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A lot of jobs want you to move to work there. They want you in the office. There are certainly a lot of benefits to being in person, but there are a lot of things you give up.
Technologically, we’re trending in a direction of remote working, but a lot of companies are still resistant to it. Can you really get work done when working remotely?
We have a special guest today who’s living proof that you can. Our very own Aaron Dowd joins us—The Podcast Dude! He edits the seanwes podcast as well as many other popular shows. He does all of his work from a laptop wherever he happens to be.
He, Ben, and I talk about the beauty of flexibility when it comes to work. Whether it’s the ability for Aaron to tour with his band, or the opportunity for Ben to spend time with his growing kids, or the chance for me to work from my home office and travel when I want to, having that freedom is something you just can’t put a price on.
People stereotype homeworkers: they say they sleep in, they don’t wear pants, they never get work done, or they’re unsocialized individuals who for some crazy reason are opposed to spending 2 hours of their lives commuting each day. It’s certainly not all fun and games, but we think it’s a very viable option and we discuss some of the challenges in this episode.
- Does Location Matter?
- 06:45 Sean: Do we need to relocate to get the work we want?
- 07:16 Ben: “Now when you say location, you’re not talking about whether you’re working at home or working in an office. You’re talking about geographical location.”
- 07:30 Sean: Yeah, as in,“I live in the Middle Of Nowhere, Kentucky, where I pay $99 a month for 15 Mbps Internet. Does my location matter? Do I need to move to Austin, San Francisco, or New York city to matter in this world? To get a job? To afford the lifestyle I want and get the kind of work that I want?”
- 08:10 Everyone says: “Sean, what are you doing in San Antonio?” and I’m like, “Well, there’s this thing called the internet.” I mean, when was the last time you had a local client?
- 08:26 Ben: “Actually, my last client was local but the client before that was on the other side of the planet.”
- 08:35 Sean: I think you can take advantage of having a very localized business. You can meet with people and cater to city-specific keywords or you can live in a city and work online. For me, when I was doing client work, I maybe had one local client out of dozens and dozens of clients. If you work for someone else, you’re more likely to have an employer that wants you to move. Whereas, if you’re an entrepreneur you have more freedom.
- 09:16 Ben: “I think it also depends on the industry. Some industries have specific location hubs where important resources are such as the music, film, banking, and investment industries. With hand lettering, you don’t need much as far as physical resources or external equipment to make high-quality stuff for certain mediums. I think an important question to ask is, ‘Is there a location that has more and better resources than what I’m able to access where I am now?'”
- 10:21 Sean: No doubt you’re going to have a lot of opportunities if you go to some kind of a hub like Austin, San Fransisco, New York City. You’ll have opportunities to connect with people and part of the beauty of being in a place like that is there’s meet-ups going on and you bump into people going to coffee shops. You’re going to have those kinds of opportunities and that’s something to consider.
- Acceptance of Remote Work
- 10:55 Adam was mentioning that he likes to have a healthy mix: work from home about 70% of the time, then go to a local coffee shop to bring in the social element and get out of the house. Have you ever had a job offer or considered a job that would require you to move?
- 11:17 Ben: “There was one recently for a graphic design position at a church. It wouldn’t have been a far move but I feel like whether it’s two hours away or on the other side of the country it’s really no different as far as what needs to happen in order for us to make that move.”
- 11:58 “We would have to pick up our lives and relocate. That was a consideration of mine—do I really want to start over in a new place when I feel like a lot of what they would need for me to do, I could do from where I am?”
- 13:04 Sean: Christopher was mentioning in the chat room earlier on the topic of remote working: some of the resistance is due to things like logistics. You have file transferring, video conferencing, phone calls, and emails but I feel like we’re trending in that direction. Things like the Cloud, file-sharing, and video conferencing is becoming a lot more common. Before, it was a very technical thing. Now, we have FaceTime on our iPhones, and Dropbox, and things just work intuitively.
- Aaron Joins Us to Talk About Remote Working
- 13:37 Part of the surprise for today’s show is someone who I think will have a lot of relevant things to say on this topic because he’s experienced a lot of this: our very own Aaron Dowd.
- 14:04 He’s not actually here with us in San Antonio but through the beauty of the Internet, we can have a show with someone hundreds of miles away.
- 14:17 Aaron: “Yes, and then you can send those discussions to me for editing.”
- 14:22 Sean: He edits this podcast and a bunch of other famous ones.
- 14:55 Aaron, you live in Fort Worth Texas and you have recently had at least one opportunity to relocate and you ended up turning it down. Can you talk about that a little bit?
- 15:11 Aaron: “Yeah, some people might not know that I’m a full-time podcast editor now. Until earlier this year, I was also doing front-end web design development at a company in Ft. Worth which I actually really enjoyed but it was about a 40-minute commute every day. That kind of the wears on you over time.
- 15:37 “For people who don’t know, I do audio editing for most of 5by5’s shows and the 5by5 podcast network is based out of Austin. I love Austin. Longtime listeners might remember that I was talking about moving there and I nearly did earlier this year. I had my whole house packed up but I was at a point where I could either move to Austin to do a little bit of podcast editing and work a part-time job because I wasn’t making enough from podcast editing yet to support myself or stay here where I am and grow my podcast editing business.
- 16:23 “I decided to stay here. But now I do editing for 5by5 remotely. The owner/founder, Dan Benjamin, after working with me for a few months, mentioned that he would love to have me come down there and run the recording studio. That was really tempting.”
- 17:01 Sean: You didn’t say, “I’m on my way?”
- 17:03 Aaron: “No, I didn’t. Some longtime listeners may remember that I’m also a drummer.”
- 17:14 Sean: Aaron was the original cohost of the seanwes podcast before Ben joined. He was with us for a good 20 episodes or so.
- 17:26 Aaron: “So drumming is my passion and the whole reason I started looking into remote work was actually because I wanted to go on tour with bands. How else was I going to make money to pay bills or rent a house? I didn’t want to live with my parents.”
- You Can’t Buy Freedom With Espresso Machines
- 17:42 Sean: In the chat room I was talking to you about this and I said, “Aaron, why didn’t you do it?” and you said,“I do what I want.”
- 17:47 Aaron: “Yes, I’m only half joking.”
- 17:56 Sean: I think you are more than half serious because there’s something deeper there. There’s a freedom. Maybe there’s a great opportunity, maybe there’s cool stuff, cool gear, and great challenges—and I think that’s the struggle of people who are trying to attract good developers, good designers, and good talent. They try to get all the great amenities, the cool couches, and the espresso machines. “That’ll attract the hipsters!” They’re trying to bring them in with that stuff, but as awesome as that is, you don’t have the freedom that Aaron has. Aaron can he can go anywhere he wants and he can still get his work done.
- 18:59 Adam says, “I feel more in tune with the Community now than I ever did.” He’s talking about not only the seanwes Community, but his his own podcast listeners and the online community in general. He said in the past it was just waiting until something happened in Middle of Nowhere, Kentucky.
- 19:20 Aaron: “Yeah, part of the reason I learned basic web development and I started getting into audio engineering was because the town I lived in—about 30 minutes west of Fort Worth—at the time, back in 2009 or 2010, didn’t have a tech-scene. There was nothing there.”
- 20:19 Sean: I remember 100 and something episodes ago you said you were thinking about moving to Austin, is that still a possibility in the future?
- The Beauty of Flexibility
- 20:27 Aaron: “I think it is but part of the reason I like what I do now and why I enjoy being remote is because it gives me flexibility. Honestly, I would like to tour with a band full-time for six months out of a year. I’m not sure it’s going to happen though. You don’t know about the future. Things could change. I could meet someone, I could get married, I could have a kid.
- 21:07 “If that were to happen, then I might look at moving to Austin and taking a normal day job. It’s a possibility but for right now I love the flexibility of being able to work remotely and do what I want to. Honestly, I make more money doing what I do now than any of the other opportunities I had to work locally around here. If you’re really good at what you do, you probably have more opportunities online than you do locally.”
- 21:49 Sean: Yeah, I’m glad you said that:
- 22:00 A lot of people don’t think about it terms of leverage. It’s the whole Scarcity Mindset thing. “I’ve got to take what I can get. You want me to move? I guess I’ll move.”
- 22:08 Ben, you were saying earlier in the chat room you told a potential employer once that you would only be willing to accept the position if you could work from home 4 out of the 5 days a week…
- 22:25 Ben: “Yeah, where the job was in downtown San Antonio would’ve been about 20 miles from where I live but because of traffic, it literally takes an hour to get down there during rush hour and then even longer to get back.”
- 22:48 Sean: Let’s say you make less money working remotely, whatever that means—you work the same amount or maybe work less—but you you make less either way. What you still have is those two extra hours. Those two hours that you aren’t spending commuting, you can apply those to something and you could work on something else. You could build a side project, you could build a side product that can generate revenue residually, or you could spend that time with your family. It’s that freedom that you don’t get when you are working for someone in an office.
- Homeworkers: Uncultured and Unsocialized?
- 23:29 I know this is a controversial topic and certain podcasters out there are very fond of the in-person, come-to-the-office environment and I get it.
- 24:07 Ben: “That was another thing I experienced with somebody that wanted to do some contract work with me recently. Part of what they were looking to do involved going on-site and using some of their equipment. I asked them, if I had the software on my computer if I could remote in to their system to operate on their computers from my home. Why wouldn’t I do that rather than spend the time commuting?
- 24:53 “I can’t remember exactly how she said it but her response was something to the effect of, ‘Well, I know you really enjoy working from home in your pajamas.’ I was just shaking my head at the perception they had,
- 25:23 Sean: Levi in the chat room says, “Wait, you guys wear pants?” We are wearing pants, guys. You can work from home and you can wear pants.
- 25:47 I’m working from home and I’m seeing real, live people every single day. Ben comes over a couple times a week, I go out and I get coffees with people.
- 26:07 Ben: “This might be a little bit of a counter argument, but I live literally 10 minutes away from you so it makes a lot more sense for me to come here for live recordings than it would to take a microphone to my place and do a video call. Plus we have the added dynamic of being in-person and being able to see each other’s body language and facial expressions. If I was trying to do this at home with the kids we would have to do it at weird hours and there would constantly be the threat of interruption by noisy children. In this case, it does make more sense for me to be here.”
- Working Remotely Is Still Work
- 27:23 Aaron: “About the pants thing, I do wear sweatpants and gym shorts a lot when I work from home but at the same time I dress up more now when I go out than I used to because it’s almost more special. To the whole, ‘Oh, you work from home in your pajamas like a slacker’ thing, I think the opposite is true.
- 28:30 “You have to have a firm grasp on everything that you’re supposed to be doing. You cannot drop the ball.”
- 28:54 Sean: There’s a stigma around people that work from home or work remotely—they don’t wear pants, they sleep in, they don’t get as much work done, they don’t socialize—it’s just a stigma.
- 29:06 Maybe I’m biased because I was homeschooled. People have stigmas about homeschoolers—you don’t have friends, you don’t know how to articulate, you haven’t socialized—I was always afraid of that. I always worked really hard to compensate for that fact. I would go out of my way to go to social events, and camps, and to find ways online to connect with people. I worked to have conversations and socialize, and I think I’ve carried that with me.
- 29:35 I work from home but I go out and I meet people, have lunches and coffees, recurring calls, and now I have two full-time employees. I’m making up for the fact that I work from home and I don’t think it’s fair to say people that work from home or work remotely aren’t socialized.
- 30:08 Yes, it is something you have to compensate for. Yes, it is something you have to work hard at. You can’t just sit back and be lazy. Part of what makes it easier for me is the commitments I’ve made. I’m very introverted, I have stayed home for eight days straight. It is not an uncommon thing for me to have literally not gone outside. I’m fitting the stereotype but there’s also times where I leave every single day and times where people come over every single day.
- 30:37 I am getting in front of the camera and doing a daily video show every single day. It forces me to look presentable, I can’t just be a slob. It makes me wear pants, it makes me look decent, and it makes me interact with real people.
- 31:05 Ben: “For the people that aspire to work from home, don’t fall into the dangerous trap of thinking that working from home will be easy and laid-back. If you’re constantly taking breaks from your work at your office job to play on social media, and you’re constantly finding ways to be distracted, and talking to your coworkers, then you’re going to have a really hard time in the home environment.”
- 31:45 Sean: There’s this inherent question of, “Can you really get work done at home? I mean seriously, you’re home right? You could just go over to the TV, you could lay on the couch, you could sleep in, you could get on your iPad, you can waste time. Can you really get work done at home?”
- 32:05 I think people fall into two categories:
- People Who Are Always in Relax Mode
- They feel like they’re at home so they can relax.
- People Who Are Always in Work Mode
- They see this as a place to work, so they stay in work mode.
- People Who Are Always in Relax Mode
- 32:12 There’s no separation—the living space is the working space and they have a hard time switching from one mindset to another.
- Niching Down So Hard It’s Scary
- 34:01 Aaron: “I wanted to touch on something that Sarah said in the chat earlier, she said she was resonating with what I was saying about being good. She says, ‘It’s all about being good at what you do. The great clients don’t take local people for logistic reasons, they take the best.'”
- 34:25 Sean: Operative word being great clients.
- 35:00 Aaron: “Well take 5by5. Originally, Dan said, ‘We only hire people in Austin.’ I sent them an email whenever he was looking for a podcast editor and he ignored it. A friend of mine messaged Dan saying I would be great for it and Dan said no, but over time he became aware of what I did as a podcast editor when I called in to Quit and he said okay, let me check this guy out. I’m sure after checking out my website he realized that this was exactly what he was looking for.”
- 35:30 Sean: Worth noting, at that time you were executing perfectly Curate What You Share. You were a podcast editor, who’s a podcast editor? There are very few people that are exclusively a podcaster. Most people podcast but not exclusively.
- 36:22 Aaron: “First I have to thank you, Sean, because the stuff that you said about curating helped me a ton. Back when I first started, basically people would go to my site back when it was AaronDowd.com and they would see that I was a web developer, a podcast editor, and a drummer. People thought that I couldn’t be good at any of those. Curate—you’re so right about that. Switching over to just podcast editing was part of it. Back to Dan: he realized that I was the best option that he could get at that point.”
- 37:07 Sean: I want to just hit on how niche Aaron was being when he positioned himself as a podcast editor. Most people aren’t podcasters vocationally. They just have a podcast. Within podcasting, you have people that listen to shows (the majority), and people who make the shows. Of the people who make show, there are people who outsource the show editing and people who do it themselves. Of the people who outsource the show editing, they are looking for someone to edit. Aaron had enough guts to position himself as the person for that specific thing.
- 38:16 Sean: That’s like saying, “I’m not only a designer, not only an illustrator, not only a typographer, but a lettering artist. Not only a digital or any kind of lettering artist but hand lettering artist. Not only a hand lettering artist, but a hand lettering artist who does logos for coffee shops.” Now imagine a coffee shop that wants a hand-lettered logo. They’re going to go with the hand lettering logo coffee shop person.
- 38:58 Ben: “Yeah, that works if that person has made themselves publicly known enough for doing that specific thing. The only way they can do that is by curating. Curated specifically to that thing over and over, consistently. It really does take some stones to say, ‘I’m just doing this one specific thing,’ because you have to not worry about missing out on opportunities for different kinds of editing.”
- Don’t Compromise On Your Values
- 40:23 There’s great things that can happen locally. Things like great collaboration, communication, and ideas can be shared. Those are awesome opportunities and environment, but don’t feel like that’s something you have to do. Don’t feel like you have to compromise on what matters to you—like your family values. Ben, you have a lot of young kids and you want to be around them. You want to be present in their lives and you don’t want to just be gone all the time. So part of your values is being able to be a part of your family and your kids growing up. I just want to encourage you not to give that up.
- 41:01 Ben: “Rachel, my wife, and I have looked at the possibility of getting an actual job and having the commute. In some ways that would be a lot easier because we’d get the same amount of income each month and insurance for all our kids on your own is expensive. There are times when we thought it really would be a lot easier.
- 41:42 “I would hate missing our morning routine of breakfast time together. We wouldn’t be able to prepare for the day together as a family. It would kill me to lose that just for the security of having a regular paycheck. I would rather make less money than compromise and take a job with a commute I would have to spend time away from my family to do.”
- 42:30 Sean: Levi in the chatroom probably speaks for a lot of people by saying,“This stuff is so good. Aaron, thanks for sharing what you have been learning. I need to find the area that I want to be the person for that specific thing.”
- 42:56 Sean: I think he means finding the guts to discover what this specific thing is. That’s probably kind of a scary thing because when you’re picking something specific, you’re saying no to everything else. “Where am I going to get the work or get the job?” That’s a scary thing but you’ve got to get out of that Scarcity Mindset (Related: tv019 Day Job as Foundation).
- 43:58 Aaron: “You’re absolutely right—use The Overlap Technique. I started with one client, The Shop Talk Show. I wanted to help them, I cared intensely about helping them make their thing better and they told people about it because they were impressed. It took about 2 years to go from one single client to 8, or 10, or 12. I quit my web developer job when I realized I had enough podcast editing work to cover my bills and a little bit extra. I knew I could take the jump then because I was still doing the absolute best I could for for all the clients that I had and I think that’s really important.”
- It’s Not Magic but It’s Worth It
- 45:02 Sean: I’m glad you said the two years thing because this is not magic. It’s not a quick thing where you can just niche down and be the guy for this specific area. It takes a long time. I didn’t I get any traction for 2 years—maybe 2 years is the sweet spot—of regularly putting out lettering before people even started to hire me, ask for products, or get any kind of recognition.
- 45:34 Like you said, Aaron, you do a good job for the very few clients that you have and those people become your ambassadors. You can’t think of yourself as bigger than where you are right now. You need to own that.
- 46:38 Ben: “It takes a long time just for the word of how good you are at what you’re doing to spread to the right channels and to get to the specific targeted audience that you’re trying to reach.”
- 46:53 Aaron: “A lot of the stuff that you say, Sean, on these podcasts I’ll hear 4,5,6,7 times before it really sinks in.”
- 47:27 Sean: Seven times you say? The Magic of Seven.
- 46:52 Aaron: “It’s true, some advice that you’ve been saying consistently hadn’t really sunk in but then it hit me all of a sudden like, ‘Oh crap! He’s right about that!’ Now, I’ve got to go make this change to the wording on my website or the way I interact with people. I had been hearing it over and over again and because of the kind of work you do, even if you’re doing a great job, sometimes people just have to hear it or see your name or your work a bunch of times before they really take a closer look at it and realize how good it is.”
- 48:17 Sean: That’s a great word because you might feel like you got rejected or you didn’t get noticed when someone saw your stuff. You’ve just got to be relentless. Just go after it.
- 48:31 Back to what Ben was talking about earlier on values and being able to see your kids. Adam says, “The status quo in the US, especially the South, is to have Dad work all day and never see the kids except on weekends or late at night. That’s not for me. I want to see and play with my kids when I want. I get to go to the doctor with them and take them places during the day. I even took my five year old to a photo shoot I was art-directing.” Is that worth it enough for you to put in the effort now?
- 49:17 Ben: “Yeah, I get to be at my son’s Star-Student recognition. I don’t have to hear about it later in the car from my son or my wife. I feel like I couldn’t live with myself if I passed those moments up.”
- 50:17 Aaron: “I did want to say, it wasn’t easy for me. It took a long time—I say two years but what I didn’t say was that during that time I was working 30 hours a week on web development, playing shows 10 to 15 hours a week on nights and weekends, and I was editing podcasts in between that time. I was regularly putting in 70 hours a week and I wasn’t making very much money. Those two years were insanely hard for me.”
- 51:16 “It’s not easy at all. You might have to walk away from some things you want to do but hang in there. I’m so happy with with the life I have right now. I still work a lot—probably closer to 60 hours a week than 40—but I love what I do. I love the people I work with, I’m proud of it, and it was totally worth it.”
If you’re working hard to build expertise, you don’t just have the opportunities, you also have leverage.
…they looked at you like you were crazy for not wanting to commute 2+ hours a day.
But it’s not accurate to make the broad generalization that all remote workers are people that sleep in, don’t wear pants, don’t get much done, and are uncultured, unsocialized animals.
If you work remotely you have to be on point.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t ever meet with people in person or you shouldn’t go into an office—but don’t feel like that’s your only option.
“It would kill me knowing that I was spending two hours a day in a vehicle not being able to hang out with my kids and talk to them about their day.”
Create great relationships with the clients you do have.
Invest in them, pour into them.
Get a $1,000 contract and put $3,000 of work into that and get those people to spread the word.