All posts tagged “stories”

8 Things I Maybe Kinda Sorta Miss About Working In An Office

Don’t take that title the wrong way. I love what I do and where I do it. The Anywhere Lifestyle wins hands-down over the cubicle lifestyle 99 out of 100 times in my book.

But sometimes there are minor things I miss about my days working in an office environment…sort of. This is my tribute to those days and those people.

1 – Talking about football on Monday mornings

Wherever I’ve worked, most of the people there have been Vikings fans. Monday morning conversations have either helped soothe the wound of a wicked loss or sweeten the taste of a hard-fought victory for the purple. Now that I’m on my own, I’ve suppressed my emotions after the 31-28 loss to the Saints in the NFC championship game this past season. You know I’m headed for a complete breakdown at some point.

2 – Having people to laugh at YouTube videos with me

I can do a perfect imitation of the look on my wife’s face when I tell her to come and watch something funny on YouTube. She knows two things: 1) It’s going to be stupid, and 2) I’m going to laugh way harder than she is. This was not the case with my co-workers back in the office days. It was all funny, all the time.

3 – The intercom system

My years spent working for Vencio in St. Paul had all of the main staff working in one big front office area. We each had a cubicle but could talk to each other without leaving our desks. Yet, when we got a new phone system and it included intercom functionality, you just had to use it even if you were mere feet away from each other. Intercom systems are awesome.

4 – Inside jokes

Uhhhhh, intercom systems are awesome. Yeah. Fart machine.

5 – The camaraderie of sharing experiences that don’t make sense

Things happen that you’d never believe unless you had co-workers there to experience them with you.  Once, a gentleman walked in and asked if we made websites, which we did. He then proceeded to tell us what he needed. Sounded good. Then he told us it was for a particular “adult” website. Sorry, sir, out of luck here.

Seriously, why would you go to a web development company in person to ask about something like that??? Phone and email are just fine, buddy.

6 – Games

This actually gave me the idea for this post. My wife and I watched the Season 3 episode of The Office when Jim was working at the Stamford branch. He and his co-workers would spend time playing against each other in a first-person shoot-em-up computer game. I’ve done that a few times. We had a basketball hoop behind the building at one point too. It was fun when we all would realize at the same time how pathetic we were.

7 – Friday afternoons

There’s something enjoyable about getting ready to leave for the weekend that puts everyone in a good mood. I had a co-worker that always cranked up the same song every Friday at around 4 PM. We always knew it was coming. We pretended to be annoyed, but it was a celebration of about-to-get-out-of-here-ness. We usually accompanied it with a good bit of fart machine as well.

8 – Co-workers that make you go huh

At every company I’ve ever worked for, there’s always been at least one employee that makes everyone else just go “huh.” Just think about your time in an office. There’s always someone who is just a little on the whacky side and you feel kind of lucky to have experienced their views on life and nicotine-addicted deer.

Is there anything you miss about your days in the cubicle? Or do you get all of the above situations at home already?

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What’s On My Nightstand?

This is a completely random post, but I was just getting ready for bed and happened to notice the specific items I had set out on my nightstand. Sometimes these things tell the story of our day or even our life. Here’s a shot of my nightstand as it looks at this very moment, and a description of the items:

A – My iPod Touch and clock/charger base. The Touch is a truly useful Anywhere tool and the base was a great Father’s Day present from my girls this past year. Waking up to something like U2‘s “Beautiful Day” is much better than a standard alarm.

B – USB flash drive – A nice little metal 2GB drive from BizConf.

C – Glass of wine – I’ve earned this today. I will be sleeping well tonight.

D – LED head lamp – I use this thing all the time! Comes in expecially handy for catching nightcrawlers in the summertime.

E – Batman Begins DVD – Not sure why this was on my nightstand, but is that a great movie or what?!

F – Cub Scouts Magic book – So I was visiting my parents last weekend and my mom brought this out to me. When I was a kid I was really into magic tricks and this was one of my books of tricks. I guess she wants me to get back into doing those or something.

G – Latest issue of Entrepreneur Magazine – Probably my favorite magazine. They always have great articles applicable to both my field (tech) and my status as a small business owner.

H – In-Fisherman Walleye guide – Yeah I’ve read this a few times. I still can’t catch walleyes.

I – My change jar – I think I counted close to 50 pennies in there with not a hint of silver to be seen. My girls are thieves.

What’s on your nightstand? What story does that collection of items tell about you?

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Am I enjoying myself?

IMG_0620 One of my daughters is busy making "crafts" in our living room right now. By that I mean there is a mess of stamps, stickers, paper, tape, pencils, and crayons dominating the layout of our table. She loves her craft time. Who knows what she’ll create today? It’s always something exciting…to a parent at least.

She just walked up and showed me her latest creation: a paper moon with tape hanging all over it.  It was…well…what you’d expect a four year old to make when given the previously mentioned tools and materials.  As she handed the creation over, she asked me if I thought she had done a good job.

Of course I answered, "Yes."

But then I felt inclined to ask her if she enjoyed making her latest craft.  She said she did, and I reminded her that is what’s important when she’s working on these things. It’s not always how good her artistic creations are, but if she’s enjoying herself, that will lead to good things.

It’s been said before, and it sounds so simple and stupid, but that totally applies to my lifestyle as a freelancer. It’s good to ask, "Am I enjoying myself?" on a regular basis. Sure, there are many tasks in our careers that we need to suck up and just deal with, but if in our career as a whole we answer that question with a "No", then it’s time to consider our options.

This is exactly what led me from a regular job to a telework opportunity, and later from that opportunity to taking the leap of running my own freelance business full-time.  In fact, I still ask myself that question almost daily, and it helps me focus on the direction I want to take my business.

Are you enjoying yourself?

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How did I get here?

One of the things I hope to illustrate with this site is how I got to the point of being a freelancer who is able to work from anywhere.  Well, anywhere with a good WiFi connection.  I’ll give you a little bit of insight into my journey thus far.

Into the Real World

I originally graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in business from Bethel University in St. Paul, MN back in 1999.  Great school, by the way.  Not only did I graduate there, but so did my wife, one of my brothers, my mom, my sister-in-law, and my brother-in-law.  But I hope my own kids go somewhere cheaper someday!

After graduating, I really had no intention of working at a demanding job right away.  You see, I was born to rock and roll.  At least that’s what I thought at that point in my life.  I had a gig playing guitar in a local rock band that was playing out a lot at that time.  Therefore, I went to the old standby for “working” musicians:  The temp agency.

My first and only job through the temp agency was a position at the regional headquarters for The Salvation Army.  My title was “development assistant” which is really a cute name for my role as an administrative assistant (read secretary) in the Development Department.  My time in that temp position lasted only a few months before I was promoted (and officially hired) as database specialist.  I basically maintained lists and reports of various financial donors to the organization.  It wasn’t a bad job at all.  In fact, it gave me my first taste of working from “anywhere” as they allowed me to take some of my tasks home to work on them after-hours.

Ch-ch-ch-changes

I continued in that position for a while as I also continued to make sweet loud music.  And then of course I met the love of my life.  My wife Sarah came along and we married a little more than a year after we started dating.  In that span, I also decided I wasn’t the rock star I thought I was.  I also tried a few other occupations (like social worker?!) before I realized I really wanted to get into the web field.  At that point I went back to school for a one-year web certification.  Nothing big and fancy like a PhD, but with my existing business degree I figured I could make it work.

While attending school full-time (I’d tell you all about the school but it doesn’t even exist anymore), I started working part-time at a cabinet shop in St. Paul.  This in itself was amazing.  I have never been the hands-on type as far as power tools and building materials.  Yet somehow I worked at that shop all through school and even went part-time after finishing school.  

When I went full-time, a new owner had taken over and he really gave me a chance to put some marketing skills to work.  In addition to building cabinets, I spent about half my time there building the website, making sales calls, organizing a sales prospecting system, and designing print materials.  It was great experience and really helped me get the ball rolling.

A Good Job

A few months after going full-time, I was offered an internship with an up-and-coming marketing services company called Vencio.  The company started out as a direct mailing shop, and had since grown into web and print.  They already had a full-time graphic/web designer, and were “auditioning” for a full-time programming position.  I spent three months interning with them while still working at the cabinet shop part-time.  In the end, they offered me a full-time job and I took it.  

A little more than a year after I became a Vencio employee, my wife and I had our first daughter.  If that doesn’t turn a person’s world upside down, I don’t know what does.  I was really enjoying the work at Vencio, but I was getting frustrated by 1) the 45-minute commute each way which seemed like time wasted and 2) living in a metro area in general.  

Growing up in a small, quiet town, I was hoping I could somehow give that same experience to my children.  The city life was too fast and too big for my tastes.  Nothing against anyone who loves the city life.  In fact, now that I live in a small town, I totally love traveling down to the big city again.  But I also love making the drive back to my small-town life.

The Move

About six months after my daughter was born, I was offered a position with a very small web firm in Grand Rapids, MN.  I jumped at the opportunity to move.  First of all, Grand Rapids is located in an incredible area where people spend their summer vacations.  There are tons of lakes, lots of trees, and not a lot of people.  Yet it still has Target, Walmart, Caribou Coffee, McDonald’s, etc.  Perfect.

Accepting the new job meant we had to sell our home and find a new one.  Somehow, someway, we managed to sell our home for a decent profit (right before the market went sour).  After that we found a cute little rambler for a much lower price in Grand Rapids.  We actually found it about two weeks before we were supposed to move out of our old house.  The timing was right.

The Beginning of Anywhere

I worked for the firm in Grand Rapids for about six months before getting a call from Vencio.  They were desperate for a programmer who knew their stuff, so they offered me a better pay-rate with the added condition that I could telecommute from Grand Rapids.  They would rent me an office, pay for the high-speed internet and phone, and provide the hardware necessary to have a setup exactly the same as what I had when I worked in their St. Paul office.  

I couldn’t turn that opportunity down, and so I went with it.  Ironically, while I actually worked at Vencio’s main office, I used to joke that since my job was web-based, I should move to a cabin in Montana yet keep my job.  Now I practically could.  We were really loving Grand Rapids, though, and the new work situation was great.  

I kept that going for about a year and a half, during which our second daughter was born.  And eventually I got the entrepreneurial itch.  

On My Own

There were things I wanted to learn and try which were not necessarily in the scope of Vencio.  I started doing some side jobs to build up my skills.  As my confidence in running my own business grew, so did my client base.  So in January of 2008, I decided to make the leap and go full-time with my side company, Lift Development.  

I remained a contractor with Vencio on an as-needed basis, and I continue to do the occasional project for them.  My main source of income, however, is from my own client base.  It has been a fun and challenging experience thus far.

With the decision to make the leap, I also had to make a decision on work location.  Just starting out, I didn’t feel like I could afford to work from a rented office.  I talked to my wife and she agreed to let me turn our basement guest-room into a home office.  Since March of this year I have been working from that location (as well as various coffee shops or the library) and that’s where I’m currently typing this post.  There are positives and negatives to basing the business from home, but I’ll get into those in the coming weeks.

Now you know how I got to this point.  I look forward to sharing the lessons I’ve learned, tips to make your transition easier, and resources to make your “anywhere” life the best it can be.  

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