Online community management careers are particularly well-suited to web working, since it’s possible to manage an online community from an office, at home, in a coffee shop or any other location with a stable Internet connection. As community management is a hot field right now, I thought it would be fun to take a look at a day in my life as a community manager.
The fun part of being a community manager is that every day is different, and you never quite know what to expect. Sometimes, I’ll have a pretty nice plan for how I want to spend my day, but then something in the community jumps out and has to be taken care of instead of following my original plan. This constant uncertainty is what makes it such a fun job — assuming you like flying by the seat of your pants, which I do. The difficult part about describing what community managers do every day is that the job is completely different depending on the type of community that you manage. I manage an open-source developer community, so it’s worth bearing in mind that my day might be very different from someone who manages a community of fitness enthusiasts, say. Let’s get started with a look into my life.
6:00am: I get up, put on the kettle to make some tea, and jump right into email. We have a large group of community members in Europe, so my day starts really early to take advantage of a little overlapping time to respond to critical items before they leave work. I start with all of the mailing list email, because I’ve gotten pretty good at processing this kind of email even before that first cup of tea. I try to avoid responding before I am fully caffeinated, but I can at least sort through it all and archive the things that don’t require anything from me. At this point, I move on to other email and see if there is anything urgent. Now, if I wake up to a big pile of spam or a gigantic flame war somewhere in the community, all bets are off because I’ll need to deal with that first.
7:00am: This is usually when I try to step back, assess the situation and start to plan how I really need to spend my time over the course of the day. I’ll take a look at my task list and juggle my tasks around to figure out what I need to do during the day and make sure that the tasks are appropriately prioritized. At this point, I’ll usually start poking around on IRC to see if there are any interesting discussions or questions, and I start answering those emails that I sat aside earlier.
9:00am: Around this time, I often check into other areas of the community and browse my community-related feeds and related communication: New blog posts, recent changes from the wiki, Twitter, etc. I’ll usually spend some time here responding to people, reading wiki pages and cleaning up wiki edits, and more responding to email.
11:00am: This is my break time. After working 5 hours straight, I’m usually ready for a break, so this is when I try to go for a run or work out, shower and eat lunch. Depending on the day, lunch is often consumed over the keyboard while I catch up on anything that came in during my run.
1:00pm: You probably noticed that most of my morning was spent in reactive, tactical, process-related activities. Things in my community start to quiet down considerably when all of the Europeans are asleep, so this is when I do all of my work that requires thinking, focus and strategy. I’ll often ignore email for big chunks of time in the afternoon while I focus on getting real work done. Today, for example, I spent all afternoon planning a way to overhaul some of our community communication processes and documenting these ideas so that while I’m asleep tonight, my friends in Europe can provide me with some feedback. During this big chunk of focused time, I often work on writing tasks (blog posts, community documents, etc.), metrics, strategy and planning.
4:30pm: This is my wrap-up time. I take a final look at my to-do list, finish any last minute tasks, respond to email, and do one last check on various areas of the community.
5:30pm-ish: Around this time I call it quits on most days.
Later: I usually try to check back in a couple of times in the evening and one last time before I go to bed. I try to avoid getting sucked into work, but if something critical comes in, I can deal with it.
Throughout the day: Like most people, I often have phone calls and meetings sprinkled around the day, along with email, IM, forum posts and more.
Now, I have many days that are far from typical. Some days I have 6:00am or 10:00pm meetings or, even worse, meetings all day. I also spend a fair amount of time traveling to conferences or have days where things are blowing up all over the place, but the above is as close to typical as I’ll ever get as a community manager.
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