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How to overcome the challenges of starting and operating a creative business remotely

Remotework

Starting any business can be a daunting prospect, let alone in the competitive creative industries and when I decided I wanted to start my own creative business, and later move it to Port Macquarie, there were many hurdles to overcome.

In need of a sea change, we decided to move our  boutique design and marketing studio, Onefishsea, out of Sydney. Making the move came with a level of risk but the pros seemed to heavily outweigh the cons. In the years leading up to the move, my creative career had taken shape after studying for a Bachelor of Digital Media Design at Billy Blue College of Design at Torrens University Australia. We had developed a solid brand and established a list of returning clients. But over time, face to face meetings had been replaced with video calls, and most communication was taking place via email. I worked alongside many international designers as if they were next to me in a Sydney studio.

We now work our own hours, and get to live in one of Australia’s most beautiful locations. The majority of our clients are still in Sydney and abroad – now with the addition of some great local ones too. We have been able to keep our business consistent, and encourage other start-ups to consider running creative businesses remotely. Of course, there are many challenges associated with moving your business, or starting a new business from a remote location. Some of these can be exacerbated by working remotely, particularly if you are setting up shop and setting it up remotely at the same time. But in our case – the benefits outweighed the challenges.

Here are a few of the challenges associated with running a creative business remotely, as well as some solutions and tips you can use to ensure you get the most out of setting up shop remotely:

Challenge 1 – Choosing a location

Solution: The first challenge was selecting a location which would be both suitable to live, and to operate a business from. You can’t pick a location to start a remote business just because there is a lack of similar businesses locally. If you think this is your competition bubble, you’ll be sorely mistaken. If a local business is seeking a particular quality – they’ll have access to it online. You need to make sure your service is world-class regardless of what surrounds you geographically. We look after a number of returning clients both locally and internationally without the need of a shopfront. We can still travel to the city for a meeting, or to collaborate face-to-face with other designers. But the majority of the time, we get to work where we want, when we want. So set yourself up somewhere that you will enjoy living and working and if need be – expand your service to other areas.

Challenge 2 – Bursting the location ‘bubble’ mentality for your clients

Solution: The next challenge we needed to take into consideration was our existing client base. How were they going to react to the change? For the majority of ours, it wasn’t an issue. Most of our correspondence was already taking place via video call or email, so the location wasn’t an issue. Sure, a few have dropped off. But we’ve also picked up a new local client base and are able to deliver city style projects to smaller, rural businesses – in addition to our existing Sydney and International client base.

From the very beginning of Onefishsea, we sourced a lot of work from our connections, and continue to do so from our new home. The contacts, skills and experience we’ve gathered in a metropolitan area have enabled us to provide a unique service in Port Macquarie. We look after a number of returning clients both locally and internationally without the need of a shopfront. Set yourself up somewhere that you will enjoy living and working and if need be – expand your service to other areas.

Challenge 3 – Staying motivated.

Solution: One of the toughest challenges many small businesses face is finding the motivation to continually expand and improve (especially when you can work from a town where you could get distracted by the beach everyday). Our main motivation is that we love what we do. We’re always looking for new techniques we can implement into our designs, and new marketing strategies to help our clients get more business. We base our success off our clients success – if we’re not motivated to succeed, it can affect more than just our business. Weather it be an industry connection or a previous client – all new business relies on word of mouth.

Tip 1: Make the most out of every connection you make.

One of the greatest sales tools for any organisation is their network. From the beginning, we sourced a lot of work from our connections. Studying at Billy Blue has introduced me to a number of great industry contacts and I’ve grown a large network from these roots. Involving yourself with industry related events and meetups will also expand your resources. Some of our best work has involved a group of designers that each have a specific niche talent. The creative industry is both small and collaborative. The more that we support each other, the greater our work will be. Collaboration with other creatives also helps to attract more opportunities to your business – and this is a big part of Billy Blue, too. Collaboration, whether it is with other industry players or with your clients, is key.

Tip 2: Learn from the industry’s best.

Studying at Billy Blue opened doors to a number of design studios in Sydney, connecting me to industry leaders running projects that simply aren’t available in smaller towns. From displaying motion designs at Vivid and launching brands to an international market, these projects have exposed me to large scale, fast paced environments. Once you have the right skills and experience under your belt, you can deliver similar projects to clients from anywhere in the world. Since moving to Port Macquarie, we have been able to deliver city-style projects to smaller, rural businesses – in addition to our existing Sydney and international client base.

Tip 3: Research the market and adapt to it.

While working alongside industry contacts, you should be studying the market in search of need that you can tend to. I am always observing how other companies work with creative agencies. Many use one agency for print design, another for motion and digital, and another for marketing and strategy. This can often lead to disjointed marketing assets and may not deliver a client’s message in the most efficient way (in addition to increasing costs and administration overheads). I’m constantly learning and adding new skills to our offering as technology progresses. That way, customers can have one contact for all of their design, marketing and strategy requirements. The contacts, skills and experience we’ve gathered in a metropolitan area have enabled us to provide a unique service in Port Macquarie.

Tip 4: Challenge your creativity:

In rural areas, the pace and project requirements will decrease. It’s important to keep challenging yourself creatively to keep your competitive edge moving forward. If you don’t, your service footprint will become a lot smaller. Our main motivation is that we love what we do. We’re always looking for new techniques we can implement into our designs, and new marketing strategies to help our clients get more business.

Finally, there are many challenges associated with moving your business, or starting a new business from a remote location. With the right tools and procedures in place, however, you can work from almost anywhere. So set yourself up somewhere that you will enjoy living and working, and use your skills, connections and experience to offer a level of service your customers unique to you, and your customers will follow.


About the author

Jarryd_SmithJarryd Smith is the founder and managing director of Onefishsea, and a Billy Blue College of Design graduate.