Eliminate Sidewalk Chaos: Useful freelance tools to improve workflow and time management


About Barbara Mantel

Barbara Mantello (@BJMantel), an independent journalist, is the freelance correspondent of the AHCJ community. His work has appeared on CQ Researcher, Rural Health Quarterly, Undark, Healthline, NBCNews.com, and NPR, among others. Help members find the resources they need to be successful as freelancers and welcome your suggestions.

Photo by Sebastian Rieger via Flickr.

I am old-fashioned and often reluctant to download apps to organize my work. I mainly use spreadsheets, mailboxes and desktop folders. While this method works, it is not efficient. For example, I have story ideas scattered around several places and occasionally open a document or email where I usually keep them and realize that my big story idea is out of date.

Now I have started to cautiously try out some apps to improve both my workflow and time management.


I usually get paid by the word or by the project, but often what interests me most is how this translates into hourly payment. Am I spending too much time on an assignment that I work for 99 cents an hour? Clockify is a time management tool that allows me to enter a project and activate and deactivate a timer while I work. If I were ambitious, I could also create reports and send invoices. The company offers paid plans with more features, but I use the free version.

Activate / deactivate track

Activate / deactivate trackAnother time tracking app (available in both free and paid versions) is a popular choice among some AHCJ members.


Aina de Lapparent Alvarez, a journalism student at Columbia, recommends Habitic. It makes keeping and using a to-do list a fun game. “Kill monsters and level up,” Alvarez said. “He makes me follow the sources that do not answer”. The more your avatar can keep up with your to-do list, the more gear and prizes you win.


Health and higher education writer Koren Wetmore uses OmniFocus to organize his work and passion projects and housework.

“The app allows me to assign due dates for tasks and projects, provides reminders, a calendar view (forecast) that gives an overview of my workload, plus tags and flags for assigning the priority level,” he said. Wetmore stated.

Users can also track activities and ideas that come to their mind as they work and later add them to an existing project.

Other useful tools

App resistant journalists can benefit from Freelance writer and editor Ruth E. Thaler-Carter is the toolbox for organizing.

  • A Word document with tabs for Customer / Rate / Project Type / Assignment / Due Date / Sent / Billed / Received Payment that is updated regularly as new projects arrive and others conclude.
  • A “To Do Today” list in Word on your computer desktop.
  • Excel documents for customers billed by the hour that calculate the time and amounts.
  • A computer folder for each client or project.
  • Mailboxes for client / project messages that can be deleted when no longer needed.
  • A Dropbox to move files from desktop to laptop and to save or have long-term access to items in case something happens to one or both computers.

“Some of these are redundant, but it’s intentional; I believe in a “belts and braces” approach to saving files, “said Thaler-Carter.

I’ve compiled a more comprehensive list of apps to help with organization and time management, including Evernote, Scribe and others, on the Freelance Center page on the AHCJ website. and under the Tools & Apps tab.

If you have any suggestions for apps that should be added to the list, please contact me at [email protected]


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