White Point Creative’s owner and lead designer, Lizzy, currently works out of Fredericksburg but grew up surfing in Charleston, SC. Married to the love of her life, Joe, they live for time outdoors and finding the best brunch spots with their pup Folly.
If you are a creative that freelances and/or works remotely then I’m sure you have had a remote collaboration headache once or even fifteen times. Remote jobs have some incredible benefits but the downsides are just as real. However, today I am going to walk you through my tried and true tips for remote working and remote collaboration, specifically for creatives.
I think it is important to note that many of the tips that I am going to walk you through, will be geared toward your clients because at the end of the day, they are the ones paying you, recommending you, writing reviews and their experience is extremely important. Remote collaboration can either make or break a client experience so let’s make sure you have all the tools necessary for a 5-star review at the end of your project! Let’s dive in! Don’t forget to read to the end because I have a bonus platform to tell you about!
We will make this section quick because ultimately client experience isn’t the point of today’s post but I just wouldn’t feel right if we didn’t at least touch on it. Before we can dive into programs, systems, and remote collaboration hacks we need to have a very clear understanding of our own process, from the client’s perspective.
I want you to outline every step your client takes. From the moment they book with you all the way to the end where you’re asking for a testimonial. Pay special attention to everything you are asking them to do and ask yourself:
Communication has two facets, what you’re discussing and how you’re discussing it. I want to focus on the second.
When you’re working with a client, Creative Director, or fellow designer it’s crucial that the expectations are clear and laid out beforehand. Be honest if you don’t work on the weekends, and be transparent if you disagree with a concept. These conversations don’t have to be confrontational but casual. Step into situations with confidence because you were hired as a professional and expert in your industry!
When you’re working remotely it’s especially important to make things clear. Try to catch ambiguous statements like, “It looks great” or “Thanks for this”. Non-descriptive words can cause remote communication havoc! Instead try, “The three concepts you just emailed me look great! Thank you!” or “Thanks Shay! I appreciate your feedback and will get back to you tomorrow before 3 PM EST.” I know that one of the main draws to platforms like Slack, is quick communication and no need for formalities like emails require, but you can still be descriptive and specific in a single sentence.
Pro Tip: When working with clients I often send them Loom videos where I walk them through how-to’s, explain concepts, and provide general feedback. It provides a personal touch where email and other written platforms fall short and it allows the client to hear my voice. We all understand the downfall that communicating over written word can be – there are many ways to perceive the information. To cut down on miscommunications and misunderstandings, I use Loom and my clients have loved every minute of it. They often mention how much they appreciated the 2-minute video walking them through this or that in their exit testimonial.
A common pitfall I’ve had to workshop within my own business and I know many fellow designers have experienced, is the feedback and revision process.
Sometimes we nail the concept, wireframe, or illustration perfectly the first time and sometimes it takes more work. Regardless, we need an organized and professional way of receiving feedback from our clients. Taking this one step further, we need an organized, professional, and easy way for our clients to provide feedback.
Over the years I have tested multiple ways of making this work and the conclusion? It depends on the client and the project! I have my go-to process in place and it works 75% of the time, but there is always a 25% chance that a client just isn’t good with computers. Or a client is just confused about what to do. That’s when I roll out plan b and walk my client through a different process.
By having a second or even third option in my back pocket, available at any time for a client, I appear even more professional and I am accommodating them during the creative process. Both of these lead to better reviews/testimonials as well as a higher referral rate after the project.
By now you have a basic outline of your client’s experience, if you don’t, go ahead and do this. With your outline, you can now start layering in details. For the example I provided in my graphic, instead of writing, “Client gives feedback…” I would re-write, “Client is emailed an instructional Loom video on how to use the website MarkUp and then sent a link for them to review using MarkUp.”
By adding these details I have done a number of positive things:
When working with clients remotely I think we can all agree that organization is instrumental to the project’s success. Deadlines, scope, and all the other little details can sometimes get away from us.
I know that there are always new platforms coming onto the scene and though they do have some fun features, I like to keep things as simple as possible over here at White Point Creative. The top features I look for in an organizational platform are:
When you are in search of your own organizational platform I recommend you write down your own list of wishes and be willing to pay a couple of dollars a month to receive most or all of them.
For us at WPC, we employ Asana. I create a board for each project and invite the client to the board. I also send an email with a Loom video, first steps, and direct all of their questions and feedback in the future to Asana.
I have set board templates for my primary services on hand and customize them depending on any a la cartes and additional add-ons before sending them to the client. I also assign them to the tasks under “First Steps” along with due dates. When the client has a question, they pop it into the related task and always ___ me.
A huge reason I advocate for platforms like Asana is transparency. When talking with past clients during the early years of WPC, questions like these always popped up: “What’s taking so long?”, “What are you doing in between the presentations I see?”, “What are the next steps?”. When I found Asana I saw an opportunity to answer all of the questions by simply laying out the process in task form. And it has worked marvelously!
Even though this post is focused on freelancers working remotely with clients I wanted to introduce you to an amazing collaborative platform geared towards teams in the creative industries! Miro!
Back in the day when I was freelancing at major agencies, I was introduced to Miro (it went by a different name back then). When a major project was assigned my design partner and I were assigned a Miro board that we would collaborate on. It was a virtual whiteboard that had a few features that Illustrator does. We would ideate, leave notes, and work together throughout the project’s lifetime. For me, what I loved most was the fact that my partner and I could work at the same time. If our next step was to put together a presentation deck, then we would first outline and loosely design it in Miro since two people cannot have the same Illustrator or InDesign file open simultaneously. What’s even cooler, is that with one click you can see everyone’s curser in real-time! So I can see if my design partner Shay is on and what part of the board she’s working on! Below is the board of an old project, Richmond Photobooth. We primarily used it for inspiration gathering and collecting potential fonts.
I hope you have loved every minute of this post and taken away some helpful tips that will improve your remote work. I would love to hear how you make your remote work happen, slide into my DM’s on Instagram and tell me!