Working styles: Profile of a soloist
My working style is to pretty much work from anywhere: at home, in cafés, client premises, on planes, trains and in busy food halls. As my work encompasses many of my interests, I let it blend into my life more so than would be comfortable for many.
Some weeks I do more work, others less. If I feel good about my work, then I know the balance is right.
Environment and technology
I have never been able to justify having an office. So I don’t.
Because I am a piler, I have a big desk which is made up of two 160mm x 80mm tables. I sit in a Herman Miller Aeron chair, which has been the best investment for my back and posture.
I do everything on an IBM ThinkPad laptop. On my desk, I have an external monitor in a portrait orientation, which enables me to see a whole page without scrolling.
Filing and information management
I use plan drawers for filing. This means my piles stay as piles!
"I have never been able to justify having an office. So I don’t."
I keep business records in Lever Arch files, one for every financial year.
Other than that, the majority of my paperwork is electronic. My aim is to store everything as PDF files, which will make back ups and transportability easy.
I keep PDF copies of important documents like my passport, academic transcripts and passwords in an encrypted form using a product called PrivateDisk. My computer is set up to demand a fingerprint every time it is turned on, or to reactivate from hibernate mode.
I back up daily to two separate USB hard drives. One holds data from even numbered months, the other odd. If a drive fails, I don’t lose consecutive months of data. This has saved my backside an incalculable number of times.
I maintain a spare, older ThinkPad as backup. It has the same software as my main computer and is kept up to date with Windows and antivirus patches. If something happens to my primary machine, I can pull up last night’s back up on this spare machine and carry on working.
Completed project files are archived off to two sets of CDs/DVDs. The spare set is stored offsite.
Internet and ATM banking is a godsend for my working style. I pay and receive monies primarily via Internet funds transfer. I have a PayPal account which lets me accept credit card payments. When I get the occasional cheque, I deposit it via ATMs, which are open 24 hours.
My invoices are issued as PDFs directly from my home-grown accounting system.
I store my bank and PayPal statements as PDFs. This working style makes it much easier to send to my accountant.
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With my working style I tend to have multiple projects running concurrently. When giving time estimates, I never fill up all my available hours. This gives me a safety buffer in case I get sick, or if there are unforseen delays or emergencies. For example, I will commit to a two week delivery date for something that will take me two days to do, although naturally I won’t charge for two weeks!
I use a hidden folder on my web server to share large files with others. Smaller files are sent via email or uploaded onto project collaboration systems.
I use standardised document templates to generate quotes and project documentation.
Being able to work anywhere is very important to me. In fact I am writing this article in a café in Singapore. I normally carry a pen, mobile phone, notebook and laptop around with me.
I plan to move to a tablet PC soon. Then, I can drop the pen and notebook and all my handwritten notes can be filed with actual project files.
I find housekeeping tedious, and carry it out monthly. Housekeeping includes reviewing the accounts, doing fund transfers, deleting temporary files on the computer, defragmenting hard disks, recording expenses and filing. There is just enough work to be annoying, but not enough to outsource!
Marketing and learning
Blogging and writing articles like this are my regular “marketing” activities. With my working style, I tend to write in batches when the inspiration strikes. This can mean three articles over a weekend or 10 blog posts over a transcontinental flight.
I also spend time having long lunches and coffees; building relationships!
In amongst everything else, I sneak in reading time: blogs, magazines and books.
When set out this way, it may appear that I have a terribly ordered life. While chaos is rare and I rarely drop the ball, I am not saying things are perfect all the time. I need more sleep for one.
Like life, my work style is a work in progress. It will evolve as the type of work I do changes and as new technologies become available.
Give us an insight into your working style via a comment.