So you want to build a remote agency? I’m not surprised. The popularity of remote agencies has been rising steadily. Infrastructure has improved, allowing individuals to pack up and work from anywhere globally with a steady internet connection.
The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has shown that working from home or working remotely is a genuine possibility for those that want to do it.
And with flexible benefits, no office politics, or commute to worry about, it’s no wonder that more and more people are embracing the luxuries of remote work.
How can you get started building your remote agency today? Luckily for you, we’ve put together this handy (short) guide to teach you about the process. Let’s dive in.
What Is a Digital Agency?
A digital (remote) agency can be described as a service business that does not have a physical location/office to house its employees.
Remote agency team members can be from different corners of the globe, operating in different time zones, but using company tools to connect and collaborate on projects.
However, while it sounds like all sunshine and roses, some significant drawbacks are involved, such as isolation, communication, and productivity concerns.
Before we get into that, let’s take a look at what you came here to see, the benefits.
With a remote digital agency, the only startup costs you have are buying your laptop.
The Good Stuff
Low Start-up Costs
Setting up a physical business is costly.
It wasn’t uncommon for people to head to their local bank and gamble their lives on their business working for a loan to begin.
Physical businesses need to pay rent for office space, and they need to buy materials – computers, furniture, lighting. However, with a remote digital agency, the only startup costs you have are buying your laptop (you likely have that already) and a fee to build a website or MVP.
With such lower costs, the risks are reduced. Something I’m sure we all agree is a net positive!
Larger Talent Pool
Finding creative teams or quality employees when you have a physical business means you are limited to people that live in the local vicinity.
A remote agency, however, has access to potential employees spanning the entire globe.
This significant increase in reach for finding employees is not only beneficial since it increases your chances of finding a quality employee, but it can also, again, reduce your overheads.
Hiring talent in developing countries is often much cheaper than in developed nations.
A software engineer in the Philippines, for example, is going save you more money than hiring one based in the US. If you want to find out more, we did a whole post on it here.
24/7 Working Hours
Don’t freak out. This doesn’t mean you have to work 24/7, but with employees on your team spanning the globe, you can effectively keep your doors open all the time.
Not only that, but by introducing automation tools into your customer service workflow, you can communicate and interact with customers whatever the time of day.
When working in remote agencies, a team member often works on a per-project basis.
Those that have made the shift to remote work often understand when they are most productive. It could be through the night or in the early hours of the morning.
Removing the traditional 9-5 expectations frees up team members to be at their creative best to meet deadlines and increases their productivity.
They can take breaks whenever they need to and come back to their work refreshed and ready to finish the job.
This added flexibility is a crucial benefit for building and working in a remote agency for many people.
Clients Across The Globe
If you can hire people from other countries, you can be hired from clients worldwide. Scaling a business is all about putting your product or service in front of more people.
Going online and remote, with the added flexibility of having employees in different corners of the globe, allows your business to be accessed by anyone with an internet connection.
Showing your face to your employees often is a great way to build rapport.
How To Manage Remote Team Members
One of the most challenging aspects of building a digital agency is making sure you can manage your team members effectively.
One of the biggest things we take for granted when working in an office is free-flowing communication.
When working remotely, you cannot walk over to an employee’s desk and talk to them about a project. So how can digital agencies ensure that the productivity of a team does not slip?
Use the Right Tools
Using the right tools is vital so that you can track the progress of essential tasks.
Cloud-based project management tools offer an excellent resource for collaborating with remote workers and ensuring that everyone is on target with their responsibilities.
Tools such as Monday.com and Asana allow you to prioritize certain activities and make it clear which job or project your employees should be working on
Make Sure You Can Track Employee’s Work
The jury is still out on this one. Go too hard, and you end up doing the digital equivalent of looking over someone’s shoulder when they work. Go too soft, and you could be at risk of being taken advantage of.
Time tracking tools allow remote employees to log their time worked. With projects commonly paid by the hour, you will need your employees to submit hourly reports to ensure they are putting in the hours or not going above what is agreed.
Tools like Clockify and TimeDoctor can offer an easy and straightforward solution.
Jump On Regular Zoom/Video Calls
Showing your face to your employees often is a great way to build rapport. A free tool like Zoom can help bring your team closer together, something that remote agencies can significantly benefit from.
Video calls improve the communication between team members exponentially since we can see people’s facial expressions and body language and hear their tone of voice.
Video calls are also a great way to deliver important feedback.
Set The Communication Expectations Before Starting
Identify standardized communication rules within your team.
Communication can be the difference between a successful and unsuccessful remote team. Do you expect your team to respond to messages immediately? Should there be a set time when everyone is online? Do you need to have a team conference call once a week? Set boundaries to begin with so everyone can manage their expectations and know their place.
The Best Project Management Tools
Having the right tools at your disposal is imperative for building a successful and communicative remote agency.
From project management to creative tools, these software help to create a remote agency’s culture and allow teams to share jobs they are involved in.
My favorite project management software. Create project boards, assign tasks, and develop workflows. With Asana, you can assign roles and responsibilities to ensure that employees know what projects they are working on and for which client.
If you want employees to track their time spent on tasks, then Clockify has you covered. With billing options, the ability to add and split clients and identify projects, Clockify is a great free all-rounder for tracking time spent on a job.
Where was Zoom 24 months ago? The world’s favorite video-conferencing tool, allows you to set scheduled meetings and integrates with your Calendar. With the ability to set meeting times that change based on participants’ location, it’s an excellent tool for staying in touch with clients and teams.
Does your agency need some creative work? In the digital marketing niche? Or want to design some eye-catching internal docs? Canva has you covered. With stunning and powerful innovative capabilities to make everything from logos to documents, Canva is a great tool to cover all your creative needs.
Slack is a beast when it comes to internal comms. With a simple setup process and the ability to create as many “rooms” on the platform as you like, Slack makes it easy to stay up to date with your team across the globe.
Is It Only For Digital Marketing?
Nope. A remote agency can cover a wide variety of industries. As the pandemic has shown us, most businesses can operate effectively while their workers remain at home. Some examples of potential remote agencies are;
- Software Development
- A Real Estate Agency
- Social Media Management
- Management Consulting
- Life Coaching/Health & Wellness Coaching
- Legal Consultations
- Travel Agency
- Media Buying/Advertising
So long as you develop a robust workflow that shows how your processes work step by step, you can manage any client-based anywhere in the world, in any industry.
If you’re looking to build a remote agency, think about your current role now and how you could develop it into one that can operate remotely.
Where to Begin
So, how can you begin building a digital agency?
- Choose your niche: A niche is an area or industry you want to operate in. Are you going to develop a software company that shows dinner recipes that can be cooked in under 30 minutes or a Real Estate agency that only focuses on short-term rentals in Houston?
- Choose your country: This is important for several reasons. Firstly, it will determine where you will incorporate your business and therefore pay tax to. Secondly, your startup costs may alter as some software tools are more expensive if your business is located in developed countries.
- Choose your pricing structure: Are you going to charge clients per hour or per package? What about a subscription-based model? Do some research into your competitors and see how you can develop a competitive pricing model based on what services you offer.
- Start putting together a team: Bringing in the right people is arguably one of the most challenging parts of building a successful digital agency. Since most agencies are service-based, you need to make sure that new employees can handle individual tasks or jobs. During your onboarding process, one of the best ways to ensure that someone up to the job is to set them a task. This removes the need for an interview process, and you can evaluate someone’s skill level objectively.
- Maintain productivity/communicate with your team: Using the tools described above, ensure that your team is aware of how you will assign jobs and how they can update you on their progress. Maintaining productivity and communication is integral to starting on the front foot.
- Implement systems: Workflows and building out standard operating procedures is the secret sauce to growing a successful remote agency. Once you build out a solid workflow, you’ll notice how most things can be automated – Client communication, invoicing, assigning jobs, and updates. Give your team the tools and workflows they need to be efficient and understand how to work best in your agency from the very start.
Setting up a remote agency has never been easier. With an ever-expanding pool of talent that expands the globe, entrepreneurs today can take advantage of fast internet speeds and improved online infrastructure that allows them to take their business online without the expensive overheads.
Do some research, identify your niche, invest in some quality software, and develop processes to onboard skilled people and take advantage of a customer base that stretches every corner of the globe.