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'Dear Nick': Advice Column For Auction Users (The Mobile Office)

May 18, 2003

By Staff

eBay PowerSeller Nick Sevino (a pseudonym) answers questions about buying and selling on eBay.

Dear Nick,

I'm an eBay Powerseller and I work out of my house. My wife is driving me to the poorhouse. I can't seem to get work done, and there is always an excuse for her to bother me. Ranging from can you watch the Baby while I take a shower to the sink is broken. When I worked at a normal office this never happened. Business is not that great, and I don't want to lay out thousands for an office and high rent. Any suggestions?



This morning I went to Starbucks and downloaded and answered my emails over coffee. I called a wholesale customer on my mobile phone and closed a nice deal. Than I went to the Park jogged a mile, sat on a park bench and handled my emails. Later I visited a vendor, picked up a shipment, and downloaded and answered my emails in his office. Then I went into my $200-a-month rented office and continued to work uninterrupted!

Technology has reached a point where the mobile office is here and, most important, affordable. In order to avoid the distractions of a home office, I rent a 10 X 10 room with a desk, light, a phone and two Ethernet connections, one for Internet and another for a Vonage phone system (see below). There are many companies that would consider renting out a desk or a room with Internet connections for $100 - $300 a month. Since they already have an Internet connection, it's no extra cost to them if you use theirs. Unfortunately, I only have access to the office between 9:00 to 6:00, due to insurance issues, but technology frees me to finish my work elsewhere.

The following tools allow me to set up my "office" anywhere. I still do the shipping from my garage.

1) Laptop. For around $1,400, you can get a desktop replacement that is more power than you'll ever need. For $600, you can get an adequate used Laptop. The $1,400 one is better because you can watch DVD movies whenever you'd like! The laptop will provide the mobility to transport your computer system anywhere.

Nick Tip: Get a Toshiba. Any Computer Technician will tell you that as mainstream computers go, they use the highest quality components and are the most durable.

2) Portable Voip System. Voice Over IP has come into its own. A service called Vonage allows you to have a portable phone system for $39.95 a month. There is a set-up fee of $30 to $70, depending on whether you need a Switch. In most of the Metropolitan areas, you can get a local phone number that people can dial into.

Voip is done through a little grey box (Cisco Voice to Analog converter) that you connect to your phones and is plugged into a switch (Black Box with Ethernet ports) that is connected to a DSL or Cable Modem. It is not dependent in any way on a computer. Requirements are a Switch and at least a 100K upload (DSL or Cable), but most offices are so equipped. By the way, the quality is superb.

Vonage doesn't have any extra charges other than international calls. Voice mail and call forwarding are all free, and unlike the majors, they don't bang you on the extras. Call me jaded, but I was shocked when the first bill came in exactly as represented. You can have all calls not answered within 3 rings transferred to your cellular.

The really great feature of Vonage is that you can transport it anywhere. Believe it or not, I actually bring the phone system to the office and take it home at night.

3) A Wireless Internet service. Wireless Internet has finally reached an affordable level. Two solutions are available. The first is Sprint PCS Vision, the most flexible, but unfortunately the speed is dinky. The service is promoted at $120 a month, and you'll need a wireless card ($179). Anywhere that Sprint covers, you'll have Internet access (only around 56K to 128K, but that's adequate for normal business).

Nick Tip: If you take the trouble to call Sprint and negotiate, depending on your area and luck, you may get a better rate. I was able to get an $80 monthly rate.

The second service is the T-Mobile Hotspot, which rocks! My download, according to DSL Reports, is a blazing 695KBPS, around 10 times faster than a 56k modem! The service is mostly limited to Starbucks, Borders, and Airports. (Check that the service is accessible in your area.) It uses a regular wireless 82.11b Ethernet card, which can be found for $39 on eBay and around $70 in the stores. Starbucks and Borders don't seem to mind if I plant myself with a cup of coffee for hours while I do my work. I find that I use the T-Mobile much more due to its high speed.

4) Cellular Phone. There are so many services to choose from. I use Nextel, which has programs with unlimited free incoming calls starting at around $100/month. Depending on how many calls you make and receive, there may be better programs for your needs.

I love my family, as I'm sure you do, but our work requires tremendous concentration. Interruptions can be fatal towards getting any work done. Some of our readers have written in with suggestions ranging from therapy to bribery to deal with your situation. But many business people will tell you that many marriages/businesses, depending on how you look at it, just can't function when husband and wife are always together.

By the way, this article was finished at Dennys and emailed to AuctionBytes (Sprint PCS Vision) over a cup of herbal tea.

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†AK and HI residents pay $29.95 shipping. ††Limited time offer. Valid for residents of the United States (&DC), 18 years or older, who open new accounts. Offer good while supplies last and only on new account activations. One kit per account/household. Offer cannot be combined with any other discounts, promotions or plans and is not applicable to past purchases. Good while supplies last. Allow up to 2 weeks for shipping. Other restrictions may apply.

1Unlimited calling and other services for all residential plans are based on normal residential, personal, non-commercial use. A combination of factors is used to determine abnormal use, including but not limited to: the number of unique numbers called, calls forwarded, minutes used and other factors. Subject to our Reasonable Use Policy and Terms of Service.

2Shipping and activation fees waived with 1-year agreement. An Early Termination Fee (with periodic pro-rated reductions) applies if service is terminated before the end of the first 12 months. Additional restrictions may apply. See Terms of Service for details.

HIGH SPEED INTERNET REQUIRED. †VALID FOR NEW LINES ONLY. RATES EXCLUDE INTERNET SERVICE, SURCHARGES, FEES AND TAXES. DEVICE MAY BE REFURBISHED. If you subscribe to plans with monthly minutes allotments, all call minutes placed from both from your home and registered ExtensionsTM phones will count toward your monthly minutes allotment. ExtensionsTM calls made from mobiles use airtime and may incur surcharges, depending on your mobile plan. Alarms, TTY and other systems may not be compatible. Vonage 911 service operates differently than traditional 911. See for details.

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