When you run a digital business, there’s one thing you absolutely cannot work without: Internet access.
It’s hella frustrating when you can’t get online, because that means you can’t get your work done. You know what I’m talking about, right? When your connection’s lackluster or nonexistent, you can’t respond to the emails in your inbox, you can’t publish that blog post, you can’t even use Google to research your next project.
In fact, now that so many of us store everything in the cloud — my entire business is in Dropbox and Google Docs — we literally can’t do anything without the Internet because we can’t even access our work.
Last year I found a solution to this problem: Karma. (Click to tweet this.) This tool has been a game-changer, allowing me to work from all my favorite coffee shops regardless of the strength of their Internet signal. It’s even been a life-saver in my own apartment, since our despicable Comcast connection has a habit of dropping off when I’m in the middle of important Skype calls.
Karma is a small mobile device I can power up anywhere and anytime I need a WiFi connection. It’s lightweight and lives permanently in the backpack that carries my mini-laptop. This photo gives you an idea of just how small it is (mind you, that’s a 10-inch laptop):
I know what you’re thinking: Karma must cost a fortune, right?
It doesn’t, and that’s what makes it brilliant. After a one-time cost of $79 to purchase the device, there’s no monthly or yearly charge; you just pay as you go, buying more data whenever you need it. It costs $14 for one gigabyte, which the company says is enough to send or receive 500 emails or watch 50 four-minute videos or browse 1,000 web pages.
A gigabyte means nothing to me, but I can tell you that I’ve had my Karma for a year and a half, and I’ve only refilled the data three times, spending about $140 total (and don’t forget that’s a business expense). That’s not bad for significantly boosting my productivity.
Now, if I used Karma all the time, I’d spend far more, which is why I treat it like a back-up plan. I always look to rely first on the WiFi in my apartment or at the coffee joints where I set up shop throughout the week. If the connection is slow or nonexistent, that’s when I dig my Karma out of my backpack.
For example, I’m writing this post from one of my favorite work spots in DC, a Panera Bread. They have a huge basement space with lots of seating that’s popular with freelancers. But during lunch hours, they only let you use their WiFi for half an hour (even though there’s plenty of seating for everyone), which used to mean I’d have to leave and find somewhere else to work. Now, I just whip out my Karma until the WiFi is unlimited again.
Because of this tool, I am NEVER without WiFi, never unable to be productive. I am also a lot less stressed.
As if saving me from pulling my hair out wasn’t enough, Karma also has a feature that drastically ups its coolness factor: social sharing. Anyone can connect to my Karma, and when they do, I get free data. The catch here is other people can only connect to my device once, and then they’re prompted to sign up for an account. But it’s cool to see the faces of strangers pop up on my screen when I’m working in a coffee shop, and know that not only am I saving them from the stress of being unproductive, but I’m also earning data at the same time.
What’s the downside? Karma doesn’t work everywhere. The company says it’s now available in 80 U.S. cities; check out the coverage map to see whether your city is included. Also, since the dongle feeds off cell signals, it likely won’t work where you can’t get phone service (like underground).
Overall, this device has been huge for my business and my sanity. I’m keen to support this company not just because it helps me personality, but because I see it as disruptive technology for the remote-work community. As an increasing number of professionals lean into flexible and remote work, we need more reliable ways to get online — and for many of us, Karma is the solution.
Want one? Check out Karma here. You’ll get 500MB of free data if you join through my link.
This is part of a series of posts about tools I use to run my business and blog. Though I rave about Karma, the creator of this product does not know I’m writing this post and has not offered to compensate me. I’ve included affiliate links because I highly recommend the product, so if you sign up through my link, I’ll benefit from free data.