For years now, graphic artists and designers have been among the lucky few that could do their work from just about anywhere. But oddly enough, there aren’t very many all-remote graphic design firms in existence. For the most part, that was likely because the technology required to manage collaborative design work made the process cumbersome and prone to bottlenecks.
Well, those days are over.
Today, it’s possible — even desirable — for graphic design firms to choose an all-remote operating model. And it’s happening because of the rapid development of digital collaboration tools and remote productivity software that makes the work efficient and effective. But that doesn’t mean that running an all-remote design firm is easy. Succeeding at it takes having a plan. And here are four tips on how to create a winning one.
Choose a Management Structure Early
One of the biggest challenges involved in running a design firm lies in choosing a management structure. This is because creative control is something that most designers are loath to give up. And that often means endless squabbles about the creative direction of projects. Unless, of course, someone’s clearly the boss from the get-go. That means it’s a good idea to place someone in the role of creative director — either for the whole company or on a per-project basis. That will reduce some of the directional arguments and product management challenges and help the business turn out its deliverables on time and on budget.
Create a Unified Digital Toolset
Graphic designers aren’t typically carbon copies of one another. As such, they all tend to have preferred work styles and tools they’re most comfortable using. And that’s fine — to a point. It’s important, however, for a graphic design firm to have a specific set of tools and software that everyone is familiar with. At a minimum, everyone on the design team should have familiarity with industry standards like Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, and there should always be a predetermined file submission standard. And at a global level, the firm should select a visual collaboration platform to serve as a common meeting point for everyone working on a project.
Invest in a Time Tracking Solution
Unlike most other types of businesses, design firms typically don’t pay their employees a salary. Instead, they calculate billable hours and attach them to whichever project their staff is working on at the moment. For that reason, keeping careful track of hours worked is mission-critical. The good news is that there are multiple options for monitoring remote employees that can both track their hours worked as well as provide visual confirmation of what they’re working on. And that means clients will receive accurate invoices and workers will get every cent owed to them for their work.
Make Staff Development a Core Strategy
If there’s anything that gets a graphic designer’s creative juices flowing, it’s a challenge. That’s a big reason so many designers choose to freelance — they enjoy a variety of work and hate monotony. But another reason is that new kinds of work require building new skills. That makes it a good idea for graphic design forms to give staff members the ability to build new skills via a staff development strategy. Things like subsidizing online graphic design courses and allowing staff members to participate in projects outside of their area of expertise work well for the purpose.
The Bottom Line
In many ways, running an all-remote graphic design firm is like running one based in an office. But, there are some challenges centered on the means and method of collaboration, managing workflows, and keeping employees engaged and happy in their work that requires some careful forethought. However, keeping the four tips detailed here in mind can help create a strategy that will work to perfection for an all-remote design firm. And with the proper groundwork laid, the whole team will be able to do what it does best — create stylish and eye-catching design works that will thrill clients and drive bottom-line results.