Managing Remotely: Tips and Tools for Managing Editorial Teams from Afar

Pretty soon, most magazines won’t just be managing editorial teams in-house—they’ll be managing more editors remotely. Here’s how to make the virtual world work for your publication.


Managing editorial teams in-person can be a challenge for any seasoned magazine executive. You’re dealing with constant looming deadlines, bouts of writer’s block, keeping your team on-task, and producing a quality publication that readers want to buy and subscribe to.

Managing remotely, though? Some editors view that responsibility as an added stressor during the day, but it can truly be quite the opposite. In fact, once you’ve got the tools and processes in place, you may find that managing remotely is one of your favorite parts of your job.

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01-managing-remotely-tips-and-tools-for-managing-editorial-teams-from-afarSet your expectations when managing editorial teams in the virtual realm

You’re used to working with freelancers—they pitch, you accept, you get an article, you edit or ask for revisions, they get paid, life goes on—but if you have a solid team of regular contributors or paid staff writers who work from home, you can’t just fly by the seat of your pants. It’s up to you to decide exactly what you need from your writers, when you need it, how you need it, and what you expect of them.

You should never just expect that your team will know what you want, but this holds even truer when you’re managing remotely. Your writers can’t see you at all—unless you turn that laptop webcam on—so how can they possibly have a clue?

Essential details you want to get in writing and share upfront include:

  • Your stance on deadlines. Are they flexible, or absolutely non-negotiable?
  • Editorial guidelines. What do you expect regarding word count and overall structure? Is there a phrase you never want to see a writer use?
  • Working hours. Should staff writers always be available during certain hours of the day for revisions or questions? Or can they get their work done on their own time, as long as deadlines are met?
  • The preferred method of communication. Do you only want to receive questions via email? Are weekly editorial meetings always video chats on Slack or screen shares on GotoMeeting?
  • Invoicing. Should independent contractors bill by piece, word, or hour? Do you want staff writers to track their time?

You get the idea. The more detail you can provide when managing editorial teams remotely—preferably in writing and saved in readily available documents—the better.

02-managing-remotely-tips-and-tools-for-managing-editorial-teams-from-afarThe tools you need for managing remotely with digital magazine editorial teams

Overwhelmed by the thought of managing remotely? Don’t be. Telecommuting is on the rise, and there are tons of different technology tools that are being created to meet that global demand.

“Technology like Slack, Skype, and Google Docs all make collaboration very easy for distributed teams to work together seamlessly and be equally if not more productive,” Kathleen Smith, founder of The Content Canvas, told SHRM Online.

You need to: Manage time and projects
Try: Project management platforms like Basecamp or Asana. There is also an editorial project management platform called GatherContent. These tools provide a central location for everyone on your team to stay in touch, upload work, and provide updates. You’ll always know if certain pieces are on track to meet a deadline because all the details will be right in the system.

You need to: Communicate
Try: Team chat apps like HipChat (which Mequoda uses!) or Slack for casual chatting, quick questions, or file sharing. For meetings, a video is almost always best, and HipChat and Slack both have this feature. You can also go old school with Skype where you can see each other and share screens.

You need to: Collaborate
Try: MindMeister is fantastic for interactive, visual brainstorming sessions with remote teams, while Google Docs allows you to easily share articles and edit in real-time. You can also create a channel on Slack where individual teams can get together to bounce ideas off of each other.

03-managing-remotely-tips-and-tools-for-managing-editorial-teams-from-afarManaging editorial teams requires constant communication

Some writers may be used to just putting their noses down to the grindstone and getting their work done without a lot of communication or interaction. Writers may also be a bit more introverted and slightly harder to drag out of their shells. That is all well and good, but you still need to prioritize communication on your team when you’re not all in the same office building every day.

Schedule weekly check-ins for your editorial team in which everyone is expected to get on video chat and share what they’re working on. This helps create a team vibe and will make your writers feel like they’re actually contributing to something bigger than just their one article.

Consider bi-monthly one-on-one video calls with writers to make sure they have everything they need, find out if you can help, and get a sense for their overall state of mind. Just knowing you care can make a positive impact on your team members.

Finally, if you set guidelines for communication—how and when and why it should happen—then you need to walk the walk. Your remote team needs to see you sticking to the rules you’ve implemented because they’ll know you mean business and it will breed respect for your overall management style.

Once you have the tools and techniques down, you’ll be ready—and after a while, you’ll probably wonder what made you so nervous about managing a remote editorial team in the first place.

What’s your favorite way to stay connected with remote employees, editors, and writers?


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