How to Track Your Copywriting Projects

Staying organized is an essential skill for any freelancer, and especially so for freelance writers. Many copywriting projects have multiple phases and rounds of review, and each milestone can have an associated deadline and discussion… tracking it all can be a challenge.

Successful freelancing requires nearly as much project management as it does writing, so here are some things to keep in mind. 

Copywriting Project Tracking: Define Your Deliverables

Before you can begin managing your copywriting projects, you need to define what you are managing. If this isn’t done early in the project, it can cause problems later, particularly for large, complex writing tasks. Some of the things to consider upfront are:

  • Project phases. Most writing projects follow a predictable phase structure, with an outline, a first/rough draft, a second draft, and a polished final version. Each of these deliverables should have an associated time frame or deadline.
  • Rounds of review. Clarify with the client how many rounds of review will be given at each stage, and who will be giving notes.

    Every freelancer is familiar with the dilemma of finishing a final draft and then getting one more comment, and then another one, and then another, sometimes by a new commenter who hasn’t been involved in previous review cycles. Defining who comments and when can help keep a project manageable and easier to track.
  • What type of project is it? Your deliverables and review cycles might vary depending on what type of project it is. For example, writing a website or printed brochure often requires more rounds of review and revision, since the final product needs to be effective for a large audience and a long time frame.

    Writing speeches or presentations may also require more notes and review cycles, since it’s natural for the person delivering the content to be meticulous and anxious about it. Writing blog posts or informational articles may need less review, since they are more straightforward.
  • Is this a new client? If you haven’t worked with a client before, it’s a good idea to be even more specific about deliverables and expectations. If it’s a new client and a large project, it’s a good idea to create an extra round of review between the outline and the first draft (call it a “half-draft”), where you write a portion of the first draft and then ask the client to review it. That way you can determine whether you are on the right track before finishing the entire first draft. 

Once you have defined your deliverables, you can begin to create a structure that helps you track the project.

Copywriting Project Tracking Structure

If you have a good idea of the above factors, you can begin to layout a tracking system. A typical copywriting structure might look like this:

  • Client: My Favorite Client
  • Project: The Best Blog Post
    • Outline: due Jan 1
    • First draft: due Jan 10
    • Second draft: due Jan 17
    • Final version: due Jan 22

If you know the client has a tendency to give late feedback or comments, and those comments affect your ability to deliver on time, you might add a second set of deadlines, like so:

  • Client: My Favorite Client
  • Project: The Best Blog Post
    • Outline: due Jan 1
    • Client comments: due Jan 5
    • First draft: due Jan 10
    • Client comments: due Jan 13
    • Second draft: due Jan 17
    • Client comments: due Jan 19
    • Final version: due Jan 22

Naturally, when you are setting deadlines for a client, it’s important to communicate your expectations very clearly and make sure your dates fit into their schedule.

Obviously, when looked at that way, even a simple blog post can have a lot of dates to track. So how do you keep all this organized when you have multiple writing projects at the same time?

Copywriting Project Tracking Systems

The truth is, because everyone thinks and works differently, everyone needs something slightly different from a tracking system. Some people prefer a suite of synchronized apps, while some people swear by their battered paper planners.

Not only are there hundreds of different methods, but for each method, there are dozens of specific tools.

Here’s an overview of how different tracking systems work:

Calendar-based Copywriting Project Tracking

Obviously, a calendar-based system is date-driven. On Jan 1, this outline and that revision are due. On the 2nd, these revisions and that final draft are due, and so on.

With calendar systems, you can usually assign different colors to tasks to organize them by phase, project, or client.


  • Calendar systems are perfect for hard deadlines or people who tend to be late. If you need a lot of reminders and nudges, these systems are a great choice.
  • Calendar systems can be high tech, with reminders on your computer and/or phone, or low-tech, written on a wall calendar; some people prefer the visibility and tangibility of wall calendars.
  • Integrate well with existing calendar systems. If you already keep daily or weekly to-do lists, it’s easy to incorporate copywriting tasks into the same framework.


  • Require you to have or create a date for every deliverable for every project, even when the time frames are more open-ended.
  • Depending on your calendar type, it can be tedious to move every associated task when things change.

    For example, if a client is a week late for their first round of feedback, and all the subsequent milestones need to shift by a week, all the dates need to be adjusted. This happens all the time, and calendar-based systems can be time-consuming to update in that way.
  • Calendar-based systems may have limited functionality. If you are writing in a planner or a wall calendar, you only have so much room. If you are using a calendar app, it usually has robust tools for reminders, recurrences, and so forth, and has space for notes.

    However, calendars are not designed for complex and robust project management. If your project doesn’t just have dates and deadlines, but also has briefs, references, emails, examples, contact information, mockups and layouts, and other information, then you need a second system in addition to the calendar to track all that contextual data. 

Task-based Copywriting Project Tracking

Task-based systems require you to break a project into discrete tasks. For example, write the outline, write the first draft, write the second draft, and so on.

These systems work well for people who keep daily to-do lists and are accustomed to working on one task at a time. This system is easily incorporated into a paper planner or bullet journal, and you can use different colors of inks to differentiate projects or clients.

The most popular task-based management system is Kanban, which can be done on paper on a board, or with a variety of Kanban apps and tools (Trello is my favourite).

Kanban systems have a layout of columns that represent project phases, and individual tasks are placed in their appropriate column. As each task is updated, it is moved along the board to indicate what phase it is in, until it is complete.

Kanban is easy to use and easy to learn, and organizes tasks visually, which can be helpful for many people.


  • Task-tracking is satisfying. No matter what system you use, marking a task as “done” is very satisfying and motivating, and these systems give you that positive feeling at every phase of a project.
  • Task-tracking can simplify complex projects. If a project seems large, complex, and overwhelming, the process of sitting down and dividing it into smaller tasks can help to make it more manageable.


  • Task-based systems don’t work as well for recurring tasks. For regular recurring tasks, like ongoing blog posts or social media posts, task-based systems can be repetitive, and remove a lot of the satisfaction of finishing things.
  • Differing levels of contextual information and/or calendar functionality. Some Kanban software is robust and complex and includes calendar features and reminders, and the ability to attach a lot of contextual information to a task.

    Not all task-based systems are as robust, and it isn’t always easy to merge the convenience of task-based working with the demands of calendars and deadlines.

Project-based Copywriting Project Tracking Systems

Project-based systems are a great way to organize large, complex writing projects with a lot of independent milestones and contingent factors. Project systems can manage tasks, timelines, and goals, as well as tracking contingencies and dependencies.

For example, if you are writing a website, and need to see page layouts or mockups, research competitors, get guidance from a graphics department, review the brand bible, etc, a project-based system helps you clarify what you need to do and when, and what contingent or dependent factors there may be.

These systems can take a lot of time to set up, but they also allow you to attach a wide range of contextual information, trigger dependent events, delegate tasks, and visualize a whole project at once.

Because these systems can be complex to set up and often have a learning curve, they are often overkill for freelance writing projects. However, they can be a great way to organize your freelance writing business, especially if you are a person who likes to stay on top of every detail.

A project management system can track your client work and projects, as well as your own business-related tasks like marketing and promotion, invoicing and administration, and sales and new client development.


  • Designed for tracking large, complex projects. Some projects are very complex and have dependencies and contingencies that can’t be tracked with simpler systems. These systems usually have convenient functionality where if you need to shift one deadline, you can shift all the associated tasks accordingly.
  • Include delegation features. Most of these systems include delegation capabilities, where you can assign a task to another person without losing sight of the task or any associated deadline.


  • Can be difficult to set up and hard to learn. Depending on the system, these can be complex to learn and take a lot of time to set up. For simple projects, it can take as long to set up and configure the project in the software as it does to just do the project.
  • Can be expensive. Since these systems are often used by professionals in larger business environments, they can be expensive to buy.

The most important thing about choosing a copywriting tracking system is that it allows you to complete high-quality work and build strong client relationships. Your system can be as simple or complex as you need, as long as you never miss a deadline.

Within every kind of system, there are hundreds of different apps and options, so experiment until you find the right solution for your needs.

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About Rebekah Villon

Rebekah Villon is a professional writer and marketing consultant who specialises in strategic content for B2B communications. In her personal life, she enjoys the freedom of remote digital work while travelling, pursuing hobbies, and continuous learning.

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