Keeping Track. Work Smarter By Remembering What Didn't
For many freelancers, especially those in creative industries, there is a resistance to accountability, oversight, or any task that traditionally falls on management. Many freelancers became what they are because they wanted to be their own manager, their own boss. But when push comes to shove, they don’t step up to the job of managing themselves. They’re freelancing so they could spend more time doing the work they love, not less. Well freelancers are businesses, and they’re responsible for doing everything a business does. One of the most essential tasks in that regard (one that even some employers forget to do) is keeping track. Keeping track of your work, your emails, your thoughts. Everything you create can and should be used again later.
Keeping track is as simple as saving a word document before you take a break. Or would you rather just remember what you wrote and start over every time? Of course you wouldn’t because you’re not a nut job? There are so many other basic habits you can pick up that help “save your work,” yet most people don’t utilize them. No matter your industry or craft, many of your clients will probably want the same stuff from you. After all, you’re telling people you’re good at social media marketing, why wouldn’t most clients ask you to build a marketing calendar? So it would behoove you to not only hold on to the content you create, but to organize it in a way that’s easily accessible. We’ve all began working on a project only to realize halfway through that we did a similar project a few months ago. We could have used the old one as a template that would have saved us hours or even days of work. If the old project wasn’t buried somewhere in your computer never to be seen again, maybe you would have remembered.
Using old work to inform new work can seem a bit like cheating your client. It’s not. They don’t care how you do your work as long as it gets done. What they do care about is speed, and the faster and easier you can get something done (and maintain quality of course) the more likely they are to continue working with you. Develop a routine to organize your old documents. Don’t just throw documents from past clients into the trash bin. Once you’ve finished a project, move the documents you used (which themselves should be organized) into a “for reference” section on your computer. They could come in handy when you least expect it.
Having a good memory is another trait clients and colleagues admire. It gives you the air of being on top of things, plus, it helps you actually stay on top of things. Poor organization could be contributing to your poor memory, but you can have a great filing system and still be forgetful. Memory tricks can help with this.
Visualization is a basic, but often fruitful, memory trick as our brains are better at remembering visual cues. If you know you need to submit a proposal about the price of gold to clients in New Hampshire at 10pm tomorrow create a photo album of that goal in your mind. The more detail the better. Think of a stack of gold paper on top of a blaring alarm clock that says 10pm sitting on atop a desk in the middle of a forest in autumn. That may sound ridiculous, but do you think there’s any chance you could forget that image?
Another useful trick is the thing we’ve all done since first grade: repetition. Repetition itself isn’t the trick. The trick is the way you utilize repetition. Don’t just read something you want to remember over and over. Write it out, say it out loud, or both. These practices help ideas stay in our mind more successfully than reading alone. Even more importantly, don’t “cram” the way you used to the night before a test. This doesn’t help, as your grades in history probably prove. Repetition works best when used in small increments. Commit to memorizing the information you need in short bursts across a few days.
A SYSTEM THAT WORKS FOR EVERYONE
Superior organization and memory are beneficial in any aspect of your life, but you aren’t working on this stuff for your health. You’re doing it for the benefit of your clients. That’s why the most important things to keep track of are the documents being sent back and forth between you and your clients on a daily basis. It is vital to a client relationship that you establish a system of communication and content sharing right at the beginning of your engagement. How often will documents be delivered? How often will notes and critiques be delivered? Should unfinished documents be available for clients to see whenever they wish or would they prefer to only see finished content? These are all things that you and a client should speak about in detail. Once you have the answers to those questions, you can choose an appropriate CMS to house and organize this active content. One of our favorites is Monday.com. If your clients like to use live documents that they can open and edit themselves whenever they like, then another application we like is Microsoft Office Online. If the client isn’t familiar with the software you like make sure to take the time to explain the UI as best as possible. You never want a client to panic about not getting a document that you sent them weeks ago.
If only our memories were well organized libraries of information. In actuality, they are oceans of jumbled neurons and synapses. This is why we need other ways to keep track of things. Doing so (on a regular basis we might add), not only makes your life easier, but makes you come off as more professional and more qualified to clients.