The science vs. the art: Improve writing projects by developing your project management skills

Peep our job titles here at WordsFresh and you’ll find something quite fascinating. Many of us have some form of the title, “Writer and Project Manager.”

Yes, you read that right. We employ those mystical creatures that can somehow bring together creative brainpower with practical and disciplined project management skills.

Not everyone can tap into both of these skill sets, and a lot of writers prefer to only live in the artistic realm (which is great – keep those creative juices flowing!). But for those of us who embrace the more scientific aspects of our writing projects, it helps to be reminded of some best practices.

Here are three ways writers can keep their project management skills fresh:

1) Ask all the questions

As writers, we need to become experts on any given topic before we can communicate about it. However, as project managers, we also need an added level of knowledge. We need know all the nitty gritty details about the project.

In rare cases, we get all the information we need served to us on a silver platter. With most projects, though, we have to actively seek out the information we need in order to deliver amazing results. Things we might need to know, include:

  • What is the timeline for each step in the process, as well as the final deadline?
  • Will multiple people need to review or will there be single approval? How much time should I account for that?
  • What are the design needs? Do we need to shoot new photography, or do we want to use stock images or illustration?
  • Are there deliverables that need to be printed or shipped via mail?

Asking these kinds of questions at the start of a project will save a lot of headaches by the time we deliver the finished product.

2) Find your system

Post-it notes and to-do lists are great – believe me, I consider them dear friends – but to keep your arms around your project, you need a system that keeps you on track. It needs to host all your information, such as background docs, different drafts, design files, etc. More than simply a filing system, though, it also needs to keep you on task (something all writers could use a little help with, am I right?).

For these purposes, there is an unending list of project management software. At WordsFresh, we primarily use Trello. It allows us to set up boards per project, with lists and assignment cards that keep everything organized and in one place.

For budgets, we use a time tracking service called Harvest. Not only do we keep track of our own time there, but we can set up budgets and view our progress on a project at a glance.

And then there’s the tried-and-true spreadsheet. Even in its simplest form, it can be the perfect tool to keep track of costs, orders, etc., without having to use overcomplicated software.

3) Follow the money

Even though it’s not as glamorous as creative writing, minding clients’ budgets is a huge part of our project management services. In past projects, we have been the single point of contact for copywriting, design, printing, programming, video shoots and more. Having that many responsibilities means our clients look to us to keep close track of where their money is going.

Different project managers have their preferred methods tracking budgets, but I’ve found a handy dandy spreadsheet does everything I need. Once you tailor the format to meet the needs of a project, you can track status, capture costs and create an end product that you can reference on future projects. Although continually updating it might take some discipline, your future self will thank you in the end.

When put into practice, these reminders help project management become a smooth process. You’ll be able to marry the art and the science of writing for a truly remarkable end product.

WordsFresh Named GLI Very Small Business of the Year
What's Your Style (Guide)?