Since the pandemic, it feels like the whole world has moved online.
I’m not just talking about swapping trips down to the supermarket for regular deliveries, or shunning brick-and-mortar shops in favour of web-based fashion superstores like ASOS, Boohoo and Shein.
The impact of coronavirus restrictions is extending far beyond our personal habits and preferences. According to the Office for National Statistics (OMS), the proportion of people working from home more than doubled in 2020 thanks to stricter rules and fears around catching the virus.
And despite regulations easing and confidence growing, it’s been a similar story this year, too. Why? Because staff in many industries have realised they don’t actually need to be in the office to do their job well. In fact, they’re working much more efficiently in their own homes, with the added flexibility of being able to manage other tasks and responsibilities around their working hours. Many of these individuals – regardless of whether they are employed or self-employed – are also saving heaps of time and money on daily commutes, especially those who used to grin and bear hours-long journeys into the city and back every single day.
What has all this meant for me?
It’s been interesting to see how this shift in behaviour has impacted my work as a web designer in Essex.
I can see all this from a unique perspective. I’ve worked from home with Design FX Studio for my entire career. (Since the mid-90s, actually.) I’m living proof that designers don’t need to rent a fancy workspace to run a successful business. All I need to produce exceptional work is a mac, a phone, the right software, and a decent broadband connection.
I’ve understood the many advantages of home working for decades. It allows me to work to a schedule that suits me and my family. If I want to take a longer break during the day, I can make up the time in the evening. If my client needs me to be available after they’ve finished their day job, I can stay online and help them out when they’re ready. It works both ways, and it’s a real draw for business owners who are spinning multiple plates and need me to be a bit more ‘available’.
Many of my newer web design clients, however, are only just waking up to the benefits of working with a web designer remotely. Some of them remain convinced that unless I spend a good percentage of my monthly earnings on a snazzy serviced office, or I spend countless hours in the car driving between meetings, I’m not up there with the best designers of my time. That really couldn’t be further from the truth.
Why regular face-to-face meetings are a thing of the past
Many of the people I work with do like to meet with me, especially during the early stages of their project. I understand that these kinds of face-to-face meetings help me to create stronger relationships with my clients. They also give them the chance to ask me questions and generally make sure I’m the right fit for their requirements.
But is sitting in an office or a coffee shop really any different to covering everything in a Zoom call? I don’t think so.
Today’s technology allows us to enjoy the many benefits of in-person meetings, without all the travel time and the added expenses that come with in-person catch-ups. As a designer, I can share my screen and run you through everything you need to see and know about your project, without leaving the comfort of my own home. The same goes for you. You can get all the information (and reassurance) you need, without taking precious hours out of your day to jump in the car or catch a train to a physical location.
You can still talk to me directly. You can still see the progress on your design work. I can even talk you through the more technical aspects of your project in a more visual and easy-to-digest way. In many ways, using conferencing software enhances the meeting experience, as everything is right where we need it to be, and we can switch between documents and web pages whenever we like.
Working virtually benefits everyone – especially you!
I know for a fact that fewer physical appointments in the diary leads to significant time and cost savings for everybody.
As a designer, meeting and working digitally allows me to be much more productive. I can pack more work into my day, without any time-draining distractions.
So, you get great results much faster, and I don’t need to pass on my travel costs to you within my fees, which means my prices can remain extremely competitive. It’s a win/win, really.
I can be much more accommodating with my appointment times. Out of hours calls and last-minute meetings are much more doable.
Oh, and this is the big one: working remotely means I can work with anyone, anywhere. I’m not restricted by geography anymore – and as my client or my supplier, neither are you. You could be on the other side of the world, and it wouldn’t matter one bit.
There are two huge benefits to this. From my side, it makes it much easier for me to pick up more interesting projects from people I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to work with if I’d limited my customer base by region. On my clients’ side, virtual working makes me much more accessible to people who need my expertise. Location is no longer a barrier to finding the right person for their project.
If you’re still set on working with a web designer who’s based just down the road from you, that’s fine. You need to find an arrangement that you feel comfortable with. After all, redoing your website is a big deal, and can sometimes be a big investment – so if being able to meet up with your design professional every now and then is a dealbreaker, I totally get it. Even though I much prefer working virtually, I do still offer in-person appointments in Colchester and around the local area, and I’m happy to travel to locations within a 40 mile radius.