Working with Others—A Primer

Unless you’re a jack-of-all-trades type (and a master of all, too), chances are you will need to work with others on your path to success. Of course there’s the obvious ones: editors and publishers. But there’s others you may encounter with varying degrees of involvement, and you may possibly even employ: web designers and developers, graphic designers for layout and covers, illustrators and artists—the list is long. Here’s some tips to improve your working relationship with them.

Know Their Work Schedule
Many are freelancers and may have day jobs. Even if they work full time in their field, they may not work 9 to 5. That’s one of the perks of working for yourself—choosing your own hours. Find out when the person is available, and work out the best times to contact each other (and don’t be calling them at 8 in the morning if this isn’t organized ahead of time). Don’t forget, time zones can greatly influence this—freelancing through the net means people could be anywhere and work with you.

Work Out the Means of Contact
There’s email, phone calls, SMS, IM, Twitter, Facebook messages, Skype, and many more—all potential ways to get in contact with someone else. For me, I’m not generally fond of phone calls. They’re great for focused attention, and I’ll rely on them if the client seems unable to process long emails, but generally my preference is email (it can be detailed, thorough, there’s a written record of everything, and I can read or write at my convenience). I also don’t generally give out my cell phone. Others will have their own preferences. Of course, like the time of day, your input is important here, too. If they insist on working through Skype and you’re video shy, let them know—maybe it’s not the right fit.

Remember You’re Not the Only One
Very rarely will you be the only client the other person is working with. You have every right to expect people to stick to agreed-upon timelines, but it’s unrealistic to expect their full attention to be on you. Don’t message them several times a day, don’t micro-manage the project, and give them space to do their work (for you and others) and get back to you in a reasonable amount of time.

Be Respectful, and Be Direct
While politeness goes a long way, being direct is also important. If you are unhappy with how something is progressing, you need to raise those concerns at the first opportunity. During a website design, the designer should be showing you steps along the way—wireframes, color schemes, design concepts. Other work may have similar steps. You don’t have to be a jerk (there’s always ways of saying something nicer than others), but if you’re not communicating clearly you may leave too much room for misunderstandings.

Should a project get to the point that you need to walk away from it, realize there may be a kill-fee (where you owe something even if it’s not finished or usable). And even if not, come to a solution that works for both—if someone just spent a week of their time doing something for you, there should be some monetary exchange.

Come Prepared
There’s a lot of leg work you can do yourself before engaging someone else. Is the project something visual? If so, find pieces that represent what you’re looking for, and other examples of what you don’t want, and convey your thoughts on it all. This works for website design, book design, covers, illustrations—you name it. Take photos of physical goods (or buy a copy or two), bookmark sites, build Pinterest boards. Show this when you start working with someone else and see if they’re even comfortable with your goals—they may not be, and it’s best they walk away before getting involved.

Use Written Agreements, and Stick to Them
There should be a contract in place when work is being done and money is being exchanged. At a minimum, you should have an email with the project listed out, including deliverables, timelines, rights, and costs, and have an acknowledgement from both parties that it represents what is to be done.

My agreements always contain responsibilities for clients—these include quick turnaround times for feedback, getting sign-offs for work, and getting any assets in a timely manner. Without proper follow-through on my client’s end, I am unable to perform my job and delivery dates may well be missed. You should know what your responsibilities are to assist someone working for you, and do everything you can to take care of them properly.

There’s more posts to come in the future, but hopefully this works as a primer. You will need to work with others, and it can either be a rewarding or challenging experience—it’s at least partially up to you.

Working During Air Travel

Ryan Macklin is a freelance writer & editor in the hobby game industry and Creative Director for Evil Hat Productions. He’s flown over a hundred times in the last six years, with many travel hours spent working against deadline. His blog and projects can be found at Follow him on Twitter: @RyanMacklin.

Many of us have been there: you’re up against a tight deadline, and there’s a plane to catch. You think to yourself, “I’ll get some work done on the trip.” You think it’ll be easy, since you’ll have nothing to do for a few hours.

Truth is, it’s rough. Anyone who has traveled knows it can result in a weird fugue state, for many reasons: exhaustion due to waking up at odd hours; travel anxiety resulting in little sleep the night before; frustration with long lines while checking luggage or going through security; or that weird loneliness that happens right after conventions. But if you’re going to try it, here are a few tips.

Treat Every Hour as a Bonus Hour

You can’t predict how you’ll feel before boarding your plane, and you can’t predict exactly how much time you’ll have. And that’s nothing to say of finding a suitable place to work, with enough space, power , and wi-fi.

Then there’s the flight itself. You may not be able to work if there’s turbulence, if people in your row constantly need you to get up so they can use the bathroom, if you have to juggle a laptop and a drink on a tiny tray table, things like that.

So don’t assume you can get work done while traveling. Hope for the best, but assume travel days are a wash.

Work at a Different Gate

Your gate’s going to be crowded, with a hundred-some people waiting around for their flight. If you can’t find a good seat to work at, look around. There may be a gate nearby with plenty of seats available.

If you do this, be mindful of your own flight, particularly of any schedule or gate changes. If you’re on a flight that’s delayed, double-check every fifteen minutes or so; sometimes those delays are suddenly cleared up.

Make Friends, Bring Power

There are around a hundred at your gate, and far fewer power outlets, making getting an outlet feel like winning a jackpot. If you want to improve your odds (and make some other travelers happy), pack a small power strip. I use the Belkin Mini Surge, which has three outlets, rotates different directions.

Go cheap and go small. Cheap because you might lose it during travel, and small because you don’t want to lug around something huge in your carry-on and have something unwieldy to deal with if the TSA unpacks your bag to search it.

Don’t Plan on Wi-Fi

Many airports have wi-fi (at least the ones in the US that I’ve flown through). Some make you pay for it, and I’ve never seen the point in paying ten bucks for a 90-minute layover. Some are free, but use proxy servers that hijack your browser, putting everything in a frame that makes some browser-based software not work. For instance, I have given up trying to update entries on WordPress sites at Oakland International.

And the wi-fi will likely have two problems, especially if it’s free: it’ll be slow because of all the people using it, and it might be flaky because it’s poorly maintained. So don’t rely on wi-fi. Just as you should treat time working as bonus time, likewise treat having functional wi-fi as a bonus.

You might also be on an airplane with wi-fi. It’s just as expensive and likely to be problematic, so caveat emptor.

Cloud Storage and Potential Failure

Some people don’t worry about wi-fi because they use Dropbox or other cloud storage. If you’re one of these people, great! But just as a precaution, download local copies. Occasionally cloud storage systems glitch and overwrite your hard work with an earlier version. That happened to me once when the wi-fi went out and came back ten minutes later, and I was livid.

Choose Your Work Wisely

Once you’ve boarded your flight, focus on work that you can pick up & put away easily. Turbulence happens, forcing you to close your laptop or put away your notebook because it’s impossible to type or write. Choose work that uses the least amount of space; I don’t do graphic design or audio production on a plane, because I use a mouse for those.

Now, this might not be the work you need to do right now, depending on what you have on deadline. I’ve found I get more out of working on small things—like notes for upcoming projects, to-do lists for the next few days, and other preparation work—than I do on more intensive jobs.

Bring a Note Pad

For reasons that should be obvious by now, bring a note pad. You might not have the power or space to use a laptop. And on the plus side, flight attendants never tell you to turn off your note pad (though they will tell you to put your tray table up).

Remember That Travel Sucks For Everyone

I’ve focused on telling you ways to try to get work done and reduce some of the hassle, but it’s important to keep in mind that you’re not the only person having to deal with travel issues on this trip. If you’ve tried to work while you’re crabby, tired and frustrated, you know it’s no fun. And the folks next to you might be going through that very problem.

Moods are contagious, both good and bad. Trying to put forward a good mood is a fantastic defense against catching someone’s bad mood and losing productivity. (And as a plus, you might even make someone’s bad travel day a little better.)


Just because you can work doesn’t mean you should. If you’re tired or stressed, the work will be low quality, and you’ll have to do it over. And if you focus on working rather than relaxing, you may make your travel that much more stressful—which will make you worse company when you get off the plane. There’s no advantage to getting a couple hours of crap-quality work done if it’s going to make you a jerk after the flight.