4 Tips for Managing a Team of Remote Writers
Even in the traditional corporate setting, managing a team can be a daunting task. The team leader has to deal with different personalities and make the necessary adjustments when handling each member, all the while ensuring that performance and productivity are at expected levels.
Now extend the challenges that a team leader in a corporate setting has to face to a remote setting. We now have an even more daunting task! It’s one thing to be able to pull a team member aside to talk. It’s a whole different story to grab hold of a team member who’s halfway around the world.
If you’re managing a remote team of writers, for example, you’ll need all the help you can get to make sure your projects run as smoothly as possible.
Here are some tips for managing a team of remote writers to help make your life easier.
1. Set ground rules.
From the get-go, be sure to lay down the rules. It’s best to do this upon hiring to avoid misunderstandings. I define rules as “expected behavior” from the remote writers.
- Sticking to publication times
- Being available via email or live chat during specific times
- Being responsive to feedback
- Giving the team leader a heads up when tasks can’t be completed for one reason or another
Another one of many management tips for remote teams is that it’s essential to provide writers with editorial guidelines. While you may have different projects or blogs that have different parameters, it’s best to have a baseline.
Pro tip: Put everything in writing. With this approach, everyone has access to the guidelines, and if you encounter difficulties down the road you have material to refer to.
2. Identify tools to facilitate organization and efficiency.
I’m a firm believer in the idea that email will never go away and I always tend to have an overflowing inbox. It’s still the main way to communicate and document exchanges, but it isn’t necessarily the most efficient.
That’s why there are a lot of apps that serve as communication and management tools. You won’t be lacking for choices—you’ll probably be overwhelmed instead. I’ve tried many apps to figure out which one will work best, and here are my suggestions based on my experience:
- Use apps for quick communication. These apps are for instances when you need immediate exchanges. Everyone is familiar with most instant messaging apps such as Yahoo Messenger, but I’ve found Google Hangouts to be the best option, especially since most remote writers I know use Gmail. Google Hangouts also has apps for Android and iOS, making it even more useful.
- Use project management tools. As a team leader, you have to keep track of the different projects your writers are working on. For example, if you manage different blogs with several writers for each one, you’ll need help keeping track of who is supposed to be doing what and when. You can go the manual route by writing everything down on paper or create a spreadsheet, but you’ll probably end up wanting to tear your hair out in confusion.
Again, there are many project management tools to choose from, but one of the simplest is Trello. In fact, it’s so popular that practically every article about productivity and project management mentions this app. Trello lets you create a board and cards for each project, which makes organizing tasks simple. And team members can be added and assigned tasks on which they can leave notes, mark tasks, and move them around. Basically, Trello makes collaboration easy.
- Use time tracking tools. I don’t do time tracking for our team, but I do it for myself. However, if I were to track the time team members spend on tasks, I would recommend Timely. I consider Timely as a calendar/time tracker combo, and it has drastically changed my workflow and increased my productivity. This is because you can set how long you plan to work on a task and see how long you actually spent on the task. You can then identify reasons you spent more (or less) time on something and make adjustments.
Timely also has a billing feature, which is handy for remote writers. They can set their hourly rate, and the app automatically computes how much they are owed based on the time tracked. If you rely heavily on calendars such as Google Calendar, Timely has integration, so you don’t have to worry about wasting time on double entries. Timely is available for iOS, which is brilliant for remote writers who can’t stop working, even when they’re out at a coffee shop without their laptops!
3. Create a monitoring schedule.
Giving feedback to remote writers is an essential task. Earlier, I mentioned laying down some ground rules on the outset. As you go along, you need to make sure that those rules are being followed to ensure that your team is producing quality work.
As such, give feedback regularly. To be honest, this is one of my weaknesses, as I have a lot of other tasks to do on a daily basis and therefore I tend to give feedback erratically. I do think, however, that regular feedback is more effective, no matter whether it’s positive or negative.
The idea is to create a monitoring schedule for yourself. If you’ve got a tight schedule, set aside an hour or two (depending on how many team members you have) to write feedback emails. You can even schedule live chats if time zones permit. This practice ensures quality, but perhaps more importantly, makes your writers feel that they truly are part of a team.
Pro tip: Having a schedule is efficient, but don’t hesitate to give feedback anytime you deem it necessary. A simple, “Your post made my day,” will go a long way.
4. Set an example.
The best of all the tips for managing a team of remote writers I can share with you is this: walk the talk.
You can repeat your guidelines all you want, send feedback as many times as you can, or take writers to task as often as needed, but if you don’t do what you ask them to do, all your efforts are for naught.
Show your team that you believe in what you’re doing. Show them that you know what you’re asking them to do and that you would do the same for them. You’ll be rewarded with a team of loyal, hardworking writers whom you haven’t even met face-to-face.
Noemi Tasarra-Twigg is the editor and community manager of Freelance Writing Jobs, a thriving community of freelance writers that also provides a job board. Drop her a note on Twitter and Google Plus.
By Noemi Tasarra-Twigg | June 24, 2016 | Categories: Remote Management