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It's a Virtual World, Isn't It?
July 1, 2011
by John Long

After deliberating for many months about the pros and cons of working at an outside office, we’ve decided to move the Camp office to my home, effective July 1.

I definitely have mixed feelings about closing the outside office. After all, we’ve been in the Livestock Exchange Building in the West Bottoms area of Kansas City since launching Camp in 2004. Jim Gabel and I, the founding owners, had long been fascinated with the West Bottoms, and we fell in love with the building’s charm. Before launching Camp, I had a smaller office in the building for my consulting business and the work that Jim and I did with PrideRide, the former fundraising bicycle ride, so it’s been a total of nearly 10 years of working in this building.

Situations change, though. When we launched Camp, there were two of us working full time in the office, an outside sales rep, Mike Sugnet, who worked from home, and often a freelance graphic designer doing some part-time work on Sundays. And for a few years, we tried to hold staff meetings among our volunteer writers periodically at this office, until it became too difficult to coordinate a time for people to meet here around their day jobs. Since Jim Gabel moved on to another full-time job a few years ago and we contracted with a freelance graphic designer, the office has been occupied primarily by only me for most of the month.

I’ve finally realized, however, that working on stories, selling ads, and doing the accounting and deliveries doesn’t require an outside office when it is staffed primarily by one person. And since I already have a home office where I often work for Camp on nights and weekends, it just makes sense to make the home office the magazine’s full-time place of business.

It really is a virtual world, thanks to what we can share over the Internet. Our editor, Juli Warren, works out of her home in Lawrence. Our graphic designer, Deanna O’Byrne, has a home office. Our writers work from their home computers, and now I’ll be doing the same.

We’ve also found that with everyone’s busy schedules, most interviews for stories are done over the phone. Ad sales can be done by phone and email. And when a face-to-face meeting or interview is helpful, the subject usually chooses to do it at either their office or a coffeehouse, bar or restaurant. We’ve rarely had people come by our office for a meeting, although that’s always been welcome! After all it does get lonely working alone!

Sure, there will also be cost savings in not paying rent and outside phone/Internet charges for a separate office, so that’s an added benefit. But there are also a few disadvantages to working from home. I can’t be the pack rat that I’ve been at the West Bottoms office. It also means being more disciplined about work when working from a home office. Even though I’ve worked alone, it’s been nice to talk with others in the lobby and elevator throughout the day.
And then there’s the loading dock. We’re still working on a solution for the monthly receipt of a skid of thousands of magazines, and I know it won’t be my shared easement driveway in Brookside!

I’ve been going through the stacks of material that have accumulated in the office and throwing away what I knew was not needed, but then I asked Stuart Hinds and Christopher Leitch of our Gay and Lesbian Archive of Mid-America whether they wanted to look at possible material for their collection. They came by and took an entire box of historical material, which I was more than glad to donate. Some of our furniture may even make it over to the new LikeMe Lighthouse organization that will open its education and community center in early 2012.

So it’s all good. There will be no loss of continuity in our monthly publishing schedule. We’re simply joining the ranks of other home-based businesses. And this will hopefully offer me more time to get out there and meet face-to-face with people around town. The real challenge of working from home will be to stay away from the refrigerator during a stressful working day, or keep from getting distracted by my four terriers. In the meantime, we’ll look forward to continuing to publish Camp, using all of our staff members’ respective locations. And maybe I’ll even see you on Skype!
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