How to be a mobile computing solopreneur even if you’re not a digital nomad…yet

Posted by on September 5, 2017 10:00 am


See if you’re like me on this.

Despite the fact that I extoll the virtues of being a mobile solopreneur, I’ve allowed myself to become addicted to the familiar comfort of working at home on my mega-screen iMac.

While I have owned and used a laptop for as long as I can remember, I’ve avoided relying on it for my day-to-day chores because I generally find the increased acreage of the big screen useful in keeping my productivity up…and my errors correspondingly down.

A couple of things happened recently that motivated me to rethink being tethered to my iMac:

  • Overwhelming guilt at not fully realizing the advantages of solopreneur mobility, and
  • Commandeering my wife’s essentially unused iPad.

My school teacher wife has had an iPad for several years that we originally got for her to use in the classroom; that never really worked out, however. Rather than see it sit on a shelf gathering dust, I decided to fire it up, put it in my name, and see how I could make it useful to my work.

The trials begin

My first experiment was to get a Logitech keyboard case for it and see if I could use it as a stand in for my laptop. That worked fairly well, except I found that type didn’t copy and paste between Word and WordPress and maintain the formatting I required.

Soon I started thinking about the various apps I’ve seen over the years that allow you to use an iPad as a second screen. After reading some reviews, I decided to try Duet. At only $19.99, I figured I didn’t have much to lose.

After settling on a way to configure the software, I had to decide how to physically configure my Macbook Air with the iPad. There were two choices here, Mountie and SideCar (Amazon affiliate links). Oddly enough, these little hunks of plastic are more expensive than the software that connects the two devices. Because I have an older (read thicker) iPad, I had to go with SideCar. I’m not complaining, it has worked fine.

Now you have my mobile setup:

  • Macbook Air, 13”
  • iPad
  • Duet
  • SideCar

Considering that I don’t have a cell-phone equipped iPad, the other necessity for me is the ability of my iPhone to function as a tether to the online realm.

It’s in the bag

I’ve also recently invested in a roller backpack that includes a detachable day pack. The day pack on its own is it ideal for toting around my computer gear with a lot of room leftover. I’ve been using the day pack a lot, even when I’m not taking my mobile office gear along for the ride. Before, I was using a messenger bag, but its lack of compartments doesn’t suit organizing (and finding) the various “mobile office” supplies I need to have with me if I intend to get some work done.

I was curious to see how well Duet would work and if there would be any lag time moving items from the laptop screen to the iPad screen. It works very smoothly. The only glitch I’ve discovered is that my email screen – I use Airmail 3 – refuses to be dragged over to the iPad. [Update: Airmail now works fine with Duet.]


With my laptop and iPad tucked in my day pack, I can go virtually anywhere and setup shop. I especially like hitting nearby hiking trails and finding places to get a little work done. This allows me to combine my work with my exercise routine.

Using the setup around the house has proved to be a bonus as well. I can get out of the house and work on the patio when nice weather beckons. And frankly, sometimes in the morning, when I’m slurping my last few gulps of coffee and watching the sports highlights from the previous day on TV, I’ll clamp the iPad onto my laptop, launch Duet and get some tasks out of the way while ESPN Sports Center is doing its top 10 countdown.

The most important lesson

When I look back at this process, I realize that it’s neither the hardware nor software that has been most important – getting away from the safety of my iMac has been the key. I now know that it’s possible, even easy, for me to work in almost any location of my choosing, whether it’s on the top of a mountain, a city 200 miles away, or my living room couch.

In fact, this has given me the confidence to start planning a month in Costa Rica next summer when my school teacher wife has her time off.

Have any travel recommendations for me?

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