Many people think of “freelancers” as people who work in their pajamas, barely changing clothes, or working from the kitchen table, or a coffee shop. And while this might hold true for a select few, as a remote designer for many years now, I don’t embrace the “freelance is funky” perception.
Like a Boss
My design business is just that — a business. And one where I support my clients and other marketing agencies who need a reliable, extremely creative, thinking designer. As a remote designer, I like to think of myself as part of your distributed team, or team that appears occasionally in person (but mostly I work out of my dedicated home office or Luminary in NYC), using tools and strategies to keep your projects moving.
But with all the news in the past weeks about Coronavirus, many people who aren’t used to working remotely or working with those who work remotely are being forced to adapt quickly to this temporary new normal.
So I thought I would share some tools and strategies that make my remote working experience highly productive, more engaged, provides me with a better work/life balance, and gives me a greater overall quality of work.
Tools for Remote Collaboration
Remote work can feel isolating (which is why I hop into Luminary once or twice a week). In order to stay connected, I rely on digital communications and team/project management tools:
- Digital Project Management: Trello
My client Forefront Dermatology is a leading dermatology practice group with numerous locations throughout the US. When their in-house designer went on maternity leave, I took over the design and production of ads, brochures, and other marketing materials while she was gone (and am now backup support since her return). Because they post the projects on Trello, a project management application tool, I’m able to seamlessly integrate into the project, and maintain communication remotely.
- Digital Communication: Slack
One of the most popular communication tools, as an alternative to email, I like to set up a Slack channel when I start working with a new client. This allows me to create separate channels for different aspects of projects. For instance, I am now working on a business branding project and have set up the channels: logo design, stationery design, Mailchimp templates, etc. I can even upload PDFs so no one has to dig through email to find concepts and conversations.
- File-Sharing: Google Docs, Dropbox, Box
The best thing about file-sharing is collaboration. Sometimes I am in a Google Doc and I can see my project team members reviewing and making comments or edits at the same time. Clients and I share files within Dropbox or Box — which are file hosting services “in the cloud” I see all the files and folders that they see and we can all work on the — Word and Excel files, and if they have my fancy Adobe design software I usually say look but don’t touch!
- Virtual Conferencing: Zoom!
Almost as good as being there! With Zoom, you get to see that I’m not in my jammies, that I work in an office (and it’s a pretty shade of teal), and we feel like we’re in the same room (but you can’t smell my tea). Zoom lets me share my screen so I can present concepts (and if I’m nice, I’ll let you share your screen too!). For a recent web design project I created, I was able to walk the client through the site, click the links and pages, and pull up other sites that she was referencing so we could both look and discuss.
- Digital Scheduling: Calendly
This app integrates into my website and calendar, so clients can schedule a meeting with me, (even a Zoom meeting) without endless back and forth. They can see my availability and pick the time and date that works for them.
- Creating Boundaries:
With all the convenience of working remotely, it’s easy to get carried away. By turning off notifications and blocking off my calendar, I set parameters and boundaries for when I’m available and when I’m not, and this is clear to clients. Oh, and I make sure to eat lunch away from my computer and get up often for water and stretching, and cat petting.
If you aren’t used to working remotely, you might feel more isolated than normal. But I see this as an opportunity to create a compelling new digital remote work environment that’s engaging, participatory, and full of human connection. In fact, I do it every day.
Hopefully, some of these tools will help you feel connected, online and off, and open up new opportunities for how you work. And, if you need help with design, let’s talk!