A remote team of collaborative creatives

I feel very fortunate that when I moved to Nanaimo, on Vancouver Island nearly 4 years ago now, it didn’t really impact my business too much. I used to feel compelled to save up for a fancy office one day, so I could have a “real” studio but as time passed, I realized, I DO have a real studio, it’s just a non-conventional format.

As I highly value my independence but also rely on the interdependence of teams, I’ve never hired an employee but instead have always worked with subcontractors. I truly believe that each person should feel they have the choice to control their working situation 100% and be able to do what’s best for them and their families. And for me, what was best for my family, was to re-locate. Happily, many of my subcontractors were not phased and continue to collaborate, from our own private offices all over BC (and Alberta).

Things I’ve learned about working remotely:

  1. Check in frequently with your team. We use Slack to help do this – keeps us all connected and leaves lots of room for encouragement and virtual high-fives (personally, anything that encourages people to avoid email is great).
  2. Meet in person whenever possible. It’s so nice to see faces in 3D.
  3. Give encouragement and support. Working remotely means giving feedback becomes much more important. Sometimes when we’re pushing for a deadline, it’s easy to forget to check in, and likewise, at the end of a deadline, appreciation (in any form) goes a long way.
  4. Use video chats when possible — yes this means your colleagues / clients are going to see your bad hair day but it definitely helps in building long-term relationships (we’re all human after all!).
  5. Remote teams can be very productive — I used to really love the social aspects of my downtown office but the quiet is what I really need to dive into a project and stay focused on creative development. I know if I want a distraction, I can reach out, but having my own office means it’s a lot easier to control my own space.
  6. Create space to meet interesting people. I have a standing date with “someone interesting” blocked out in my schedule. This can be an interesting person in the community I’d like to connect with, a potential / past client or a friend of a friend who needs something. It’s good to put on a clean shirt and dress shoes once in a while!
  7. Connect with your clients on a regular basis. Most clients don’t like to pack their schedules with too many meetings either, but a face-to-face meeting, phone call or even an email can really help support building long-term relationships and allow you to really get to know your clients.
  8. Have a system for naming and sharing files so you don’t spend your days looking for things. My collaborators know I’m particular about this but I have learned this one the hard way many times over.
  9. Collaborate with a shared vision and mission so you are cross-pollinating and supporting each other. I’m constantly inspired by my collaborators. I love that I get to choose who I bring into work with me.

I definitely still miss sharing my coffee in the morning with my old office-mates from Vancouver, but I am reminded to connect to where I am physically as I take a stroll through the forest near my house with a waterfall, walk back from the float planes and do a bit of work after my daughter goes to bed some nights and I am reminded why it’s an awesome time in history to be a collaborative (and sometimes introverted) creative.