When it comes to managing clients as a freelance writer, I'm very low tech.
Every so often, I'm asked questions about my process. Not too long ago, Mike Collins, a friend and owner of Wealthy Turtle, among others, asked me how I keep track of all of my writing clients.
The truth is that the method changes a little bit each year, although it's always very low tech. A couple of years ago, I used a wall calendar. Last year, I had a day planner with the week laid out so that I could plan the week. This year, I'm using an awesome [easyazon_link asin=”8883704894″ locale=”US” new_window=”default” tag=”marquit-20″ add_to_cart=”default” cloaking=”default” localization=”default” nofollow=”default” popups=”default”]Moleskine notebook[/easyazon_link] (a Christmas gift from Wise Bread, one of the sites I write for regularly). I like it because I'm back to looking at my month all at once, which is very helpful to me.
I tried the weekly overview thing last year, and it didn't really work for me. It was too easy to think that I'd move something to the next week, and then forget about it. It meant a lot of crossing out and a lot of mess.
The new system lets me see exactly what to expect for the month, and there is space to add more if I need to. This works better with the concept of bursts of productivity, since I can work in batches, depending on when things are due. Plus, I can mark items off as I go along, making it easy to invoice clients later on.
I like being able to look at everything all at once, and high tech solutions don't always offer that. Looking at spreadsheets can be a pain for this type of work, and a to-do list that pops up on my smart phone just doesn't do it for me. It's harder to get the complete picture with those solutions. My pen and paper approach helps ingrain the whole thing in my head, and it also makes it easy to see everything I need to do at a glance.
You can see that I have different types of clients from the way my schedule is arranged. Some of them are clients that I write for each week. All I need is a tick mark next to their symbol (I shorten many blog names to a three-letter representation that I've used for years) to show that I've completed the requisite number of posts for the month. Many of these blogs don't have set due dates; I'm just expected to provide a post once a week.
For the other blogs, I write due dates so I know when to turn certain items in. I also write down what the articles are supposed to be about, since there are some clients that require me to list out the article subjects when I invoice.
In any case, this process makes it easy for me to see where I'm at, and what I should be doing. It also makes it easy for me to work ahead when the inspiration takes me.
What I Use My Smart Phone For
I have found a use for my smart phone, though. It's not exactly for managing clients, but it does help keep me apprised of my obligations throughout the month.
I use my smart phone to keep track of interviews that I conduct. As a freelance journalist, I sometimes call people and ask them questions. Then I write about it. I use my smart phone to keep track of interview schedules. I enter the interviews — and the participants' phone numbers — into the calendar and set up alerts to remind my ahead of time.
My other engagements are also included in the calendar so that I can quickly see what I might need to plan around when setting up interviews. It works rather well, and is one way to integrate technology into my time management and productivity efforts.
Many people are surprised at my low tech way of managing clients. However, it's a simple solution that keeps things easy and manageable as a freelance writer. I can take the notebook anywhere with me, and it's perfect for what I'm doing.
How do you keep track of your freelance clients and articles?