As a design firm that is based out of two cities that are nearly on opposite sides of the country (San Diego, CA + Nashville, TN) , we often get asked the details of how we make it all work. We're gonna dive in to the nitty gritty and share our insider scoop of how we have made it a successful business model!
Truth be told, having a team of amazing employees has made our remote design firm go round! We have been able to exponentially grow and manage an extensive list of projects because we have strategically hired a variety of roles that oversee different aspects of our process. While we all work on every project together, we each play a vital role in owning our part and making sure balls aren't dropped and details aren't missed. Bottom line, if you are a fellow business owner, hire a team and don't think you can do it all solo.
There are a few programs that have become our Holy Grail that are intricately woven throughout our process that has helped our team stay connected and organized!
Basecamp - This is our one stop shop hub for basically everything. We use it internally to keep all our to do's visible and assigned to each team member - we start our week going through each client and updating this list so it is always reliable. We also use Basecamp for almost all communication with our clients as we can give them visibility and access to uploaded documents + files, messages (like emails) or a quick chat feature that mimics texting. This program has single handedly changed the game for us and we would be lost without it!
Houzz Pro - This is more specific to our niche industry but we use Houzz Pro for all our invoicing.
Shared Albums - Yes, we're all Apple girls which is very helpful in sharing and accessing files but we use shared albums to quickly have a collection of photos and videos for each client to refer back to as we go through the design process and throughout the project. This is especially helpful for the team members who are not local to the project because it gives the visuals we need to answer any question.
Pinterest - This is a no brainer! We have a board for each client separated into sections for each room we are designing and we pin everything to these boards for easy access amongst our whole team.
Working remote has its challenges, no doubt, but what project doesn't? We were faced with this issue when the pandemic shut everything down for in person meetings in 2020 and we quickly realized that with a few small tweaks to our process we could adapt to a remote design model and cater to clients way beyond our local market. Because of this pivot, we have been able to help design spaces in Chicago, Dallas, the Bay Area, and more and we see this as only the beginning for what we are capable of! The key piece to this is nailing down YOUR process and then being able to clearly communicate it to a remote client and any subcontractor you might need for the job. Being readily available for communication is also a huge factor as people might be in different time zones or on a different schedule.
THE NITTY GRITTY
So you might be wondering, how exactly it works for us? Once we get a new remote client signed on with us we plan a trip out to the location to take in person measurements, photos and videos. If this is a new construction project we can just go off of builder plans but at some point, post framing, we do like to do a site walk to confirm measurements are still accurate. We then will draw up a 3D model of the space in SketchUp and that model will be what we primarily work from for the duration of the project. We rely heavily on our renderings for not only client approvals but scale checks, layouts, color stories, and more. We do get samples of any material we have access to so we aren't only going off renderings but it is a helpful tool to use in conjunction with real life samples. From our 3D drawings we also develop packets of detailed information for our contractors that provides all the technical information for the construction side of things and with the right team in place, this process works seamlessly.
Now that we've talked about the technical stuff - let's chat through the routines! Working from home is the biggest blessing (especially as a Mom) but let's be honest, it has it's challenges too. There are days when the motivation going from the bedroom to the home office is less than peppy and when it's scary how easy it is to go days in a row without leaving my house (cue Vitamin D deficiencies). While I am in no place an expert in this department, I have noticed a few key things that help my work-from-home-life stay in a good rhythm.
Movement. For some, this means a daily exercise routine (this is my goal)...but my current state of life lends to chasing around my active toddler for movement. I love taking short breaks throughout my day and my lunch time and evenings to run around and carve out moments of fun connection with my boy.
Water. Also not a strong suit for me but I recently was gifted a Stanley cup (shoutout Caitlin) and my water intake has exponentially increased....why that is, I have no idea but apparently a large cup equals a large craving for water. I don't hate it! Sometimes I'll sneak in a little flavored packet of vitamins into my water in the afternoon to give me a boost in my workday.
Food. I know this list is insanely elementary but we're bringing it back to the basics and truly it is a game changer. How many of you work-from-homers will be chugging along on a task or a deadline and look at the clock only to realize you breezed through "lunch" time and haven't eaten in 8 hours? Guilty. Making time and space for nutrient dense meals 3 times a day (at least) keeps the brain fueled and the energy up to knock out those long to do lists!
Outside time. Since 99% of what I do revolves around screens and technology, there is something SO life giving about being outside in nature. My toddler would live outside if he could so this isn't hard to make happen in my morning or evening especially ...I love an evening park date with friends or riding skateboards in our driveway. On this same thread...anything creative to do with my hands like planting flowers or even house chores like folding laundry can be a welcome change of pace for my brain.
Now, we want to hear from all our other remote workers out there ...what are your tips and tricks?? Do share!