It’s a telecommuting world.
A whopping 30 million Americans work from home, according to the latest study by Telework Research Network. And that tally is only expected to grow, with more than 60 percent expected to work from home by 2018.
But that presents its own sets of challenges. Maybe your office is based out of Sydney, Australia, but the writer you’re working with is based out of Toronto. There’s little to no face-to-face contact. Even reaching someone in a timely fashion can be a challenge, despite all your “instant” electronic options.
Sure, you can shoot the bull with the project manager or writer. But you don’t know when, and if, you’ll be able to reach them again when it matters.
That’s why every call, Skype message and email needs to have purpose behind it.
Step 1: Establish All Contact Info
Whether you’re dealing with a local writer you’ve contracted out or a client who’s 1,000 miles away, there’s one step that’s critical to the process: You must obtain all contact info for that person.
Cell phone number(s). Home number. Skype address. Email address. Those are the biggies.
But you can take it a step further by asking for additional contact info, like sending them social media invites.
Sending out a Facebook friend request may seem odd, but it works. Say you’re desperately trying to reach a writer who can take care of some breaking news. You want to post it immediately, both to your blog and to your social media properties. Problem is, the writer isn’t answering her cell phone. She’s not on Skype. And she’s slow to answer emails.
Maybe her cell phone is dead, so she never received your calls, texts or heard the email notification on her phone. She could, though, be playing around on Facebook, which allows you to message someone without posting it to their wall.
The point is, you need to request any and all points of contact if you’re working with a telecommuter. If it’s urgent, try every way of contacting him or her that’s available.
Step 2: Establish Best Times to Connect
Say you’re an SEO company based out of India, but you use an American writing crew. You could be looking at a 10 1/2 hour time zone difference. In other words, there’s not a convenient time to call. Even if you call them at 8 a.m. your time, it may be 10:30 p.m. their time.
Take the time zone difference out of the equation. When you establish all contact info, you also need to establish a time frame for when to expect an email, Skype call, etc. And it has to be consistent. That way, your writing crew knows that, every morning when they start work, there will be an email from you with instructions on the latest project, for example.
You also need to factor in work schedules. For example, you wouldn’t want to call a restaurant during the lunch or dinner hours simply because you know they’re busiest during those times. The same goes for any employee in any job. Maybe the writer you’re working with does most of his work early in the morning. Therefore, sending him a bunch of emails or calling him several times during those hours is not only an inconvenience for him, his work may suffer because of it.
Of course, this is a bit of a cookie cutter approach to things. New projects and deadlines come up all the time. So it’s also important that the freelancer you’re working with knows to check his or her email several times a day, just in case.
3. Make Every Connection Count
See if this sounds familiar: You called your freelance writer around 3, talked a little bit about the next project, then spend the next 10 minutes chatting about each other’s kids. Five minutes after you hang up, you realize something: You forgot to give him the keywords for the assignment. You try calling him back, but get no answer. You email him, but get no response. Maybe he’s at dinner. Or maybe he already started the assignment and is turning his electronics off to focus.
The point is, you have to make your conversations matter, whether it’s via text, email, IM, or a Skype or phone call. Cover all important points before you chat about anything else – write down what you need to go over, if it helps. Include all instructions, and leave nothing to the imagination. If you speak to a reporter over the phone or Skype, email her the details, too, so that she has it in writing.
Otherwise, by the time you get a hold of the writer, it might be too late.