How to Telecommute on a Shoestring Budget

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Nowadays, people who do business on their own, be they freelancers, small business owners or even those who work for big businesses but have the privilege to work outside the constraints of a typical office, have always been on the lookout for fast internet connectivity. From cafés to cozy restaurants to virtual offices, the telecommuting man and woman must know where to find best hotspot.

The Café and Restaurant

But how about those who do not want to spend ₱500 or even up to a thousand to stay in a place they’re obliged to order food and drinks just to get a whiff of fast internet? Bloggers, for one type of the crowd, are always on-the-go; and when they find idle time, they find a place to work, more often on their backlogs.

Go to a café or restaurant Mondays through Fridays and you will rack up an ₱11,000 bill. (₱500 x 22 weekdays) for a three hour lunch. So, to stay and telecommute in the restaurant the whole day, you have to order morning snack or breakfast, lunch and afternoon snack. Add ₱250 per snack, twice, and everything totals to ₱1,000 per day or a ₱22,000 expense a month, without your travel costs. And most of the time (all the time?), internet WiFi speeds in these places are really crappy.

The Co-working Space

Co-working spaces have propped up precisely because of this dilemma. From day passes to weekly and monthly rates, co-working spaces (mind the dash, kids!) try to offer the better alternative to spending ₱22,000 a month of telecommuting in a café or restaurant. I found a couple of co-working spaces offering as low as ₱2,500 to ₱7,500 a month. Not bad. But remember, co-working spaces are hotbeds for networking which may be distracting unless your distraction is a lovely person hovering by. Still, I’m not going to consider getting a monthly rate because I don’t know where my idle time will bring me. So, as a freelancer, small business owner, entrepreneur and what have you, day passes are the appeal of a co-working space.

I’ve gone and stayed at a couple of co-working spaces just to get a feel of them, but considering I have to pay ₱400 to ₱700 for a day pass, without food and drinks (though a few offer unlimited coffee, mostly 3-in-1 types – no thanks), that means I still have to shell out at least ₱250 for lunch with drinks (maybe fast food), and another ₱250 for two snacks (Starbucks tall Americano + pastries), costing me ₱500 per weekday.

Compute for a Monday to Friday monthly expense – cheap ₱400 day pass, ₱250 daily lunch and ₱250 two daily snacks – that totals out to ₱19,800 in a month – without travel costs. Yikes! And sometimes, Wi-Fi internet speeds really slows down when there a lot of people. Torrent, anyone?

The Anything Goes Solution

All the time, I’ve had the solution in my hand – literally! That is, my smartphone. I’ve been a prepaid guy, after the analog days, though I did try to get back to postpaid but realized it constricted my way of life – I literally cannot plan my call, text and data usage for a month – and decided to go back to my prepaid life. When both Telcos came up with LTE prepaid SIMs, that nailed it.

I have three SIMs in two smartphones:

  • Globe 3G prepaid SIM (since 2007)
  • Globe LTE prepaid SIM
  • Smart LTE prepaid SIM

I never let go of my Globe 3G prepaid SIM simply because too many people have known that number. A few times, I receive a call or text from someone whom I’ve never talked to since as far back as 2007. Most of the time, it was a business call, and if I discarded that number, I would have missed the opportunity of doing business with that person after 10 years! Wow!

For calls and text messages, I won’t go through the many options we prepaid people have when it comes to a daily changing lifestyle, be it for personal or business. But if I need to call and it’s going to be a long one, then I subscribe to the UNLI Call-and-Text daily plan of either Telco. For Globe, one day’s unlimited call to Globe and TM phones cost ₱20.

For internet access via my Globe 3G prepaid SIM smartphone, I subscribe to Globe’s GoSURF50 or ₱50 per three days. That’s 1GB surfing plan that comes with an additional 300MB for Facebook, YouTube, etc. I always choose Facebook because I want to see the photos as I scroll down my phone. I use my Globe 3G prepaid SIM to do my casual social media surfing plus occasional web surfing that usually originates from a shared post social media.

My Smart LTE prepaid SIM is only subscribed to unlimited texting.

Both my Globe LTE prepaid SIM and Smart LTE prepaid SIM are not subscribed to any data plans.

Telecommuting means using your laptop or tablet with a Bluetooth keyboard, not your smartphone. So, I tether my phones to my laptop whenever I am at some place. But why use 3G for surfing. Here goes…

If I’m in a café or restaurant and working on my laptop, and I don’t need to surf heavily, then I tether my Globe 3G prepaid SIM to it. For a nine-hour telecommute, I probably consume 300MB to 500MB of my ₱50 1GB plan. So, that’s a max of ₱25 cost on about 3Mbps to 8Mbps speeds. If I do this every weekday, my total internet cost is ₱550.

But I have to make sure all my internet-hungry apps in my laptop are disabled. For example, I use Windows 10 and by default, my OneDrive app is always trying to sync my 1TB cloud and my hard drive. TweetDeck by Twitter is also hungry for syncing, especially if you have more than five columns like I do (I actually have 15 columns on my TweetDeck). So, don’t open any browser-based app that’s internet-hungry and disable all local apps that keep accessing the internet.

However, sometimes I really have to have the “need for speed” (purposely wrong grammar! LOL!) This is where my Globe LTE prepaid SIM or Smart LTE prepaid SIM comes into the picture. Choosing which LTE to use depends on the place I’m in. Most of the time, I’m at an area where Globe is the fastest.

Here are the scenarios why I need LTE speed:

  • I need to keep downloading stuff, not just one file but many;
  • I need fast internet when I’m presenting something that accesses the internet – I do not want to be embarrassed to say, “Sorry, my internet is slow” or “Why don’t you have WiFi in your office?” As a freelancer, you have to assume the worst, which is no WiFi access in your client’s workplace;
  • I need to tether the laptops of my freelance staff during our weekly meetings which happens anywhere that’s convenient for the majority. So, no specific place;
  • I’m on a date and I want to showoff! Nah! Just kidding!

As you read my words above, I’m sure you are already thinking of more reasons why you need fast internet for your work outside your home or your fixed office. So, what’s the difference between subscribing to a plan and using an LTE smartphone without a plan?

An LTE SIM without a plan means there is no data cap!

How much does it cost me to use an LTE device without a plan? Both Globe and Smart offer it at ₱5 per 15-minutes. And remember, unlike plans with a 1GB data cap, using my example above, accessing the internet without a plan has no limit or data cap.

If I use my LTE-with-no-plan for a straight 9-hour session, that will cost me ₱180 or ₱20 per hour; without data limits. Remember, your LTE device can surf as fast as 100Mbps (lucky you!) or an average of about 30Mbps, down to a slow of about 10Mbps. The point here is you can consume as much data or MBs as you want without worry.

If I consider my daily 9-hour telecommuting just solely using my LTE-without-a-plan device for all the weekdays in a month, my total internet cost is ₱3,960. Add lunch of ₱250 and two snacks totaling ₱250 per day, my total monthly cost for telecommuting every weekday is ₱14,960.

Cost-Benefit Analysis

For those whose noses are already bleeding from all that math, here is the pre-conclusion of my conclusion.

If you telecommute every day for nine hours each day, including expenses for morning snack or breakfast, lunch and afternoon snack, here are the costs depending on how you do it:

Daily Cost

  • Cafés and Restaurants = ₱1,000 (F&B – food & beverages)
  • Co-working Spaces = ₱400 (day pass) + ₱500 (F&B) = ₱900
  • Anything Goes with 3G = ₱25 (data) + ₱500 (F&B) = ₱525
  • Anything Goes with LTE = ₱180 (data) + ₱500 (F&B) = ₱680

Monthly Cost

If you are going to telecommute every day – there are 22 weekdays per month – for one reason or the other I do not want to enumerate here (LOL!) then consider this as your “cost of doing business,” whether you do it at home (and have that clunky 3Mbps DSL terminated once and for all) or outside of home.

  • Cafés and Restaurants = ₱22,000
  • Co-working Spaces = ₱19,800
  • Anywhere with 3G = ₱11,550
  • Anywhere with LTE = ₱14,960

Percentage to Cost

  • Anything Goes 3G is 48% cheaper than Cafes and Restaurants;
  • Anything Goes 3G is 42% cheaper than Co-working Spaces;
  • Anything Goes LTE is 32% cheaper than Cafes and Restaurants;
  • Anything Goes LTE is 24% cheaper than Co-working Spaces;

Conclusion

Here are some questions you need to ask yourself:

  • Why are you banging your head on the wall trying to find the fastest hotspot when you’ve already got one you can use?
  • Why are you forcing yourself to spend too much at a place that has one of the fastest internet speed yet the food and drinks are overkill?
  • Why get a monthly plan for a co-working space when you’re hardly going to use it?

It doesn’t matter anymore if the place you happen to be has good WiFi speeds or not. You shouldn’t constrain yourself to its crappy Wi-Fi speed. You’ve got the best solution at the palm of your hands. It does matter that you have access anywhere you are. So, having LTE SIM cards of Globe and Smart is just making sure you will have internet access, especially if you are out of town and don’t know the area where the signals of either Telco is strong.

The only variable in this equation is the price of food and drinks you consume. Lower that and the entire formula changes to your benefit. Heck! If your laptop’s battery life is four hours, go to the park bench-and-table, bring you homemade lunch and snacks, and work there. After four hours, go to a place where you can plug-in your laptop.

The Anything Goes Solution is my choice today. Whether I stay at Jollibee or McDonald’s, or find my way to a new “hole in the wall” restaurant everyone’s talking about, I don’t get headaches anymore from thinking too much of where to go. Of course, laptop battery life is important for telecommuting and I always make sure to go to a joint that is not a miser for electrical outlets. I also have an electrical extension cord with a multiple-socket thing in case I need to share one outlet with someone else. Think like a Scout! Always be prepared!

TIP #1: Why don’t you tether your LTE-with-no-plan for everyone in the household after dinner time? You, the spouse, the two kids, and the grandparents can all do your respective surfing activities for four hours before it’s time to hit the bed. That’s just ₱80 of unlimited data up for multiple connections to speeds of up to 100Mbps. LOL!

TIP #2: After doing this for some time now, I realized that some smartphones have a clunky way of providing hotstop or tethering to my laptop. Before, I kept switching tethering and data connectivity on and 0ff, and restarting both my smartphone and laptop. One day, it hit me – doesn’t Android provide tethering by USB? Since then, I stopped tethering or connecting my laptop to my smartphone without doing a USB connection.

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Photo attribution: Terry Johnston from Flickr.

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One Response
  1. men28 4 months ago

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