Fueled by the coronavirus pandemic, more and more jobs are shifting to home-based or other remote environments. While writing off-site requires discipline and good communication, the advantages of remote work help many writers produce their best work.
For professionals who are accustomed to the traditional office environment, it can be hard to envision a successful off-site work experience. How do you write well if you’re not in the same space as the necessary data and experts? As a ProEdit writer, I was one of the lucky ones when the pandemic upended the traditional work experience. I’ve been writing remotely for years, using reliable technology and strategies that keep my work-from-home routine on autopilot.
There are many strategies for writing outside the office, but having a solid routine will keep you on track. However, writing off-site requires more than a regular schedule, dedicated workspace, and a planned workflow. These tips can help you stay focused, productive, and successful while working remotely.
Collect Your Data
You can’t write about what you don’t understand. Before putting the proverbial pen to paper (or fingers to keys), writers must first gather source information. Primary research can take many forms:
- Notes and interviews with subject matter experts (SMEs)
- Existing reference material
- Visual assets
- Document templates and branding style guides
- Competitors’ documentation
Skilled writers use information literacy to find, evaluate, and use source data to craft compelling content. This is how writers can delve into unfamiliar subjects and gather the necessary information to meet the project’s requirements. You must be able to predict what omitted or missing information would create content gaps and identify the resources needed to fill these gaps.
Good writing is a balancing act. In addition to researching and curating content, you must also recognize when too much information dilutes the message. This depends on the writer’s understanding of the intended audience—will the reader be unfamiliar with the topic, familiar but not proficient, or an expert? Gather the data you need, and use real-time and asynchronous communication to stay in touch as the project unfolds.
Use Synchronous and Teleconferencing Tools for Real-Time Communication
It’s no secret that effective communication is key to working off-site. Writers often use teleconferencing apps to communicate with clients, ask questions, and receive clear instructions and feedback. Tools such as Zoom, GoToMeeting, Skype, and Google Hangouts make it easy to schedule meetings, share screens, and connect over video.
While teleconferencing is ideal for kickoff meetings and major project milestones, there are many other ways to keep in touch with team members:
- Chat apps like Slack and Discord streamline communication and organization with channels for each project, topic, or team.
- Project management apps like Airtable and Monday.com provide a visual platform to plan, organize, and track work. This keeps writers and managers on the same page.
- Cloud repositories like Google Drive, Citrix ShareFile, Office 365, and Dropbox ensure secure document storage, address versioning issues, and facilitate collaboration among team members.
Use Asynchronous Communication to Keep Projects Moving
Great conversations don’t always need to occur in real-time. Asynchronous platforms, such as email, ensure ongoing communication while giving individuals control over their schedules. For example, remote teams may have members in different time zones. Email is a great avenue for questions that are important but not urgent.
Some writers (like us at ProEdit) use email for weekly status updates. These reports identify the work accomplished each week, track hours, and outline goals for the upcoming week. This asynchronous communication is an effective way of keeping writers, project managers, and clients informed of progress.
Commenting features in Word, InDesign, and Acrobat Reader make it easy for writers to ask questions and make suggestions about a particular document. SMEs and writers use these features to review questions and suggestions on their own time without scheduling a meeting. Clients save time and cost, and writers have more control over their schedule.
Asynchronous communication also allows for scheduled revision cycles. Companies and clients can review projects and request changes before receiving the final draft. Scheduled revision cycles are one of the most important communication strategies when working off-site. It gives writers, editors, and instructional designers space to be creative while giving company stakeholders the power to influence and direct the final result.
The Bottom Line
Working from home has numerous advantages as long as you have a plan to stay focused and connected through the workday. You don’t have to forego collaboration and socialization just because you are working off-site. Use communication tools to check in with your coworkers, and know when to step away when you need a break. Writers tend to work best with structure, so dedicate a space that’s solely for your writing—even if it’s a small nook.
ProEdit’s team of writers uses reliable technology, intuitive communication apps, and effective verbal skills to research and write well remotely. We know when and how to ask questions and are responsive to client feedback, adjusting to their needs and expertise.
Feeling stuck on a project? Tell us about it, and we can help you create a plan to see it through. From project coordination to staffing services, training courses, and more, ProEdit’s solutions can save you money, energy, and time.