Most of my work as a freelancer involves putting together teams of editors to work on multi-level, multi-component courses for ELT (English Language Teaching) publishers. Here are some of my top tips for getting to the top of my go-to list.
Let me know you’re getting my stuff. I don’t want to hear from you every five minutes, but I do want to know you’ve received the brief, successfully downloaded the files you need from the FTP site, and know when I’m expecting to receive a handover from you.
Keep up to date. I expect team members to be comfortable with Word styles, comments and track changes. Knowing how to share your Skype screen, do PDF markup, and use Google Docs and Dropbox are also fairly fundamental these days. For anything else, there’s training.
Know when to get in touch. Got a query about the brief? Let’s get to the bottom of that before we get underway. All clear? Great. Off we go. There are bound to be questions that come up, but it would be much more efficient all round if you sent them to me on a daily basis or a couple of times a week. Please don’t email me every time you come across something you’re not sure about. Chances are, if you press on a bit, you’ll work it out. If not, I’ll be happy to help, but not ten times a day.
Tell me if you’re running late. The project manager’s job is to keep things on schedule. If we haven’t been in touch otherwise, I’ll drop you a line each week to check in and make sure everything’s going smoothly. I will ask you if you’re on track for handover on the agreed date. At this point I need to know if you’re not going to meet that date. Telling me everything is fine when it’s not doesn’t help either of us. Now is not the time to be economical with the truth.
Don’t make excuses. There are a lot of medical conditions that I didn’t know existed before I starting project managing. I’ve learnt a couple of new ones in 2015. I don’t need to know any more in 2016.
Tell me if you’re going over budget. One of the project manager’s other key jobs is to keep things within budget. If the number of hours agreed for the current stage of the project is 50 and you’ve already done 40 hours and are only half the way through, we’re going to go over budget. We need to talk about why this is. Does the manuscript need more work than anticipated? Do the proofs have a lot of overmatter? Are there a lot of facts that need checking? The next thing we need to do is agree whether the client is happy with the additional hours, and we need to do this in good time before the handover date.
Keep it real. If you’re working on a long-term project, chances are that there will be some times when you’ll want to snap your laptop lid shut and walk away. (Please do a quick save before you do that.) Take a break, have a change of scene, do something else for a bit. But come back and drop me a line rather than get trapped in a spiral of bad feeling towards the project. It’s good to talk.
That’s what I’d like from you. What can I do for you in return?