The 3 L’s

September 10th, 2013 by Mat Dolphin

A question that repeatedly comes up when we first start talking to potential clients is: “Where are you based?”. It’s a completely reasonable thing to ask and it’s understandable that someone we’re working with would want to know where we are whilst doing the work.

Although often the question isn’t exactly about where we’re based, it’s actually about how close we are, geographically. For clients it would all see to be about the 3 L’s: Location, location, location.

Whilst we completely appreciate that someone might want the reassurance that we’re just down the road, it is something we feel is becoming less and less important. Whilst it’s by no means revelatory to point out that technology is making the tools we use to communicate more accessible and easier to use, it is something we can’t ignore. The requirement to be in the same room as the people we’re working with is becoming less and less important.

To illustrate the point, there is a long term client we’ve formed a great relationship with over the course of the last three years. We speak to them regularly, get on well with them and were even introduced to their children the last time we had a meeting. The fact that they’re based in New York (whilst we’re in London) and all of the communication has been conducted over a mix of email and Skype has never had much of an impact on the way we work together. We’ve never stood in the same room as them, but we still manage to make it tick along nicely, and everyone is happy.

We’ve also worked with clients based in offices literally down the road from us, who we’ve never actually had any face to face contact with. This isn’t due to the fact that they’re not an important client to us (every single client is important to us — sounds a bit cheesy, but it’s true), it’s because it would simply be an unnecessary addition to the way we work with them.

We’ve produced print work for a client based in South Africa which featured in a magazine we’ll never physically hold. In terms of communication throughout the project, it wasn’t particularly different from that of clients based in the same postcode. The only real similarity between the projects mentioned above was the fact that the results were all successful. The work itself didn’t suffer as a result of any differences in location, and the communication during the design process was clear, quick and easy to manage.

Now, we’re definitely not saying that physically meeting the people we’re working with is a bad or unnecessary thing. We do a great deal of it and as well as being helpful, it is something we genuinely enjoy. It is, however, clear that it needn’t be a prerequisite for a successful and happy working relationship. For us, the things that are fundamental in a working relationship are an understanding of the people we’re working with and the capability for both parties to communicate clearly and easily. These things aren’t dependent on where we’re sitting in relation to our clients, they’re dependent on how we talk and how we listen to what’s being said. Asking the right questions, knowing when to shut up and reacting to other peoples responses in the appropriate manner are the things that are vital to get right. The room we’re sitting in whilst these exchanges are taking place is largely irrelevant.

Whether it’s email, Skype, iChat, face to face, smoke signals or carrier pigeon, it’s all about communication — making ourselves understood and being able to understand others.

Do you have any examples that challenge our view? Does our thinking work only for a small agency like ours, but not for Freelancers? We’d be interested in hearing your thoughts.

Thanks for reading.

Tom and Phil

*This post was recently published on the FindGood Marketing Blog*


2 Responses to “The 3 L’s”

  1. All my clients are abroad, the only difficulty I’ve really experienced is print management. It is something that heavily influences the projects and clients take on.

    I tend to choose clients who already work with manufacturers and have some idea of what they’re doing and looking for on the press. I, with my swatch books (ink, papers and finishes), can guide them remotely (imagination here is key), providing references and guides, and checking proofs when they are sent by the manufacturer.

    Taking on client who are abroad without any print experience, as much I’d like too, is to risk quality or can have some kind of environmental impact in the shipping of heavy items internationally. I did recently design some tags and business cards here in Prague, printed them in London (I trusted the printer there more than any here) and had them shipped to Israel.

    The question for me after the project became, what environmental impact am I having shipping work abroad when I’m responsible for print management? In that case I felt that it provided the client with a template that they could then take to a printer in their city.

    So, in my opinion, location really depends on the type of project or client you’re willing to take on, and how confident you’re that you can manage the quality of the outcome.

    Comment by Rich Baird — September 10th, 2013 @ 1:54 pm |
  2. I have clients and suppliers in other cities and countries, some require face to face and other are perfectly happy to work remotely. I think it depends on the people at both ends and their attitudes to picking up the phone rather than relying on email. Or using Skype or other screen share technologies when you need to explain or listen to something complex.

    Although I am more than happy working remotely or having suppliers work remotely, I do think some amount of face-to-face time is super important to build a really good relationship. A lot of business is done over a glass of wine!

    Comment by Paul Lindsell — September 10th, 2013 @ 4:54 pm |