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5 Tools to Help Manage Your Creative Projects

Writing novels, recording albums, and designing games are gargantuan tasks. Where most creatives struggle is dealing with all the other stuff needed to put their work out into the world. If you've been there, then you probably know how it goes.


Writing a novel? You'll need a book cover, an editor, formatter, beta-readers, an agent, and someone to market and manage the book.

Recording an album? You'll need to write the music, manage the recording sessions, organize the tracks, design the album cover... and wait! Are you uploading to Soundcloud, selling on Bandcamp, or courting a label?


Designing a game? Whoa, boy! There's play-testing, artwork, component designs, and about a thousand things to consider if you're planning a Kickstarter campaign!


Simply thinking about all of the tasks involved with one of these projects is enough to make any right-brained person go a bit batty!


LCP: Big goals, one step at a time.

As a project manager by day and a writer by night, I've learn a few things from my day job that make tackling huge projects much easier. As a messy right-brained person, I figured out early on that organization is key to successful project management. A project can seem daunting when it's all jammed into your head, so the first step is write down everything that you think needs to be done. Just like I did above, write down everything that you must do to finish the job, and then write down all the tasks that you might need to do.


Getting all of the tasks out of your head an onto paper will give you an idea of the level of effort that you'll need to finish the project. Once you've dumped it all out onto paper, take another piece of paper and put each task into a bucket. For example, if you're publishing a book, you might have the following buckets and tasks:


Bucket #1: Complete novel

  • Complete draft #1

  • Read and edit draft #1

  • Solicit beta-readers

  • Incorporate beta-reader feedback into draft #2

Bucket #2: Find a publisher

  • Compile list of potential publishers

  • Craft query letter

  • Create system for tracking submissions

Bucket #3: Marketing and promotion

  • Create a video book trailer

  • Compile list of book review sites

  • Create press release.

Once you have your tasks and your buckets, you'll have a better picture of what you need to do to complete your project. Have a task list is a great way to keep momentum going even when you don't feel like doing the creative work. Suffering from writer's block won't ever be problematic, because you can check your list and work on something else. Don't feel like writing? Keep moving forward by making a list of book publishers that specialize in your genre. If you know all the work that need to be done, you can stay on target. Nothing is more satisfying than closing out tasks on your list!


One thing I would highly recommend is reviewing your task list first thing in the morning each day. This daily exercise will help you figure out what you will accomplish that day. Plus, since all of the tasks are out of your head, you won't have to worry about forgetting something important.


Finally, don't recreate the wheel. There are several free apps that make project management simple and easy to share with those you around you. Check out our top five favorites below for task management, file sharing, day-to-day scheduling, and the good old-fashioned go-to. For example, Basecamp is our go-to for the overall work that we need to do for the Loud Coffee Press, but if we have large projects, like our Eight Bells Bluff game, we use Trello to break the project down into small bites. The best part about all of these tools is that they're all free!


Basecamp touts itself as an "all-in-one tool for working remotely," but we love it for its centralized to-do list functionality. It's useable via the internet or downloadable via an app, and once you're logged in, you can add users to different projects. Within a project, use or share a message board, to-do list, group chat, scheduler, and more. We link out to our Google Drive to incorporate files directly into Basecamp, so those can be shared with each other. Basecamp will email you reminders of "what's on your plate this week," but the most fun aspect? Checking off completed items on the to-do list!



A basic setup within the Basecamp check-in page
Image: basecamp.com

2. Trello

Trello is another web-based project management system, but it's functionality is different than Basecamp. Where we see Basecamp as the virtual office manager, Trello dives deeper into each project. Trello works with a card system, where each project is broken down into a task, and each task is then sorted into groups - essentially "to-do," "doing," and "done" piles. If you're managing a big project (oh, I don't know, say a magazine, or working on launching a game...) this becomes the giant e-cork board filled with index cards. They're color-coded, note-embedded, and personalized, so you know who is working on what.



A Trello task board
Image: trello.com

Do you feel like you live off a world of calendars? One Calendar is an app that does exactly what it's name implies. It integrates all of your calendars into one using color-coded bars. Adding a new invite via Google Calendar? It will populate in One Calendar. Sharing a Facebook event with your friends to launch that new book? Allow One Calendar to sync it for you.

Image: onecalendar.nl

There's a good chance that you're familiar with Google Drive, but in case you don't know, look no further. Google Drive is cloud-based storage through the Google Suite, and it comes free (up to 15 GB of storage) with a free Google email account. It's easy-to-use interface allows for document sharing among users, sharing folders between computers, sharing files with custom links, storing videos, PDFs, presentations, and more. It provides SSL encryption, and is compatible with dozens of editing and conversion apps. Plus, it's easy to use from other electronic devices (i.e., your phone!). You can upload your work and access it from anywhere in the world.


Screenshot of Google Drive

5. The old "notebook in pocket"

While ubiquitous, technology requires two things: a battery charge and (usually) internet access. Then, there's the whole concept of being tired of that pesky blue light. We'd be remiss not to mention the old-reliable, the tried-and-true, the small notebook in the pocket. It doesn't fail when the power goes out, it conveniently stores all of your ideas in one place, it can be referenced for later use, and it's easy to use in public. How is this one free, you might ask? We're sure you have an unused notebook around the house. As Fred says, "If you're a creative person without an empty notebook, you should probably just quit."


And here, we listen to Fred.



Photo by Annie James Thomas

*We are not endorsed users of any of these products! These are simply products that we use and love, that make our creative lives easier.




What are your favorite ways to manage your projects? Let us know below!

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