How should I track freelance graphic design jobs?
November 30, 2007 12:51 PM   Subscribe

What should I use to track freelance graphic design jobs?

I recently started doing freelance graphic design, perhaps unwisely as I hadn't done much research on what freelance was like. I have one steady client so far and a few sporadic ones.

My steady client has been great so far with the exception of the occasional panicked e-mail claiming that I missed deadline on projects given to me, when in fact I had never received said project. I know this because most communication is done by e-mail and I save every single e-mail I get. Regardless, it is difficult to prove that I never got the project and it seems that in this business, it's easiest for the marketing team to just blame the contractor. I would like to think that a tracking system would save everyone a lot of headaches and confusion.

Is there an online system that I can set up on a subdomain that will allow them to send me projects like tech support tickets? Is there a tech support system that I can install on my server that I could modify to meet my needs? I would want to get details like job numbers, job descriptions, requirements, sizes, necessary files/logos, and deadlines from the client and in return I would like to be able to track hours on there and perhaps even integrate it into billing.

A bit of Googlefu yielded this: Does anyone have experience with this site? Would this meet my needs? The site seems somewhat vague and I'm not sure where the line between free and not free begins. I'm not sure that I want someone else to be in control of my job tracking, either.

Also, any general advice for a green freelancer would be welcome. I'm trying to find out if I like freelancing enough to quit my full-time job at an ad agency that I can only describe as "doomed." Thank you!
posted by bristolcat to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Basecamp?
posted by GuyZero at 1:07 PM on November 30, 2007

Best answer: I can second Basecamp.

You may also want to peruse this list of essential freelancing resources from Freelance Switch.
posted by Soup at 1:12 PM on November 30, 2007

I think the one they have at Modern Postcard is pretty good and it might work for your situation. The customer submits an order and has to continually choose the specifics and okay the specifics. Changes are authorized by the client, a proof is sent prior to printing and before a job continues on the assembly line so there is no room for miscommunication. The final approval and request always points back to the client. Additional charges are noted prior to the things the client chooses, so there is no surprise price wise. Check it out, It's an almost idiot proof system for placing orders and both sides know exactly what they are getting.

For general advice to a new freelancer, I'd suggest having the client sign off and initial/confirm each and every change, no matter how slight. Memories become foggy when the print job comes back and it isn't what they wanted, you know?
posted by 45moore45 at 1:16 PM on November 30, 2007

Basecamp is worth a look.

You may also be able to use Google's online spreadsheet and give the client access to it. You can decide whether the access is read-only or if they can add things to it.

Freelance Switch is awesome, and DO download and listen to all of their podcasts. Good, good, stuff and very entertaining. They discuss these kinds of issues among several freelancers, who may have differing opinions, but you'll hear something that works for you.
posted by The Deej at 1:17 PM on November 30, 2007

Basecamp is awesome, but doesn't meet your requirements for setting up on your own server. Here are two suggestions that do:


FogBugz (originally bug tracking SW, but it includes very nice project management functionality).

Good luck!
posted by j-dawg at 1:43 PM on November 30, 2007

ActivCollab dropped the OSS model. The inevitable fork is ProjectPier
posted by Leon at 2:45 PM on November 30, 2007

I just usually insist they pick up the phone to start a project.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 3:40 PM on November 30, 2007

"Regardless, it is difficult to prove that I never got the project"
Er, so you're committed to each project whether or not you respond? That's a crazy situation, you need to explicitly accept each piece of work and make it clear to the client that's how it works from now on. Project tracking systems are a secondary issue.
posted by malevolent at 4:11 AM on December 2, 2007

Response by poster: I wanted to take some time to review these options before I posted again and marked "best answers." I think Basecamp is awesome! I had heard of it around MeFi before but never thought to see what it was all about. It won't be on my own server, but that's OK. It looks like it has everything else I'd need.

I'm also interested in checking out ProjectPier. I like the looks of that as well.

Freelance Switch is an amazing resource! I'm now addicted to their blog and plan to download the podcasts. Thanks so much for this tip!
posted by bristolcat at 2:04 PM on December 3, 2007

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