When I started out freelancing, I had a Word document that held all the details for my projects, like due dates. I’ve seen plenty of other freelancers working with system they’ve created to keep track of client details that range from paper files to complex spreadsheets. But there are project management tools out there that make creative projects much easier and, since I’ve been using them, my productivity has gone up.
There’s an instinctive reaction from some freelance writers that project management tools simply aren’t necessary — it’s just one person working on a few writing projects, after all. Why bother with a fancy system? The other factor that seems to contribute to reluctance is the price tag: even relatively simply software can seem pricey when you consider that one of the benefits of freelance writing is that you don’t need much more beyond a word processor to get started.
Understanding the Value of the Right Tools
There are big, fancy project management tools geared towards companies with big teams. They have big price tags to accompany them. And if you think that’s all that is out there in terms of project management tools, it’s no wonder that it’s impossible to justify using them. But there are new applications coming out every day, including many geared towards freelancers. Both the prices and the tools were set with a freelancer in mind. But they offer big benefits.
There are the obvious features: notifications of deadlines, ways to keep research organized in the same place that you’ve put all the details of the project, even built-in invoicing tools in some cases. Beyond keeping you organized in a way that you don’t have to think about or devote time to maintaining, you can also protect yourself from anything happening to your notes and system. With web-based applications like Basecamp, you don’t even have to mess with backing up your data — even if something horrible happens to your computer, you can just sit down at another computer with internet access and be back in business.
There’s an added benefit that comes with investing in the right tools for freelancing: when you’re ready to pay even a few dollars for software that will make you more efficient, you’re reinforcing that you’re working on a real business. You’re building the mindset that you’re going to continue to move forward and expand your business. It doesn’t hurt that the right tools can free up some more time to devote to earning money, either.
Jim Kimmons says
I have found that over-management takes more time than it’s worth, but do want to keep up with all deadlines, recurring blog posts, etc. And, I definitely keep up with all word counts, and rarely, time billing. I use an iPad for all of it, but all of this works on desktop, netbook, etc., as it’s in the cloud:
1. PocketInformant iPad app, but it works with Google Calendar, so my meetings, events, etc are all where I need them.
2. Toodledo.com for task management, and it also integrates with PocketInformant so that I can see tasks and calendar items together. Both are sent as reminders via email and SMS.
3. Time Master app for time and by-the-word billing, bills through my PayPal account, and keeps me on top of payment status.
4. Active Money app for my accounting. I’m also a real estate broker, and have no problem maintaining to accounting systems in this app. First time I’ve ever been up-to-date weekly on bookkeeping tasks.
The apps were $5 or $10 each, one time. Toodledo is about $39/year, and Google is free.
I basic tool I use includes a template set of folders that I duplicate for each client. I use this of course to separate various items for client projects. I use GrandTotal for invoicing and keeping track of them. GrandTotal is great also because it creates a Paypal invoice and a link to it. iCal is still the tool I use for project scheduling, but I‘m looking for other options.
Mary E. Ulrich says
I’ve decided to just write and not worry about new programs, plug-ins and software programs. The tech stuff is just too much for me right now. I’m sticking to basics.
Project management tools are your BFF ( best friends forever ) when you’re working as a freelancer. Lucky you if you’ve got two or three projects.. but if you’ve got more, you better need an extra help. It may take time learning new tools, but it can make your work seamless in the long run. You don’t want to miss deadlines when you freelance as it can mean walking a thin line on not getting paid for your efforts.
PM Hut says
As a project manager and someone who runs a project management website, I must say that applying project management has a cost (or overhead). You might want to try project management first with one of your projects before totally committing to the concept. It’s great, but again, it has overhead.
Debra Stang says
I have to admit to being pretty unsophisticated. I keep a yellow legal pad beside my desk. Every time I accept a new project I note the date it’s due, the project title, the length of the project and the employer.
Every night when I sit down to work, I scan my legal pad for upcoming due dates and plan my evening around those assignments. Granted, it’s not as foolproof as software, but I haven’t missed a deadline yet.
David Morisseau says
As they say in business – time is money.
When you start dealing with your business on a professional level, the time spent trying to use simple tools like a word processing document to do complicated tasks will actually come back to bite you financially.
As a single person or small business, its important not to get fooled by the project management platforms that attempt to market in your direction but are more built for large enterprises. They often have one feature too many that you won’t use at all, while you are still paying hundreds a month and probably not getting your moneys worth.
Disclaimer: I’m a WORKetc employee, I’ll try not to be bias…
The project management features WORKetc offers are specifically catered to efficient dealings in small business or freelancers/entrepreneurs:
– An everything-in-one-place tool you can access online from anywhere
– Storage of documents, files, etc
– Set alerts, deadlines, to-do lists
– Set tasks, calendar notifications
– complete data backup (its all online hosted by WORKetc)
– contact management (each has a profile, can store notes/reminders on it)
– invoicing/billing tools
The difference between WORKetc and other web based applications is that they often offer only one feature at once (either project management or billing or customer relationship management). WORKetc offers all three combined into one, which kinda allows for absolutely insane efficiency.
They also have a free trial ( https://www.worketc.com/sign_up ) and the whole system takes very little time to learn, its user friendly as heck.
Steven Evans says
Hello everyone. I am also a freelance and using this type of online tools to see the degree of progress in my everyday homework helped me a lot in my work. I tried several tools and finally I chose Doolphy because I found it very easy to use.
Stephen Brown says
I agree with alot of whats said in your post, being a freelancer it’s essential to make use of a good invoice scanning service to keep contol of your business
I do believe that project management tools helps a lot to freelance writers. Another is in order to be a successful freelance writer you will need the right online tools and resources that can help you do work efficiently and effectively. With the help of project management tools the employer will know how the employees work on their tasks and its progress. Another tool that can help a freelance writer is a time management tool which allows you to do work with less time. Using this tool it can track time accurately even on different tasks and you can also use it to set an amount of time when working on tasks this way you can limit wasted time and improve productivity.
Robert Macklyn says
Today the world has gone much more complex and managing the project with high level of effectiveness does make a proper sense. The usage of tools as such no doubt has importance in the approach but again the selection of best one has extreme importance. As a freelancer I have managed to keep track of my project with Replicon’s project management software ( http://www.replicon.com/project-and-program-management )
Yes project management software helps freelancers to manage their tasks, projects and clients effectively. For project management tool, I would like to add http://www.proofhub.com/
Robin Bull says
So, I’ve used a paper calendar and until recently that’s worked pretty well. However, I’ve re-assessed my needs and this just won’t do. I carry a very full freelance writing schedule.
I want something that I input my projects (at least client and word count) and due dates. However, I’d also like to be able to input how much time (preferably in quarter hours) I spent on a project. Every so often I like to go through all of my projects and add up total time spent and the amount I’ve been paid so that I can get an average of what I make per hour.