Every freelance writer his or her way of keeping track of deadlines. However, each time I see a forum post, blog comment, or discussion group post asking how to do this it stirs fires of curiosity within me. When those who state they are full-time freelance writers with a decade more of experience say they have no idea how to keep track of deadlines, fire is usually shooting out of my ears and setting my hair on fire. Figuratively speaking, of course. So, I feel it’s time to cover how to keep track of deadlines.
Tracking Deadlines Isn’t a New Phenomena
We’re not discussing a new concept here, or one that doesn’t have thorough coverage elsewhere. Are writers posting these questions because they want to learn what others are doing or because they don’t want to research this coverage? Perhaps it’s a bit of both. Anyone who writes for any length of time can attest to the fact that networking is an essential part of battling loneliness.
How do writers keep track of their deadlines? There are millions (Okay, maybe not millions. It seems like millions. Thousands? We’ll say it’s a LOT.) of ways to keep track of deadlines. Let’s look at a few (million?) of them:
● Evernote: some writers swear by using Evernote because it has a host of tools including ways to keep track of notes and to-do lists. You’ll also find a reminder tool for deadlines, as well! ● Google Calendar: not everyone has access to Microsoft Outlook and, in my opinion, Google Calendar is a workable alternative. It automatically synchs birthdays from your contacts (if they’ve updated them), as well as holidays. Add a deadline, set a reminder, and you’re good to go. ● Trello: when I’m talking to other freelance writers, they talk about Trello most often. Not only do they love it for tracking deadlines but also for managing their projects. You can use it on your desktop and sync it to your handheld devices.
No Interest in Using Tech to Track?
Okay, you’re not alone. Some freelance writers asking the, “how the heck do I keep track of my freelance writing deadlines,” have no interest in using tech. Why? The reason could be for a variety of reasons including:
● They already feel they have enough accounts to manage for their clients, as well as their freelance writing business (website, blog, social media, etc.). ● Technology may not be their cup of tea and adding more to that list seems like more hassle than it’s worth. ● In the past, technology may not have been a reliable resource for them, and they’re seeking alternatives.
What is the Alternative?
Well, I use some tech, and I mix it in with old-school tracking. The main reason is that I love paper, pens, and any reason to grab a highlighter. Post-it notes are also my favorite. When I launched my freelance writing business twenty years ago, visiting the office supply store was akin to some women hitting a shoe store or cosmetics counter. I was in Heaven.
Anyway, I’m getting off track — alternatives!
Here’s how I track my deadlines:
The majority of my clients provide editorial briefs, so I print those out. I know many freelance writers like working paperless, but that method doesn’t work for me. I need to see information tangibly to commit it to memory. Once I receive the brief in my hands, I do the following:
● Planner: I have a spiral bound daily planner I keep MY ENTIRE CAREER in, including freelance writing deadlines. When I write the deadline in, I write it one or two days before the actual deadline as the “soft” due date. Then, I write the actual deadline in as the “hard” due date. I like to turn things in early. ● Wall Calendar: I have a large desk calendar (I picked out a pretty one instead of the standard, boring white most office supply stores offer) hanging directly above my desk. I write all my deadlines on there. Each client is written in a different color. ● Spreadsheet: I have a spreadsheet for my anchor clients and, in addition to other information contained on the editorial briefs, I write the hard and soft deadlines.
Why does this method work for me?
The main reason this method for tracking deadlines works for me is that I can see my entire week in front of me on the wall calendar. Therefore, I can see what’s coming up and plan my work schedule accordingly in my daily planner. If I have several deadlines coming up in one week, then I know I have to schedule time for researching and drafting so I can get those out on time.
How long have I been using this method?
In the past, I tried using apps and calendar reminders. However, I found myself struggling because I was toggling between too many screens. I already mirror my laptop to a larger monitor because I keep my email accounts open on my laptop. Then I keep my client accounts, research, and a word processor open on tabs on the mirrored monitor. Then, I have another laptop open to keep track of my spreadsheets and accounting.
If I didn’t do this, I’d be toggling through at least eleven screens on one computer. For me, that’s too overwhelming. I know other freelance writers who keep up to thirty tabs open and don’t think it’s a big deal. Kudos to them and I have the utmost respect for their ability to manage that. Personally, I can’t. I need separation to maintain optimal organization and ensure a smooth working day.
Over to You: How Do You Tackle Deadlines?
Now that we’ve gone over some resources for tracking deadlines and I’ve discussed what works for me, I’d love to hear from you. How do you tackle deadlines? What has or hasn’t worked for you currently or in the past? In the end, we’re all here to support each other and see each other succeed!