One topic that comes up a lot when discussing running a small business or freelancing is scheduling. It can be really hard to accurately judge capacity and keep track of scheduled projects, not to mention projecting when you’ll have openings for future projects.
I’ve looked at a bunch of apps and systems for handling scheduling for my business but they tend to either be too granular for me (I don’t need to see each day individually for this kind of project scheduling), and/or they have too many other features that I don’t need but that increase the cost of the app or tool.
Instead, I’ve been using the same Google spreadsheet system for quite awhile now and it looks like it’s here to stay. Here’s what it looks like:
This system is most similar to Gantt charts, I think, but all the Gantt charts I’ve ever used are day-by-day rather than week-by-week, which I prefer.
As you can see, I’ve got one column for each week. I add as many columns as I need for currently scheduled projects and then a few more empty weeks after (so that I can project future project availability and keep an eye on upcoming holidays or vacations).
There is a row for each project “slot.” I have more than one row for myself (usually I have a few, depending on how heavily I want to schedule myself), and then one for each person on my team. There’s also a row just for updates or tweaks for existing clients (those small things that come up and that we try to fit in around our main project schedule).
When I get a new inquiry, I check this spreadsheet to see when the next empty space is and that’s how I determine availability. Once I’m fairly certain a project is going to move forward, I put it on the spreadsheet in italics, with the first week of the project in bold. The bold helps me keep track of how many projects are starting in any given week – I generally try to stagger them a bit.
I use as many cells (weeks) as I think the project will take, sometimes adding in some buffer, especially around holidays. You can see in the screenshot that I also block off holiday weeks, typically the whole week even if I’m planning to work part of the week, which is another way of adding buffer time to my schedule.
Once a deposit has been paid, the italics get taken off, which means we’ve confirmed that slot for that project (things in italics are tentative and subject to change).
There’s nothing especially high tech about this solution, but it’s nice for a few reasons:
- It’s pretty easy to see next availability at a glance
- It’s also easy to see which projects are coming up soon so that we can touch base with those designers to make sure everything is on track
- If we need to move projects around due to delays, we can cut and paste blocks of cells to do that
- Brianne (my invaluable business assistant) and I can leave each other notes and comments on the cells
- Since it’s a Google spreadsheet, I can access the schedule from anywhere and I can share it with Brianne
I’d be very curious to hear of other systems people use for their scheduling!