When I started my freelance writing business, I didn’t give much thought to project management.
I didn’t think about how much time non-writing tasks would take. Things like client communication, marketing myself, invoicing, proposals, discovery calls, and learning.
It all took up a lot of time.
Somewhere in there, I was supposed to write too.
Does any of this sound familiar?
Now, I have more systems around those things, so they’re less time-intensive. Systems and processes are a freelance writer’s best friend. That way, you spend less time on the “how” and more time making money.
No matter where you are in your freelance writing business, whether you’re just starting or have experience, you’ll need some way of managing your workflow.
In this article, I’ll share how I use Trello software to manage my client work. Maybe it will inspire you.
Make it Easy on Yourself
Some people have a project management superpower. They can call up previous emails and task lists within seconds and never spend a half hour or more searching for what they need.
I do not have this superpower, but it’s one I’m cultivating. Because when you run a freelance writing business, you do not have time to waste searching for that topic list you sent last month or wondering if you overbooked yourself.
Over the years, I’ve tried spreadsheets, paper calendars, and several web-based tools. But lately, I appreciate Trello for helping me get organized.
Trello is a popular web-based project management system. Designed with boards, lists, and cards, it’s similar to a bulletin board. It’s set up like having a stack of index cards and thumbtacks to create lists, remove items, and reorder as needed. You can add attachments, notes, and photos, so you have everything at your fingertips instead of searching your email for due dates and files for notes.
Plus, unlike some of the other project management tools out there, Trello is easy to use. You create a board, start a list, and add tasks on cards to move from list to list. Simple.
Trello scores high on the project management tools too. It scores an average of 8.5 out of 10, according to TrustRadius.
But let’s back up a bit. You might wonder what types of things you need to track in your freelance writing business.
What Do I Track?
- Topic ideas to pitch
- Specific project
- Submit to client
- Invoice number, amount, date sent
- Payment received
With Trello, I can assign each client a board, label cards, and add them to a board list. It’s visual. I picture a bulletin board where I add cards under one another. Each card is an assignment. The next list is the due date, then “in progress,” “revision,” “submission,” and “invoicing.”
I can add team members if needed. For example, if the client and I are working on a collaborative content calendar, everyone can access the relevant board. Plus, anyone with access can add attachments, make comments, or track where things are in the process. You can even create a DONE list to mark items off.
Trello also has added bells and whistles called PowerUps to integrate Trello into your overall workflow. You can add your calendars, sync Google Drive, and connect to the messaging tool Slack. These PowerUps also let you automate repeating tasks and customize cards as needed.
There’s a free plan with one PowerUp, which is what I use because it meets my needs. But there’s a middle tier for $5/month and a Trello Business Class option for $12.50/month.
If you’re interested, I’d recommend trying out the basic plan and seeing how you like it. It has an awesome feature I just learned about where you can email your Trello board(s) relevant notes and assignments.
Turn Your Email Into To-Do’s
I recently discovered that every Trello board has a unique email address, as does every card on the board. I am not using this to its fullest advantage at the moment. But I have experimented with emailing myself story ideas for specific clients, and it works brilliantly.
Imagine that you get an email from a client asking if you can write an article for a specific date. You say “yes” and want to add that to the assigned Trello board. You’ll grab the email address Trello gives you for the board and email yourself the details. Trello even suggests you can get to inbox zero if you make this a habit.
I can’t vouch for that quite yet, but I can say that I appreciate the ability to have everything available at a glance and even add it to my calendar to see what’s due when.
Plus, you can add Trello to your mobile devices, so you always have access.
In my experience, having processes is one of the fastest ways to streamline your freelance writing business. Developing a project management system that works for you is one of those processes that will help you stay organized, so you make more money.
Do you have a project management tool you like using?