How to Work Remotely With Clients
Drive your projects and business forward with online tools and effective tech setups during this uncertain time
Annie Thornton April 2, 2020
Houzz Editorial Staff
With most of the country being asked to stay home to help battle the coronavirus outbreak, many of our in-person relationships have become digital ones. For home professionals, this means working with clients (and colleagues) remotely. From tackling virtual consultations to nailing down decisions and placing product and furniture orders, design and remodeling pros have demonstrated just how much work can get done from afar.
Read on for tips on how to navigate working with clients virtually, from optimizing your home tech setup to choosing the best tools, such as Houzz Pro , to effectively communicate and collaborate. We invite you to share your own tips in the Comments.
Optimize Your Home Workspace
Your home workspace is likely the foundation for your business right now, enabling you to accomplish your projects and connect with clients (as well as colleagues and staff). In addition to outfitting your area with a comfortable chair, effective task light and other office essentials, you’ll also want to make sure your home tech sets you up for success.
Ensure an efficient computer setup. Those who typically work on a laptop might consider adding a laptop stand to reduce neck strain and improve posture. Additionally, a computer monitor — ideally with a web camera for videoconferencing — a full-size keyboard and a mouse can create a more comfortable and ergonomic working environment. You might even consider using blue-light-filtering glasses to further reduce eye strain.
Use headphones. Quality headphones with a built-in microphone are essential for creating a quiet work environment, especially if you’re working from home with others. If your computer’s built-in speakers aren’t great, headphones can also be helpful during virtual meetings and videoconferencing.
Improve your internet connection. If you’re noticing that your internet is running slower than usual, you’re not alone: Unprecedented numbers of users have been going online at once, taxing the system much more than it’s used to. To keep your internet speed up, make sure all of your systems and devices are up to date. Also check with your internet service provider to make sure your plan is robust enough to cover your current needs. Now might also be the time to reach out to your tech-savvy friends (hey, they’re stuck at home too), who might be able to help you hone your system even more.
Master Virtual Meetings and Videoconferencing
Videoconferencing tools like Google Hangouts and Zoom have made virtual conferences (and happy hours) with clients possible. Their ease of use and ability to integrate with the computer tools you probably already use, such as calendars and email, also make it simpler to collaborate with clients who may not be as tech-savvy. These tools are great for designers and other pros, as you can easily share your screen with clients to review drawings and plans, products or other visual aids.
Zoom has become especially popular, as it works with any email server and can connect multiple users, even those who have never used the tool before. When using Zoom, or any other virtual meeting tool, consider the following tips.
Create a professional setting. Since you’re not going to be able to establish the in-person relationship that typically occurs between a designer and client, it’s important to create a friendly yet professional connection in your videoconferences. This starts with the environment you create for your meeting. Do you want to show off your design aesthetic by sitting in front of a colorful wallpaper or designed room? Regardless of the background you choose, make sure you’re visible and well lit. If you’ll be in a loud environment, consider wearing headphones.
Practice good screen-sharing etiquette. Conferencing tools like Zoom allow you to review drawings, photos and models with clients in real time. While screen sharing is another tool that helps capture the feeling of an in-person meeting, it’s critical that clients see only what you want them to see. Share your screen in full-screen mode, turning off notifications (including message popups) and closing (or at least minimizing) any open tabs. If you can’t quickly find what you’re looking for, you can always un-share your screen or pause the view in order to locate the relevant file or photo without publicly searching through your inbox or files.
Be prepared. You’ll want to practice videoconferencing with a friend or colleague before using these tools for the first time. Likewise, you should ask the clients to test them out first too. Make sure your cameras and microphones are working. (Tip: Downloading the Zoom app to your desktop, as opposed to using the web browser, makes it easier to start meetings and take advantage of all the tools Zoom has to offer.)
If you’ll be discussing physical objects such as material samples, see if you can arrange to have them delivered to the client ahead of the meeting. If you’re having samples picked up and delivered to clients, clearly label them so you can easily review them together. If you’ll be looking at colors online, you can also coordinate the displays on your screens so that colors will look the same to both of you.
Use Multiple Communication Channels
Maintaining regular communication (maybe even overcommunication) with clients or potential clients can be helpful and reassuring during these uncertain times. It allows you to keep clients up to date on timing and deadlines, and also lets you demonstrate the level of service they can expect from you, even under these circumstances.
Incorporating multiple communication channels allows you to support clients who may not be used to or as familiar with digital communication tools. When considering communication tools, look to services that bundle multiple tools together as a way to streamline communication.
Messaging applications, such as Google Hangouts and Slack, can be great places to share quick chats and questions (between one person or a group) and keep everything you might have shared through text, instant messaging or even email in one place across all of your devices.
FaceTime or other visual call tools on your phone enable clients to show you their home, either for an initial design consultation or to revisit a specific feature in a project you’re already working on. Designers can even add subcontractors to a call if more specific info is needed.
Email is always a valuable tool for solidifying plans after back-and-forth messaging, Zoom meetings or FaceTime calls. Everyone uses email, and it can serve as a grounding tool as everyone gets used to a new way of conducting business.
Leverage Digital Business Management and Design Tools
In addition to communicating with clients electronically, you can also use digital tools to manage projects and move your designs forward. Houzz ideabooks are a great way to share ideas and get started on a project remotely. With Houzz Pro business management software, you can share a 3D floor plan or mood board with your clients. Clients can also review room boards and approve individual pieces using Ivy by Houzz. Client dashboards on Houzz Pro allow clients to review their projects whenever they like and allow you to more easily request payment of invoices or a deposit.
Connect With Colleagues and Other Design and Remodeling Pros
Now is also a great time to connect with other pros. Virtual tools make it possible to brainstorm ideas, share tips and relate personal experiences remotely. Expert-hosted webinars, including many offered by Houzz Pro , can offer support on how to navigate your business, deal with employees and manage finances during the crisis.
In a less formal setting, professional associations are also hosting virtual happy hours so designers and other pros can connect and discuss how they are leveraging technology and navigating their businesses right now.
Your turn: How have you set up your home office to work remotely with clients? Share your tips in the Comments.
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