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Project Management Tools for Writers

As freelance writers, we all dread the “clients from hell” – those who’re only willing to pay peanuts but expect the moon; those who send you a dozen emails with multiple revision requests; those who don’t provide feedback in time and then blame you for the delay… If you have the right project management tools in your arsenal, organizing tasks is easier.

The truth is that difficult clients are unavoidable if you’ve been around the freelancing block a few times.

However, if you develop your process properly, add “guardrails” to manage expectations, and communicate clearly with your clients  – it’s surprising how much more smoothly projects go.

Implementing a few project management essentials can help not only set your projects up for success but also make your entire freelancing business run more efficiently. And it doesn’t have to be complicated:

“Rules Of Engagement”

Even though your clients are paying you for the work, you’re the expert in what you do, and you know what’s needed to set up client engagement for success.

In fact, when you take the lead and “lay down the rules,” you show the kind of confidence that many clients find reassuring.

The expectations you need to set depending on the nature of each project, and here are a few common examples:

  • Client communications – do you communicate with clients via email, apps like Slack, or project management tools such as Trello? If different clients are pinging you on different channels, things can easily fall through the crack, and you’ll be going crazy in no time!
  • Turnaround time – how long can your clients expect a response after they send you an email or a message? How long do you expect clients to provide input or feedback in order to keep the project on track?
  • Single client contact – if there are multiple stakeholders involved in a project, establish one single point of contact that will be responsible for communicating consolidated feedback. All conflicting input should be resolved before the feedback reaches you to avoid miscommunication.
  • Revisions and feedback – clients should provide input in a format that minimizes confusion. For example, using the track changes function or the comment feature to capture feedback.
  • If you’re billing on an hourly basis, determine if the time you spend on day-to-day communications, such as phone calls and emails, is billable. If it is, make it clear because some clients may not be aware. (This will also encourage your clients to be succinct in their communications!)

Project Scope And Requirements

It’s important to agree upon a detailed description of the work before starting a project.

Your project scope should list deliverables, deadlines, formatting, deposit requirements (if applicable), and payment processes.

Platforms that match writers with clients, such as nDash, are great for individual writing assignments because you don’t have to worry about writing up the scope for each piece.

Typically, clients need to fill out a series of information to initiate a project – e.g., description, word count, due date, references, keywords, and fee. Review the information, make sure you have everything you need, and ask for clarification if necessary before you accept the assignment.

For projects that are more extensive, be sure to have a contract in place to protect both parties.

Besides detailing the specifics of the project, you should also include information such as payment schedules, deadlines, cancellation policies, and guidelines for intellectual property.

For long-term engagements, consider establishing a Master Service Agreement (MSA) to govern the overall working relationship and signing a Statement of Work (SOW) for each individual project.

In addition, if you work on fixed fee projects, you need a clear change control protocol in place to handle scope adjustments (e.g., additional rounds of revisions.)


When you create a project scope associated with a timeline and a fee, you probably have to make some assumptions about factors that aren’t under your control.

Document these assumptions clearly as part of the scope to set expectations and avoid finger-pointing down the line.

Here are some examples:

  • If you need materials such as a style guide, references, outline, or assets from the client in order to start work and meet the deadline, make sure to indicate the due date of these materials.
  • Does a requirement gathering phone call or an interview need to occur for successful completion of the assignment? Then, you should include a date on or before the phone call/interview needs to happen in order for you to deliver on time.
  • If the process requires the client to sign off on an outline before production begins, any change in content direction after its approval should require a change order to adjust the fee and timeline.
  • If revisions are part of the scope, indicate when the draft will be available for review and the number of days the client has to provide feedback. That way, you can keep the project on track.
  • For fixed fee projects, indicate the number of rounds of revisions that are part of the scope. You should also request that clients provide feedback in one consolidated format to avoid confusion.

Project Management Process

Now that you have set the ground rules, you’ll need to ensure you’re implementing them in the day-to-day execution of the projects.

For a single writing assignment (e.g., a blog article,) sending the file via email or sharing a link to a Google doc may suffice. However, if a project is more involved, a project management tool can help streamline the process and facilitate communication.

There are many project management tools, such as Trello, Asana, and Basecamp, to help you do just that. You can also post documents and deliverables on the platform to keep everything in one place.

For each project, you can set up a timeline, create milestones, and assign an owner to each task. You can also set up automated notifications to remind task owners of due dates (e.g., when client feedback is due.)

When you manage all your writing projects on one platform, you can keep tabs on everything that’s happening. It’ll make your life a lot easier while ensuring that you’re meeting deadlines and delivering assignments that meet your client’s requirements.

Your Turn…Which Project Management Tools Do You Use?

Do you have some “I wish I knew it” project management moments? What did you learn along the way?


Ling WongEditor’s Note: This post was written by nDash community member Ling Wong, a digital marketer with a focus on SaaS B2B. To learn more about Ling, or to have her write for your brand, check out her nDash profile page.