Interview of Duane Storey

Duane Storey

Duane Storey is Software Engineer from Canada and works for Lindell Media Inc. He has been working remotely mostly since 2011, he spent the first year working from home and from coffee shops, but eventually, he started to feel pretty isolated without daily interaction with people. Then, he started to travel…

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1. How did you start working remotely? How did you make the switch?:

I started a company with a friend sometime around 2008. I spent the first year or so working from home and from coffee shops, but eventually started to feel pretty isolated without daily interaction with people. At around the same time, I read ‘The 4-Hour Work Week’ by Tim Ferris, and decided to try my hand at working remotely. I booked a one-way ticket to Buenos Aires, Argentina, moved all of my belongings into storage, and set off on the first of many remote-working adventures.

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

I think location independence is probably the largest advantage – being able to see some of the world while also making income. If you’re fortunate enough to also be making money in a country that has a strong global currency (for example GPB, EUR or USD), then you can also take advantage of cheaper countries as well such as Thailand.

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

Well, some people tend to think the life of a remote worker is all beaches and sunshine. That definitely happens from time to time, but for the most part I tend to put in a lot of hours each way, comparable usually to a 40 hour work week. The benefits for me are that I get to work for myself and also see other countries at the same time. But I have been stuck in really beautiful locations (such as Koh Phi Phi, Thailand, or Rome, Italy) and been completely swamped with work – in those scenarios it was almost worse, being somewhere beautiful, because it was right outside the door but I wasn’t able to take advantage of it.

Also I think working remotely can be isolating. Some of the best ideas come out of shared, often random conversations with other people of similar, and sometimes dissimilar, interests. Some famous offices (such as the new Apple offices in California) were designed with that in mind. As a remote worker it’s easy to miss out on those types of conversations, and the results of them.

One aspect that I haven’t heard a lot of people talk about are relationships, and that’s probably another difficult aspect of being a remote worker. Often you are only in a location for a month at a time, and it’s hard to make meaningful relationships (even friendships) in such a short time.

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

I’ve been working remotely mostly since 2011, and in that time I’ve visited 39 countries. Some of my favourite locations so far were Ubud (Indonesia), Buenos Aires (Argentina), Taghazout (Morocco), Javea (Spain), and Galway (Ireland).

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

I started working primarily from coffee shops in my home town. Because there aren’t many of them there, I quickly because a local fixture. At one point I was having some wine with someone I had met just in a bar and she suddenly looked at me with new recognition and said something like, “oh hey, I just realized that you’re that computer guy! in the coffee shops!” After crying myself to sleep that night, I decided I needed to change things up a bit and work from different locations.

Mostly now I prefer coworking or coliving spaces since everyone there are in similar professional (and often personal) circumstances, so it’s easy to relate. And often you get some type of community (group dinners, afternoon lunches, etc.) just by signing up, which is a huge plus.

6. Which places would you like to travel to while working remotely?:

I’ve been to every continent so far other than one: Antarctica. So sometime in the next few years I’d like to go back to Ushuaia, Argentina, and catch a boat there. There’s likely no Wi-Fi on the boat, so it would basically mean unplugging for 10 days. But it would be pretty great to do some writing on the boat in the evenings and then walk with emperor penguins during the days.

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

I think the best employees are happy employees, so I think companies should focus on obtaining that result, even if it means some people are out of the office. Some of the most well known (and successful) internet based companies today employee a large percentage of remote workers. One example of that is Automattic, the company behind WordPress. They don’t care where people work, only that they get the job done. They offer hardware budgets, so employees have the right tools, and also as-needed vacation time (if you aren’t feeling creative and want time off, go nuts).

Instead of paying extra overhead for each employee to sit in an office, they fly most of their employees to different countries a few times a year for in-person meetings (which are still really valuable, even for remote workers – it’s far easier to solve a remote problem with someone if you’ve actually sat and had dinner or a beer together at some point). I think their success and that model should be replicated by a lot of companies. So I would say companies shouldn’t be afraid to hire a remote worker, and should even encourage it if it would improve the happiness of that employee.

8. Which tools do you use to work remotely?:

I use Skype to make a lot of calls back home, and also have a dual SIM cell phone where I typically have a local SIM and my Canadian SIM. I don’t receive a lot of calls from back home, but paying $30/mo for my home cell plane is a lot cheaper for me than missing an important call from my lawyer or accountant back home.

The only other real tool I use is Asana, which I use mostly to keep track of my day-to-day tasks.

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

So far I’ve never been out of Canada for more than six months a year, so I have continued to file income tax back in Canada and pay taxes there. There are probably some really grey taxation areas that some countries are going to try to whiten over the next few years as more and more people work remotely, but so far it hasn’t really impacted me as I just file my business and personal taxes at home. But next year I am planning to live in Spain for close to a year, so it’s something I will likely have to consider.

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

Working remotely is great if you want location independence and to see a lot of the world while working. But one of the tradeoffs is often the loss of a community, so a person should be comfortable with that before setting off. A great option now are coliving locations, where coworkers can live together as well. I’ve had great experiences so far at Sun and Co in Javea, Spain, and Sun Desk in Taghazout, Morocco. So if you’re looking to set off, I would recommend considering one of those options, at least prior to setting off on your own.

 

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