Using a Spreadsheet to Track Freelance Writing

Last Updated on January 7, 2020 by Michael Brockbank

Keeping an eye on the time you spend and the money you make is vital for success as a freelancer. It helps you grow, estimate future income and plan for upcoming bills. You can track freelance writing a number of ways, but I prefer using a spreadsheet.

Mostly, this is because I am a bit of a geek when it comes to collecting data. And spreadsheets let me do all kinds of things from formulaic expressions to creating visual charts for myself.

Personally, I find it incredibly fun.

Why Use a Spreadsheet to Track Freelance Writing?

Weekly Spreadsheet

First of all, I have terrible penmanship. I can barely read my own writing most of the time. A spreadsheet clears all that up.

But really, using a data-driven spreadsheet lets you do all kinds of things with the numbers. And the best part is that it’s free to use. In fact, I use Libre Office to track my freelance writing and Google Docs for my clients.

Here are some insights into how spreadsheets are useful.

Saving the Data for Future Reference

One thing I love to do is look back at my numbers and see how far I’ve come as a writer. Since I’ve been keeping track of freelance writing from day one, I can see the progress I’ve made over time.

Using that data, I can then estimate how long it will take me to finish a project on average. So if a client asks, “How long would it take you do write a 1000 word blog post?” I can say, “On average, just shy of an hour.”

This is because, based on average numbers in the spreadsheet, I can push 1066 words per hour including research and proofreading time.

Giving Yourself Inspiration

Spreadsheets are great for giving yourself inspiration and motivation to write. You can create charts that show progress, insert formulas with color results for positive growth and more.

It’s nice to look at the sheet and see the number of words you write go up every month in a chart.

The data I collect when I track freelance writing has helped improve my self-confidence. Looking back at the data, I can see that, yeah, I am a success at what I do. And I feel good about that aspect.

In areas that are lacking, I can then look at my day and see what I can do to improve.

Easier to Focus on Goals

Perhaps the most important aspect when tracking progress as a freelance writer, at least for me, is setting up obtainable goals. Based on performance, I can set daily and weekly objectives that help strengthen positive reinforcement.

In other words, I don’t set myself up for failure.

When you set a goal WAY too high, you’re more likely to feel bad about yourself when you don’t achieve the objective. This increases the likelihood that you’ll give up on your dreams.

But when you set smaller goals that are easier to accomplish but still require effort, you build confidence and have more faith in your abilities.

Personally, I prefer to break personal records. So if I typed up 2000 words today, my goal for tomorrow would be anything over 2000. Even if it’s just one word, that’s still an improvement.

What Data Do You Track for Freelance Writing?

My Personal Spreadsheet
My Personal Spreadsheet

One of the fun parts about tracking data in a spreadsheet is that you can keep an eye on virtually anything. It’s all personal preference and what is important in your career.

Now, my personal spreadsheet is more in-depth than the basic one you’ll find below. However, it’s not that difficult to edit to add your own goals, data points and other things you want to track.

With that being said, these are the top things I monitor when freelance writing.

Exact Start and Stop Times of Actual Writing

Just like a time clock, I want to know how long I actually spend on a client’s project. If I have to get up to walk around or go to the bathroom, I “clock out.”

As a freelance writer, more often than not, you’re paid for producing content…not per hour. This means that every second you’re not actually working on a client’s piece is one you’re not getting paid.

And keeping an eye on start and stop times also shows you how much time you waste in a day. It adds up quickly, and a spreadsheet will show you when you need to be more productive.

During my prime when using Textbroker, I would spend around 6 to 7 hours per day actually writing for clients.

Amount of Money You Bring In

Obviously you want to keep an eye on how much money you make as a freelance writer. A spreadsheet like mine gives insight into how much I make per hour and even how much I make on average throughout the year.

At any point, I can look at the form and give you an estimate regarding how much I make annually as a freelancer. At one point, one of my goals was to make sure I made enough money each month to pay bills broken down per day.

So if I needed to pay $750 for rent, I would need to make at least $25 per day. Of course, this was almost 10 years ago, and rent has gone up quite a bit. Still, it’s really not a lot when you look at it per day instead of per month.

Number of Words You Write

Keeping an eye on how many words you can produce per hour, day or week is useful for setting up all kinds of goals. You can also use the data to give estimates to clients regarding time and cost.

In the beginning, words were the major factor when I was keeping track of freelance writing. I used the numbers to create daily goals to improve my productivity. And being highly productive is how I made tens of thousands of dollars on content mills.

Today, I keep track of words for the same reason: productivity. Nowadays, though, it’s mostly to keep me motivated to blog more or finish my novel. That’s because most of my work today involves editing other writers.

Daily and Weekly Totals

If you haven’t guessed, I’m a big fan of breaking up large goals into smaller and more obtainable ones. It makes the primary objective look less daunting. Keeping track of daily and weekly totals helps with this.

For instance, let’s say that your cost of living each month comes up to $2,000 total. This includes food, pet supplies, Internet access, rent and everything you need to survive.

Now, $2000 for many people is a bit on the “Holy Cow!” side. But in reality, this only comes up to $66.67 per day. Speaking from experience, I used to make that just shortly after lunch from Textbroker.

Keeping track of daily and weekly totals helps you plan for bills, create goals and give ideas about how productive you are as a freelancer.
[template id=”2087″]

How Does My Spreadsheet Work?

Annual Breakdown

So, my spreadsheet is a bit convoluted, but it works very well for me. I’ll give a basic breakdown of it here but go into further detail on the landing page once it’s created.

Every day, I keep track of everything I do. This includes any work from clients, blogging I do for myself, the time I spent on my novel and time spent creating videos.

You enter in the start hour and minute, the number of words typed, the money you made from the piece, and the stop hour and minute. Then the sheet will show you all kinds of data from words per hour to annual income.

Every morning, I edit the Weekly numbers by manually typing in my progress from the day before. This is because of how the spreadsheet is set up. I’ll go further into detail on the download page.

Doing this provides an incredibly accurate portrayal of my productivity and income throughout the entire year.

I’ve created a landing page for the spreadsheet I use. I’ll try to explain how each section works and the best ways to use the form. However, feel free to make any adjustments you’d like.

In fact, I am debating on creating a few “How-to” videos for using the form.

This spreadsheet is a template to track your freelance writing. It’s not copyrighted, or anything like that. It is merely a form to help you keep an eye on your progress and help you create goals.

The file is saved in ZIP format and includes OSD, XLS and XLSX formats.

Are there plans to create an app or computer program instead of a spreadsheet?

I was thinking about building this into an actual program or Android app for the PC a while ago. But that would add yet another element to my ever-growing plate of stuff to do. However, if I can get more time for projects, I’d love to put this into an app or program.

And yes, the main functionality of it would be free.

So, I suppose the answer is yes, but with an asterisk. I don’t know when I’ll have time to do this. Perhaps one day when the blogs and YouTube channel generate enough income that I can do them full-time, I’d be able to set this up.

If this is something you’d be interested in, feel free to leave a comment down below. You can also send a message through social media or by using the Contact Form on this blog.

Keep an Eye on Your Numbers

Whether you use my spreadsheet or not, it’s a good idea to track freelance writing in some fashion. It’s motivational, helps you focus on what you need to make to pay bills, and helps you remain professional.

Never underestimate the power of strong data. I may be a geek with the spreadsheet, but I also have further insight into how I perform as a professional freelance writer.

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Michael Brockbank

Michael has been a freelance writer since January of 2012. He has completed more than 8,000 jobs for a variety of clients ranging from animals to travel. Currently, he is the Content Marketing Team Lead of GreenGeeks Web Hosting.

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