Category Archives: Freelancing

Searching for the perfect task management tool: how I came to love Google Calendar

In recent weeks, I have been playing with task management tools trying to find a way of streamlining my work and keeping track of everything I have to do. With a couple of blogs, personal writing in on other sites and client work to keep up with, it can sometimes be hard to juggle everything and occasionally I worry that things will get lost along the way.

A task management tool, I thought, would help and so I embarked on a quest to find the perfect tool for me. I researched a few, signed up for some accounts and got to work. One of the first I tried was Remember the Milk. I liked the quirky title and I liked the cute little cow logo. It was relatively simply to set up and start adding tasks, but I found all the little clicks and hovering I needed to do to add any details a bit frustrating.

So that fell by the wayside and I forgot all about it for a while. Then I read an article reviewing a number of task management tools, so I decided to have a look at some. I visited Producteev, Freedcamp, Insightly, Wunderlist, and a few others to boot but I couldn’t find one to suit me. Some, like Wunderlist were fun but weren’t very good for adding deadlines or for looking at a weekly plan. Others, like Freedcamp made me fill in bits of information that weren’t necessary for my projects and ran so slowly I felt like it took me as long to enter the task information as it did to do the task itself.

I learnt that I’m not good with task management tools!

I’m sure if I’d stuck with one of these choices, that eventually I would have figured out how to use it and the process would have got quicker and if I’m honest playing around with all these gadgets did appeal to the procrastinator in me (see this post for more on procrastination). But the focused and efficient voice in my head, which I have been trying to listen to more, recently, said I was wasting time spending hours trying to get to grips with them and I should find something better.

What I needed, the voice said, was something simple. I didn’t need sales lead folders, deal pipelines, or to be able to manage three people across one project. What I needed was something I could look at and see how much work I needed to do that particular day, week, or month.

At one point about a week ago, I decided to give up and revert to my paper diary and a pen. I love writing lists and I love pieces of paper, but as a freelance writer creating web content, I rarely use pieces of paper for my work. Jobs come via email or web-based companies, work is done in a word processing programme and then uploaded or emailed back to the client. Working on the computer but keeping my schedule in a diary didn’t work because I forgot to write in jobs as soon as they came via email, or forgot to look at the diary before I switched on the computer.

What I needed was some kind of on-screen diary that didn’t take weeks to learn. Then, as fortune would have it, a Tweet popped into my Twitter feed from Carla Young a mom, social media expert and copywriter I happen to follow. The tweet had a link to a video posted by Carley Knobloch on her DigiTwirl website, about using Google Calendar to manage your life. I’d seen Google Calendar in passing but never really thought about using it for work as I thought it was too simple, but after watching the Digitwirl video I realised what I had been missing. Here was a straightforward diary I could keep on my computer.

Four things I love about my Google Calendar

  1. It is super easy to add stuff to it. I don’t usually need many details; I just need to add tasks on the days I need to do them and maybe a couple of client details. I can do this by using the Create Quick Add button right on the calendar’s front page.
  2. I can add the world clock on the sidebar. This might sound silly but when you are freelancer with clients in at least three different time zones, it is handy to know when it is the middle of the night.
  3. I can make my events look pretty with Event Flair. I love making things look pretty and with Event Flair I can add stars to tasks when they are complete, exclamation marks for important tasks and even smiley faces if I feel like it. I can also customize my colors so tasks for the same project show as one color and tasks for another project as a different color.
  4. I can set my default view. I currently have my default view set as monthly as I find this gives me the best look at how busy I am at any given time, and helps me schedule new clients and extra things like these blog posts.

I have set my Google Calendar to be my home page, so every time I fire up the web there it is showing me everything I need to do. I am sold on Google Calendar. It may not work for everyone, but it is certainly working for me and now I’m off to put a little star by my blog post task.

Do you use any task management tools? What works best for you when planning your schedule?


A Content Mill I like: Interact Media

During my freelance writing career I have signed up to several content mills, content creation companies – call them what you will. I am a fan of not having all your eggs in one basket so I opened accounts with a number of different companies to try to ensure a steady-ish stream of work.

Since first signing up, some have fallen by the wayside either because they never seemed to have any work or because it was just too complicated to write the articles for the amount they were paying. There are a few though that I still check out regularly and one I do like is Interact Media. Continue reading

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Working at the Content Mill

Whenever I read about content mills on the web, I get this random picture in my head of an old Monty Python sketch where four Yorkshire men compete to see who had the worst childhood. Their claims range from having to work at the mill for 14 hours a day for tuppence to working there for 29 hours a day and having to pay the mill owner for the privilege.

The claims about content mills are similar. The pay is low and the work is hard. The detractors say that if you are silly enough to sign up to work at a mill then you will be consigned to writing trash for peanuts. Continue reading

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The Beauty of Bylines

I used to write for newspapers. Proper newspapers that were printed on paper and sold in shops and gave bylines to reporters when they wrote stories.

In fact, at one point I was the only journalist on the local newspaper that I worked for in the UK. As a result my byline was on nearly every page and even my mum got bored with seeing it. Up until that point she would phone me when she saw my byline in a paper but during this gig she would search through and point out the few bits I hadn’t written.

My first, and still my favorite freelancing job, for a website covering early childhood education also gets me a byline on most of the things I write, but most of my other work so far had been ghostwriting.

After seeing my name in print for so long the idea of someone else take my writing and doing whatever they like with it without ever crediting me has taken some getting used to.

Continue reading