I’ve worked on a number of remote technical writing, reviewing, and editing projects throughout my career both full time and part time. Over time, I like to think I’ve learned a lot from these projects and put the effort to refine my workflow and approach based on what I learned on the previous project.
With some clear expectations and a little planning upfront, a remote writer or editor can be just as productive as one that is working onsite with the rest of the team. A little bit of upfront work means that remote writing and reviewing projects won’t be left out of sight and out of mind.
Set expectations for review comments. When I freelanced in computer book publishing, each publisher had in-house reviewing and editing guidelines for technical reviewers like me to follow. Not every company does that so since pursuing such projects in the technology industry, I try to take the time up front with the customer to set expectations for my reviews to make sure I am capturing exactly what they want in my edits and comments.
Set expectations about communications. By my nature, I am a very responsive person but I can’t speak for everybody. One way to get past this is to setup an informal communications plan to include email or phone call check ins. Another thing not to forget is for everybody to on the project to have each other’s contact information including email, IM, Skype, and mobile phone.
Set deadlines and project milestones. While this sounds basic, some organizations don’t set firm deadlines for documents. With set deadlines and milestones, the remote writer and the in-house team each can have piece of mind that dates are being hit and project communications aren’t just stacking up in the other person’s Outlook inbox.
Remember email, deliverables, and review comments are your “face”. Remote writers, editors, and technical reviewers should always remember that their work is their first impression on the people who receive them. Your comments and edits need to stand on their own so spend the extra time to craft comments that are clear, concise, and diplomatic.
Place documents online even if you work through email. While collaboration tools are ideal for remote working, some organizations are reluctant to implement them for such purposes. Even if you are working remotely through email, it is always wise to have your files online and available for access. Hurricane Irene and last year’s Snowmageddon with their power and cable broadband outages are prime examples of why putting project documents online is a good thing. With free and fee based services like Evernote, Google Docs, Dropbox, Box.net, and SkyDrive now available there are fewer excuses for power or connectivity outages on one side delaying the entire project.
Use track changes and comments. Both Microsoft Word and Adobe Acrobat include robust editing and reviewing tools that enable editors, reviewers, and writers to accomplish the full life cycle of document editing and reviewing tasks online. The best part is that these tools make it easy for writers to work through the changes and if need be make comments back asking for further clarifications on the edit.
What does your organization do to ensure the success of remote writing and editing projects?