Do you have any idea how important things like the subject line in an email can become? When you’re running a full-scale publishing business by remote, you learn fast. Imagine having to reread 300 emails to find the one that discussed a contractual issue when they all have weird names like “Read this.”
We even had to come up with a way to draw attention to important time-sensitive issues. On a recent jaunt to Canada, I got one on my smart phone with a title that started “STAT.” We solved the problem (a contractual issue on one of my projects) before I crossed the border and had to shut down my phone to avoid extortion by T-Mobile. (We now use 911 as our emergency signal. The things we’ve had to decide!) I was able to check in throughout the next few days by Internet on my laptop.
This virtual office model suits our nascent publishing company. If our product is digital, just electrons floating around “out there,” why shouldn’t our office be?
Puddletown got its start in a friend’s living room, was incubated at a Willamette Writer’s group, named over the phone, and birthed at a kitchen table. We have no offices. We see each other face-to-face once a week. The rest of the time we rely on email, the occasional phone call, and social networking.
Our filing cabinet is a donation-ware software called DropBox. It works on multiple platforms (two of us are Mac users, one is still living on the dark side). Part of the fun of DropBox is we can see when others in the group move things around in the shared folders. It’s almost like having a cubicle next door. What it really does is cloud computing at its best.
The three of us are also terminally different in lifestyle. As far as I can tell, Renee stops for the day around 8 or 9 pm and is back up at some ridiculous hour. Lisa keeps later hours, but is still up in time to see morning hours. I only see morning from the dark side most days, sleeping until noon. But I work until 3 or 4 am, sometimes later. My partners know that in a real emergency, they can call and wake me up.
This is a great way to work. As I mentioned in my last post, I am disabled. Part of that disability takes the form of exhaustion. There is no way I can work a typical 8 to 5 job because I may need a three hour nap in the middle of the day. But I can put in 12 hour days (and do) if I can just sleep for awhile. Something I could never do in a “real” office job.
Virtual work has the most benefits for the disabled population as far as I can see. It allows folks like me, who otherwise would be forced onto disability, to be fully and gainfully employed at good livable wage jobs, something seldom possible in the past. This model fits varying lifestyles, varying levels of energy, and even allows us to tend to the needs of kids, grandkids, and partners.
It’s also flexible for things like travel. I was able to work via phone and computer while I was en route to Canada. In a couple of months, I may be heading off to Texas to chauffeur my oldest grandkids to school, track, football and whatever else, while my daughter recovers from a planned C-section and takes care of my newest granddaughter. Her husband, an Army pilot, is being deployed to Afghanistan 10 days after she gives birth. I can take a laptop with me and work while the older kids are at school. How cool is that?
But we are having to learn new systems, new ways of doing things. However, that seems only fitting as we’re setting a new model and a new standard in publishing all the way around.