Should You Transition Toward Managing Writers?
You might be a very talented writer. That could mean your portfolio could include many articles, case studies, white papers, or blog posts. Those talents could also include learning every rule in the AP Style guide or a few other style guides.
But sooner or later, you might desire to “move up on the food chain” work-wise. Indeed, managing other writers allows you to take the burden of writing off yourself and delegate it to others. Doing so gives you more responsibility and job prestige without the taxing overhead of researching and writing tasks.
But while it may be appealing to “have someone else do the work,” as it were, “the work” won’t just disappear. Instead, it transforms into new responsibilities — supervising and polishing other writers’ outputs, which could be quite different from yours.
When considering transitioning from writer to managing writers, two critical skills will come into play – project management and editing.
How Good Are You at Project Management?
Project management is a very different task than writing. Keeping track of just one other writer working on five different pieces might sound manageable. But what happens when you multiply that scenario by four or five times? It might become clear why using project management apps and tools to keep track of all the “planes in the air” — to use an air traffic control analogy — could be advisable.
Only some writers desire to be project managers, and some writers aren’t well suited. After all, you may feel that managing your writing projects is challenging enough. You’re already estimating how long a piece will take to complete and researching, outlining, writing, proofreading, and editing. But now, imagine doing this (minus the research and writing parts) for dozens of pieces and multiple people.
Katy Willis, a multi-passionate B2B and B2C writer and editor shares this advice, “Use your experience. You’ve spent time in the trenches. You already know what makes a great assignment that sets you up for success as a writer. And you know that a great manager or team leader really inspires you, as a writer, to go above and beyond. Use that experience and flip it. Create the clear, unambiguous, detailed briefs and style guides that you wish every client had given you when you were a writer. Lay out achievable turnaround times and crystal clear expectations. Manage your team as you always wanted to be managed as a writer.”
Some writers might feel dizzy just thinking about it. But others may not be intimidated, while others might relish such an opportunity. However, remember that the motivation levels, production capacity, and timelines of other writers could differ from yours. Managing writers means considering different working styles and varying senses of priority, timing, and reliability. Consider the old saying that good help is hard to find.
How Good Are You at Editing?
Working methods will differ. Consider how good you are at self-editing. Have you ever tried editing someone else’s writing? How did you like it? Was it tolerable (or even appealing) or frustrating?
The answers to these questions may determine how suited you are to managing writers. Do you consider proofreading and editing your work to be “a drag?” Then, how will it go proofreading and editing the work of four or five other people? It might be challenging to feel satisfied with their work’s style, quality, and production rate.
Jess Shanahan, a B2B content strategist and journalist, manages a team of twenty writers. When it came to transitioning from being a writer to managing writers, she told us, “I had to let go against a lot of my perfectionist tendencies and learn to edit in a helpful and constructive way. That was the most difficult. There’s also an element of coaching that I didn’t expect. Because I know the clients so well, I need to train other writers in brand voice and specific style elements, not to mention grammar and so on.”
Another consideration is that it may be your job to get the output of all the writers you manage to align with a product, brand, company voice, and writing standards. Of course, if you have enough writers to outsource, it could be another person’s job to handle editing or project management.
Final Thoughts About Managing Writers
As you can see, managing writers is a very different job than writing yourself. It entails additional responsibilities and requires a greater perspective. Consider trying this on a small scale or for a limited period to see if it’s a good fit. If it all goes well, enjoy your new role as a content manager or managing editor, and consider yourself one rung higher up the career ladder!
About the author:
Seth Lambert brings over thirty years of experience creating web content for Fortune Global 100, midsize, and startup companies. Check out his writer profile today to see how he can help you with content creation.