Creative (and Financial) Benefits of a Roaming Office
The world is your office! Well, at least the part of the world with electrical outlets and WiFi.
Having a Roaming Office means you can set up shop and get work done wherever you are – whether you’re staying with a friend in Sonoma County before heading off to Texas for a month, or taking a road trip down to LA for IndieCade (true story bro).
[You’re reading an article in The (Nearly) Complete Guide to Self Publishing Your Games Online series]
So long as you’ve got a laptop (and the necessary electrical accouterments) then you’re free to work wherever you happen to be.
Which can be a blessing when Life is regularly punctuated by Inconvenient Circumstances you Didn’t Plan For.
Why Roaming? Why not a Traditional Brick’n’Mortar Office?
Well, for one, if you’re going indie or recently you’ve gone indie (which if you’re reading this article that probably describes you) then you’re operating on a traditional indie budget of zero/nada/zip – which roughly translates as “I’m living on savings and only taking contract work when I absolutely need to!”
Whether you’re a solo player or you’re working with a full group – actually renting an office and dealing with all the overhead of insurance, electricity, internet, toilet paper, plumbing and all that crazy stuff is a HUGE cost to take on when you don’t have a steady stream of positive cash-flow coming in.
Besides, actually being IN that office is NOT going to make you more productive – as most independent developers quickly realise after the “omg-we-have-an-office!” energy wears off (I think See Through Studios did an article about this kind of thing recently).
I know I know, you want to believe that if you create the setting of a Really Productive Office environment then you should be able to just step into the part and BECOME the Really Productive Indie Developer.
Sadly, humans don’t work that way.
I mean, if that WERE the case then everyone who ever said “I’m going to lose weight!” and bought a bunch of health food, brand new workout clothes and signed up for a 24 Hour Gym Membership would be lean and happy a year later. How many times have you seen that work out?
Yeah, not many.
Anyway, what does working out of a Roaming Office actually look like?
Roaming Office Example: Working Around the City (or “Why Local Cafes Love Me”)
Morning Worky Times: After waking up and doing my “I’m waking up now” routine I’ll grab my backpack (kitted out like an Adventurer’s Pack complete with Laptop, Notebooks and Iron Rations) and head to a cafe about 30 minutes walk from where I’m staying.
Why the hell would I walk 30 MINUTES to a cafe?
Because I’m a short curvy girl and I’ve got a body type that is TOTALLY prepared to survive famine (ie: I smell calories and put on weight).
This walk both a) makes sure my body is moving and active early in the day and b) gives me some Serious Thinking Time before sitting down to my first work session of the day.
When I get to my Morning Cafe I’ll order an Americano (Long Black for my Aussie peeps) and start work. Whether that work is nutting out a design problem, sketching ideas or writing.
I’ll work until I start feeling antsy to move again (about 1.5 to 2 hours) then walk back home for a cuppa (tea for my stateside peeps).
(That’s like…a whole hour of walking before lunch! Back you encroaching flabby fatness, BACK I SAY!)
Afternoon Worky Times: I head out to my next cafe after a short tea break and some Reading Times (a non-fiction book of some description that comes highly recommended on Amazon and is related to whatever I’m working on: At the time of this writing that book is Creating Minds by Howard E. Gardiner).
I have a few spots I’ll head to in the afternoon depending on what transport is available. If there’s a car I’ll drive up to Flying Goat Coffee in Santa Rosa (BEST Coffee in Sonoma County!). If no car is to be had I’ll walk to Starbucks (last resort, ugh!).
Second verse, same as the first – I’ll order a coffee and work for another couple of hours until I reach my “oh my god I can’t sit still any longer!” threshold. After which I’ll either stretch and walk around before sitting down for another session or head back home AGAIN for another tea and break (you have no idea, I REALLY like tea).
Evening Worky Times: Depending on how much work I need to get done that week I’ll throw in a third session at yet ANOTHER cafe. This time I’ll shake things up with a Chai, being the wild and untameable girl that I am.
Same deal as before – 2 hours solid work time on whatever project needs solid working time.
Sometimes my day will look fairly structured: I’ll sketch out ideas in the morning, create a rough draft in the afternoon and then do a final edit in the evening.
Other days it’s all over the shop – final edit in the morning, Really Important Emails in the afternoon and concepting illustrations in the Evening.
Regardless of whatever needs getting done that week, these three dedicated work sessions and their associated transit and rest times have become crucial to maintaining creative productivity wherever I am!
You’re Only REALLY Working Like 4-6 Hours! Wouldn’t You Get More Done at Home?
That transit time between cafes is when I do most of my work – puzzling out design issues, visualising sketches and mentally “writing” an article.
By the time I sit down at a cafe it’s just a matter of capturing and codifying whatever it was I was nutting out on the way over!
And those tea breaks are actually pretty strategic – after nearly a decade of doing art and development stuff on computers I’m very aware of my productivity peaks (and plummets!)
I have about 1.5 – 2 hours of REALLY awesome work in me…followed by a slump when I’ve run out of creative mana and brain juice.
And no amount of PUSHING THROUGH IT makes the work any better! In fact, if I try to work when I’m totally OOM (out-of-mana) then I’ll end up making stupid mistakes or taking twice as long to do twice as little.
…err…you know what I mean.
Working at Cafes Kind of Defeats the Purpose of Saving Money, Doesn’t it?
I don‘t spend money “relaxing”: Seriously, when your passion is your profession you don’t really need to “unwind” from work by going out for drinks with the mates or going out to see a movie. And anything that’s NOT work is distracting me from what I Really Want to be Doing – so my lifestyle is pretty inexpensive.
I don’t spend money “eating out”: Every weekend I’ll bulk cook all my meals for that week (I can eat for like, 7 days on less than 50 dollars). That way I just have to reheat breaky, lunch or dinner and I don’t have to worry about a) finding something healthy to eat or b) spending time cooking.
Dudes, my most extravagant expenses involve books and dark chocolate!
So two cups of coffee a day and SOMETIMES a chai in the evening when I’ve got a full-on schedule will still come in under $50 a week.
Find me an office for $50 a week that has SUPER AWESOME COFFEE, WiFi and generally pleasant (and sometimes really cute) staff to chat with.
Oh, and it has to be the kind of place that guarantees that you get at least an hour of exercise in every day and is setup in such a way that you’ll definitely do your best work at peak times and will actually rest when you need to recharge mental mana (instead of working yourself into a stupor).
Go on. I’ll wait here (for about 1.5 to 2 hours).
(Seriously though, if you find that office then myself and readers here at IndieBits.com would love to hear about it! Drop a comment with a link below!).
Scoping Out Your Roaming Office
Like everything we do as creatives, this is going to take some experimentation and playtesting!
The whole “walk to a cafe and work for 2 hours” thing works REALLY well for my creative/mental rhythms and energy levels.
By breaking my day up into Morning, Afternoon, Evening and Night (yoga and more reading time before sleeps!) I have a very flexible work ritual and can shift around meetings, emergencies and weird sleeping patterns (article ideas wake me up constantly – it’s really weird).
I don’t stress out if I can’t get to my Afternoon Cafe by 2pm. Sometimes I’ll get there at 1pm, sometimes at 3pm. What matters is that I’m doing SOMETHING productive with my Afternoon work session (wherever and whenever that happens to be).
And you don’t have to just work at cafes! Other great spots I’ve worked at include Libraries, Creative Hubs, even house-sitting for a friend.
So, that’s my Roaming Office! Where/When do you do YOUR best work?
[Hey man, you just read an article in The (Nearly) Complete Guide to Self Publishing Your Games Online series. Thanks! Give us your angle in the comments!]