As many people in my life know, I’ve dabbled in entrepreneurship quite a bit – from direct sales/party plan type businesses to “MLM” style business structures before finding my passion as a freelance writer. It feels like I’ve tried it all (and let me just say, freelance writing has been the most lucrative – and fun – for me so far). Throughout many of these business ventures, there seems to be one common question that my friends consistently ask.
So what drives a freelance writer like me to stay on target with her daily to-do list? What fuels me to just “get- ‘er-done?” What tools can a freelance writer use to organize their business - and their time?
Deadlines are incredibly important to me and my business. Without deadlines, I probably would take way too long to complete a project. Sure, I’ve had some clients give me deadlines as far out as a month – but those are pretty rare. Even with those type of projects, I take it upon myself to set an earlier deadline than the client originally set. Maybe this is why I get so much feedback from clients saying “you’re so fast!”
Deadlines keep me motivated and eager to WOW the client with my ability to produce high-quality content before their deadline. Hearing comments from clients like the one mentioned above always puts a smile on my face and is often accompanied with a bonus added to my invoice.
So, what tools do I use to stay on track while sometimes juggling 10 or more client projects at once?
Tools to Stay on Track in Your Freelancing Career
If you’ve ever done a Google search for “project management programs” or “project management tools,” you probably know that Google will come back with up to 219-million results. Holy cow, that’s a lot!
Of course, you don’t need all of these tools, but if you work with a few clients long-term, they may ask you to use the program that they are fondest of such as Podio, Trello, or Basecamp. These programs offer freelancers and clients many perks, but the one perk that they fail to offer – and with good reason – is synchronization between each program.
Let me give you an example. Let's say I have two clients that ask me to use a project management program. Client 1 uses Trello. Client 2 uses Podio. Plus, I have an account on Basecamp.
It’s impossible for me to upload tasks from Client 1’s program to Client 2’s – or even for me to upload the tasks from Client 1 and Client 2 to my Basecamp dashboard.
Project management tools are supposed to make my life easier, right? They do if all of your clients are using the same program, but in this big world, the chances of that happening are slim.
So, what can we do to keep things straight? How can we make our busy lives - and businesses - less chaotic and more organized?
Using a Calendar
Google Calendar is an excellent way to stay on top of your workload each week. I use it for a variety of things. One of the best things about Google Calendar is that you can sync it with all of your mobile devices, so you don’t have to sit down at the computer to see what tasks you have to do each day. You can easily view this information right on your cell phone or tablet while having coffee and a Danish with your friend at a local coffee shop!
I also really like that the calendar allows you to set up a to-do list right inside the application. For an added bonus, you can also assign a deadline for each task on your list.
Lastly, and probably one of my favorite features about Google Calendar is that you can color code different things on your calendar. So you can set it up so that “Client Work” time is highlighted in blue while a personal task like “Grocery Shopping” or “School Play” is highlighted in green.
Project Management Programs
Although I do use a calendar for much of my weekly project planning, I also use a project management program. I use the program to keep track of which tasks I need to complete each day and which ones are pending client review. I also use it to determine which projects I have completed and need to be billed at the end of the workweek.
Synchronization of Information
When you’re working as a freelance writer, you often get information and orders from several different places: email, new “cards” on Trello (or whatever project management programs you’re using), Skype or other messengers – the list could honestly go on forever!
So how do you organize all of this information coming at you from dozens of communication streams?
Well, I know if it weren't for listening to the Get Paid Podcast, I would still be running around like a chicken with its head cut off while trying to have some sense of organization in my daily and weekly project planning.
The ladies that spoke in the episode introduced me (and their other listeners) to an incredible program that I just had to try for myself. The program is called Zapier, and this little tool quite literally changed my life and my business. Zapier allows me to synchronize the Trello cards that get added from my client’s boards to my personal board, as well as adds new cards to my personal board from my Gmail emails that I receive from other clients. Plus, it adds this information to my Google Calendar automatically! As long as I have everything set up correctly, I won’t have any duplicate cards on my own Trello board or duplicate events added to my calendar. Pretty sweet, right?
Of course, while this handy little tool does have a free membership available, upgraded memberships provide a lot more benefits. I’m still currently using the free trial, but when my trial period is over, I just may consider upgrading my membership. This little business-life hack has saved me that much time – not to mention, has prevented me from pulling out chunks of hair! My scalp thanks Zapier and the Get Paid Podcast for that!
Finally, (while I'm still boasting about how great this tool has improved my life so far) I also had the ability to try out their customer service. I recently had an issue with getting a particular "Zap" set up correctly, so I contacted their customer support to get some advice. I was impressed with how quickly a representative returned my email! After exchanging a few emails with the customer service rep and trying out a few ideas to resolve my problem, I received an email from the CEO himself providing me with another method to try! Pretty impressive, right?
So, you see, it takes more than just a “get-er-done” personality to stay on target as a freelance writer. It also takes a serious attempt at organization and a drive to be accountable for our work.
NOTE: I was not paid by any of the companies mentioned above to post write this blog post. These are tools that I've used and have helped me in my business, so I wanted to share with you, my readers.