Designing with remote teams



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The era of distributed creative production is here, and savvy marketing and design teams are leading the charge by building remote design teams.

We joined Upwork’s Creative Director Jonathan Cofer for a DesignTalk to learn how his team built a world-class remote design team, and how to mirror their success with best practices for hiring and working with agency-quality freelance designers.

Watch Jonathan’s full talk below, or read on for our short recap.


Why build a remote, freelance team?

Upwork has built their design team with more remote freelancers than in-office designers. Jonathan described 3 main reasons for doing so:

  1. Flexibility to scale
  2. Build out unique skills like illustration or prototyping
  3. Cost efficient, especially depending on where your team is located

Finding and vetting

First, choose what your must-haves are for your candidates. Upwork uses—you guessed it—Upwork to find and vet designers. Their must-have checklist includes a good portfolio, similar work hours, and strong English skills. Your checklist might include different things like an expertise in UX or knowledge of a few languages.

“Use a paid design challenge to vet job candidates.”

Second, vet candidates using a paid design challenge. Upwork’s design challenge is meant to test out communication skills and gauge how participants receive feedback. Usually it’s a test that the current design team has already completed, so they can compare the responses with how the team solved the problem.

Third, provide job candidates with real-life test projects. Upwork takes the best candidates from their design challenge phase and gives them small—but real—projects. Projects aren’t highly strategic or risky, but they allow Upwork to see how designers work in the real world. Jonathan says that there’s still a lot to be learned about how people work at this stage. 


Finally, welcome your newly vetted, awesome remote designers to your team! Upwork at this point invites the designers who’ve made it this far to their weekly design team meetings and into their team communication channels.

For more on how Upwork creates a successful remote environment for their designers—including great real-world questions from our audience—I encourage you to watch the video above!

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Margaret Kelsey
Margaret Kelsey leads content marketing at Appcues. Before Appcues, she built content programs for InVision’s design community for 3.5 years and has roots in painting and PR. She’s a big fan of puns, Blackbird Donuts, and Oxford commas—probably in that order.

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