“Agencies are uniquely positioned to benefit from a remote workforce.” That was what I said to my cofounder when we started our public relations agency six years ago. Or at least that’s what I tell myself I said. In reality, it was probably something far less articulate. But she understood my point, and we ran with it.
Since that time, we’ve learned firsthand how being fully remote can benefit both an agency and its clients. Here are the top benefits, along with some of the challenges and how to overcome them.
Three Benefits Of Being A Remote Agency
1. Flexible working can attract talent.
One of an agency’s greatest challenges is attracting, and keeping, high-quality staff. Offering a remote working structure is one way to do that, and it also can benefit the agency in other ways. We’ve learned that everyone has their own ideal working style. While some prefer a typical office environment, others thrive in a home office, or even working from a local coffee shop.
We’ve also found that different work hours can better serve individual needs. For parents of young children, people pursuing a degree or someone who just prefers to work past midnight, offering a flexible workday can allow everyone to get their work done at the time that’s best for them. One member of our team is a yoga instructor. Another spends a week every month in Scotland. Our agency has had the advantage of working with these experts where others might not have simply because their lifestyles don’t fit a typical schedule.
Our remote model has resulted in extremely low employee turnover. We’ve added many team members since we started, but our people rarely leave.
2. Clients can gain a geographic advantage.
While many agencies are based in one location, almost none have a client list that’s entirely local. To be successful, agencies often have to serve clients wherever they are, which often means going to them. Being a remote agency can make this not only simple but also cost-effective. We’ve recruited team members from all over the country, and even a few who are international. Most are based in major cities, such as New York, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Dallas and Toronto. Through this network, our remote team has put us in-market for most clients without the expense of carrying multiple office locations. This allows us to provide clients not only with easy access to a member of our team, but also with a local expert who knows, and can leverage, their market.
3. You can save on overhead costs.
One of the most significant benefits of a remote team is cost savings. By removing costly overhead expenses such as rent and utilities, we’ve been able to grow our business faster. Even more important, we’ve been able to pass those savings on to our clients.
An additional result of saving on overhead costs is that it allows us to use far more senior counsel for day-to-day client work instead of relying on the model that many agencies follow where the senior team pitches new business, and then they hand over the account to entry-level folks. Our lower costs, combined with our flexible style, means that we can both attract, and afford, a team that’s almost entirely senior level.
The results have been positive all around. None of our clients has been deterred by an agency without fancy conference rooms. In fact, many of them have said they prefer our model and that they see it as an advantage to get more hours from senior counsel.
Challenges To Being A Remote Agency — And How To Overcome Them
While there are many benefits to being a remote agency, there are some challenges as well. At times, you may need to host clients visiting from other locations or find creative ways for colleagues to collaborate across long distances. Managing time and deadlines also may require extra steps since managers aren’t working with their teams in person.
Here are some tips for overcoming some of the challenges:
• Take advantage of office rental spaces. When teams need to be in the same place and working on the same schedule, we’ve used platforms such as LiquidSpace. It helps us find conference rooms in local office buildings, and even hotels, for client and internal meetings. Great benefits can also be found with temporary space providers like local Regus and WeWork.
• Use shared agendas through Google Docs, and enforce deadlines. This helps keep everyone organized and ensures that client needs are being met at all times.
• Hold regular team meetings. This helps keep everyone in touch on goals.
• Use video conferencing. Increasingly, we find that our clients and potential clients are happy to use video conferencing for meetings and pitches, so our team can have a virtual presence while staying in their own locations.
• Invest in document sharing and collaboration tools like Slack, Basecamp and Trello. This can help you keep in touch with each other and with your clients.
• Create all-access “tracking” documents. Whether it’s an Excel spreadsheet on a shared drive or just an editable Google document, having the whole team track their work in a centralized place can make it easy to assign tasks and oversee each aspect of the business. With everyone contributing, it allows the team to easily work together on deliverables, even from separate locations.
While remote working is becoming more common, it still takes proper consideration and planning before making the transition. Agencies can start slowly by moving some of their staff to a remote arrangement and assessing the value before rolling it out more broadly. Others might decide that the costs of having an office are worth it or that their specific client needs favor a more traditional office setup. Or perhaps a hybrid approach — allowing some team members to work remotely while others work in the office — might be the answer. What’s important to remember is that a remote model can work and that it might even lead to faster growth, a stronger team and more satisfied clients.