It’s almost our third “official” birthday at DoodleDirect — I’m not counting the time when I was doing the whole thing myself single-handedly from my kitchen table before this business became “official” (aka got itself a registration number). At that time I was already talking to some pretty big clients and producing animated content — well-known orgaisations who probably didn’t realise that it was me running the entire show from my dining room. They never asked so I never told them. They just needed the job doing and I could do it. Which was perfectly fine, although I personally had to contend with the dreaded imposter syndrome.
Fast-forward 4 years and sometimes (just sometimes) I work from my dining room table. Other times I work from creative co-working spaces across central London. We have a co-working base we call home at Kings Cross, London, we’ve also now got one in Manhattan, New York City, but we’re rarely all there. We don’t need to be. The internet has made it infinitely possible to be incredibly productive and just as communicative, it’s as if my team and I were sat together in a studio, and it’s brilliant.
I must point out that I am INCREDIBLY lucky with the team I have right now. Not only are they all highly talented, they are ingenious in their roles. If you worked with us you’d think we were in the same room. Communication is a big part of that, and video conferencing apps like Skype and FaceTime and Zoom means if need be, we can all be in the same space at the same time, virtually.
I wrestled for a LONG time with the idea of getting a studio space in London. I was initially convinced that the only way my business would be taken seriously was if I had the key to a building I could call my office…how the hell can I call myself an animation company without my own studio??? But then as time went on (and the business continued to grow), I became inspired and encouraged by companies like Uber, Airbnb and Amazon — yes, they all have an office, but their core business strategy doesn’t rely on them having an office. Their core business strategy relies on them having the internet. I too have the internet — so I figured this *might* just work out…
I have since considered the office/studio thing on a couple of occasions but a few things quickly brought me back to my senses. Firstly, the overhead costs of hiring office/studio space full time — we’d need to at least triple our fees to be able to afford more than a cardboard box and that was a no-no for me — I built this company wanting to be cost-effective for our lovely clients. I can’t justify asking a client to pay 3 times the amount for animated video content just because we want the ability to throw paper planes at each other. madness.
Secondly, my team. My brilliant team. If I had a London location I would be forced to recruit in London and the surrounding counties. This means my DoodleStars from Athens, to Estonia, Newcastle to New York, Manchester to Norfolk and beyond, would be no more. I’ve built the finest workforce in the world because I can recruit from anywhere in the world. This means the pool of talent I get to choose from is considerably larger than most and that explains why I have the best of the best at DoodleDirect.
“Stay in communication and meet the deadlines, you can do this from wherever you wish.”
They get to choose wherever they want to work from, and in doing so are infinitely more productive…and happier. Because they’re not forced to come into a stuffy studio from 9am — 6pm every day, I don’t want to do that so I don’t want to ask that of my team.
Instead I get emails and calls as some of them are sat on beautiful beaches, or in quaint little cheesecake cafe’s or in cabins overlooking the woodlands. They’re inspired in their favourite places, and by being so are giving me their best work. I appreciate that, and I believe that they do too. I simply ask them to “stay in communication and meet the deadlines, you can do this from wherever you wish”.
The most difficult part can be explaining this to prospective clients. Some of the more “old fashioned” amongst them believe that by my team and I being ‘location agnostic’, we’re less capable of producing high quality work compared to our studio-chained competitors. They picture everyone padding around their front room in their jammies watching daytime TV and “fail” videos on YouTube.
Actually, the complete opposite is true. I’ve got a team who work considerably longer hours than your average office based creative, are disciplined in order to meet milestones and deadlines and are dedicated to producing their best work to exceed client expectations every time. We can do way more for your buck this way — it’s an exciting time for businesses who embrace remote working and the digital nomads of the world whether small start ups or multi-national corporations.
There are a few things you need to consider before you tell the team to pack up and go home:
- Get the right communications tools in place: A project management and team collaboration tool is important. We use a whole range of tools that include; Basecamp, Slack, Wunderlist, Skype, Zoom.
- Don’t forget to manage them: Your team aren’t on the next desk or down the hall, but you still need to be able to train them where necessary, give feedback, appraisals and also reward them. Be the same accessible boss you would be if they were in the same building as you — you still need to lead everyone, distance or otherwise.
- Don’t forget to talk to eachother: It’s good to get on the phone or the video conferencing system and have a conversation, especially if everyone is working alone in their own space. Instant messaging and email is fine, but having another human being speak to you is finer.
- Do your research: If they’re based internationally, check when their public holidays are and whether or not your remote worker wishes to keep to these so you can factor this into your agreement and/or your schedules.
I believe we’ve nailed the formula. My team delivers great content, on time and on budget with unparalleled customer service. We’re on a mission to champion virtual working and we’re succeeding. No office necessary.