The Internet has provided us with so many things — endless cat GIFs, interrupting Kanye West memes and the ability to work effectively from anywhere.
The rise of the remote worker presents opportunities for your businesses to grow quickly and offer job flexibility that will let you source talent from all over the world. Plugging in from the couch or the local hipster coffee place can work particularly well for writing teams, as there is so much quiet, independent work that can be done.
But overseeing remote writing teams has its complexities. There are logistical challenges, including sourcing, managing and scaling the writing team that will create your content. So how do you build, manage and grow a distributed workforce?
Build the team
1. Find experienced writers
Let’s get this out of the way: experienced writers will cost you more. But in the end, their efficiency will save you money. When you hire a content writer, find someone with a wide breadth of experience who sets pricing based on their productivity and ability to hit deadline.
2. Understand the skillset required for the job
Writing is a very generic term for a diverse set of jobs. We can all, for the most part, write something. But to turn out content for a specific audience or strategy, you need to understand what kind of content should be created. Having a solid sense for what you want to create before you hire will help you identify the right remote writer.
If you want to tell a story about your company or brand, try someone with a background in long-form journalism. If you want sharp, witty copy for your website, find someone who has worked the copy desk for an agency or marketing department.
3. Ask for diverse samples
We have a small stable of strong writers at Beegit, and before I bring in anyone new I always ask for samples across different publications, sites or formats. Good writers always have them. Seeing samples from multiple places shows that a writer is truly talented and wasn’t just boosted up by a quality editor.
If you come across writers who tell you they don’t have samples, run. Yes, everyone has to write their first piece somewhere, but it doesn’t have to be on your dime.
Manage the process
1. Centralize the writing team
I’m partial here, obviously, but this is the reason we built our collaborative writing platform. One of the hardest parts about managing a remote writing team is keeping tabs on where everyone is in their process. At one point I managed more than 15 freelancers and I can tell you that they all thought they were an inch away from deadline when it was more like a mile. That was in the stone ages (early 2000s), so I didn’t have a great way to check in on them without calling/emailing to ask how it was coming. Today, you can have your team work in a collaborative system like ours or Google docs to see progress so you can trust their process but verify that they are getting work done.
2. Give everyone the same working rules
To get consistent results, everyone needs to work from the same editorial handbook that has guidelines around your voice, style and what is appropriate for your content marketing efforts. Whatever gray area you leave will come back to haunt you.
Create a working guide, update it regularly and distribute it with the updates prominently featured. Make your team sign off that they’ve read the updates. They will hate it at times, but I promise you you’ll get much better results.
3. Make your production process lean
Remote writers can help you keep down office costs, but if the timeline to get content done bloats, you’re losing more than you’re gaining. Giving your team a central location and an editorial handbook will help curb confusion. To really keep your team rolling, get them up-to-speed on COPE: Create once, publish everywhere. This means creating web-first content in formats like Markdown and thinking from the strategy session on about how content can be repurposed.
1. Make communication a priority
When you have writers in different locations, it’s your responsibility to overcommunicate. Make sure you clearly and regularly define deadlines, expectations and goals. Remember, distributed writers aren’t around your culture daily, so you have to take your culture to them.
2. Focus on repeatable training
Remember that editorial handbook I mentioned? Make sure that reading it cover to cover is part of the onboarding for every new person you add. The same goes for adding everyone to that centralized writing room. Don’t let one person break the rules by writing in Word or having a different submission process. Unique doesn’t scale.
3. Discover your bright spots and repeat them
As you grow, do regular content audits to see what’s working. Focus in on what you do best and do more of it. Yes, it can be that simple. Give your best remote writers more to write. Find out what your best topics are and create more content around them.
It takes time to develop systems for distributed writers, but the result will be a top-notch content production process. By focusing on scalable systems and attracting high quality freelancers, you’ll be a master of the remote writing team.
Have any ideas to add? Make a comment below or feel free to shoot us a message and we can talk about it.