Interview With Duck On Water Web Design Owner Duncan MacGregor

Welcome to the nineteenth of the weekly interview series where I will speak a wide range of people who have embraced the working remotely opportunity. We will speak to entrepreneurs, business owners, large organisation workers and freelancers about their trials and tribulations when delving into remote working.

This week I am delighted to interview a good mate of mine Duncan MacGregor. Duncan has his own Web Design/Development agency for a number of years now, delighting clients across the globe. Duncan has some absolutely fantastic insight for anybody looking to start a business and his attitudes are refreshing.

I have been friends with Duncan for some time now and have always admired how he goes about his business while still maintaining a great work/life balance. What I love about Duncan is how he views self employed different to most and see’s it as the most secure job on the planet. You can find Duncan through his web design business Duck On Water. A true gent with fantastic understanding of the industry.

Q: Hi Duncan tell us a little bit about yourself, where are you from, where do you live now?

I am from a small town in the Cotswolds called Tetbury but I live in a slightly larger town called Cirencester, also in the Cotswolds.
Apart from my day job, music is my passion and I sing and play guitar in a band. I love Wasabi Peanuts and putting the world to rights over a beer down the pub 😉

Q: What company do you work for and what is your role within the organisation?

I run a web design company called Duck On Water, as it’s just me (although I work with freelancers that I subcontract to) it ranges from Web Designer/Web Developer to accountant, coffee maker & general skivvy.

Q: How do you deal with stereotypes from friends in regards to productivity when working from home?  i.e.: Sleep until midday, 2 hour lunch breaks etc.

I have heard them all over the years, my favourites are the two extremes; some think I am massively rich from it and others don’t think it’s a real job! I just laugh it off and explain that there is no sick pay, holiday pay and when time is taken off it has to be made up for. That usually puts things in perspective for them.

Q: What is the most challenging part about working remotely and how do you overcome this?

Maintaining motivation and ambition, it can be very easy to slip into a steady routine of work. You can end up getting a nice gentle stream of referral work always coming in that covers all your outgoings and enough to maintain a decent lifestyle. Although this is good especially in a recession, it can dull your ambition to stretch yourself and expand your business.

One of the best ways I have found to keep me on track is to network with other ambitious and motivated business people, they can pick you up and give you motivation when your getting too apathetic. I find that after a chat with someone like that, I feel re-energised and motivated, also helps to give me a better perspective on things

Q: What are the main positives around working from home?

Freedom and choice, you can work with music in the background, you can take time off during the week, with a little planning you can book holidays for any time off in the year.
Not to forget the state of mind! if you want to make more money then you feel that it’s within your control to do so, not a feeling that you get when working for a fixed salary in a company.

Also YOU WILL NEVER BE UNEMPLOYED! you can just have no work, this may sound like the same thing but the effect on your moral is totally different as being self employed you can take control of the situation to make a positive outcome. Where as being made unemployed can effect your confidence as you are relying on other people to change your circumstances and so have limited control.

Q: Are you an advocate of work/life balance and how do you try and balance both?

It’s a constant balancing act for me personally but the key to it I found is …… simply planning. Having a life out of work is vital to your well-being, but without planning to do things you will find that work can easily consume you. So plan plan plan and you can live a balanced work/life balance or life/work balance.

Q: How important do you feel family support is for home workers?

For me vital, both my parents run their own business. Their advice, understanding and support over the years has been invaluable. I think it could be difficult if your family didn’t understand what its like, I have heard other self employed people complain about parents, siblings and friends calling in during the day for a “quick chats” that last hours. This maybe nice now and again but harms your business if a regular occurrence.

Q: Do you have a dedicated office space and what is the importance of having this?

I have slept and worked in the same room in the past and I can tell you, it is not ideal! I think separating your personal living space and your work space is vital. One, it helps you let the day go and reduces your temptation to “just do a little bit more” then realise you have worked late into the night. Two, it feels more professional, we joke about working in our dressing gowns etc. but that relaxed state of mind (staying in your dressing gown) is not ideal for motivation and ambition. Having a dedicated office space makes it easier to focus on your work and not get distracted by your home life.

Q: Any pictures of your office space?

duck-on-water-office=space

Duncan’s Office Space

Q: Do you have any productivity tools you use to keep yourself efficient which may help our readers?

White board (probably the most useful!)
Google Calender
workflowy.com (so much better than writing down multiple lists that get lost)
FreeAgent (vital for sleeping at night! at a glance you can see how much money you have, going out and owed at one time, keeping that info in your head will make you mad, trust me!)
InfinityWP (most of our websites are run on WordPress, this allows for quick easy management of them)
toggl.com (fantastic at tracking time so you can cost projects efficiently)

Q: If you could give any advice to our readers before deciding whether remote working is for them then what would it be?

Do you like job security? yes? then become self employed because that is the only way you will EVER get it!

Do you have a little voice inside your head that tells you off if you have been on YouTube too long? if yes then that’s a good, if you don’t have the ability to motivate and control yourself WITHOUT someone shouting at you then self employment isn’t for you.

Q: Do you believe more organisations should allow those with web based roles to work remotely? If so..how come?

Yes and no, it’s not for everyone. I definitely think it should be trialled for employees.
Those who can maintain good work results can remain remote working while others will still need the external pressure of working in an office with managers chasing them up.

I would say that giving people a better working life will always improve their productivity. Remote working can provide this for some people.

About the author

Ryan Gibson

Hey! I'm a 28 year old digital marketing guy residing in Leeds, England. My skill is in search marketing and I have gathered over 6 years experience of working on large multilingual campaigns for a number of FTSE 250 Organisations. After accepting a role with a business based in Singapore I began questioning traditional business practice and employee retention. This blog GenerationY.com was therefore born with focus on Y in the workplace. A millennial child at heart I aim to provide a voice for the 'misunderstood' generation and my goal is simply to change perception and corporate mind set on work/life attitudes; inspiring companies and individuals to seek change.

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