Location, location, location – how to work remotely with a copywriter

These days, your job may require you to deal with colleagues and clients in different cities, countries and even time zones. And, with the spread of communication and collaboration tools, it’s safe to say that such working practices are here to stay. 

The same is true for suppliers. Whether you need help from a graphic designer or a trusted freelance copywriter, the days of limiting your choice to a local pool of talent are over.

One of the secret benefits of hiring remote workers is that the work itself becomes the yardstick to judge someone’s performance.
— Remote: Office Not Required – Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson

This is clearly a good thing – after all, you can now build a remote team of suppliers, available on demand. 

But remote working also presents several challenges.

In this article, we explore some of these challenges and look at ways to overcome them. Our focus here is on working with a remote copywriter (based on our experience working with clients as far afield as Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, the US and the UK), but many of these tips apply when you’re working with any overseas supplier.

Challenge: your copywriter is based in a different time zone

This is one of the biggest concerns if you’re working with a partner in another country. After all, nothing's more likely to highlight the distance between you than the fact that your copywriter isn't online for much of your working day.

If it's the first time you've worked together, this may seem like a problem. But it’s one that you can overcome with clear communication – on both sides – and by setting out your expectations from the start.

For example, if you’re working on a large project, you might want to clarify how you’ll track activity. That way, you can keep an eye on progress, whether or not your copywriter is online when you are.

You could use a project-management tool, which allows you to collaborate, share files, assign tasks and review project progress in one place. (Tip: we use Basecamp for this, although there are several similar tools available, including Trello and Asana.) Alternatively, you might ask your copywriter to email you a weekly progress update to make sure you're aware of recent activity. 

Top tips for working with an overseas copywriter

If you've decided to work with a remote copywriter, here are our top tips for a successful project:

Over-communicate. It's worth taking the time to be clear about your expectations upfront. Begin by providing a detailed brief and agreeing on suitable deadlines. Then continue to check in regularly to make sure you both know what should be happening, and when.

Share additional background materials. If you're in different time zones, you won't always be available to answer your copywriter's questions. By giving them access to all the materials you have, you can help them find some of the answers themselves, avoiding unnecessary delays.

Use technology to your advantage. Being in a different country shouldn't make it harder to stay in touch, share useful information or keep abreast of progress. If you have hard copies of a document you want to share, could you scan and email them? Could you use a project-management tool to make sure everyone can track project activity?

Ask for confirmation. If you're not going to be able to reach your copywriter for parts of the working day, ask them to confirm your project requests to make sure nothing falls through the gaps.

Set clear deadlines. And don't forget to confirm which time zone these deadlines are for!

It may also be helpful to specify some times when you'll be available to take a phone call and discuss more urgent project queries.

Challenge: you can’t meet your copywriter in person

Communication, especially if you’re used to face-to-face supplier meetings, is another area that may take some adjustment when you start working with an overseas copywriter.

Indeed, if you like the idea of having face-to-face meetings with your freelance team, working with remote partners may not be the best choice for you.

But even though it’s not always exactly the same as connecting in person, there are lots of tools that can help you make the most of your virtual relationship, rather than simply relying on email. 

We've already mentioned tools such as Basecamp, which can act as a central communication hub for your project, allowing you to post questions and share information in one place that's easy for everyone to access.

If you know you'll need to speak to your copywriter regularly to discuss a project, there are other tools available. For example, low-cost calling tools such as Skype and Google Hangouts, can provide a relatively cheap way to talk internationally. 

Other software, such as GoToMeeting, allows you to share your screen if you need to collaborate on a piece of work.

Many large companies also provide access to conference calling tools. For smaller businesses, there are a number of cheaper options, such as UberConference, that can replicate the ease and professionalism of larger solutions.

Challenge: you need to share background materials with your copywriter

When you're having face-to-face meetings with a copywriter, it's easy to hand over project materials for them to review. 

But when your copywriter's in another country, sharing these materials isn't so easy.

A good rule of thumb here is to adopt a 'digital first' approach – looking for ways to ensure that any project materials you need to share are available electronically.

However, you might also want to share hard copy documents or handwritten notes. Unless you want to spend lots of time and money at the local courier's office, you may need to find different ways to do this.

If you don't have easy access to a scanner, one easy solution is to take digital photos. You can often use the camera on your phone or tablet for this, making it easy to share the images instantly with your remote team.

For document sharing, in addition to project-management tools, you may also benefit from a file-sharing tool, such as Dropbox or Box. These act as a virtual shared folder, allowing you and your copywriter to save documents to a drive to which you both have easy access.

If you want to be able to edit and comment on draft documents, you may also benefit from a tool like Google Docs or Office Online. These let you and your copywriter work on the same document without any worries about version control.

Such tools provide much of the functionality of a Word document, while allowing you to view the latest version even while someone else is working on it. They can also be useful during conference calls, as they allow you to work together on a document in real time.

Taking the next step

If your priority is to work with a reliable and high-quality copywriter, the best candidate may not be based locally.

And while the global marketplace can provide access to a wider pool of talent, it also presents new challenges – from time-zone differences to a lack of face-to-face communication.

There are tools available to deal with most eventualities – whether you want weekly calls with your copywriter, online project management or simply a regular review of progress.

For a successful remote copywriting project, it pays to plan ahead, decide how you'd prefer to work, adopt a 'digital first' mindset and choose the best tools for the job.

By doing so, despite the distances involved, it's perfectly possible to work with your copywriter as if they were in the room next door. 

Soon, you may even find yourself wondering what other work you can outsource remotely.

Did you find this article helpful? Or do you have any other questions about working with a remote copywriter? Send us an email and we'll try our best to answer them for you.