Interview: Cyrus Shepard

Cyrus ShepardCyrus Shepard is a well known SEO practitioner, educator and evangelist. He blogs, tweets, and speaks about SEO. 

His company called Zyppy —which he operates with with partner and spouse Dawn— offers SEO consulting services, publish articles about SEO, and they’re working on SEO software too. They have been running it for 3 years.

1. How did you started working remotely? 

Previously, I worked for the software company Moz for many years. I started there in customer support and worked my way up to Lead SEO, eventually becoming Director of Audience Development and SEO. I was basically in charge of content, SEO, and generally growing our audience in strategic ways. 

As an SEO/marketer, I’ve always run websites and experiments on the side. Some of these projects have been profitable through affiliate marketing. In 2016 I left Moz to focus on some of these side projects full-time. I was fortunate because this meant I had an income stream immediately after striking out on my own.

I also had a couple of consulting clients that I worked with. Between the affiliate marketing and consulting, we were able to make our business work without being tied down to an office.

2. What do you think are the main advantages of remote work?

At my previous job, I was commuting up to 90 minutes per day. The toll of stress and lost time was a huge suck on my psyche. Getting hours back every week has been heaven.

3. Have you experienced any disadvantages due to your remote work setting? 

People interaction is definitely a challenge. We are social animals who need to interact with each other in a cooperative setting for maximum health. Talking to your barista is not enough! I suspect folks who form companies with employees have an advantage over solopreneurs in this regard.

4. From what cities or countries have you worked since you have started to work remotely? Where do you want to travel next?

Keep in mind that I do 80% of my work in and around Seattle, either from my home office, coffee shops, the local park (I have a good wifi plan), or often in the city when I meet with clients.

But my wife and I often travel due to our work. Free travel is one of the best perks of my job! In the past year, I’ve traveled and worked from the Philippines, Spain, Greece, San Diego and Vancouver, Canada.

Greece was my favorite, in part because I was simply tagging along for a week in Santorini with my wife, who was working remotely there on a separate project involving graphic design.

5. From what type of place do you prefer to work? 

I typically start the morning at a coffee shop near my home, then spend the afternoon in my home office.

When I started, I rented a co-working space at WeWork. While I loved it, it still involved a commute so I eventually ended the agreement.

6. What would you say to the companies that don’t believe in remote work?

Give it a try! Most companies who start with a single position eventually expand after they see success. It can also improve retention and turnover.

7. What tools do you use to work remotely? 

I use G Suite almost exclusively.

8. How do you manage your payments and taxes as a remote working professional/business?

We’re a small company with no employees so things are pretty simple. We’re set up as an LLC and I handle all taxes myself. Payments are probably the most complex because we work with so many different companies. It’s typically a mix of PayPal, direct deposit (with our affiliate relationships) and the occasional paper check.

9. What advice would you give to people looking to work remotely and companies making the remote switch?

  1. Set standard working hours for yourself, just like a real job!
  2. Build in extra communication opportunities to compensate for the what you may lose from an office environment.
  3. Meet face-to-face when you can
  4. Never settle for bad coffee
  5. Use a good accountant
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