As a long-time technical writer, I’ve been on my share of remote writing projects whether it is technical writing, contributing to books, writing for publications, to my writing for CNET TechRepublic and other sites.
I’ve come to see that actions of both the writer and the client can influence the success of the writing project.
Here are five keys for successful remote writing projects that I’ve seen throughout my career:
Solid project documentation
Depending on culture and a variety of other factors, managing a remote writer can be a challenging task so project artifacts like statements of work (SOWs) and status reports can be a helpful audit tool for you the writer and the client. You should also consider documentation for remote writing projects to include style guides, templates, and source material for the writing assignment(s). As a remote writer — lacking face time with the client and the rest of the project team — good documentation is a powerful management tool you can use to show your progress and challenges in a non-confrontational manner.
Many of my remote writing projects has required access to the technology systems I am contracted to document so I consider remote access critical to the success of a remote writing project. Even if you aren’t a technical writer, remote access can extend to project files, internal mailing lists, collaboration tools, and the like you need access to when working on your writing project.
You should also not look to just the client to provide remote access for the project because as you are bringing in outside expertise some clients may also look for you to bring new ideas like Google Wave to the table for document collaboration and communications.
As a remote writer, you should also have some manner of redundancy in place for times when your home office broadband connection goes down, or you have other communications issues.
In talking with colleagues, clients, and previous clients the need for a remote writer to be technologically self-sufficient has been a reoccurring theme and often is a major part of the fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) that deters some organizations from working with a remote writer.
A writer’s technological self-sufficiency needs to extend to being able to diagnose remote access issues, their own computer problems, and being able to communicate these potential issues in a proactive, clear, and concise manner.
Mutually agreed upon publishing formats
After spending an inordinate amount of time recently diagnosing and troubleshooting some Microsoft Word document issues for a client I’ve come to see the importance of agreed upon publishing formats for documents.
I raise the issue of the Word document problems is because if formatting and publishing problems become particularly virulent like they did in this document set then it is going to require some extra work on the part of you as the writer and the client and or internal owners of the template and publishing tools to resolve the issues.
Managed document review cycle
Getting editorial and technical reviews of a writer’s work can sometimes be a struggle with conflicting priorities and no writer onsite to be standing at the reviewer’s door when the review is late. So it is best if you look to putting in a managed review cycle over documents you are writing including accountability for yourself, accountability on the client/team side, review guidelines, and a schedule.
While my list could go on, a lot depends on the nature of the project, team, and client/employer.
Do you work as a remote writer? Share your tips and advice below for successful remote writing projects.
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Will Kelly is a technical writer and analyst based in the Washington, DC area. His writing experience also includes writing technology articles for CNET TechRepublic and other sites. Will’s technology interests include collaboration platforms, enterprise mobility, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), project management applications, and big data. Follow him on Twitter: @willkelly.