Ben Dodson Works Remotely
Interview with Remote.co
I started working remotely as I quit my job as a development manager for a London agency and decided to work freelance as a PHP developer and then iOS developer. This necessitated working from home (initially) and after a few “on-site” projects I decided I preferred the freedom of remote working.
Discipline. It takes a lot of discipline to work remotely as you’ll find that it is very easy to put off a piece of work when you’re sitting at home. There are no firewalls stopping you from accessing Facebook and Twitter, the Xbox might be sat saying “just one more game,” and before you know it a month has passed and you’ve done nothing.
I find freedom to be the biggest benefit. You choose when you want to work, which means you can have a long lunch or take the morning off if you want. Of course this is also the biggest downside as it’s very easy to get into a cycle of doing very little work.
Over the last few years I’ve fallen into a pretty fixed schedule. I’ll be in my home office from 7.30 a.m. and then work through until lunch. After a few errands, I’ll typically do another few hours in the afternoon before shutting the door to my office and finishing for the day. This doesn’t mean that I don’t work longer or shorter hours sometimes, but this is my general schedule. I never work at the weekends anymore.
I have a pair of noise-cancelling headphones that I bought for working in an open-plan office but they work at home for me as the act of putting them on puts me into “work mode.” The only problem was that if the doorbell went (side note: great advantage of working from home is you never miss an Amazon delivery) I wouldn’t hear it; I fixed that by hooking it up to a Philips Hue lightbulb on my desk so I get a visual alert.
- Second monitor for my iMac (in portrait orientation)
- Noise-cancelling headphones
- Follow Up Then
I do have a dedicated room for work. I have a small desk with a 5k iMac and an external 1080p monitor in portrait mode (I find this better for webpages and iPhone simulators). Apart from the computer, my desk only has space for my tea and water and a Blue Yeti microphone I use for podcasting and Skype. I have lots of bookshelves (mainly full of LEGO) and a small orchid by the window.
I don’t tend to have teammates (as I work on my own) but I stay in touch with my clients via Slack, Skype, and email. Slack is useful for collaborating with a few people but I also try and limit usage as otherwise you can end up spending the whole day bouncing ideas back and forth rather than actually working on the project.
I find the hardest thing is that traditional teams will want to have meetings all the time. They also want you to pop into the office fairly frequently for reasons unknown to me. I’m pretty good at telling prospective clients that I only work remotely and that I don’t do daily catch-up calls; I get a good handle for the project and then do a week or two of work before sending over a build for feedback.
I’m lucky in that all of my work comes directly through my website which is ranked #1 for most keywords related to my field (i.e. “freelance ios developer”). I’m also very upfront on my contact page that I only do remote work so I get very few enquiries for projects that require an on-site contractor. That said, there are plenty of directory style websites that can help direct clients and traffic to your website.
App development for Apple platforms including iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Apple TV. I build apps for clients (from big brands to small startups), as well as building a few of my own apps including the award-winning ‘WallaBee.’
I don’t think I could go back to a traditional office now as I would find the time restraints too strict (and I’d hate the wasted time on commuting).
I only really maintain a connection to other people in my profession via Twitter. I know several iOS freelancers who work remotely exclusively through Twitter and we’ll generally joke about the bad prospective clients that email all of us. “Did you get this one about building an app like Uber for £200?” “Certainly did!”
I’ve been working remotely since the start of my relationship with my wife so it has always been normal for us. When we moved in together, it could be difficult sometimes as she was doing shift work and I was trying to stick to a working week—that generally meant I would be more flexible with my timings so we could spend time together, but if I had a deadline it meant I had to work whilst she was at home, which could be a distraction.
Having a separate room as an office definitely helps. I can literally close the door on my work at the end of the day and feel like I’m done. I used to have a laptop and got into a cycle of working in bed or on the sofa but that never led to my best work.
I have two dogs so my wife and I will take them for a 45-minute walk when she gets home from work. I’ll also typically go for a walk every morning and listen to some podcasts so I feel I’ve done something physical before sitting down for the day. I experimented with a standing desk for a while but my gaming PC needed the larger desk so I don’t do that anymore; when I move house and get a larger office room I’m hoping to get back into that habit.
I don’t think it impacts it any differently from working in an office. Logically you can be healthy at home in the same way that you can take a healthy lunch into work. Similarly, you can fill your house with junk food in the same way you could just go to McDonalds for lunch every day when in an office.
It’s very easy to feel lonely as a remote worker, especially if you’re a freelancer that isn’t part of a team. I always listen to music whilst working and try to listen to podcasts whilst going for my morning walk as it (sort of) simulates the discussions you’d have in an office. I also try and meet up with someone at least once a week for drinks or a meal so I can get out of the house and speak with other people beyond my wife.