I’m a freelance writer. So that means I spend all of my time writing, right? Wrong. As well as the writing, there’s creating and sending cost estimates, taking briefs over the phone or in person, going to meetings, answering emails, writing emails, managing emails, researching work, making phone calls, answering phone calls, tracking down purchase order numbers, creating invoices, sending invoices, managing invoices, chasing overdue invoices, paying invoices into the bank, tracking expenses, and, and, and…
Oh, and then there’s the actual writing itself – provided I have time after all that lot. Only kidding, clients, only kidding.
But what I’ve also found myself doing recently is spending a big chunk of time researching tools that will help me manage my time. To the point where it’s starting to make my head ache. For example, over the last couple of years I’ve tried…
..and about as many combinations as you can possible make from that lot.
Issues, issues, issues.
I’m still struggling. I’ve had issues with Outlook and IMAP email (it just doesn’t work the way I’d like it to), but I like Outlook 2007’s To-Do Bar, calendar and category support. Thunderbird with IMAP is better for email, but there’s no stable calendar option and the address book is tough to sync with my phone. Microsoft Project is overkill. Ta-da lists are underkill (at least for what I want anyway). Remember The Milk is good (and also has offline access via Google Gears) but it’s completely standalone. Some days I want full integration. Basecamp was good but I’m trying to keep costs down. It also doesn’t integrate with my email. Highrise confused the crap out of me. Relenta looked good but just missed the mark as to what I wanted. Quickbooks can suck my double entries – I’m going to give Freshbooks a proper try again. However, it’s also not integrated with my email. Or my project management software. Blinksale seemed too basic – no reporting. Sidejobtrack looked great visually, but I couldn’t risk losing critical project stuff on a free app. Word was great but didn’t really give me the option to access my documents online. Google docs did, but I didn’t have the patience to deal with its freaky formatting issues.
And no matter what combination I try, I’m just not satisfied.
So where’s my super-all-in-one-freelance-management app?
In the words of Gordon Sting, I still haven’t found what I’m looking for. Which is… one online app which include offline access (Google Gears again), and which offers email, project management and accounting all in one.
That way, I wouldn’t need to enter clients’ addresses into at least two separate applications, I could take a brief by email, create a project with to-do’s and milestones, etc, write the copy, send it back by email, making sure all those emails were tagged with my own Project Number, then once the copy was approved by the client, I could create an invoice inside this project and track it – all inside the same application. And at any time, I could click a project name and instantly see all emails and to-do’s associated with that project, all files I’ve sent or received, and all invoices I’ve created.
It’s Basecamp, integrated with Gmail, integrated with Freshbooks. That’s the kind of thing I want. And you know what: I’d pay at least the total amount I’m paying all these other providers. Surely I’m not the only one.
Does it even exist? Probably not. But I can dream. So in the absence of any developers reading this, and due to the fact that building this myself isn’t really an option, what are you guys using? And more importantly, how’s it working out for you?
Actually, don’t tell me – pen and paper, right? Maybe I’ll give that a go… it’s the one thing I haven’t yet tried!