Things I wish I knew before starting a fully remote company

Long before moving to California, I was a producer in a 100-people newsroom that was based in Moscow. I also worked with over 40 remote editors and journalists from 17 different countries on a daily basis. Back then, it never crossed my mind that it was somehow harder than just having everyone in one place. I was used to Skyping for 5 hours a day. During our team retreats I would hear people speak in Italian, German, French, English, Japanese, Cantonese, Arabic. Seriously, what else could I wish for as a 20-year old? These fond memories of people from all over the world making cool stuff together in a remote work environment drove me to build Wunderdogs as a fully remote company.

However, working in a half-remote company and building a fully remote one from scratch turned out to be two completely different things (sigh). Given the hype around the topic, I thought it would be useful to share my key takeaways from building a remote work environment over the last 2 years. Like, when you have a remote company, your employees can actually just hang up on you.

Tools that help us with remote work

When people hear about our remote work environment, they are immediately curious about the tools we use. Really, we’re not that different from any other company that needs to set tasks, track progress and engage with employees. At the end of the day, tools are just tools, there are no tricks here.

We love using Trello for task management, Slack and Telegram work well for messaging and quick team check-ins. We use Google Hangouts or Zoom for meetings and G Suite for documentation. Figma is a go-to tool for tracking progress for our engineering and web design teams.

The most dramatic difference between a traditional and a distributed company lies in the inability to be face to face with your people. This means that you need to use your tools rigorously, with no exceptions. You also can’t bridge this gap with tools alone - that’s when it really becomes all about culture.

Culture that brings us together

Here’s a nightmare I sometimes have. One day, I wake up, check my phone and see that no one responded to my emails. Our Telegram channel is completely silent. No one read my Slack messages. I stare into the darkness of an empty Google Hangouts window. Yesterday, I was the founder of a successful distributed company. Today, I am just a person in an empty room. All I can do to get my team back, is to write them an email. Then I cry and eat cake, all alone.

Indeed, I am a big drama queen (ask my co-founder). But nevertheless, in order to keep your distributed team intact, the relationships you build with your remote employees have to be stronger than the relationships with people in the same room as you. Otherwise, they are just a bunch of freelancers with no strings attached.

To create and maintain culture in a remote company, you have to go above and beyond. And you have to do it from day one. Everything is trickier: hiring, on-boarding, firing, even celebrating birthdays - you name it. Things you’ve never thought were important can be suddenly blown out of proportion. Sometimes, it’s because a conflict brews and is never solved face-to-face. And sometimes the problem is just a weak WiFi connection.

The best solution to these problems is obviously prevention. But new and unpredictable things come up, and then you just have to deal with them on emergency calls in the middle of the night. To prevent and alleviate as many interpersonal challenges as we could, we’ve built our company on “Burning Man-esque” principles of radical transparency, self-reliance, trust, and impulsive gifts. Seriously, never underestimate the impact of receiving something from the other end of the world in a cute glitter box.

Building a remote structure is not the solution for every company; but I believe that not forcing creative teams into an office allows you to nurture highly autonomous, self-organized and loyal employees. We work and travel, live wherever we want and choose a schedule that helps us maximize productivity.

Operations that keep our feet on the ground

Every day I start working at 6 AM. My co-founder, though also in San Francisco, has a different schedule as she wants to spend more time with her little daughter during the day. She is responsible for our operations and production; so she has to engage with all of our production teams every day, setting them tasks late in the evening. Our rule of thumb is to have at least 4 hours of cross-over with all of our teams’ work schedules.

Our developers are the first to start working every day. Then go creative teams - client-facing sales and account managers are the last. This structure allows us to save almost an entire workday on top of every project timeline. By the time most of our clients wake up, everything is ready. Having someone on every continent also helps our team serve and meet clients anywhere without breaking the bank of getting all of us in one location.

My little gross underestimations about remote work

Listener fatigue

“Listener fatigue” is a real thing - the feeling when your ear is about to fall off and your phone is hotter than McDonald’s coffee. Seriously, I’ve never really carefully thought through the experience of spending most of my days talking on the phone. Did you know your over-the-ear headphones can mold your ears into a brand new, more rounded shape (quite an upside for me)?


The trade-off for working at a remote agency is fighting a desire to become a complete hermit, never leave your house and avoid any real-world interactions. We do our best to solve it for our teams through encouraging them to travel, meet each other, work together whenever they can and to represent our company as ambassadors at their local events, no matter their position. This comes at a price of rigorous training, but also brings great returns.

Conflict resolution

As I’ve mentioned before, someone can literally hang up on you - it’s way easier than storming off from the meeting. Conflict resolution becomes x10 more complicated when you can’t deal with it face-to-face. Think of those multiple petty arguments you’ve had with people over text that just blew way, way out of proportion.

Sales process

As an agency, we are often expected to have a fancy office with gigantic pop-art images on the walls and a bearded receptionist wearing a red beanie. Even in forward-thinking Silicon Valley, the overall concept of a creative agency is still deeply rooted in people’s memory of Don Draper and Mad Men.

It is hard to shift this mindset and break the baseline perception of us being a bunch of freelancers; especially for potential clients from the baby boomer generation. With some of them we are simply not a good fit and we’ve learned to accept that. Many companies and organizations value quality and speed of remote work beyond a fancy office; especially those familiar with distributed models (yes, anonymous Blockchain founder, I am looking at you). But our ability to build trust through digital efforts is crucial to our success no matter the target audience.

Early bird gets to explain to everyone that it is indeed, an actual bird

The concept of a remote company is fairly novel to the world; whether we think talent, clients, partners or even governments and laws. As an entity, we have fewer business perks compared to traditional companies and we have to fight a little harder in order to be treated on par with them. Working across borders makes it tricky to streamline things like payrolls, health insurance, and filing taxes. Being overly cautious and up-to-date about the ever-changing laws around remote workers helps prevent major accidents.

I love my remote work. But more than that, I love my team. I strongly believe that if not for the remote structure, we would not be able to gather such an incredibly diverse, interesting and open-minded crew under one digital roof. In this sense, Wunderdogs is fulfilling my dream from back when I was 20: to have your team tight, while your business - truly global.


How do vision and mission statements impact a company's long-term direction?

Effective vision and mission statements should ideally constitute important tools in formulating a company’s strategy. They should largely remain unchanged through the years, though a significant pivot may bring about new vision and mission statements. Together, they work to define the focus of the business and how it impacts the world. 

The vision statement is a representation of your company’s view of a better world. The mission statement reflects how it sets about to achieve this vision. They work together to create internal alignment and help with strategic decision making. When planning for the future, developing new products, or experimenting with new strategies, teams can perform a quick check against the vision and mission statements to ensure that these initiatives are aligned with the essence of the brand. 

In short, the vision and mission statements are powerful tools which can and should impact decisions across the organizations, making them important factors in a company’s long-term direction.

How does brand strategy influence the overall success of a business?

Your brand strategy reflects how your brand sees the world and its role within it. It is the framework that, ideally, should guide all your communications (both external and internal) and audience touchpoints, i.e. each interaction an audience member has with your business. 

Having standardized communication across all channels and touchpoints makes business processes smoother and positively influences your client relationships, ensuring you develop strong, long-term connections with your customers. It also simplifies strategic decision-making and aligns your team. All these factors are vital to the success of a business.

How do messaging frameworks help communicate your brand message effectively?

Messaging frameworks are structured guides that outline the core messages, value propositions, and differentiators of a brand. They ensure consistency across all communications, from marketing materials and social media posts to customer service interactions. By defining key messages that resonate with the brand's target audiences, messaging frameworks help ensure that a brand’s communications are clear and memorable. 

They also help organizations stay aligned internally and ensure that each member, regardless of their role, understands what the brand’s key message is and how to communicate it effectively. This internal alignment is crucial for presenting a unified brand image to the outside world.

What specific elements contribute to a brand's verbal identity?

A brand’s verbal identity should align your team on how your brand communicates and how this communication changes depending on the situation. It defines a specific and recognizable language through which your brand can deliver its message to your audience or audiences.

Typically, a verbal identity includes some, or all, of the following elements:

Brand personality: This captures the human traits or characteristics that your brand embodies, such as being adventurous, sophisticated, or reliable, which help shape how your brand is perceived.

Brand voice: The brand voice reflects how your brand reflects its personality across all communication channels.

Brand tone: While the brand voice remains consistent, the brand tone can change depending on the context of the message and the audience being addressed, ranging from formal and professional to informal and friendly.

Messaging frameworks: These are strategic tools that outline the key messages your brand intends to communicate to its different target audiences, ensuring that all messaging is aligned with your brand's mission, vision, and value propositions.

Messaging examples: These provide specific examples of how your brand's messaging might be applied in various scenarios.

Style and grammar guidelines: These outline your preferred spelling, grammar, and style, ensuring that your communication is consistent across the board. 

What are some key considerations when developing a tone of voice for a brand?

The first and most important consideration is the brand’s personality. While businesses are functional, they still communicate with people – and people primarily connect with stories and personas. Your brand’s personality will define a set of human characteristics which reflect how it sees itself in the world. By giving your brand these human attributes, you are making it both distinctive and easier to identify with. The tone of voice should reflect your brand’s personality.

It’s also important to consider your target market and your audience’s expectations. While having a distinctive tone of voice is important for memorability, there is such a thing as being too different. If all brands in your segment adopt a serious, professional tone, and you would like to be fun and playful, there is certainly space for that, but consider very carefully why you are doing it.


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How do brand guidelines ensure consistency in visual identity across different platforms?

Brand guidelines are a key tool for maintaining a consistent visual presentation across various platforms. These guidelines typically outline the main use cases where the brand's visual identity will appear and provide comprehensive rules and standards.

The guidelines include detailed instructions on how to use the brand’s assets, such as logos, color palettes, typography, and imagery. This ensures that anyone using these assets, whether they're designers, marketers, or external partners, can apply them correctly and consistently. 

It’s crucial that the entire team is familiar with these guidelines. It’s important to get team buy-in on the visual identity and ensure that the guidelines are easily accessible. When the whole team understands and follows the guidelines, the brand's visual identity remains unified across all touchpoints, enhancing brand recognition and trust.

How does visual identity differ across industries, and how can a brand ensure it stands out while remaining authentic?

Visual identity varies significantly across industries, shaped by both the industry norms and the unique aspects of each brand. Understanding where your brand stands in the competitive market is essential when crafting a visual identity that both stands out and remains authentic.

Industries have distinct visual trends that are often expected by consumers. For instance, financial services brands typically adopt a reserved, traditional look with a color palette dominated by blues and greys. In contrast, skincare brands often go for a lighter, more colorful approach with pastels. Being aware of these industry-specific trends is important because it helps to decide how much your brand should differentiate itself from these norms. This differentiation should be based on your audience's expectations and your brand's unique value propositions.

For example, a financial services brand that emphasizes its use of innovative technologies might choose a more digital-oriented visual language. Similarly, a skincare brand that focuses on scientific innovation might benefit from a more science-based visual language.

How does competitive benchmarking influence the development of a visual identity?

Competitive benchmarking is important in developing a brand's visual identity as it provides insights into the market environment. By examining the competition, a brand can better understand its unique value proposition and strengths. This understanding is crucial in identifying what sets the brand apart from others.

With this knowledge, a brand can lean into its unique strengths when crafting its visual language. This approach ensures that the visual identity not only looks appealing but also reinforces the brand’s distinct point of view and competitive edge.

What are the key considerations when creating visual concepts for a brand?

The visual identity of a brand should quickly and clearly reflect its strategic positioning. Designers begin the process of creating visual concepts by immersing themselves in the brand’s strategy to extract key narrative themes. These themes are then translated into a visual language that employs both emotional and aesthetic elements to communicate the brand's messages. This translation is crucial as it shapes how the audience perceives and interacts with the brand.

When developing visual concepts, it's important to make sure they align with the brand's strategy and fit well within the competitive landscape: demonstrating key differentiators, but still fitting into the industry at large. The visuals should also be suitable for the mediums they will be used in. Whether for digital, print, or physical applications, the choice of medium can greatly influence how the visual concepts are designed.

How does visual identity contribute to brand recognition and trustworthiness?

Visual identity is key to boosting brand recognition and trustworthiness, especially in busy markets. When a company maintains a consistent visual brand across different platforms, it becomes easier for customers to recognize and remember it. This consistency is crucial for standing out among competitors.

Having a consistent visual identity also shows professionalism and attention to detail. These qualities make customers more likely to trust a brand. When a brand looks the same across all touchpoints, from websites to products and ads, it tells customers the brand is reliable and serious. This builds trust and makes customers more likely to pick this brand over others that may not look as professional or consistent.


What are the advantages of having a well-designed and user-friendly website for a business?

The business landscape has changed dramatically since the pandemic. Now, your digital footprint is definitely at the center of most business growth strategies. A well-designed website allows companies to connect with users in an effective manner, ensure customer loyalty, and expand business - among other benefits.

Website design is the key ingredient to digital success, alongside well-functioning SEO tools, connected backend, and user-friendly strategy. A user-friendly website for your business will:

  • Increase user engagement and conversion rates
  • Improve SEO and searchability of your business
  • Improve retention rates
  • Make your business more credible while making your brand more memorable
How does the design of a website impact its accessibility to users, including those with disabilities?

In website design, "accessibility" refers to whether a site is designed in a way that is inclusive and usable by everyone, regardless of their physical or cognitive abilities. 

This may include important site characteristics such as text-to-speech functionality, video captions, alternative text tags for images, enhanced with good design practices of intuitive navigation, straightforward copy. and others. Accessibility is integral to website performance and user experience.

How can businesses ensure consistency and credibility across their website, brand, and marketing materials?

To achieve consistency and credibility across all your collateral, you need to ensure that the brand message - both verbal and visual - is compliant with your brand guidelines. This can include:

  • Using the correct tone of voice principles across all communication channels to differentiate your brand personality

  • Communicating consistent messaging and key differentiators on all platforms

  • Ensuring that key visual elements (logo, color palette, typography, imagery) on your website, marketing, and sales materials are aligned with each other

What are some common pitfalls to avoid when designing and developing a business website?

According to a 2024 web statistics report, a staggering 75% of business credibility is attributed to various web design decisions. In order to improve your website’s trustworthiness, avoid the following common design mistakes:

  • Not prioritizing accessibility: One of the biggest design mistakes out there is overlooking web accessibility principles on your website.

  • Not investing in responsive design and customization: With the majority of global traffic coming from mobile and tablet devices, lack of responsive design and customization can break a business.
  • Prioritizing aesthetics over function: Compromising user experience in favor of flashy aesthetics will dilute your brand message and user journey to the required call to action.

  • Lacking clarity in messaging and navigation: Clear navigation and messaging will reduce the friction users may experience when landing on your site as they are trying to get a clear picture of what your business is.
How does website copywriting contribute to user engagement and conversion, and what role does SEO play in this?

The goal of web copywriting is to guide your users through their web journey while providing information, engaging with and converting them into buyers. Each section of your site shapes the visitor perception about your brand and affects their buying decisions. 

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is a practice of creating engaging and persuasive content that not only appeals to your users, but also incorporates relevant keywords and techniques to attract organic traffic to your site.

To start writing SEO-friendly copy for your site, you can:

  • Manually conduct keyword research by checking what competitors are ranking for
  • Use SEO software like SEMRush to investigate new keyword opportunities
  • Make sure to review keywords frequently as their popularity changes often and you want to keep ranking for competitive terms.

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