Being an async tech editor lets me wring the most value out of my time.

Working asynchronous, remote (who isn’t, these days?), and part-time gives me little opportunity to get into flow. Or, put another way, it means I have to be laser-focused when I sit down at the keyboard.

I have short bursts of productivity, and I want to use that time effectively. Morphing from tech writing to tech editing turned out to be the answer. Having closeable tasks that are more abstract (less creative) is ideal—like reviewing a brief or editing a written article.

I have a tiny bit of time zone overlap with my colleagues, but for the most part, I am awake while they are asleep. What used to make me sad 😢 has become my superpower 🚀.

The tyranny of asynchronicity turned me into a great editor. I got really good at:

  • Async collaboration - a boon for editors and their authors.
  • Creating connections in a remote (and distributed) team.
  • Writer empathy and compassion.

Async collaboration

I don’t have the luxury of talking to my authors in real-time. But editing is a conversation, and sometimes you need to ask questions. When you don’t have time to wait for an answer, the best practice is to use context to make educated guesses. I get that context from having an understanding of:

  • The communication strategy we’re delivering for the client
  • How this particular piece of writing fits into that strategy
  • The client, their product, and what makes them tick
  • The client’s style guide and voice.

Context helps me anticipate the author’s intention, as well as frame my suggestions and comments. An editor who understands the context of the writing gets the best outcome with the least back-and-forth.

Creating connections

It’s not essential, but it’s helpful to have a relationship with your writers. That means making an effort to establish human connection across the asynchronous-divide. I like to use any tool I can to be friendly, show my personality and establish rapport with my writers. By tool, I mean software that allows for conversation and connection to happen: Slack, Discord, email, Asana, Twitter, you name it.

A lot has been written about working remote and async. GitLab is famously all-remote and they have some useful information in their handbook.

“Asynchronous work encourages thoughtfulness and intentionality”—Gitlab

Writer empathy

Editing lends itself to moments of rapid focus because there isn’t a lot of blank-page creativity required. Sometimes I find it really hard to tackle the writing tasks that inevitably come my way. Hard as it is, it’s crucial that I continue to write because that’s what helps me be a good editor. I’m reminded just how difficult writing can be: to enter that state of flow and create.

Being aware of this discomfort helps me be a compassionate editor—I know what that writer has gone through to create a piece before it gets to me. It means I can be empathetic to their struggle, and acknowledge their effort.

Friendly elf

Since I work while my colleagues sleep, I sometimes feel like a friendly elf, and I have been dubbed Heinzelmännchen.

To be an effective friendly elf, you need a friction-free async production process so that everyone is set up for success. That means task management tools (we use Asana), established hand-off behaviors, and excellent communication skills.

It’s a cautionary tale: keep your Heinzelmännchen happy, or you will work alone.—The Elves of Cologne

(Fun fact: The agency I work for, Open Strategy Partners, is based in Cologne!)

Editing gives me the warm and fuzzies ♥

Handling editing tasks for my writer colleagues is the most valuable use of my asynchronous time. While they’re asleep, I can get straight down to adding value with a substantive edit, developmental edit, or final polish and proofread. They can wake up ready to move to the next stage of the editorial process. It means our clients always get quality. It means my colleagues don’t lose momentum when working on a piece. And because I’m working async, we can deliver content sooner.

My favorite thing is knowing that I’ve made someone else’s job or day easier. Editing tasks are discrete, with a clear start and finish. I get the satisfaction of feeling like I’ve completed something at the end of the day.


Image credits: Freelance image by Eucalyp from NounProject.com