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Over half of UpShift’s business is with overseas clients. Being a small digital agency based in Nelson, New Zealand we often get asked “How do you get overseas work?” I’m going to try & answer that question today.

First a bit of background for those of you who don’t know Nelson: Nelson is a little city on the North coast of the South Island of New Zealand. We have a population of 50,000 people, but if you count neighbouring Richmond our urban area’s population is around 70,000. We’re blessed with amazing beaches, rivers & mountains. Nelson also has the sunniest weather in New Zealand, something we’re proud & annoyingly smug about. Another major draw is our world class mountain biking – Nelson Mountain Bike Club has 3,500 members & is one of the largest clubs in the world. 

While our region produces a lot of excellent food, hosts a lot of tourists & catches a lot of fish we have a thriving tech sector. Companies like Shuttlerock, SnapIT, Lucid & UpShift all do a lot of their business overseas. The Nelson lifestyle attracts a whole bunch of talented people from all over the world, which creates a talent pool you wouldn’t normally expect to find in a small relaxed city on the edge of the world.

So back to the question at hand - how does UpShift get overseas work?

Most of our work comes through people personally recommending us to their colleagues & friends. In a few cases we’ve picked up work from people coming across our previous work, or seeing it showcased at conferences. 

In a digital world the theory is you can work from anywhere. But personal connections are important & timezones are timezones. We do a lot of work for North American clients – the majority of those based on the West Coast, which is currently 3 hours out from New Zealand. From experience 12 hour timezone differences are really hard to manage.

With the right introduction & the right timezone there’s a plethora of tools to connect & communicate with someone 11,000km away. We make good use of video conferencing software like Zoom & Google Hangouts, messaging apps like Slack & project tools like Trello.

The next part is the actual work we do for our overseas clients. We specialise in building interactive digital tools that create engaging user experiences from complex data. We’ve worked with all sorts of data - environmental, oceanic, infrastructure, fisheries, medical, legislation & food safety – but the goal is generally the same: turning complex data into a user experience that is informative & friendly.

Having a focus like this helps potential clients work out if we’re the right fit for their project, and every project we do helps build our understanding for the next one.

For the development we prefer a phased/ iterative approach where the concept is fast prototyped & presented to the client for a hands-on review. From experience data is often full of wrinkles & logic bombs that only come to the surface when we make it visible & interactive. Having a development site with regular updates helps the client see how their project is evolving & give feedback where required.

Another question you may have is - why are organisations in the tech capitals of the world using a digital agency located in New Zealand. When we asked our clients for feedback we heard they like that we’re a solutions focused agency with a strong interest in the end users. Client have told us of their frustrations with other suppliers who solely focused on building a product to spec, rather than a solution.

Many people assume that working overseas would generate a lot of air travel. The truth is we’ve had overseas clients since 2016, but I’m typing this post on my first overseas business trip in February 2020. I’m spending two weeks catching up with various clients on the West Coast of the US & currently riding the Caltrain between San Francisco & Palo Alto.

UpShift is committed to being climate positive – both reducing our carbon footprint & capturing more carbon than we emit. We recognise that air travel has a significant carbon footprint & have had great experiences using modern communication tools to create & grow our client relationships.

For the carbon we are responsible for we fund an old growth native rainforest in Southland, New Zealand via a local carbon audit company Ekos. I cannot stress enough how positive it is to take responsibility for your environmental footprint & can highly recommend any business owner to do this – but that’s another post.

I hope this answers a few of the questions you might have had about our overseas business. If you have any other questions about our business drop me an email: [email protected]

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