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:
- 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).
- Meet in person whenever possible. It’s so nice to see faces in 3D.
- 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.
- 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!).
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.