At Express Writers, my full-time staff and team of more than 50 work on a completely remote basis.
Yet, we manage to be so effective that our support turnaround times average within the hour, if not minutes after the 50–100 client requests we get daily (that’s across emails, chat, and phone support), and our writer, editorial, and management team work seamlessly together getting our client’s content through the queue on or before deadlines.
Our client happiness rate is 99.9%, and we handle hundreds of pages in any given week and have served over 5,000 clients to date.
Some people have asked me, “Have you ever considered opening a local office?”
The truth is, I have! I moved to Austin thinking I’d set up an office space and hire more local staff about two years ago. I thought it would be an interesting and profitable switch, after running Express Writers as a remotely staffed company since 2011. But I quickly had to rule it out. The overhead was tremendously pricey – it would add on an estimated $2,000-3,000/monthly to our expenses, and that was at a “cheap” location in Austin. Downtown, prices ran around $8,000. Our profit level at the time didn’t make that an option. With a self-funded business and a family to support, I had to watch expenses closely.
[Keep reading for the full story, and to see a “day in the life” from each of our full-time management staff members.]
A Day in the Life of a Remote Team: How We’re a Business Run 100% Remotely (& Why We Succeed at It)
Then, late last year (2016), I started finding the most amazing team members I’ve ever put into place in the staff.
I realized that space and location means nothing when you have the right people – and if I was limited to one city and one office location, I would never have been able to hire these amazing people.
After a difficult year where it was extremely hard to find the right people, I spent more time to find experts who had our clients’ best interests and each other’s support at heart.
It took five months, but I found them all. When I found the right people for management – everything changed. Drastically.
In a move to recreate the team mindset 100% and improve our client support last year, I let our commissioned sales rep go and found a content marketing expert (Tara Clapper) to consult our clients on purchasing from us.
Within the first week of Tara in the sales role, I heard from a client that the level of support he now experienced was a hundred times better in quality (comparing service from the commissioned sales rep to Tara). It was music to my ears, and confirmed that we were on the right path.
By the end of that year, I’d assembled a group of incredible women in the management staff that I’m proud to say have nothing but the success and growth of our company as a whole at heart: Tamila, Tara, Hannah, and Katria.
Our best successes started happening after this management team of amazing ladies was put in place.
Our writers and editors, also fully remote, work on an internal teamroom that’s half custom/half a hack of a current platform. Our internal workflow is built to move content from writing to editing queues, and we’ve been able to maintain and keep our activity level seamless.
Last year, I discovered that the same principle applied to all of our writing and editing roles as well: if I spent time finding and training the right people for every role, from social media copywriter to creative bio writer, strategist and editor, we would get the best results – the best people, and the best content for our clients. I found amazing, successful writers at the most unlikely places: a neighbor’s recommendation, a book club.
With the right people and ongoing mentoring that I’ve put in place – assisted by our editorial staff – we have some of the highest writer retention and happiness rates we’ve ever had.
Now that you have some of the backstory of why we do so well as a remote team…
Let’s talk about a “day in the life.”
A Day in the Life at Express Writers’ Remote Staff
Tamila, Sales Manager: A Day in My Life
My day starts around 4:15 a.m. with a cup of coffee and reading a few articles about content marketing to sharpen my skills. By 5:30 a.m., I’m answering emails from clients and checking orders. One of my goals is hitting up 10 cold leads from various sources each day which takes quite a bit of time.
I also have a huge list of leads that I send emails to. The rest of my time is spent chatting, calling and working with our staff to ensure our clients are happy. Lunch is whenever I remember to take it, normally 12:00-1:30 p.m.
I am constantly thinking of better ways to help our clients and to offer them amazing content. At the end of the day (5:00 p.m.), I close out ensuring that everyone that contacted me that day has been given the best customer service available.
Julia, CEO: A Day in My Life
My day starts around 7:30 a.m. with an audiobook, hugs and kisses from my groggy two-year-old, a daily tonic (a simple combination of warm water, apple cider vinegar, and honey), and making a pot of coffee for the day ahead.
After I drop my daughter off at daycare, around 9:00 a.m., I start plunging into work and all the activities lined up for my day. I schedule most of my meetings on Mondays and Fridays, and I record podcast calls biweekly. If I don’t have meetings, I buckle down with a couple major focuses for the day: a long-term growth goal (right now, that’s my certification course), content marketing at Express Writers (our blogs, infographics, and guest blog presence), and HR (hiring and interviewing new team members). My day breaks around 1:30 or 2:00 for lunch and a short activity – hike, walk, or chiropractor appointment.
I plunge back in and work till 5:00 p.m. 5:30 – 9:00 is family time, and I’ll end the day by keeping up in my field of expertise, content marketing: reading news and blogs, or a recently published book, or learning about a new tool on the market, and working on our blogs for the next week.
Tara, Content Development Specialist: A Day in My Life
I log on around 10 a.m. eastern, once my coffee is made. I start with emails. Since Tamila logs on earlier than me, she leaves me a message if there are any urgent customer needs. I block out the first 30 minutes of my day for this, and to check in with the rest of the team.
After that, I usually have 1-3 calls with clients and prospects. As a content development specialist, I speak with qualified leads to match them with the content they need. Once the phone call is complete, I usually send them a shopping cart and provide an update to Tamila.
Once the client-facing work is done, I hunt for guest appearance opportunities for myself and Julia, create guest content for other sites, and appear on guest channels. I also evaluate local, regional, national, and even international events to see if they’re a good fit for us. Then I present that info to Julia. Throw in some high-level editing, and that’s my day.
Sometimes I work straight through the day, but other times I break it up. It depends on the needs of our clients. I usually like to have a break between my client-facing work and my creative/exploratory work. I’m writing this at 2 a.m. on a Sunday and I’m known for being a night owl. I wrote one of my best pieces for The Write Blog on a Saturday afternoon when I just couldn’t get the idea out of my head!
Hannah, Sales Specialist/Project Manager: A Day in My Life
When I wake up, it’s usually about 4 a.m. here in Oregon. I love the peace and quiet that the early morning hours bring. Although I’m a diehard coffee drinker, I like to start my day with a cup of my favorite herbal ginger turmeric tea while I check email and respond to clients. Next, depending on the day, I either take a break to go to the gym or start in on sending out emails to prospective clients. When breakfast time rolls around, I take another break and make a cup of coffee and something to eat at my desk.
In between phone calls I am constantly checking our database for completed Project Management client content to edit and deliver to them while updating my spreadsheets. I like to break for lunch and take a walk around noon, and then when I come back, I can really focus in my current clients and new sales. I try to finish up by 3 p.m. PST and head out the door to coach volleyball.
After dinner, when my kids are in bed, I love to work on creating content and staying current with new trends that can help my clients or team.
Katria, Content Manager: A Day in My Life
My day starts at 7:30AM with a small breakfast and coffee. At 8:30AM, I check my emails to see if anything urgent regarding orders or writers needs to be taken care of. Then I assign new orders to the writers and set up their deadlines.
After orders are assigned and priority client assistance is taken care of, I deliver orders and check on anything due the same day. If anything is late, I send reminders to writers and penalize them when applicable. I also send updates if anything is going to be late (usually because an editor had to send something back to be revised).
I take my lunch break for about an hour and assign more orders when I get back. The rest of my day is mostly a cycle of assigning, delivering, checking on orders, and giving our clients updates.
I also sometimes assist clients on our automated chat system or help clients place orders.
Once a month, I hold meetings with the editors to discuss the writers (who has improved, who needs to be let go, etc.), how the editing can be improved and more streamline to get everything delivered on time, and all things related.
My day ends around 5-5:30PM and I spend the evenings relaxing with a good book or watching Mystery Science Theater 3000.
Tools We Use to Work Remotely
We have several main apps to help us manage conversations, activities and the things we do on a daily basis. Here are a few:
1. Custom Developed Solutions: Our teamroom and Content Shop are custom built platforms, led by our CTO, Josh McCoy. We’re in the middle of redeveloping it (happening as we speak). Development is a beast, and funding is completely bootstrapped – but progress is happening!
2. Skype: This is the “virtual office” of our entire management staff. We keep each other updated on breaks, ask for support, and even have multiple Skype threads that address the different communications we need to have internally every day.
3. Zoho: Email, internal client-focused communications (the streams function and “comment-on/share-emails” functionality is amazing), and collaborative documents.
4. Drift: This is our live chat on-site, where we handle client and new prospect questions. The Live View feature, where you can start chats with anyone on your site, is awesome:
Here’s a look at the home screen of Drift.
5. MeetEdgar: We’re about to switch to this program from Buffer to get more traction out of all the social media content we create.
6. Nextiva: This is our client and staff phone system of choice. We love the capabilities that Nextiva has, including custom extensions, phone recordings we can grab anytime – this is hugely helpful to client accounts where writers need to hear additional information. The Nextiva app makes it easy for remote team members to be available on phone anytime, but not have to worry about it interfering with their personal cell number or client numbers getting lost in their own private number lists.
A Day in the Life of a Remote Team (in Pictures)
Behind the scenes: me at my desk. Multiple cups of coffee throughout the day is necessary to a work-at-home lifestyle.
I’m lucky: my home office faces a quiet acre. I get a lot of work done in this spacious room. I like to transition between desk + chair and couch for different tasks. For some reason, I find that I can think more creatively when sitting on a couch, so I write most of my blogs sitting on that corner couch.
I’m busy working on a certification course this month – hence all the scribble scrabble and notes on the whiteboard.
A Day in the Life: Summed Up
There you go…
A #dayinthelife of our remote team!
We’re always progressing, working hard to stay on top of the industry, and rock out at what we do – full service content creation. We all love what we do, and one of our best competitive edges is the ability we have to grow and progress together in creating great content!
Questions about our daily workflow? Leave a note in the comments!