Need to keep track of sources, stories and due dates? Here's how I organize articles for clients.
Over the course of the last two years, I've shifted into writing that bears a resemblance to traditional journalism. Many of my clients want an authoritative voice, and they expect me to incorporate expert sources into the content I provide. It's a win-win when I trade on my journalism background. Clients receive content they can present as authoritative, and I can charge more for my services.
As more clients expect me to use my journalism chops, it becomes harder to keep track of which articles are due when — and which sources I have for the stories. Other writers would put together some calendar, or create an Excel spreadsheet. My solution is old-school and low-tech.
My Article Board
We had an unused pressboard shelf with one of our bookcases and appropriated it for use as my article board. I bought a five-pack of the thin sticky notes so that I could alternate colors. As you can see, I label the story, due date, client, and sources. There's also a section for notes, but I've been using that area for stories that require sources, but don't have set due dates.
At the beginning of the month, I look at the stories due and order them according to the due date. In many cases, I don't have sources at first, so those can be added later. When I use HARO for a story, I put a note next to that article indicating its submission. When I choose a respondent, I make a note of who it is.
As the month progresses, I can double-check to see if I need to follow up with sources, or find new sources if someone doesn't come through as the due date approaches. Once the story is turned in, I can take down the sticky notes, freeing up room so I can add more assignments later if a client requests something partway through the month.
Organizing My Email
As part of my effort to organize my articles, I coordinate with my email. I've tried different types of mailboxes and looked into different productivity apps, but I always go back to the old-school. In this case, I added folders in my Gmail to reflect story assignments, story ideas, and sources.
My “Gigs” folder organizes the terms of various engagements. Since I don't have a set freelance rate card, sometimes I need to remember what I've agreed to.
The “Sources” folder includes communications from sources of current stories. If I plan to call a source, this is where I keep our emails discussing dates and times and contact information. If the source has answered a HARO request or requested an email interview, I keep the information here. After the story is filed, I can remove the label.
“Stories to Write” and “Story Ideas” allow me to remain organized in other ways. With “Stories to Write,” I can see the assigned angle for each article. “Story Ideas” is where I keep pitches from PR people, and other ideas that come along. That way, I can use them to pitch clients the next month, or I can use them in other writing (properly attributed).
Organizing my stories this way, and coordinating with my email, allows me to stay on top of everything. I no longer mix up my sources and stories, and I can glance at the board to quickly see what I should be working on, as well as what is coming up.
What tools do you use to stay organized when writing multiple articles a month?