You may only have one or two big clients in your burgeoning writing business. I get it: there doesn’t seem to be much to organize, so why bother? But the truth is, if you don’t set up a system now, in a year or so, your Google Drive is going to start resembling the digital version of that “Hoarders” show.
There are as many ways to be organized as there are to be a writer. Over the years, I’ve found two tools invaluable. First is my Google calendar. Secondly is my tiered folder system, which lives on Google Drive.
Put Your Entire Writing Business In the Cloud
If you don’t already use a free cloud storage service like Google Drive, OneDrive, or Dropbox, don’t wait another second to sign up. They’re free, and saving your hard work on your computer alone is a risky move. I lost an entire novella once because of an unfortunate encounter with a glass of water. That wasn’t a big deal, because no one was buying it, but if this happened with a paying client it would be a disaster.
When you save your work on the cloud, it doesn’t matter what happens to your computer. If it’s stolen, broken, or destroyed somehow, you can always log in to your cloud storage service on another computer and access your work. It’s way less tedious than old-school methods of backing up your work to another hard drive, and you no longer even have to be online to access your files. If you’re the kind of person who can only write in a graveyard at 2:00 in the morning, no worries: you can put Google Docs in “Work Offline” mode and party it up in the moonlight.
Use a Numbered Folder System
Choose main categories, like “Clients,” “Taxes,” and “Invoices,” and give them numbers, like in the image below:
Within each folder, I have additional numbered folders and an archive. That way, for example, when I open my “Writing clients” folder, I’m not bombarded with every client I’ve ever had. All of the old ones are archived, with only my current clients listed within it.
Another essential component of running and organizing a writing business is your invoice tracker. You can do this in any manner of ways, but I like to keep all of mine in one Google Sheets spreadsheet.
The green rows represent invoices that have been paid, and yellow represent those I’ve sent but haven’t received money for yet. For new projects, I’ll make a white row with the project fee to represent an unsent invoice.
Best Tools and Apps for Your Writing Business
Stay on the hunt for new productivity tools, as well, because these things change all the time. Some I like include:
Mind maps are delightful brainstorming and idea organization tools. I’ve used them for world-building in fiction, and for website building in my daily work. XMind is a popular free option.
Project management tools
I like Trello (pictured below), which looks like a bulletin board. It draws on the popular project management concept of a kanban board, a workflow visualization tool that helps you see projects moving forward through various stages. For those of you running a bigger writing business with multiple contractors and clients, Podio is excellent, with customizable apps within the program for every imaginable use case.
Note taking tools
Evernote is a multimedia note-taking tool. You can store anything, from audio clips and photos to scribbled notes or typed ones, and index them in a variety of ways. I imagine Evernote would be the most useful for writers who spend a lot of time investigating or doing field research.
I use Uberconference for its casual feel and free call recording capability, but there are tons of others –– Join.Me, GoToMeeting, and Skype to name a few. Choose yours depending on what you need. For instance, some have better video quality or mobile device support than others. See the super-useful Wikipedia comparison of conferencing tools here.
Screencasting and Recording Tools
If you’re ever working with a client who’s super-duper busy, a great way to walk them through a proposal or a big project is to record a screencast or an audio recording and send it to them. There are some free options like Screencast-O-Matic, but if you’re going to create tutorials or use this often, it might be a good idea to buy software.
Want more writing advice like this? Amanda tells it like it is in The New Freelance: A Book for Writers.