I’ve gotten this question often enough in recent years to warrant a post about it, so not only am I going to tell you how I organize all the projects I have going on at the same time, but I’m even going to GIVE you my Google Doc to use for yourself!
The first thing to know is that after 7 years of being an entrepreneur and 10 years blogging, this is the only thing that has worked for me long term. I’ve used this project system for years now. I think it’s because it’s so simple it just stuck.
HOW I ORGANIZE MY PROJECT LIST
My method for organizing all the different types of projects I have going on is really simple. I have the document in Google Docs, but you could easily do it in Excel as well, or even on a sheet of paper.
The reason I like to have my project list digital instead of on paper is because I will put projects that are just in the negotiation phase in the document, and then I can easily delete them or change the details. The reason I put projects in that early phase in the doc is because if I haven’t heard back from the contact recently, the document reminds me about the conversation and I can circle back on the project and not forget about it since my inbox is a black hole.
I put all types of projects in this project list to keep it simple. All my projects in one place. Anything from a sponsored blog post, to a mural or commission artwork I’m painting, to something as simple as a sponsored Instagram. I put it all in this document, no matter how big or small. It helps me stay on top of all of my projects.
Let’s get to the document!
Here is a look at Google Doc (there’s a link to get access to it at the bottom of this post). This is a sample version I created for you with a key on the right side. You can change the colors or the fonts and size of everything as you wish.
One thing to notice on the image above is that there are two tabs at the bottom. In my personal document I have more tabs (or sheets as Google calls them) because I have several years of completed projects in their own tab separated by year. So there’s one for 2017 that is currently ongoing, and I have one for 2016, 2015, and so on.
It makes it easy to look back on my year and see what I did in a quick glance. Sometimes I’ll have brands ask me what other brands I’ve worked with in the last year or 6 months, and this document makes it so easy to remember all of them! I’ll explain how/why I do this a little later in the post.
Let’s take a closer look.
First I enter the BRAND because that’s usually the main way I think about the project. For example, right now I’m doing a project with J.Crew, so I’d put J.Crew in the BRAND column.
I used to have more columns with all sorts of details about the project, but I found myself just going back to the contract and emails directly from the contact to make sure I get everything right, so I stopped putting that detailed information in this document and instead just entering a quick overview of the deliverables in the DESCRIPTION column.
In the COMPANY column I put the name of the PR or media company I’m working with (if there is one) and the contact name. Sometimes I work directly with the brand, so I’ll just put the contact name for the brand in this column. This might seem unnecessary to you, but it has been really helpful for me! Also at the end of the year I can see which companies/people/brand I’ve worked with the most to help me think about the upcoming year.
The INVOICE SENT column helps me remember if I’ve actually sent the invoice for the project or not. There are a lot of companies that I work with who don’t ask for invoices, but I send them anyway. I use Freshbooks for my invoices. I do this for my own business records even if they don’t ask for one, and also so that I can stay on top of payments. Also, I think it’s just more professional in general. You’d be surprised how many times payments don’t get paid on time or get lost in the shuffle…
The PAY BY DATE column might be a little confusing, but I work with some companies who don’t pay invoices for 60-90 days (which is ridiculous by the way) so I put a reminder in this column of the date that I should have received payment by (sometimes I also add it on my Google calendar). This way I can check it against my bank accounts and make sure the invoice has been paid. Again, you’d be surprised at how often payments don’t make it by their due date, even if the company is Net60 or Net90. It’s frustrating. Staying on top of invoices is a bigger part of my job than I’d like it to be. But this column and putting a reminder on my Google calendar just helps me stay on top of it. If the payment isn’t on time, then I will send a friendly reminder to my contact and ask them to check on it. Usually they are sorry and embarrassed, an urgent email gets sent to accounting, and it gets paid.
Because my industry can be so up and down, this helps me anticipate and plan for what my income will look like each month. I might secure a large project, but it might not be happening for a month or two, then in some cases, the invoice might not get paid for a month after that, so it can be months and months of staying on top of things.
I also have a FEE column so I don’t have to dig through my emails to find the final agreed upon price for a project. I also will have a running SUM of this at the bottom of the column (you can see it in the first photo of the document above). This way I know how much is potentially coming in in the next few months which is helpful for planning and paying estimated taxes.
The last column is NOTES. Here I put anything specific I want to remember about the project. One example of this might be if there is an exclusivity to a project where a brand will ask me to not post about their competitors (I always make them provide a specific list) within a certain time period of the post (this type of exclusivity is usually an additional fee).
I already mentioned that I put projects in the document if I think they are going to happen and are being discussed, even if contracts haven’t been signed yet. Anything that isn’t confirmed or contracts haven’t been signed yet I leave WHITE. If the project doesn’t get confirmed for some reason, I just delete it.
Once the project has been confirmed I change the entire row (within the borders) to YELLOW.
Once the project is finished and I have sent the invoice I change the row to RED. Some projects I invoice in advance and they have to be paid in full in advance, others are paid after the project is completed. I always make sure to invoice as soon as possible. I just find that while I’m thinking of the project is the best time to invoice.
Once the project is finished and the invoice has been paid, I move the info over to a Completed Projects tab. More on that below.
In the first image of my Project List document in this post you can see on the bottom there is one tab that says CURRENT PROJECTS and one that says 2017 COMPLETED PROJECTS. You can change it to just 2017 or 2017 COMPLETED if you prefer something shorter. I have just the year on mine as I already know they are completed.
So once the project is completed and paid and I don’t have to think about it anymore, no more loose ends to tie up, I move the project over to the completed tab. You can just move over all the information and change the top row to the same as the current projects tab, but I prefer to simplify the info to only these four columns of info (shown above). I find the rest of the information unnecessary to keep. This is something that changed over time. At first I kept all the information in the completed tab, but over the years of using this method I just decided simple was better for me.
I don’t keep the project on the current projects sheet, I move it so that the only information on the current projects sheet are actual current projects.
You should do what’s best for you and your business. If you want to keep all the information in the completed projects sheets then do!
I also keep a sum at the bottom, so I can keep a running tally of my income from these projects for the year. I make my income in several ways so this doesn’t show all of it, but I just find it helpful. You can do this sum under functions in the nav bar. It works just like Excel.
I like to have borders around my rows, you can delete these if you want. It’s under borders in the nav bar.
Because I love you all, I made a blank version for you. You can just copy and paste it into your own Google Doc as it is a view only Google Doc.
Click HERE for access to my Project List Google Document.
Because this doc is view only, you’ll want to click on the 1 on the very left and on a Mac, hold down shift, then click on the number 27 down on the left. This will include the Total box. Copy Paste it into a new Google Doc of your own (key stroke is command C on a Mac to copy, then command P to paste). You can just click on the number 1 row in your new doc to paste. You will have to resize each column which you can do if you hover over the line between each column letter A B C and so on. A little arrow will pop up for you to make the column as wide as you like.
You will also want to freeze the first row. You can do this by clicking on the 1 again on the left, then View > Freeze > 1 Row (see image below).
From there you can (and should!) customize this doc however you prefer!
To add additional tabs for previous years, or for whatever you like, you just click the + down in the bottom left corner, and if you hover it will say Add Sheet. Click that and a new sheet will pop up in the tabs at the bottom. You can rename the tab by clicking on the down arrow to the right of the word and do all sorts of things to that sheet. See below.
Then if you want to move that sheet among the tabs you can just click and drag to reorganize it. I have my tabs in this order from left to right: Current Projects; 2017; 2016; 2015; and so on. From most current to oldest.
My organization method for my project list might just be a jumping off point for you. I want you to customize and change this however it works best for you. Maybe it doesn’t work for you at all and you have a better system — great! I just wanted to share what works for me. Hopefully it will help some of you if you are feeling unorganized!
Top photo by Emma Weiss