When people find out that our entire team works remotely, it tends to raise eyebrows.
People seem puzzled. They always ask us the same couple of questions:
- What’s it like being a remote web design studio?
- Is it weird not seeing your work mates every day?
- Do you feel that companies with a local office do better work than you do?
- Do you worry that you won’t be able to keep a close enough eye on your employees?
We understand, some people don’t get it. A lot of folks still wake up every morning, brush their teeth, get dressed, jump in a car, and head to work where a boss or a calendar tells them what their responsibilities are. This may work for some companies, but it cramps our style somethin’ fierce.
The secret remote web design sauce
There isn’t just one secret to working with a distributed team, but we can tell you this: nobody wants someone looking over their shoulder all the time.
If you hire smart, self-motivated, and responsible people, you’ve already won the battle.
Because of this, the process has to start with people. If you hire smart, self-motivated, and responsible people, you’ve already won the battle. These folks thrive in a remote environment and are able to do their best work when they set their own schedule. In fact, we rely on them to keep an open line of communication and empower them to set realistic deliverables with clients.
That’s great, but how do you stay organized?
Of all the questions about working remotely, this is the one we get asked the most. It’s actually simple. Technology has given us everything we need to stay organized and run our business on a daily basis. Here’s a rundown of the tools we use everyday to communicate with each other and our clients.
What in the world did we do before Slack? This tool has become the heartbeat of our company. From communicating with clients, to back-channeling on design and development, to sharing the occasional (ok, often) Drake GIF… we couldn’t get our work done without Slack.
As a web design studio, we create Sketch, Illustrator, and Photoshop documents every day. Dropbox helps us keep said documents organized. Not to mention Dropbox backs up our files — giving our clients peace of mind and allowing us to sleep at night.
Just as Dropbox handles our design and creative files, GitHub handles our code. Being a remote team means several people touching code at all hours of the day and night. Sorry, that sounded dirty. We love GitHub so much that we created our own app called Gitdone to help us capture and delegate bug fixes. We wrote a bit more about Gitdone, feel free to check it out.
Tracking hours is essential to getting paid. Each of our team members tracks their hours in Harvest and runs those up against projected hours to make sure scope creep stays in check. And when the time comes to invoice the client, all our hours are accounted for in one place.
Google Apps for Work
This very blog post started as an outline in Google Docs. We use Google Docs and Google Sheets to share documents with our employees and our clients. It’s an invaluable resource that has become a must in our daily work lives.
Using InVision with clients is magical. Not only can they see our designs in an easy to understand environment, but they can also interact with them with a simple click. Being able to click through an interaction is worth 1,000,000 words. Clients love it, so we love it.
For video calls (an important way to stay visually connected), we use a combination of apps to communicate. We’ve also started using Slack Chat every now and then for quick calls with a single point of contact.
Wait… you probably recognized most of those apps, right?
That’s because even teams that are local to each other and in the same office use these apps too. Whether two cubes down or two continents apart, it’s about communicating and finding the right mix of tools to accomplish your goals.
Proximity is relative — the modern team can work from anywhere and can produce results as good (or better) than a local team. Don’t believe us? Try us on for size!
Do you work remotely? We’d love to hear your story. Please feel free to leave a comment below and tell us what you use to keep your team connected.
P.S. Even though we encourage it and live it daily, there are times when working remotely doesn’t quite cut it. Sometimes there’s no substitution for meeting face-to-face with a client, rolling up your sleeves, and getting down to business.