Aeolidia’s Offices: Zak Hardage

We started out in Seattle, but now Aeolidia workers are spread all over the globe. How do we manage working with each other across time zones and primarily online? What is it like to be a freelancer with yourself as the boss? Keep an eye on the Aeolidia’s Offices posts to learn more. Zak Hardage is one of our developers. He sat down recently to give us a peek into his working setup.

Zak Hardage

How do you get your work done?

My work is a combination of methodical application of process and feverishly typing and clicking unaware of the time of day or how long its been since I last ate. I strive for the former, but I really dig the latter.

My full time work is building websites, and I love it. I love studiously improving my code and my process with each project and with each client. If something isn’t right, I have the ability to make it right, and I do — I   l o v e   t h a t.

But there’s also nothing like completely forgetting yourself in your work. Working with talented designers and savvy clients, there are cool new challenges with every project. I’m constantly researching and diagramming, spending as much time with paper and pencil and at my whiteboard as I do typing code.

I’ve been coding websites for nearly four years, full time for almost two. Before that I served as an officer in the Navy, which was a great gig. But the whole time I was in, my wife Lauren, who is an amazing designer (and also works with Aeolidia), would discuss her projects and her clients and I imagined one day being able to work with her. Helping clients to build and present their businesses online is the most rewarding work I’ve ever done.

How do you balance your work with your family life?

Work and family in our home is one big stew — every day is like a kid jumping off the see-saw when you’re in the air. Coming from the Navy, where I was always away from home and my work was full of jargon, there is truly nothing finer than spending every day at home with my wife, speaking the same language. Plus, we both love what we do. Our business is full of dynamic clients and colleagues, beautiful designs, and logic puzzles. Stirring that in to my day-to-day is a blessing.

What are the essential tools for your work day?

On the road I just grab my laptop. But at home I spread out. For hardware I’m on an iMac, Macbook, iPad, and pair of Bose noise canceling headphones.
For software, I’m using:

  • The fantastic Shopify and WordPress platforms for eCommerce and information sites
  • Basecamp for project management — just as crucial as email
  • Photoshop, of course
  • Textmate for code editing (and the super-handy Shopify bundle by Meeech)
  • OmniGraffle for wireframing
  • Sequel Pro and Mamp for building local database-driven sites
  • FileZilla for FTP
  • Chrome for browsing, but I’m always in Safari and Firefox for quick looks at a site I’m working on
  • Adobe’s Browserlab [ed. note: shut down in 2013] and browserling for site testing
  • join.me — screensharing software perfect for training clients on their new sites
  • Vimeo — indispensable for hosting tutorial videos
  • Code Collector Pro — increasingly critical to my work flow, organizing code snippets, and allowing me to create personal coding standards and improve upon them

For tunes I’m all day on rdio and for snacking I usually grab a pb+j or a quesadilla.

What tip would you give others who are contemplating working from home?

Organize your desk before you go to sleep and change out of your pajamas before you first check your email in the morning. Admittedly it’s not for everyone, but there’s a very easy way to find out.

Favorite thing about your working setup?

Our little pup, Heidi, naps under my desk and reminds me when it’s time to take a break and go play outside for a minute. Also, it’s easy to go for a quick ride while I’m waiting for client feedback or a DNS change to resolve. Texas’ hill country is the finest riding and from our casita, it’s only minutes before I’m alone on country roads. Anytime-quality time in the saddle is a huge plus for me.

Favorite recent project, and why?

Lindsay Letters (designed by Margot). Great client and great design. Many of Lindsay’s products are customizable, but in different ways. Some have color variations, some have tiered pricing, others had customizable text and images. Working with Lindsay and Margot to create a site that was intuitive for her customers and also reasonably easy to update was very satisfying.

Heidi

Give Zak and Heidi a little shout-out in the comments! Have you worked with Zak before? He’s the greatest, right?

7 comments
  1. Zak is the greatest! It’s true. I wonder if his greatness would improve with a more comfortable chair? Heidi’s got it made with that cushy bed… Anyway… awesome post!

  2. Love “jumping off the see-saw when you’re in the air” image. Also: we need a 2nd dog. Sharing Heidi = not working out.

  3. Zak Hardage says,

    That’s funny Sara — the chair does look uncomfortable, but it’s perfect for me. I can’t sit when I’m coding; I need to perch. If I could work from a church pew or a seat at the ballpark I would.

    • Can’t get too comfortable when using your noggin, I guess!

  4. Bee Eastman says,

    I’ve never been fortunate enough to work with you but your finished products are masterpieces, from what I’ve seen. Kudos to you.

  5. Absolutely enjoyed this post…. what a great pair and complement to the Aeolidia team! And the perks of working from homing with your pup nearby is just priceless! :-)

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