I’ve had something brewing for a few months now and today I’m excited to share the news with you.
A little over two years ago I left the staff team at Park Community Church and became a free agent, working with many great churches, organizations, businesses, and individuals with their presence on social media. While I’ve been in the communication/marketing space for over a decade now, in the past few years I’ve increasingly become passionate about social media.
I believe that social media isn’t just a tool or a new marketing platform, but one of the greatest opportunities we have to connect people and spread ideas that matter.
I’ve loved being a one man show, but lately I’ve had the itch to work with others who care about social media as much as I do.
Although today is our official “public” launch, we’ve already been working behind-the-scenes on some incredible projects. In the past few month we’ve been the social media team behind a national book launch for a book that reached the New York Times best sellers list; we’ve worked with someone named one of TIME magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world; and we have been contracted to do the social media for a worldwide album launch for top-selling Christian artist. It’s honestly humbling and exciting to be part of these projects and I cannot wait to see what’s ahead for our team.
We will focus primarily on helping with content strategy, platform building, and short-term management for campaigns and live events, but in the future will undoubtably expand our offerings as our team grows.
We live in a new world where working behind a desk or in a cubicle in a regular 9-5 isn’t always the norm. The rise of free agents and freelancers is increasing and most remote workers find their remote office space in their neighborhood coffee shops.
I’ve been working remotely for over two years now. While I have a great home office space, I oftentimes need a rhythm and routine that gets me out of the house. So, most days I opt to work from many of the amazing coffee shops around my neighborhood in Chicago. Over the past couple of years I’ve learned a few things about working from coffee shops and thought I’d share them with you.
1 – Go Local
Nothing beats supporting your local coffee shop. Sure, Starbucks has free Wi-fi and a Gold Card with perks, but there’s something about the locally-owned coffee shops and supporting them that does some good for all of us and for our local economy. Nothing against the chains, but when you’re working for yourself, you appreciate others who are doing the same.
2 – Leave Fully Charged
Avoid the pain of searching for outlets, make sure you head out for the day with your laptop and other devices fully-charged and ready to go!
3 – Make Friends With (and Tip!) Your Baristas
While you may not have co-workers that you work with face-to-face, your neighborhood baristas may be the only people you interface with on a daily basis, so why not make friends with them? Besides it being the “neighborly” thing to do, befriending your baristas can lead to great conversations, free lattes, introductions to other “regulars,” and many other perks. And, be sure to tip them. I make it a point to have a few dollars in my pocket even though most of my life goes on my debit card. Show your appreciation to them and they’ll give it right back to you.
4 – Be the hero of the day and pack a power strip.
Many wars rage over outlets at coffeeshops, so be the hero and pack a power strip. I travel with a small power strip and cannot tell you how many times it’s saved me from having to asking if I can plug in to an outlet. Instead, share the love with other telecommuters and be a hero.
5 – Read the room and discern how to take calls.
There are many unspoken rules of how to take calls in coffeeshops. I tend to try and read the room to see if other people are taking calls in a coffeeshop, or if they are excusing themselves and going outside to chat with their clients. Read the room and vibe of where you are. And be sure to watch the level and volume of your voice if you use a headset. Don’t be this guy.
6 – Wi-Fi… Free or Paid?
The Wi-Fi situation certainly varies according to where you are. Regardless of free or paid, I usually opt for places that are reliable and fast. That being said, the Wi-Fi tends to fall into a few categories…
Free for all. Unrestricted, reliable Wi-Fi is a dream for telecommuters. It’s the best of both worlds. If you happen upon a coffee shop like this, treasure it, and be sure not to buy one latte and call it a day. I usually try to buy one latte for a block of about 2 hours. It’s only fair, especially if you are at a locally-owned coffee shop.
Purchase = Wi-Fi. Many other coffee shops give you Wi-Fi code with a purchase and oftentimes it’s for a block of anywhere to 1-2 hours. While that can be annoying at times, I do find that the time restriction helps me focus and get to work on things that matter instead of distracting myself with BuzzFeed articles and funny YouTube videos (although distractions can be helpful throughout the day). If I have a limited amount of time in my day, I certainly try to make it a point to go to places where my wi-fi time is restricted.
Pay for Wi-Fi. Don’t do it. I can understand a purchase gaining you wifi, but if you are asked to pay for Wi-Fi it’s not worth it unless you want to write it off. The kind of coffee shop that wants you to pay for wi-fi is not a place I want to support.
No Wi-Fi. There are a number of coffee shops in Chicago popping up that intentionally do not have Wi-Fi. Before you avoid the no Wi-Fi zones or drain your data plan tethering your iPhone, consider this… no Wi-Fi coffee shops provide a great opportunity for you to disconnect and focus. If you need to crank out some writing, need space to organize your thoughts, or an undistracted environment to meet with someone, the no Wi-Fi coffee shops can be a great option.
7 – Change it Up
I have a rotation of about 5-6 coffee shops I frequent in my neighborhood. Each has a different vibe and each offer a unique setting to get work done. Some mornings I’ll go to a coffee shop with limited outlets and Wi-Fi knowing I’ll have a set block of time to get things done. Then, I’ll transition to another that serves lunch and is good for taking calls. I’ve also found the walk or ride between coffee shops and change of scenery helps me stay creative and inspired.
8 – Be willing to look out for others
There tends to be an unspoken rule with telecommuters and coffee shops when it comes to our personal belongings and when we need to excuse ourselves. You know the drill — the time when someone next to you gets a call, either for business or of nature, and needs to leave their laptops and other personal belongings behind. In most cases a simple head nod of agreement is all it takes, but for those few precious seconds you’ve committed to help your fellow neighbor and watch their things. It also means that if anything does happen to their propert you are to blame. Either way, be willing to look out for others and they’ll exchange the favor when you get called away.
These are just a few simple tips I’ve learned over the past couple of years making my “home office” from one of my neighborhood coffee shops. I hope they are helpful for you and if you are a remote worker like me, I’d love to hear some of your tips and pointers, too. Share them below!
Today marks the two-year anniversary of what’s been called The Great East Japan Earthquake. Like everyone else in the world, I watched in horror as the images streamed across television screens and social media showing the powerful destruction that resulted from the 9.03 magnitude earthquake and tsunami that ravaged the country of Japan. The images of tsunami waters racing across the countryside sweeping away homes and buildings, and literally washing away the lives of thousands are unforgettable.
While life has moved on for all of us, for those in the Tohoku region of Japan, the epicenter of the earthquake and tsunami, life has not been the same.
A couple of months ago, some mutual friends introduced me to a guy named Wesley. Wesley lived in Japan as an English teacher for two years with an organization called JET [the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program]. He returned to the USA to pursue his Master’s degree and later returned to Japan to visit his students and celebrate their graduation. Their graduation happened to be on March 11, 2011, the day of The Great East Japan Earthquake. He was luckily spared from harm but the experience marked him in a profound way and gave him and many of his friends a burden to help the Japanese people as they rebuild and recover from this tragedy.
Countless people have given themselves and have created organizations to help with the relief efforts in Japan, and Wesley had the vision to create a documentary, Tohoku Tomo (meaning ‘a friend of Tohoku’) to tell their stories and share about the progress being made in the Tohoku region.
I was moved by this story and asked how I could help, and before I knew it, I had a plane ticket booked to travel with Wesley and small crew of people to head to Japan a week from Tuesday to make this documentary a reality. While we are there, my job will be to share the story of what we are doing, the people we are meeting, and first-hand accounts of what’s happening in Tohoku. While we are there, we will also be volunteering with a couple of organizations and lending some of our efforts and finances to the recovery efforts.
I would so appreciate it if you would consider supporting this trip and this project. There are a number of ways you can help…
1 – First and foremost, your prayers are appreciated. As the final details of our trip and this project come together, as many good thoughts, prayers, and well-wishes that could be sent our way would be immensely helpful. While we are there and traveling around, there will undoubtably challenges and barriers along the way — so prayers for our trip are much appreciated.
We will be traveling March 17-31, making a quick two-day stop in San Francisco, then flying to Tokoyo and then heading to the Tohoku region.
I’m personally excited about this amazing opportunity and for the chance I have to be a part of this project. I know that being there, seeing what’s happening, and meeting the Japanese people will truly be a life-changing experience. I’m a little nervous and apprehensive, but have no doubt it’s going to be an incredible 2 weeks.
Thank you in advance for your support and well-wishes as this exciting journey begins!