The complete guide to build your editorial calendar on Trello
Freelance writing has evolved over the years, and it’s no longer necessary to rely on lengthy email chains and endless pitch templates between writer and editor to get quality content assigned. Trello has been embraced by many content managers as a simple yet effective interface for remote teams. It’s uncluttered, highly-customizable, and mobile-friendly. That’s why it’s not surprising to see so many editors using it as their favorite tool for creating and managing editorial calendars.
Quite simply, each article idea can live on its own Trello card. This functions much like a digital sticky note, which is initially submitted by the freelance writer. As it is researched, approved, and refined, it will travel from left-to-right across the Trello screen until it reaches its final coveted destination of a published piece. Sounds simple, right? It is. Let’s look at how you can use Trello to get your content planned and published with any size of remote freelance team.
1. Structure Your Process
While not every online publication will have the exact same process, most follow a similar pattern of taking an article from idea to published piece. That’s why it’s essential that your process reflects each state of the work that your content team will provide. Your Trello editorial calendar should clearly label each part of the process in a way that makes sense to everyone. It should be easy to see at a glance where a piece of content is in the pipeline.
The most common method of structuring your editorial calendar looks like this, with each step being its own column (often called “list”) in Trello:
This first column of your editorial calendar should identify your content goals even before ideas are pitched. They should embrace some of those marketing initiatives first identified when assembling your remote freelancing team. Some sample cards that could go under this column might be using the upcoming football playoffs to build awareness for a new tech startup, using an article as a call-to-action to sign up for a new affiliate partner, or simply creating top 10 lists that include one large infographic at the end for a seasonal fashion trend.
Strategies should be broad, but attainable. These are most often entered as cards by the marketing team and editor, and will give the freelance writers some direction in the type of articles they should be researching and pitching. A good editorial calendar begins before the first article pitch!
This second column of the editorial calendar is a list of initial pitch ideas. They may have little or no research behind them at the time. Consider these where all brainstorming can be documented for the next stage in approval. (Note: Some editors like to keep a few rules as to what is acceptable to list here. While everyone loves a good brainstorm, the pitch ideas should still stay within guardrails set by the brand or publisher.)
- Diving into Topics
This column is where topics can be fleshed out more thoroughly. Will an idea be enough to carry a full article? Has something like this been done recently? The editor will need to research whether an article has enough interest to get to the next step. Many content managers will use tools like Google Trends or review competitor pieces to see if it’s a good candidate for the publication’s editorial calendar.
- Confirmed Article Queue
Is the article a fit? This column on the editorial calendar is where all confirmed and assigned articles go. A freelancer should be able to see, at a glance, if their article has been assigned, as well as what extra details should be noted when writing. Due dates and any editorial changes should be noted on Trello cards in this column, as well.
- Article in Progress
While a freelance writer is researching and writing a piece, its Trello card should reside in this fifth column. The benefit of such a simple system is that the content manager can see at a glance how much content is being written. If there aren’t enough articles in the pipeline to make for a full publishing calendar the following week or month, there is still time to put more ideas into the queue (starting at the beginning, of course.)
- First Drafts
Once the freelance writer has completed their piece, they can move the Trello card it represents to the next column of the editorial calendar. This can also include integration with a cloud platform such as Google Docs for easy reference. Moving an item into this sixth column (and possibly even tagging the editor) lets the editor know that revisions can be made, if needed.
Is there still work to be done? Moving an article here with any editing notes lets the writer know how to finish a piece. If all editing notes were done in the original Google Doc, the mere act of moving the card here should signal that revisions are pending.
- Awaiting Publishing
Once revisions are made and the editor is satisfied, the Trello card for an article can move to this column of the editorial calendar. The editor isn’t always the person to upload content and hit the “publish” button, however. This gives that particular person a heads-up that their services are needed. (Tagging is a useful function in this phase.)
- Published and Ready to Promote
Once an article goes live, the URL can be added to the note, now residing in this ninth column. It is also a signal to the social media manager or anyone else handling promotion that it’s ready to be shared with the world. Some managing editors require that writers on their team cross-promote other writers’ work. Encouraging your team to regularly check this column for things they can share online is a good practice to get more site wide pageviews and build a connected team. This would also be the point when a freelance can bill for their work through a platform such as Bonsai.
2. Prioritize the Cards in Each Trello Column
Establishing your columns is just the start. Now that you have all the info in the right categories, editors and content managers can now prioritize each piece of content in each column. Trend pieces or items that are particularly newsworthy can be bumped to the top. Evergreen content or stories that can be written at any time should be placed near the bottom. If a certain content idea continues to lay near the bottom of a column for too long (perhaps 2 months or more), the managing editor can decide if that’s something to scrap altogether or work into a timelier content piece. This is an especially useful feature of Trello when there are many freelancers submitting content at one time and ideas need to be validated quickly.
3. Make It Visual
While it’s tempting to simply write out the content scope on each Trello card, this unique platform works best with multimedia. One quick way to add media is to upload the main graphic or photo that will be used with the article. It’s easy to do this from inside the card, and you can pull in a variety of file attachments from the computer desktop, Dropbox, Google Drive, Box, or OneDrive.
Not only will this save time later when picking out the proper graphics for a piece, but it will make each piece easy to identify at a glance from the editorial calendar.
Working with remote teams doesn’t have to be cumbersome. In fact, the Trello editorial calendar is designed to give everyone the same seamless experience from pitch phase to publishing. Asking questions, taking notes, and brainstorming new ideas can all happen from within the editorial calendar interface, with no need for outside communication tools. If you want to pull conversations from Slack or other chat devices, however, you can include them on any article card you choose. The open format of the editorial calendar encourages collaboration and teamwork that keeps remote teams running smoothly.
A well-planned Trello calendar has many advantages. It can allow anyone on the content team to see what’s happening with the publication as a whole – without back and forth emails that can waste time. It also lets the content manager keep tabs on freelancers, in conjunction with a Freelance Management System, such as the Bonsai system. When it comes time for those completed pieces to be published, freelancer can easily send out an invoice for their work through Bonsai, as well. No matter where in the world your remote team lives and works, this simple editorial calendar can get the job done.