“A lot of what I do is rooted in SEO. I used to be a Google search quality rater in 2006 before I became a link builder / SEO consultant. But I have also studied digital media design, and I worked as a copywriter. I have a good feel for content/design and UX and I’m always interested in user satisfaction, be it organic search or on-site.”
Ingo is currently working for a couple of e-commerce and medicinal advice clients but his big project at the moment is with an amazing team of 100% plant-based product growers, producers and sellers, called Ardoa Organics. As well as being a founding member of the team, he oversees SEO, content and marketing and some product/design.
“Our first products are true broad-spectrum CBD oils of the highest possible quality. It’s actually pretty nice to work on something that can really help people, especially in times like these.”
Ingo has also started planning ‘holistic digital retreats’ in Portugal -watch this space, 2021, post-pandemic-.
“There are a lot of ideas and plans in my head which have evolved over the last year and my wife and I will be working together to create some special events here in Portugal.”
1. How did you started working remotely?
I started working remotely after an 8 year stint as Head of SEO at the Bristol full service agency Bray Leino. I was headhunted by Sage who offered me a position working from home, with two trips a month to their London office to work in person with the wider team. I set up my new laptop at home, upstairs in front of the window with a nice view, and cracked on.
Working at an office comes with all sorts of positives and negatives: The “How was your weekend?” questionnaire on a Monday morning… the repetitive “Anything planned for the weekend?” on a Friday afternoon.. going to the pub at lunch or after work when you actually don’t want to go to the pub… endless meetings and conversations about why the agency or clients are either great or crap… endless tea and coffee rounds… wandering up and down the same high street at lunch spending ludicrous amounts of money on posh but ultimately disappointing sandwiches.
The positives are that you have people around you, some of which you can have a chat and a laugh with. It wasn’t hard for me to switch though. I like being on my own, that’s my “quality time”. I don’t get bored. I like peace and quiet. I have two kids under 10 so I value peace and quiet and alone time.
2. What are the main advantages that you find that remote work has?
No commute, flexible time management, more productive and efficient and more free time. I get more done in a shorter space of time as far less interruptions. That’s the big ones I guess. I used to commute by bicycle all across Bristol to my agency office and although it kept me fit, I had a near death experience almost every day. And commuting from Bristol to London at 5am and then coming home at 11pm. I can do without that.
My wife and I both work from home and we also look after my 81 year old mum who lives with us now. It’s nice to be at home, working in your own time. If I want to have a break and sit outside in the sun for 30 mins, I just do it. Or go for a walk with my wife or play with the kids, I just do it. I also often do an hour [or two] of work in the evening after the kids are in bed, or on a Saturday or Sunday.. whenever I feel like it and there’s time – but that’s my decision. Also, when you have kids (our girls are 6 and 8), they sometimes get ill or can’t go to school for whatever reason, then me and my wife can share spending time with the kids during the day.
The school summer holidays in Portugal are 3 months long so in the future working flexibly and remotely means that we can travel around, explore, house swap etc and make some amazing memories with the family. When I was working at the office full time, I left early in the morning and came back often not before 7pm, while my wife had to deal with her two businesses and all of the kids stuff at home.
3. Do you think you have disadvantages or that you’re missing something by working remotely?
What creates pleasure, working on your own, can also create loneliness because of isolation. I’m pretty happy spending time on my own, but I love to talk to people and peers, see how they tick, learn from them, bounce some ideas around, have a chat. So being online and talking to people during the day is important for me.
A bit of banter on Twitter, a quick chat with a business partner on WhatsApp, team comms and meetings via Telegram and Google Meets, a Zoom call with a friend from Berlin. I never really feel lonely or bored.
That said being at home all the time also comes with a bit of cabin fever. And because my wife and mother are also here we do get on top of each other at times. We need to create a bit more separation at home, a proper office would help but as we only moved in recently we haven’t had time to finish unpacking and sorting the rooms out yet.
4. From what cities or countries have you worked from since you have become remote?
I worked remotely from Bristol/UK, a small village in Hessen/Germany, a remote cottage in the Dordogne/France, and now a house in a tiny Portuguese village. France was a bit crazy as I was the only one working in that house with kids running riot 24/7, enjoying their summer holiday – and Germany was a bit weird because me and my family lived for 6 months in the house that I grew up in, and German school is only half a day, so every afternoon: Kids running riot, lol.
Germany was also very expensive regarding health insurance for freelancers. Here in Portugal we pay almost nothing extra for health services, similarly like in the UK where you contribute via normal tax, even as a freelancer. Portugal is my favourite country to work in so far and I work with a view of the mountains (and the girls are in school from 9am to 5pm so no kids running riot lol).
5. From what type of place do you prefer to work from?
I roam around the house with my laptop. I normally start at the kitchen desk, then move over to a comfy chair in the lounge, then on to the veranda for some vitamin D, and I sometimes end up downstairs in one of the kid’s bedrooms, door closed, when I need a quiet hour to do a team call. I don’t have a massive work station with 5 monitors and a special ergonomic chair – because I don’t need this type of stuff. I don’t really like sitting in cafes, working.
I rather sit in a cafe and watch people. I sometimes get a bit fed-up when there’s too much noise/action at home (especially when the kids are in) and fantasize about going to a co-working space now and then, but that would then need a commute and would also cost money, so I can do without. It’s not necessary. A dedicated office and work space would be good though.
6. What places would you like to travel or go to while working remotely?
Before we moved from the UK via Germany and France to Portugal, we were toying with the idea of buying a campervan, taking the kids out of school for a year, and just driving around Portugal to find the best place to settle. But then my mother entered the equation and we had to scrap that idea and find a place quickly.. But I want to do that when the kids are older.. going on a trip all across Europe, the Grand Tour.
If I’d live on my own with my wife but no kids AND there wouldn’t be any global pandemic, I could, and would, constantly travel around, spend a week in Berlin at friends’ places, then hop over to Iceland for a week or two, then Madrid, Edinburgh, Atlanta, then come back and spend a week at the Portuguese Algarve… there’s so many places that I love to be and can work from.. but that’s all on hold at the moment (thanks Covid) and my responsibilities are currently with my mum who can’t really travel.
Hopefully when we can travel again we can find a way to go away with the children in the long school holidays and experience some new places. A house swap with someone in Sweden perhaps.
7. What tools do you use to work remotely?
I tend to use Telegram in combination with Google docs. We run a 20 strong, fully remote team across 5 different countries, all via Telegram and Google Meet.
Another project with 3 people in 3 countries is going purely via WhatsApp.
I’m not a fanboy of Slack or Gira or whatever everyone else is using all the time. I actually hate all these different platforms. When working at Sage, I dealt with a lot of external agencies and every agency tried to make you use their preferred platform for comms, so you end up with this insane number of comms platform feeds, all slightly different, but basically all doing the same. And then you are added to a new group every day and your laptop pings every 10 secs.
Thanks but no thanks.
8. How do you manage your business and taxes as a remote working professional?
As soon as we got settled in Portugal, me and my wife had a chat with a local accountant who came recommended. He looked at our current income sources and plans for the future, and suggested starting a limited company – which we did.
We work together on a couple of projects, my wife used to work in Marketing and the creative sector so she enjoys working with me if the niche is interesting to her (she also runs luxury retreats and experiences here in Portugal and has a busy massage practice although all on hold at the moment), so that made sense for us.
Here in Portugal you use a ‘portal de financas’, where you log in and it’s all in there, your invoicing platform, tax return submissions and 1,000 other things – which is pretty neat, but you need to get your head around it. There’s some nice advantages when you move to Portugal to start a business.
I also find that being paid via TransferWise has saved me time and money in terms of being paid across various currencies.
9. What advice would you give to people looking to work remotely and companies doing the remote switch?
Trust your instincts. If you feel positive that you want and can do it, just do it! We made it all happen with two young kids and my mum to look after, and moved country at least twice. It’s always challenging, never easy, but nothing worth doing is ever easy.
If you have dreamt it, you then need to live it – otherwise it’ll always just be a dream. Focus. Make it real step by step. Get rid of everything that holds you back. Sell stuff. As much as you can. You don’t need most of your stuff. One day you look back and it’s all done and you think: “Wow how the heck did we do all of this?!” But you’ve done it and you can be proud of yourself and your crew. You’ve all learned a lot on the way and have all grown as people.
Also important is to build and maintain a network of like minded, nice people. I am so grateful for my network, my friends and buddies. Loads of very positive things have come from this network of support. I have landed jobs via my network, I have given jobs via my network, I learn from all of them and they might have learned something from me at some point, who knows ; ) And as soon as we arrived here in that small village in Portugal, we met like minded people, forged friendships, learned, and then passed on knowledge.
Last year we were the newbies, this year we teach the newbies. It’s all in flux.
As a company, you have to trust your people. Especially when they work remotely. If they have a feeling that they are not trusted, like you have to clock in every hour, or have to deliver insane time sheets or having to be on Skype every minute of the day, that creates a weird vibe, and has a negative effect on work.
10. What would you say to the companies that still today don’t believe in remote work?
If remote work makes sense in a financial and ‘quality of work’ sense for a company, then they can hire the right people for the job although these people might live on the other side of the world, plus they save overheads for office space and other staff-in-office-related costs. There’s a lot of benefits that can give a company a cutting edge over competitors who work with 100% local, office-based staff.
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