Jonathan Lane worked side contract jobs as a web developer until he grew his business enough to freelance full-time. Then he moved to Mayne Island, a small island off of Canada’s west coast, a place he had visited as a child. Now he takes on diversified projects including web design and development, e-commerce, and textbook co-authoring.
Describe your job/career/business
I do a bunch of things. I’m a strong believer in “don’t put all your eggs in one basket”, so I do some web design and development work for clients, I’m starting up an e-Commerce site, developing a “Web 2.0 app”, and starting up a locally targeted online/offline combo service. I’m also in the process of doing a graduate degree, co-authoring a textbook, and contributing a series of articles on web development.
How has the web changed your working life?
The web is the only professional life I’ve ever known. After I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree, I went to work as an “in-house” web developer for a small University in Canada. I did that for ten years, and did web development contract work on the side, until business grew enough for me to escape the 9 to 5, uproot, and move to a tiny little island off of Canada’s west coast (Mayne Island). I’ve lucked out, because where I’m living there’s cable Internet, whereas other parts of the island are stuck on dial-up.
It’s funny, when I first visited this island back when I was a kid, I thought at that point that it would be great to someday be able to live out here and work out of my home. Now I’m literally living my dream. Without the web, my industry wouldn’t exist, and I would probably still be living in a city somewhere.
Describe your working situation
I work at home with a pair of young kids running around the house (1 and 3). It’s tough some days, my wife and I have a schedule that we run daily with the kids so that I get about 6 hours of working time each day. It’s hard when you hear the kids yelling (even with the door closed, and headphones on). Sometimes I’ve got the flexibility to just say “forget this” and go be a dad, and sometimes I just have to turn up the volume on iTunes.
Occasionally, the office is the deck outside overlooking the ocean, or the back deck out in old growth temperate rain forest. It’s a big switch from the office with no opening windows that I inhabited for too long.
What are the key web and desktop tools you use?
For development work, I’m in the process of transitioning off of the big, expensive software (Photoshop, Dreamweaver) and trying out some alternatives like Coda, Textmate and Pixelmator. I can’t live without Adium to soften the isolation, and Gmail is my main depot for email. I just picked up an iPhone which has saved me a couple of times already. We had a big storm a few weeks ago that knocked out power for 3 days. I was able to fire off an e-mail to my clients letting them know that I’d be difficult to get in touch with.
I’ve developed a new love for Apple’s iWork applications because they produce great looking results with really little effort. I’m a big fan of using simple tools for my own purposes — my company web site is just a WordPress installation, somewhat customized. Flickr keeps the extended family happy as I post photos there somewhat regularly.
Blinksale is the best of invoicing clients. I’ve been using it since shortly after they launched.
Describe your productivity system
I was a big Highrise user, I kept just about everything in there, until recently when I decided to try to cut my monthly operating budget. The monthly subscription was an easy target, as I’ve never been able to get Highrise to fit perfectly into my workflow (it always felt like a chore keeping it updated). I’ve opted for OmniFocus from the OmniGroup for keeping track of to do stuff, and use iCal for tracking time-sensitive stuff.
Share your top tip for success as a web worker
I was scared to death of losing the my regular monthly paycheck. While I was miserable in my last job (near the end), I kept having visions of my family living under a bridge. It you hate where you are right now, take the plunge. It’s amazing how little you can live off of, and how well you can do once you have so much flexibility with your time.