Use Google Docs to Manage your Digital Projects, from Freelance to Large Agency

In July 2012 I launched 3 Door Digital alongside my three co-founders. The launch was part of a merging process between two existing companies (Pleer, based in Manchester, UK and Matan Media based in Tel Aviv, Israel). Along with the merger came some potential operational hazards that we had to make sure we were on top of prior and post launch. Part of my responsibility was to find and apply the best project and time management process for our campaigns moving forward.

In the past few years I have used numerous task management tools and decided to put a few to the test to see which one would work for us. In the end we found that Google Docs was actually the best platform for us to use. This may seem like an uncommon choice but with the correct setup it has proved to be extremely successful.

I’m going to share how we manage to stay on top of over 30 client projects at any one time whilst making sure we don’t miss tasks or lose track of the hours we’ve spent.

Before covering all this, there was a second choice…

In the end we had a decision between two platforms – Basecamp and Google Drive (formerly Google Docs). Basecamp was great for us but there was something missing (which I’m sure will eventually be added at some point) – the ability to quickly browse tasks, task owners and time management all in one easy-to-read page. This is where Google Docs won. Don’t get me wrong – Basecamp is a fantastic choice for some companies – it just wasn’t the best solution for us.

So, there were a few reasons why we chose Google Docs and I’ll go through why, feature by feature. As well as this I’ll share a template document that you can copy as your own to tweak as you wish.

Google Docs Spreadsheets FTW

Before 3 Door Digital was born, I had two concurrent jobs: the Head of SEO at a search agency in Manchester and another running my own company with my wife and business partner. Because, at the time, there were only two of us it was quite easy to keep track of each other’s work using an Excel document within a Dropbox shared folder. Once 3 Door Digital started trading, it became obvious that this wasn’t going to be the best solution.

To start, I simply uploaded the spreadsheet template I’d been using for Pleer into Google Documents and added the additional clients from Matan Media into the new 3 Door Digital template. Simple!

“Simple” I thought – it wasn’t so simple. Although I was well aware that I was now planning out 20+ retainer clients, 10+ one-off clients as well as other internal tasks. It was time to roll out the “super template” that would make it easy to navigate these 30+ clients whilst being easy to read for all consultants, account managers and directors. Most of all, it had to be workable so that tasks were not missed out (the main personal downfall of mine for Basecamp’s GUI).

The Super Template

Marc and I took a day out to create this super template by discussing how both teams work between offices in two countries on various tasks. Each row would represent a different task, no matter how small. What we needed to do is select columns. For each task, we covered the following:

Client Name
Platform Name (because some clients have various sites and platforms, some of which may have different account managers)
Account Manager
Task Name
Owner (if not the account manager)
Actual Hours Undertaken
Completed (this uses a tick, exclamation point or cross – more on this later)