Working in immersive media can be tough if you aren’t living in a major metropolitan city. Often you can feel excluded and find it tough to work with other companies. One thing that isn’t talked about often enough is how prevalent remote work is in this industry! I know personally I’ve lived in cities that I’ve never ended up working in. In this post, we’ll look at some strategies I’ve used to remote work effectively and consistently get rehired by the companies I work with.
I can’t stress enough how communication is the key to remote working effectively. One of the main benefits that producers and management feel when talent works in the office is that it’s easy to check in. They can walk over to your desk or workspace and get a quick check in on how things are going. Even without walking over, it can sometimes be easy for someone to look over and see what you’re working on and how things are progressing. Without this kind of check in system, management can often feel uneasy with remote work talent and make them hesitant to continue using remote talent.
So what can you do? Communicate often! How and where and what will always be a little bit different based on the company you’re working with. The first thing I do when I begin working with a company is ask them these:
- How does your team prefer we do regular check ins?
- What kind of check ins do you like?
- Where should we do these check ins?
Usually the company will be pleasantly surprised that you’re asking these things. They might say any of the following:
- Let’s do a daily message on slack at the start of the day with some screenshots and bullet points of what you did yesterday and what you’re working on today
- Let’s do a once a week screenshare on a live video call and we can go through everything with the team
- Let’s do a daily email at the end letting us know what you worked on today and if you have any screen recordings, that’d be great
At the end of the day, whatever they say that makes them comfortable is what you should stick to. Treat it as another aspect of your work, not some chore you quickly try to shrug off. If you provide what they want and really make the client feel comfortable and feel like you’re a part of the team and not just someone they don’t hear from, they’ll come back with more work in the future.
Respect time zones
As tricky as it can be to travel and work remotely, the most important thing is to respect your client’s time zone. There’s nothing more frustrating for a client then not being able to easily communicate with remote talent because of time zones. If you’re in Tokyo and the client is in Eastern time, you can’t say “sorry client, I’m not really available for calls because it’s late here.” That’s a one-way trip to not getting hired again by them. So plan accordingly when you travel and take on jobs. If you’re in Tokyo and the client is in eastern time, keep a few hours open 3x a week from 8pm-12am to take some calls at the beginning of their day. Tragic to say sometimes this can get in the way of your travel plans, but it’s the name of the game. Now this doesn’t mean you should just always be awake at all hours but do try to make some blocks available for your clients during their comfortable timezone.
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Be flexible with tools
All companies have sets of tools they like using and are used to. What makes you attractive as a talent is being malleable to the client’s existing workflows. If they hire you, and you come in swinging trying to implement your tooling on them and saying you don’t use Zoom because you use Google Meet or that you don’t use Jira because you use GitHub…guess who isn’t getting callbacks in the future… The best thing to do is merge yourself into the client’s team and workflows as best you can. They use Jira? Turns out I love Jira! They use Trello? Well, god damn, I guess I love that Trello dog now!
The nice thing is the homogenization of platforms means that most platforms are pretty similar. They might use slightly different names for things or have a few special features here and there, but in most cases it wont be more than an hour or two of additional time you’ll spend learning the new set of tools you need to work with. I know you might lose some of your own efficiency in the process, but that’s ok. Ultimately you’re someone who’s being hired to make their lives easier, so the more you can seamlessly integrate the better.
These might seem like really simple things. You might think “no way, Elburz, there’s no way that these are your secrets!” In truth, most people do good work when it comes to the technical and artistic side of things, or at least the work is good enough to get the job done. What separates a company’s favourite freelancers from the rest of the pack are communication, time zone availability, and seamless integration into the team. Try those things on your next project, and you’ll see a great response from the client!