Believe it or not, in addition to being talented writers, ghostwriters are also skilled jugglers. But rather than keeping balls or fruit or bowling pins in the air, they keep writing projects circulating.
Being able to manage multiple ghostwriting gigs makes the difference between earning a decent living and being financially well off. Consider how much more money you could earn as a writer if you completed two or three times the projects you currently have?!
So what’s the secret? How can you take on more work than you currently have and still get it done in a timely fashion? Strong project management skills are the key says Sandra Beckwith, ghostwriter and freelance writer who also teaches authors how to promote their books at BuildBookBuzz.com.
A Project Management System
“I put a lot of emphasis on meeting deadlines – probably even more than my clients – and to meet them, I use systems that help keep me on track,” Beckwith explains. In addition to receiving promised documents on time, clients also expect to receive a quality product, rather than something churned out in haste, she says. That takes planning, scheduling, and regular tracking.
The project management tool Beckwith uses to juggle her many projects is a table she created herself within Word. You could also set up something similar in Excel, she says; she simply prefers Word.
She uses the “table” function in Word to create a grid into which she breaks down each writing project she has taken on. The client project title is entered into the far left cell with related information running horizontally across, in a single row. Down that first left column she lists key steps required for project completion, or milestones. In book projects, that list might include individual chapters. For corporate newsletters, she may list various article contributors to a particular newsletter issue.
Then, atop columns running left to right across the screen, Beckwith has headers that include:
- Who is responsible, to indicate who is doing what related to that step. The name in that cell might be of someone who is supposed to pass along contact information or to forward background research related to the project.
- The deadline is next, which is the next date on which she needs to complete a specific step in the project.
- Notes related to that step, such as that she is waiting for her key contact to return from vacation before proceeding or that her contact is in the Mountain time zone.
- Completed, which she checks off once a step has been finished.
“That last column is important,” says Beckwith, because when she pulls up her grid to check on a project’s status, she can quickly scan the last column to see where the holes are. Cells that don’t have checks “provide a visual cue to what’s missing.”
Syncing Due Dates and Daily Calendar
Beckwith’s project grid is then coordinated with her daily Outlook calendar, which she keeps on her desktop. She transfers deadlines from her project grid onto her calendar so that as she looks at the next week, she can quickly spot upcoming due dates. Beckwith’s work habits include spending a little time on Sunday evening planning the work week ahead and then referring to her calendar regularly during the day.
She prioritizes her daily work based on due dates. “I put my time into what needs to be done today, based on the week ahead,” she says, to ensure she stays on schedule and delivers client work on or before her deadline.
That doesn’t mean that her schedule is firm – fluid is more like it. Beckwith says she’s constantly rearranging her calendar because “one shift in the deliverable schedule in one project has an impact on other projects and timelines…it’s a juggling act.”
In addition to helping her meet deadlines, Beckwith’s project management skills help her maximize her time and her income. “Managing my time does give me more time for work, which helps improve my earning power.”