You could say that I’m a bit of a productivity and organization geek. I spent 3 months making over my home office (for only $76) so it would be the perfect productivity workspace.
I also have a soft spot for planners and journals of any kind. I have moleskins, art journals, and am constantly trying out new planners and notebooks.
My friend Amanda Abella is a planner junkie too and recently did an awesome review about the Day Designer vs. the Desire Map Planner.
Over the past couple of years since I’ve taken my freelance work full time I’ve tested out multiple digital and paper planners to help keep my business organized and running smoothly.
In that time I’ve developed a combination of using Asana.com for recurring tasks and daily reminders, a Google Calendar for my appointments and deadlines, as well as a paper planner for brainstorming big business goals, doing quarterly reviews and tracking my income reports.
Here are the best paper planners for freelancers as tried and tested by me, that will finally help you get organized this year. 🙂
1. The Freelancer Planner, by Michelle Nickolaisen
What started out as a simple idea by Michelle Nickolaisen and a Kickstarter Campaign, turned into a full-fledged product called The Freelancer Planner. I backed the campaign and have been eagerly awaiting (and receiving awesome updates!) for the past several months.
Although I’ve only had my planner a few weeks it’s fast becoming my favorite one for freelancers, which is why it’s #1 on this list.
My favorite feature is the daily income tracking at the top of each calendar page. You use it like a progress bar (or XP bar for my video game peeps out there!) and aim to reach your weekly income goal every day.
This Freelancer Planner is made specifically with freelancers in mind (not just bloggers), to track everything from client work to your own business tasks all in one place. It helps you focus on just 3 big goals for the month and breaks down the events and projects into smaller more manageable tasks.
A potential downside is that it’s a spiral planner so depending on whether or not you like that it might not work for you. I personally love that it’s spiral bound. It also has a soft cover so it may not endure wear and tear if you take it everywhere.
In addition it’s quite large for a planner (measuring 8.5×10 inches) so you’ll have to carry around a larger bag when working remotely on your freelance biz. However, it fits perfectly into my portable office box and I take it everywhere!
Purchase: Pre-order on her website
2. The Mindful Budgeting Planner, by Cait Flanders
Coming in at a close second is The Mindful Budgeting Planner by my friend (and podcast co-host) Cait Flanders. This is less of a business planner and more of a income/budget planner. But as a financially-minded blog and brand I always want to focus on the money part of being a freelancer.
Cait created this planner because she couldn’t find anything like it and needed a way to budget in a more positive and value-based way. It comes with easy-to-understand instructions of how to use the budget templates and has a very clean design.
My favorite feature is the weekly check-in prompts on Sundays asking what the best thing I spent money on was and what I’m most proud of myself for accomplishing this week.
This planner is specifically focused on encouraging you to get your financial life in order and making sure you’re spending mindfully based on your values and true desires. It contains budgeting check-ins, budget templates, quarterly exercises to evaluate your goals and encouraging quotes at the beginning of each month.
It even includes membership to a closed support group of other budget planner users on Facebook.
A potential downside is that you’ll have to use this planner in addition to another life/biz planner since it doesn’t offer any spaces for appointments or daily tasks. Also if you already have your finances under control, you may not need a planner with this much of a focus on budgeting.
Purchase: Get the digital or paper version
3. EPIC Blog Planner, by Regina Anaejionu
As a blogger and online business owner having an in-depth planner is key to reaching your goals. How will you know where you’re going if you don’t write it down? The EPIC Blog and Editorial Planner by Regina has a little bit of everything.
It’s a mini business plan for your blog and includes tools, surveys, and reminders for any blogging, content creation and business tasks. You can easily start using it any month during the year, you don’t have to wait until January because it isn’t dated.
My favorite feature is the blog monetization methods section that allows you to brainstorm what freelance services or products you can start earning money with. Being a successful freelancer is all about diversifying the different types of income streams so this section is really valuable.
This planner is specifically focused towards blog owners and has a place to write out your brand’s mission, who your idea readers are and an on-going blog content strategy. It also has before and after sections to record your goals and progress, along with your blog income/expenses.
A potential downside is that it may not be a good planner if you manage and/or write for multiple websites and it doesn’t have much else in the way of business appointments or life organization. It’s strictly for managing a blogging business.
Purchase: Get the Epic Blog Planner on Amazon
4. The Badass Blog Planner, by Sarah Morgan
I’ve had a crush on Sarah Morgan’s site for as long as I remember. She’s evolved her brand from being a part-time blogger and self-proclaimed “circus freak” to a full blown blogger, biz owner and aerialist.
I read every blog post and email she publishes, so naturally I’m a big fan of her Badass Blog Planner.
My favorite feature is that this planner includes TONS of worksheets for bloggers to make sure every aspect of your blogging business is covered. From creating a content calendar and yearly goals, to establishing a budget and reviewing your social media marketing plan, this planner has it all.
You can also track your blog’s stats, traffic and other numbers to see how you’re progressing throughout the year.
A potential downside is that the worksheets are great for beginning bloggers, but advanced/experienced bloggers might not find them helpful since most experience bloggers are already doing what’s listed on the worksheets.
Purchase: Get the Badass Blog Planner on Amazon
5. Passion Planner, by Angelia Trinidad
The Passion Planner has seen immense success because of several Kickstart campaigns in the past few years. I backed the most recent one and began using my Passion Planner earlier this year. However, it was a bit too small and didn’t give me the space and flow that I needed.
Still it’s a great planner and one I’d recommend other freelancers to try out.
My favorite feature is that black ones are leather bound so it has a very luxurious and classy feel. You can buy a calendar year planner, a school year planner, or an undated planner so there are lots of options.
In addition the Passion Planner is for all of your life and business passions. You can track multiple hobbies, appointments, and there’s even a place for weekly doodles or quotes.
A potential downside is that there aren’t a lot of choices for layout, design, color, etc., as you can only choose from a few colors. It doesn’t offer much guidance or prompts on how to use the Passion Planner so it’s a pretty blank canvas.
Club member, Karen DeFelice said that she tried many digital planners but felt like the Passion Planner’s list maker and other features were a much better fit. She’s on her second year!
Jessica Green also loves her Passion Planner because it keeps her personal, business and side hustle tasks and goals organized. There’s also plenty of space for notes and doodling to keep everything in one place.
Purchase: Get the Passion Planner on their website
6. Plans+Things, by Christie Montague
I really like this planner because it was created by a fellow female biz owner and entrepreneur friend of mine, Christie Montague. She has a background in graphic design so this planner is well organized and very easy to use.
If you want a colorful planner this one is the best fit! It comes in 3 awesome colors.
My favorite feature is that it’s a spiral planner with a soft, laminated cover. Most of the other planners have hard covers and are not spiral. The first planner (The Freelancer Planner) is spiral but you have to lay it horizontally at times and the Plans+Things planner is vertical.
The Plans+Things planner is the perfect size to grab and go and it has a colorful design that makes it fun to plan your biz and upcoming projects. You can keep track of your priorities each and every to ensure you’re getting the right things done.
A potential downside is that it doesn’t have any prompts or extra features to help you get organized, so it’s like the Passion Planner where it allows you to fill in the blanks.
7. Day Designer, by Whitney English
Earlier this year I received two Day Designer planners as part of swag from conferences I attended. I tested one of them out and then ended up doing a giveaway on Instagram for them.
My favorite feature is that is has several “views” in the same planner giving you a month, week and a day at-a-glance for the entire year.
I loved the design of these as they are in partnership with Target and have a variety of trendy and pretty patterns. In addition they come in two different sizes whether you’re purchasing one at Target or via the Day Designer site directly.
A potential downside is that the planner available on the website is quite large and heavy since it contains all of those views in the same planner, while the smaller versions at Target are a bit too small. So there’s no good middle ground which is why it wasn’t a great fit for me.
As I mentioned this is a favorite of CC member, Amanda Abella who’s currently obsessed with it.
Melissa H. also loves the Day Designer but feels like there are better planners available that can hold up to more wear and tear. However she does like the fact that there’s plenty of room to write all her random thoughts.
Purchase: Get the Day Designer at Target.com
Honorable Mention: LifePlanner, by Erin Condren
I haven’t personally used the LifePlanner so I can’t say whether or not it’s a good fit for a freelancer. However, when I asked members of The Careful Cents Club what kinds of planners they used this one was a favorite.
A favorite feature of Club Member Brittany Berger, is the daily calendar and brief overview. For example, she writes out the big projects she’s working on, then break them down further in Todoist. But she likes having a physical outline of her day sitting on her desk.
The LifePlanner comes in 3 different layouts and you can choose which one is the best for you. It comes in several different cover designs, including Rose Gold, which is a very trendy color right now.
A potential downside is that this planner doesn’t seem to have any “prompts”, reminders, worksheets etc. If you like those features, then this planner probably isn’t for you. Also it’s not specifically aimed towards freelancers but instead includes organization for all the moving parts in your life, which can include your business.
The company does make other planners for more specific needs, like a wedding planner and a lesson planner for teachers. Additionally, it’s one of the most expensive planners on the list.
Purchase: Get the LifePlanner on their website
Paper planner giveaway
As part of the Careful Cents community you’ll have the chance to win one of the awesome planners listed above! I’m giving away two planners to random winners.
Enter via the giveaway box below with as many entries as possible to increase your odds of winning.
The two lucky winners will have 24 hours to choose their 2016 planner from the list above and receive it as my gift to a more organized New Year!