Project Management for Writers: 5 Tips to Get More Work Done

Jackie Pearce

If you want to succeed as a freelancer, you not only need to have skills worth paying for, but you also need to be able to manage your projects.

If you’ve never learned about project management or how it works, you’ll need to figure it out sooner than later so you don’t miss deadlines or upset your clients.

  • What is project management? At its core, project management is simply about mapping out a project from start to finish. You have repeatable systems in place to avoid mistakes and make sure you get your work done on time.

It’s a critical skill to run your own freelance writing business. And you’ll need project management skills to work with clients, too.

Without a project management plan, you’re likely to make simple mistakes such as forgetting to send your contract, do a final round of edits, or give clients access to the essential documents you need.

Let’s break down project management for freelance writers so you can create successful projects, move up and earn more.

The basics of project management for writers

Project management consists of both managing your actual work and also managing your clients.

When you get your first few freelance projects, they might be pretty easy to manage:

  • The problem starts when you overlook little details, because you’re in a rush or start to get more projects on your plate than you can keep tabs on
  • The last thing you want is to let things fall through the cracks or start upsetting your clients. When you’re a freelancer, your reputation plays a huge role in getting future work, so staying professional and on top of your game is essential.
  • It’s easy to get overwhelmed or mix up what some clients need from you.

If you have a project management process, you can keep all of your documents, tasks, and deadlines all under one roof so you can keep tabs on everything you need.

Project management can also give you clarity because it will help you see what matters most, what deadlines are next, and what you need to focus on that day to get things done.

Check out these five tips to developing your own project management process:

1. Map your workflows first

You might think the first step is to dive right into the best software to manage your projects, right? While that makes logical sense, instead, you’ll want to start with mapping out your workflows.

Your workflows are essentially the steps you take to complete your work.

The mistake most freelancers make in this area is that they sign up for project management tools, throw together a system that doesn’t really work, and then get frustrated at the site for “not working”.

You might also sign up for the wrong project management tool if you don’t know what you need.

  • For example, you could spend a whole week setting up a program but then realize they don’t have Kanban boards, which you later realize you need. Then, you’ll need to delete all that work and move it to another platform.

The truth is that every project management tool out there just reflects back your own systems. Until you have your systems locked down, you shouldn’t sign up for any of the project managers out there.

2. Identify your steps as a freelancer

Let’s start at the very beginning…

  • What do you do?
  • Do you write blogs for clients?
  • Are you an author?
  • Do you run a blog?
  • What is the actual deliverable you offer to clients?

Once you’re clear on what you do, you need to outline how you do it.

Let’s say you write blogs for clients. What are all of the steps you go through?

Some examples can include:

  • Doing research
  • Going through the clients’ branding guide
  • Writing multiple drafts
  • Waiting for client edits

The best question to answer is:

“What do I do once a client says yes to hiring me?”

You might miss a few steps here and there, but it’s important to write down as much as you can. That way, you can see how your projects will flow through your project managers.

You’ll need to be able to see which projects are:

  • In research mode
  • Waiting for edits
  • Actively being worked on, and so on.

If you don’t outline these steps, you’ll constantly have to dig through your emails and your task lists to figure out where you left off with projects and what you’re waiting on.

3. Create a project management process for landing clients

Now that you’ve outlined your workflow for your creative process, it’s time to outline a project management process for how you land and manage your clients.

If you’re just starting out, you might not have this whole process mapped out yet, but generally, you have potential clients and then clients who have officially hired you.

So, you need a way to see a difference between the two.

  • This could be a simple list of potential clients and clients
  • Or, you could label them by how you found each client, such as through social media or referrals.

No matter how you do it, you’ll want to make a workflow for this so as you grow your freelancing, you’re able to quickly see everything at a glance.

You’ll also want to be sure to map out the project management steps when you’re trying to land a client such as setting up a call, sending the proposals, invoicing them, and so on.

4. Deliver your work

This might be simple, such as sending a client the link to the Google document, but you’ll want to make sure you have this outlined so you don’t miss any essential steps.

You’ll often see it’s more complicated than just a single step, too.

If you need feedback from the client, you might have some initial questions to get the ball rolling.

  • Do you need to give your clients permission to see your work?
  • Do you need them to get back to you soon?
  • What’s the deadline?

Be sure to set a deadline for when you need the feedback done so you can make sure your projects don’t start stacking on top of each other.

5. Pick a project management platform

Now that you’ve done all the previous steps, now you can pick a project management platform.

Setting up a project manager tool can take quite some time, so doing the homework ahead of time will save you a ton of time when you finally get to this step.

  • Now do you understand why it’s so important to have everything set up before you get to this point?

You might even want to consider doing everything on paper first before you commit to a platform.

You could easily manage your first few projects just using a notebook so you can figure out how you like to get your work done, all the steps you need to keep an eye on, and how you like to keep everything organized.

There are a ton of options out there when it comes to productivity tools and project management platforms, but let’s go over a handful of them.

Trello

Trello is well-known online as a quality project manager. It’s focus is around Kanban boards. There are also a lot of free templates that Trello offers so you can see how other people manage their projects.

Todoist

Todoist offers both lists and kanban boards for project management. They also offer templates to get started. While it’s not as complicated as some others out there, it is incredibly user-friendly and easy to start using without needing to watch tutorials.

ClickUp

While it’s more complicated than the others, ClickUp is one of the most thorough options out there when it comes to project management. Freelancers who only have a handful of projects in a month might not need as much as ClickUp offers. They offer all kinds of views from lists, Kanban boards, Gantt charts, calendars, and more.

Use project management to boost freelance success

Overall, you’ll want to keep detailed records of how you find clients, how you do your work, and everything else involved in your process.

When you keep records and outline it fully, you’ll be able to make sure you can create a solid system to take some of the frustration out of managing everything on your plate.

How do you handle project management as a freelancer? Tell us about it in the comments.

Jackie Pearce is a freelance writer based in Colorado.

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5 Comments

  1. Tom

    Very solid advice here. I work as a presentation designer – but I work closely with two English native copywriters and we usually use Trello for basic stuff. I am thinking to upgrade to something like ClickUp since it has way more features that we need but yeah. Thanks for this post!

    Reply
  2. Dan Antion

    I found this post via Chris (story Reading Ape). Good advice. I used Trello for IT projects when I was still working. I use it to manage my blog and to help with my writing project. Finding something that supports the way you work is important.

    Reply
  3. Judi Shimel

    This is a very interesting concept. Would like to learn more.

    Reply
  4. Judith Norris

    Currently gaining experience and learning how to manage clients, I’m using Upwork project management tools. Their video process and client negotiating lawyers work well for me as a newbie. Even though they’ve been called a content mill, they continually offer new perks to help freelancers.

    Life got in the way when my husband announced in December 2021 we would move again, this time off-shore. Wow! It’s exciting, much work, planning, good-byes are always tricky, almost overwhelming, but the happiest part is I can still write online. I’ll still write job applications on Upwork keep practicing my creative and business writing. Thank you for helping us with the project management tools; they’ll be invaluable.

    Reply
    • Carol Tice

      Hi Judith — Upwork isn’t a content mill, it’s a bid site. That’s why you are applying and applying. My question is… are you getting any gigs? If so, what do they pay?

      Upwork is trying to make writers feel they care with this sort of ‘project management’ assistance, but there’s a bottom line that the vast majority of their gigs don’t pay professional rates. And all that time you spend applying could be spent on your own marketing with clients who would pay far more.

      Track your time and what you earn, and see if Upwork is really working out for you. There are a few successful outliers on there, but my experience 15,000+ writers in is that most find it a waste of their time.

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