UK-based Rob Ford founded the Favourite Website Awards in 2000. The FWA recognizes cutting edge web design and offers up a site that showcases those designs while hosting job listings, interviews with designers and news on the world of web design. Since its inception it has had over 140 million site visits. The FWA network showcases not only cutting edge websites but also the best in mobile via the FWA Mobile Showcase and the best in photography via FWA Photo. Somehow Rob also found time to write two books: Guidelines for Online Success and The Internet Case Study Book. Here Rob talks about working from home, Roman artefacts and a whistling neighbor.
How long have you worked from home? And where is home? I have worked from home for almost fifteen years now. I can remember when I walked out of my last job as an employee, one of many I gave up on, and a friend’s father said to me, “you will never work for anyone ever again.” He was self-employed and he was also correct. I have been my own boss ever since, working mostly from a home office. I recently moved to Litlington, near Cambridge in the UK. It’s the site of an old Roman settlement and was the feature of an archaeological dig for a famous TV programme here in the UK. This has made gardening more interesting as I now dig holes for new plants and shrubs way too big and deep on the off chance of discovering a Roman artefact.
Finding a location in the countryside, with stunning views and excellent dog walks was crucial when we moved. Being able to relax and suck in clean air is essential for anyone working from home, it’s also highly inspirational as walking stimulates parts of the creative side of my brain that sitting in front of the computer tries to kill.
Describe your style? How would you define your aesthetic? Style? Aesthetic? I’m not sure I have a style or aesthetic. I like things to be logical and always apply that to any design or project I work on. I always do my own thing and work inside a bubble, trying to keep all outside influences out of my decision making processes. I hate to see people following a style because they believe it is the way to go. I want to see people that do re-invent the wheel, not people who bring back fashions from years past. Fob watches are making a comeback, shame the major oversight is that the clock faces used to be upside down so you could read them easily. The ones I have seen have the clock face the wrong way up, i.e. the right way up for the person standing in front of you. See, it’s all about being logical for me.
How do you keep your work space organized? My work space is way bigger than the desk my monitors sit on. My back garden, the surrounding countryside. It’s all relevant to what keeps me ticking and able to stay so focused on what I do and what I have achieved. Dog walking is a crucial part of my day so keeping them organized and well trained is just as crucial for me. I even catch a few minutes to work when dog walking.
Having said that, my desk is not organised as such. I let a stack of incoming mail build up until it gets on my nerves and then I will sort through it all. As I have had a home office for so many years, I know what’s important to me and that’s to have a PC that works, dual monitor setup is essential from my daily grind of activities, one or two moleskins, a calculator, clock, world clock and a photo of my fiancé. I still use a real diary so that takes pride of place. As long as all those essentials are on my desk and do not get moved by anyone, I am happy.
When you set up your home office what did you have to keep in mind? Were there any particular obstacles to overcome? Buying a house with a suitable room for a home office is paramount. Being on the ground floor is also a must for me as I spent years working from a spare bedroom and it’s not exactly uplifting.
With WIFI these days you can set up in any room, or, as I do, have a base for my PC and then I can sit anywhere with the laptop or iPhone. Just waiting to get a Flash enabled tablet, probably the Motorola XOOM and then I can do a lot more work with great ease from anywhere I am. Sitting at the bottom of our garden, taking in the view, whilst working makes me realise how lucky I am to do a job I still love, a job that started as a hobby, has grown into a world renowned brand, yet still feels like a hobby.
I wouldn’t say there were many, if any, obstacles to overcome when setting up my home office. All I would say is be careful of claiming tax relief on any room of your house as it could have commercial property ramifications further down the line. It could potentially change the footprint of your property. So, take the advice of an accountant if you are going to work from home, especially if you plan to offset any expenses against your house.
Is there any piece of home office furniture you covet right now? Not sure if this would qualify as furniture but the MoviePeg I have for my iPhone is a great piece of kit. I believe they make them for iPad also. It’s a very simple stand for your iPhone. Great for your desk as it keeps your phone at the perfect angle for viewing info, video etc on your phone whilst working.
What desk accessory can’t you do without? Has to be my clock, with date, temperature and tax week on it. I find it impossible to ever remember the date. This could be the result of spending fifteen years looking at this clock to see what the date is. I have effectively trained my brain not to need to remember the date as I just glance to find out what it is. Not so great when I am away from the desk though. Mind you, I am hopeless at remembering people’s names. Again, I think I have trained my brain to forget a name as soon as someone tells me theirs. I’ll have to get them to email it to me, much easier.
What would you change about your work space? My next door neighbor. Can I say that? What happens if he reads this?! Let’s just say that if I am outside and I hear him whistling, I run for cover.
What inspires you? People who fulfill their dreams. People who set themselves targets and won’t let go until they’ve reached them. People who go it alone and make it by themselves. That could be a 100m sprinter, someone who has scaled Mount Everest, someone who has plucked up enough courage to go to a busy shopping centre after years of being agoraphobic, someone who has kicked a heroin habit, someone who has taken a new product to market and against all adversity and negativity, has made it.
Answer = People!