Interview: Dave Rohrer

Dave RohrerDave Rohrer, currently works for his own Chicago based digital agency, NorthSide Metrics, where he’s the founder, CEO, Director of SEO, intern, and trash-taker-outer. He has been in web development, digital marketing, and marketing for over 15 years in some capacity.

He helps anyone from a small company to a Fortune 50 company improve their digital marketing. To boil down what he does to a single word; He’s an optimizer. You can find Dave in his twitter, LinkedIn, company and personal site.  

1. How did you started working remotely? How did you do the switch?

After being in-house as an Online Marketing Manager for 5 or so years I was looking to make a change to the agency side of things. I also had a small problem, I was also moving 50+ miles outside of Chicago. Most if not all of the big agencies are located right downtown Chicago and like what I call “butt-in-seat” workers. They aren’t exactly what I would call “remote worker friendly”.

I had previously worked at an agency which had merged/been bought by a larger one since I left which ended up being a perfect fit for me. At the time Covario was based in San Diego, California and had remoters in and around Madison, Wisconsin & Chicago, Illinois, but no actual office in the Midwest. I ended up working at Covario (now part of iProspect) as a remote employee and even after we got a Chicago office I still spent 90% of the time remote.

2. Which are the main advantages that you find by working remotely?

Time savings. Gas savings. More time with family. Ability to travel more and “when” you want. More time to sleep-in (not that I actually do but I COULD) since I don’t have to commute. Eat healthier and for less money since I am not always eating lunch out. I would say there are fewer distractions as well but on those days you really want to procrastinate, working from home makes it much easier to do (oh look laundry to do and fold, oh I can fix this, let me organize all of the orphan socks, perhaps I should clean this room, etc…).

Working remote also lets you control the distractions you face. In an office setting anyone can (and will) come and ask you questions or walk up to your desk/office. When you are remote you can simply turn off your messengers, avoid social media and turn off your phone(s)/email to get stuff done.

In regards to the ability to travel and work anywhere I believe it really can help you, no matter what industry you are in. Seeing how others live and work and then learning from them can help you, your employer, your co-workers and your clients. This to me is often an advantage that some people use as their “excuse” to want to work remote but often never actually do take full advantage of like they should.

3. Do you think you have disadvantages or that you’re missing something by working remotely?

I do think there are some disadvantages to working remote, more so for an in-house position over an agency/consultant type role. Many things happen at companies in hallways and during ad-hoc meetings and if you aren’t physically there your project can suffer. Later that day or in the next meeting you will suddenly learn that during a quick meeting that person X and person Y decided to just do Z and too bad for you.

Another downside is the ability to connect and get to know people as well as if you were in the office. You miss out on lunches with them, after work drinks, and other office team building or fun type events. The events can be cheesy at times but they often do succeed at what they are designed to do – build teams and lift morale.

4. From which cities or countries have you worked since you have become remote? Which has been your favorite one?

I am based in the Chicagoland area in my house but over the years have traveled quite a bit to speak at conferences, workcation, or to visit clients. My wife also speaks often and when possible I will mix in a mini vacation with work – isn’t that the point of working remote? So here are a few but not all of the cities I have been in the past 5 years:

  • Stockholm, Sweden
  • Toronto, Canada
  • Miami, Florida
  • Munich, Germany
  • London, England
  • Las Vegas, Nevada
  • Skåne aka South Sweden
  • San Francisco, California

As far as a favorite, I am not quite sure yet as I loved Stockholm but it was just so crazy expensive.

5. From which type of place do you prefer to work from? Coworking spaces, coffee shops or others? Do you have any specific place?

When not working out of my house I have some local places with good food and fast Wi-Fi that I spend the afternoon at for a late lunch/afternoon working session. I try and be respectful of the locations and staff and not take up a spot during peak lunch time so usually 1-130PM is when I will get there. I usually either have a late lunch and hang out until right before happy hour (so 3PM or 4PM).

Another great place is where ever you have family or friends. I have crashed on couches and in many spare rooms visiting friends and family while working remote. It is a great way to see people, travel and work all at the same time. Since they still go into work and you simply put in your hours and work when they are working it tends to work out really nicely for all parties.

When traveling my favorite spot would have to be balconies with a view (and sometimes even if that view is just of a parking garage – thanks Vegas!) or if it is nice and they have a pool I try and find a not too sunny spot. I think my all-time favorite spot was a common space balcony on a boat hotel in Stockholm. I could sit there and watch boats go by and it was just a super relaxing spot to sit and work.

6. Which places would you like to travel to -from where you would enjoy and work from- as a remote worker?

High on my list of places would be Iceland and Sydney, Australia. I don’t have a specific spot in mind, but somewhere in Southern Central America with an ocean view often sounds good too, thanks to the harsh winters we often get here in Chicago.

7. What would you say to the companies that don’t believe on hiring employees who work remotely?

You are missing out on great hires and additions to your teams. If you don’t think it can be done, I would argue that you simply don’t like the idea or haven’t made an honest effort to really try and make it work. I would highly recommend trying split remote/in-office and seeing which teams can make it work.

8. Which tools do you use to work remotely?

I use a few messengers with Skype being my main one. I have tried a few Project/Task type management tools, and for the past few years my favorite has been Paymo. It does my task management and invoices. I also rely on Evernote for client notes and have started trying to use Trello (again) for my short term/quick task reminder system.

9. How do you manage your business and taxes as remote working professional?

My accountant and try to stay as organized as possible. Not saying all my stuff is as organized as it should be, but we will call it a “work in progress”.

10. What advice would you give to people looking to work remotely?

Try it in small doses first. Move your schedule so that Tues/Thurs you work remote for 1-2 months and see how that goes. Then move to 3 days a week and then 4 and see how it goes. Do you like it? Are you as productive if not more productive? Or are you easily distracted when outside of the office? Are your projects suffering from internal meetings and moves that now exclude you?

There are two things to look at while making this move – does it work for you and does it work for your role/company? Sometimes it might work for one but not the other and that is why I strongly suggest people that have never done it, work into it slowly.

Not to give an SEO answer but in the end it really does “depend” on many things, in terms of if it is right for someone.

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