5 Tips for Running a Successful Remote Agency

The world is changing rapidly.

Technology continues to reshape our lives in new and unexpected ways. And that includes redefining the way we run our agencies.

Smart agencies have embraced outsourcing and have outsourced everything from accounting to billing to branding, and more.

Outsourcing has solved some challenges, but many still remain.

One of the biggest changes agencies currently face is the rise of remote work.

Agencies – from digital marketing agencies to small business marketing agencies, to advertising agencies, and design agencies – are seeing the benefits of embracing a remote workforce to help their businesses grow.

With no rent, utilities, or office furniture, remote agencies accrue fewer overhead costs.

And remote workers have been shown to be as productive as traditional office workers – if not more so!

Not to mention that the creative, trailblazing people who tend to work in agencies are uniquely suited to the flexibility of a remote work lifestyle – leading to more satisfied and effective employees.

So, with so much to gain, how can an agency be more efficient and effective with a remote team?

1. Insist on time zone overlap to overcome remote work challenges

One of the benefits of running a remote business is that you can hire the best virtual assistant and other team members – not just the best talent in your local area.

But, as you start hiring, you’ll find that a global workforce comes from several different time zones – not all of which are compatible with your or your clients’ schedules.

As you consider potential hires, verify that they’re available to work hours with some overlap with your main business hours.

There’s no need for them to be in the same time zone – in fact, representing a diversity of time zones will allow you better to serve clients in a wider range of locations. But, it is important that they be available to work some hours that overlap with yours.

Determining how many hours of overlap will serve your business best is up to you. And there is no one right answer. But, this overlap should allow your employees to communicate and collaborate.

Internally, your team needs to be able to grab a co-worker for a quick conversation or to answer questions when issues arise. This sort of unfettered communication is what keeps projects moving forward. And client-facing employees must be available to work during the clients’ preferred times.

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2. Create an intentional communication strategy

One of the biggest challenges many remote businesses face is establishing a functional communication strategy.

Remote workers don’t have the option to wander down the hall to check in with their boss. They can’t holler over the cube wall to their co-worker, either.

Instead, communication comes in instant messaging, email, video meetings, and phone calls.

Sharing a clear plan for using each tool and when will help your employees communicate effectively and avoid confusion.

Here are several communication tools you may want to use to create your communication infrastructure:

  • Slack – Slack is an instant messaging tool used for daily conversation. Users can message each other directly or in group channels. These channels can be organized to streamline conversations among certain teams based on their roles or shared projects and tasks. And you can search the message history to find past conversations, keeping a reliable record of your agency’s internal communication. Slack also allows you to make video calls.
  • Zoom – Zoom is a video meeting platform. You can set up your Personal Meeting Room with a shareable personal link so your colleagues can access your meetings easily. Zoom offers unlimited group meetings of up to 40 minutes for free. But you’ll most likely want to invest in their $14.99/month PRO plan to avoid that 40-minute time restriction.
  • G Suite – G Suite is a whole collection of cloud-based software solutions – including the email service Gmail. In addition to providing reliable email service, G Suite also allows you to create, share, and collaborate on word-processing documents (via Google Docs) and spreadsheets (via Google Sheets).
  • Basecamp – Basecamp is a project management platform with built-in communication features. You can organize and share project-related files, hold discussions on the message board, and even set automatic check-ins to communicate regularly about a project’s status.

When choosing external or internal communication tools, establish clear guidelines. This includes when to use messaging, emails, or video meetings and what info should be on your project management platform. Using the right tool effectively is key.

Create a communication strategy that works for your agency and ensure everyone knows it.

3. Set clear, measurable goals.

When your team is remote, you don’t have immediate one-on-one oversight. So it can be tricky to keep tabs on how an employee is doing.

But, setting clear and measurable goals provides your employees with tangible mileposts by which they can prioritize and structure their time. These goals also provide you with clear metrics you can use to check in on progress and review quarterly performance.

You’ll get the strongest employee buy-in if you work with them to develop their goals. So, consider setting these goals with your employees at their quarterly or semi-annual review.

And, remember, employees need the flexibility to find their own most productive workflow – which may not look like yours. Allow them the freedom to find their own path to their goals.

4. Use the right client presentation tool

Agencies need to be able to present their ideas.

Whether your agency creates marketing strategies, ad campaigns, graphic design, or something else; one thing is always the same. There’s always a client to convince.

And, when running a remote agency, it’s vital to plan exactly how you’ll present your ideas to clients online.

Here are a few options to consider:

  • Slide sharing: Some agencies use slide-sharing platforms like Powerpoint or Keynote. The benefit of this approach is that you can control the visual presentation with great detail. But, it doesn’t offer a way to gather client feedback. And you may run into compatibility issues if your client doesn’t use the same operating system as you.
  • Email: You can share images or concepts via email. This lacks the visual polish you can achieve with a slide presentation. But it’s possible to get written feedback directly in a reply. However, long email chains can become a hassle if more than one stakeholder is involved or the client requests multiple edits. This is how communications get lost.
  • Custom presentation tool: Another alternative is to use a white-label presentation tool like crowdspring offers. Designs are shared on a password-protected mini-website customized with your agency’s logo and brand colors. This provides the visual polish that’s so important when pitching to clients. It also allows clients to leave feedback on each design, making communication easy and user-friendly.

However you choose to present your work, ensure it provides both visual impact and ease of use for your clients.

5. Select collaborative tools

When working remotely, to have an efficient and effective remote team, your team members must have access to the information, files, or programs they need.

Projects can get delayed if people don’t have access to the necessary files and visual assets or need to share a single log-in. Especially if your team is distributed across multiple time zones.

So, when planning your remote infrastructure, keep these suggestions in mind:

  • Choose services that affordably offer enough log-ins for everyone on your team (instead of forcing your team to share too few accounts).
  • Look for web-based services designed for remote teams or that offer team collaboration.
  • Sign up for a cloud-based file-sharing service like Dropbox to ensure everyone can access the necessary files.

When your remote team can always access the files, data, and agency software they need, their productivity can thrive.

Is remote right for your agency?

Can your agency benefit from a more engaged workforce? Would serving clients in a wider range of locations help your agency grow? Do you want to hire the best employees, regardless of where they are?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then it may be time to give remote a try.

In fact, this might be a perfect opportunity to rebrand your agency as you embrace a distributed team and create a fresh brand that could compete better in today’s economy.

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