As a freelancer, you’re constantly juggling client assignments, various deadlines, a multitude of client requests, not to mention your own ideas for your blog and personal projects. Every client has their own specifications, style and voice and submission guidelines.
As a freelance writer, your clients will have their own word count and style guidelines. As a virtual assistant, your clients will have project deadlines, systems and instruction documents.
Some clients will let you take more of an active role in the details while others are more organized and have daily or weekly tasks that have to be done.
How the heck do you keep track of all your assignments, deadlines and client details?
Here’s my process for using Asana to organize and automate my freelance client workflow.
Capturing project ideas and blog posts
In the beginning of my writing career I had to capture blog post ideas and topics as they came to me, usually in a small notebook I kept handy or in my iPhone’s Note app. But now I have a more sophisticated, but simpler process for capturing ideas for content.
For example, when I was thinking of writing this blog post I used a system taught to me by my friend, Matt and started a new task in Asana under the Careful Cents blog editorial calendar project.
I put a link to a blog post that inspired me to write this one (the post written by Lauren from Elle & Company is geared towards graphic designers so I wanted to write one for content-driven freelancers).
Next, I did a quick search using Google’s Keyword Planner to see what long-tail keyword phrase I could center my post around. I found out that the phrase business systems is searched for 3,600 in a month and has low competition. So I added my SEO tag (in pink!) for that phrase.
Then I wrote out a brief outline of what I wanted to mention in the post, any resources, screenshots, etc. Finally, I started a Google doc for this topic, copied and pasted the outline and added a due date of when I wanted it published.
In the past, I would also add subtasks to blog posts related to creating a Pinterest image, doing SEO research and editing the post which I assigned to various team members. But now I am the managing editor, so I take care of these tasks myself.
Even when I’m not near a computer I can log into the Asana mobile app on my iPhone and capture any ideas for upcoming posts. I have different categories for each topic section, general ideas, product reviews, events and themes related to my blog posts.
Organizing client info and requests
One of the biggest complaints I get from my business coaching clients is how overwhelmed they are with client requests and specific information. Every client has specifications, editorial guidelines and workflow for their projects, and you have to remember all of them.
The good news is that you don’t have to rely on your memory alone!
Asana makes it SUPER easy to create a section for each client project and all the details that go with it. You can also use a Google Spreadsheet, which is what I used for many years before switching to Asana.
I have a separate project for writing clients in general with sub-sections for each client’s name. See below.
When I click on a client or project name section it brings up all the details for that particular project. Since I’m a freelance blogger, this information includes client workflow details, like:
- How many words each assignment should be
- An average amount of posts I need to write each month
- Due dates for each assignment
- Their budget, so I know how much to invoice for each post
- The contact information and email address to send invoices
- The contact information and email address to send pitches (in this case there is also a Google Form where I must submit pitch ideas)
- A link to this client’s folder in Google Drive (where I write all the assignments and share with them via Google Docs)
- Ideas for popular topics
- Attachment of their style guidelines page
Anytime I have to work on an assignment for this client I know the exact details of what they’re looking for and how to submit my work. At the end of every month I verify the amount we agreed upon for each post and bill them accordingly.
No more headaches and no more endlessly searching through emails!
Like I mentioned, you can also do the same thing with a Google Spreadsheet simply by listing out the same categories and information in the spreadsheet columns.
Tracking assignments and deadlines
Once you have all of these business systems in place it will be super easy to track individual assignments, project progress and deadlines. There are two ways I receive assignments from clients:
- They assign topics to me via email
- I have to pitch them ideas and wait for them to be accepted
In either case, once the writing assignment is approved, I create a new task for each post, insert a brief outline or notes related to the topic (so I don’t have to start from scratch when I write the content) and add a deadline.
Productivity tip: I always use a deadline that is several days ahead of the actual due date so I give myself a cushion of time in case I’m running behind. I always mention the actual due date in the task description so I know when to submit it, but my goal is to complete the post several days before it’s due.
I’m then able to manage my workflow based on a color-coding system in Asana (or Google Calendar as this works there too). All of my writing assignments, personal blog posts and any other projects (that require writing) are color-coded in green.
This allows me to view all of the upcoming assignments for the month so I can properly manage how much work I’m doing. If a client comes to me and wants to hire me, I’m able to pull up my calendar view in Asana and see whether or not I have the capacity to take it on.
If I have too many green boxes on any given day or week, I know that I’m at full capacity and can not take on anymore work. If I don’t have that many green boxes, I have plenty of time to take on more freelance work.
But these are just the business systems that I use to manage my freelance writing workflow. While these insights will hopefully help you become more organized with your client process, I was curious how other freelancers managed their client load.
5 freelancers share their workflow methods
Miranda Marquit takes it old school and manages her content and ideas with notes, due dates, and outlets on a board she can easily access. And I know that veteran writer, Nicole Dieker, has a nifty spreadsheet where she tracks all of her assignments.
Stefanie O’Connell, from The Broke and Beautiful Life, mentioned her love of Excel spreadsheets, exclaiming, “I don’t know what I’d do without my spreadsheets!”
Former Careful Cents writer Kali Hawlk, makes use of Google Calendar to track calls, appointments and events. She states that “I need about three planners for my to-do lists and to help me manage my productivity!,” she says.
In addition to spreadsheets and Asana, an editorial calendar can make a world of difference for some writers. Past Careful Cents writer Kayla Sloan says, “I use an editorial calendar on my Google Drive along with a very detailed all-encompassing calendar that includes my personal events, my business events, and events from my full-time job so I don’t forget anything. I’m a huge fan of calendars!”
Keeping up with multiple deadlines
As a freelancer, you may be juggling various deadlines at any given moment and everyone has their own process for tracking multiple deadlines.
As evidenced here, every business owner has a different processes for organizing their ideas and managing deadlines. No two freelancers are exactly the same. Hopefully this has given you some ideas of how to better organize your schedule so you will feel less overwhelmed and more productive.
This month I’m hosting an online course that dives even deeper into how you can streamline your freelance business and take the stress out of getting things done.
My new Be Ultra Productive course is available for $149! It’s YOUR guide to creating business systems that help automate your tasks, save you money and give you back hours of your time.
If you’re ready to earn more money in less time, this training is for you!
Plus, you’ll learn how to limit at-home distractions, stop jumping from task to task, battle the inbox overwhelm (and win!)so you can be more productive every. single. day.
Now, I want to hear from you! How do you manage your content ideas and assignment deadlines?