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Summary:

I’ve been on my fair share of remote writing projects, including technical writing, contributing to books and writing for publications. Working on such projects and hearing from clients and colleagues about successful (and less so) remote writing projects, I’ve come to see that actions of both […]

I’ve been on my fair share of remote writing projects, including technical writing, contributing to books and writing for publications. Working on such projects and hearing from clients and colleagues about successful (and less so) remote writing projects, I’ve come to see that actions of both the writer and the client can influence the outcomes.

Here are my five keys to successful remote writing projects gleaned from my technical writing career:

Good documentation. I couldn’t agree more with Thursday’s recent post about the need for telecommuters to have good documentation. Managing a remote writing project can be a challenging task, so project artifacts like statements of work (SOWs) and status reports can be a helpful audit tool for both 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).

Remote access. Many of my remote writing projects require access to the technology systems I am contracted to document, so remote access is critical to the success of much or my work. Even if you aren’t a technical writer, a remote login can be useful to gain easy  access to project files, internal mailing lists, collaboration tools, and the like. You should also not just look to just the client to provide remote access and tools 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. As a remote writer, you should also plan for some redundancy for times when your home office Internet connection goes down, or you have other communications issues.

Technological self-sufficiency. In talking with colleagues and clients, the need for remote writers to be technologically self-sufficient has been a recurring theme. A writer’s technological self-sufficiency needs to extend to being able to diagnose technical problems and being able to communicate these potential issues in a proactive, clear and concise manner.

Mutually agreed upon publishing formats. Agreeing on publishing formats up front may seem like a common-sense move, but with the proliferation of MS Office alternatives, it is important that everybody on the team can open and manipulate the documents with a minimum of issues.

Managed document review cycle. Getting editorial and technical reviews of a your work completed can sometimes be a struggle, thanks to conflicting reviewer priorities and no writer on-site, standing at the reviewer’s door when the review is late. So it is best to implement a managed review cycle of documents you are writing, including accountability for yourself, accountability on the client/team side, review guidelines, and a schedule.

Do you work as a remote writer? Share your tips and advice below for successful remote writing projects.

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  1. When you are out of contact, differing expectations are bound to arise. You need to have frequent, proactive voice and text communications with your supervisors and fellow workers to keep yourself informed about evolving epectations, as well as to overcome the natural tendency to be out of mind when you are out of sight.

  2. Managing expectations and constantly delivering (in an Agile-like approach) is the key to successfully working remotely. Traditional organizations have a prejudice on working remotely (and sometimes rightfully so), but when you constantly communicate and deliver, then you’ll prove that you are as productive as if you were physically in the office.

    Granted, especially when it comes to technical writing, face to face communication is ideal to get all the real feedback (although communicating using tools has its own merits as well especially when misunderstandings arise, such as “I didn’t say that”).

    PS: For those interested, here’s a comprehensive article on the statement of work.

  3. Edward Iglesias Thursday, January 21, 2010

    I am currently editing a book with contributors all around the world. I hate to say it but everything has been handled by email and with Word documents. A much as I would like to put everything up on Google Docs or Zoho the publisher needs Word Docs. Also, the support for advanced formatting and footnotes is still lacking in Google Docs.

    What did keep everyone on track was a firm deadline and a contributor that spelled out number of words expected.

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