essential? What’s your favorite gear?

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