What improves mental health, team productivity, and client results all at the same time?

If I’m being honest, I didn’t start Hopp Creative because I love client work (even though I absolutely do!).

Or because I wanted to run my own business (although, I always had).

Nope. Definitely contributing reasons, but not the driving factor.

Truthfully, I founded Hopp Creative to regain some semblance of mental sanity.

After a few years in the startup world helping lead and scale the marketing for a rapidly-growing, recently-acquired startup… I was burnt out. Like crying-under-the-Christmas-tree-burnt-out (true story).

One of the biggest contributors to this burn out was the constant need to be “on” and ready to talk about anything or shift at a moment's notice. I do my best work when I have space to work through things on my own, then discuss. On the spot communications - phone calls, rapid-fire slack discussions, meetings without an agenda - aren’t ideal.

Throw in a few unplanned-but-intense sidebar discussions every single day and no time that I could reasonably block out for deep work and you’ve got the main ingredient for my fun little meltdown underneath the twinkling lights and pine needles.

So. When I decided to take the leap and found Hopp Creative… I built the foundation to support an async-first working style.

What’s an async-first working style?

An async (short for asynchronous) working is just a way of working where everyone has the flexibility to complete their tasks and responsibilities on their own time. There’s no need to be working at the same time or in the same physical location the vast majority of the time. Instead, we thoughtfully use communication and collaboration tools to stay connected and coordinate our work.

Async-first just means that whenever possible, we default to an async style of work. But - if there’s a valid, good reason to do something synchronously - we’ll absolutely do it, and we welcome it! There’s tradeoffs to all approaches to work, and our goal is to have the best of both worlds.

In practice, this means about 90% of our work is done async, and 10% is done over video chat or phone call.

What does this mean for our clients?

  • No standing meetings- we use emails to keep in communication with clients and keep them in the loop on what we’re up to for them.
  • We present concepts in a recorded video presentation (through Berrycast) so clients can review and provide thoughtful feedback at their own pace.
  • For back-and-forth revisions, we use tools like markup.io and Adobe XD so that clients can provide easily-actionable feedback directly on whatever we’re working about - no need to screenshare and present concepts live.

That said - async does not mean we are unavailable or impersonable!

  • We absolutely book calls when needed during projects. The difference is, they’re scheduled. We don’t pick up a phone or hop in a zoom during the workday unless it’s already on the calendar!
  • We respond to emails within 2-3 business days, tops, and rely on both written and video communication to make sure we’re as clear as possible!

We LOVE our clients and truly enjoy getting to know them - we’re absolutely not a cold, impersonal, robotic studio. We like to keep it pretty casual and like talking with a friend - plus, most of the team is born-and-raised midwesterners, so that means there’s usually at least 3 stages to a goodbye, even on a video call :) I’m always down for a coffee chat - pre-scheduled, of course 🙂

Here’s how async work has benefited everyone (ourselves AND our clients):

  • Allows us the space and flexibility to schedule in deep work (great book, by the way!), which results in better work for our clients.
  • Forces us to be great communicators with clients and with each other, which results in documented decisions (key for everyone!), consistent and coherent project workflow, and helps keep timelines on track.
  • Our clients have time to absorb our presentations, sleep on it, and then provide thoughtful feedback instead of feeling the pressure to provide an immediate response.
  • Ultimately this gets them a better end product, and helps cut down time spent in revisions.

MENTAL SANITY, ACHIEVED. Most days. Obviously, there will always be chaotic days no matter how you work. But the days of scattered focus, constant notifications, and random meetings are long gone for me - and I am incredibly grateful to be able to build this studio to support the mental health of everyone who comes in contact with us.‍

Three years and one baby later, I can’t imagine working any other way.

I’m grateful on a daily basis for the benefits that this async-first working style has created for both my team, myself, and my clients. This approach truly supports a “life-first” approach to work while still giving our clients the high level of care and results that they deserve.

If you’re interested in learning more about getting off the merry-go-round of notifications, meetings (that should have been an email), and prioritizing time to think, live, and breathe without an impending sense of doom (...just me?), here’s some books I recommend that have inspired me:

Book Recommendations*

Deep Work by Cal Newport

Ruthless Elimination of Hurry by John Mark Comer

To Hell With The Hustle by Jefferson Bethke

Essentialism by Greg McKeown‍

*I hate that there are no women or people of color on this list, and I hate that I didn’t realize it until I listed them. I’m going to go find some additional books to diversify the perspectives I’m reading, and I’ll be back with recommended additions! If you have suggestions, send them my way.

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