It’s enough to strike fear into the heart of any seasoned community pro — but I’d been in my first community role for less than a year when I was tasked with an ambitious community overhaul.
Close to Freelance Founders’ first anniversary — I previously worked as Community Manager there — our team finally had the data and resources we needed to create a better space for our thriving, growing community.
It was a huge project that included an update for our website, a new jobs board, and a whole host of new member resources. It was a lengthy process — one of the most challenging projects I had undertaken in my entire career — but its amazing to look back and see what we achieved in just a few short months.
As tough as it was, I'm grateful for the experience. It taught me so much about how to be a great CM and the best practices for handling a project like this.
I learned many lessons, and here, I’ll share my learnings with any Community teams who may be going through something similar. Hopefully even one of these tips will make this time of chaos just a little more manageable!
When going through a complete overhaul, one thing that you are going to need plenty of is patience.
Patience in working with a host of new stakeholders, items taking longer than anticipated to be completed, timelines getting shifted, you name it…
While we’re on the subject of shifting timelines: flexibility is your friend. You can plan as much as you would like, but rarely do plans go off without a hitch. There are going to be deadlines that get pushed back, and that's OK. If at all possible, build in some buffer time to keep you sane.
For example, both our founder and myself got married while working on the overhaul, so that made timelines a little tricky. While we originally thought that items would move along fairly quickly, we realized that wasn’t the case. Because we built some buffer time into our schedules, we were able to be more flexible with the timeline of the relaunch.
With an overhaul, there are going to be a million things happening at once.
A lesson that I learned pretty quickly was to just focus on the most crucial task for any given day before moving on to the next. If you spend all of your time task-switching, nothing ever gets your full attention so you’ll likely end up not completing things properly, if at all, creating more work for yourself in the long run.
My advice is to create a list of priority tasks every day, in order of importance, and keep that list in your line of sight. Those tasks are your main focus for the day. Anything extra is a bonus.
I can't stress the importance of taking time out enough. A community overhaul is a huge process with a lot of moving parts — simultaneously going through burnout will not help move the needle.
I live by my calendar, so one thing that really worked for me was scheduling breaks for myself as a reminder to step away.
That could mean anything from a walk outside to 15 minutes to play with my pups, Scotch and Hoagie. The point is that we all need to regroup, and it’s important to remind ourselves of this.
There are going to be hard days. Days when things don’t go your way.
Whenever I had a tough one, I spent some time after work writing out what happened, what went wrong, and what could go differently the next time — and most importantly, never blaming myself for mishaps.
Being able to spend time reflecting and refocusing for the next day is a mental health game-changer.
Yes, you deserve a pat on the back!
This process is not an easy one, and being able to celebrate yourself (whether that means treating yourself to your favorite dinner, or taking a day off) is going to be a big motivator for continuing to do great work.
Also, your community has been patiently waiting throughout this overhaul, so rewarding them with new perks, resources, events, etc. is going to get them excited about the changes, and make them feel glad they were part of the process. I treated our most helpful and engaged members to a little surprise and delight campaign, which you can read more about here.
For anyone else going through this process or will be in the near future, just remind yourself that even if the work is tough, your community will benefit from the changes — it makes it all worth it in the end!