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Finding the best copywriting project management software

Alice Still

Unramble Ltd

PRO

Whiteboard and marker pensUnsurprisingly, most of the work we produce for clients is some form of copy. Behind the scenes we need other processes, to strategise, research, plan projects and get feedback – plus make sense of all the information passing through.

That’s copywriting project management in a nutshell.

It’s simple enough to manage small projects, like the odd eGuide or blog post. But when we’re creating copy for a large website, or an ongoing content strategy, our processes are more complex.

We don’t want this complexity to be passed on to our clients though. So we use software to streamline our project management as much as possible. Finding the perfect software – something to replace trusty old Google Drive – was one of my personal New Year’s resolutions.

While there are tonnes of apps for general project management, the choice for managing specifically (digital) copywriting projects is more limited – so it wasn’t the easiest of tasks.

What exactly were we looking for?

Copywriting project management software must-haves

For a streamlined process and happy clients, we have some special processes. The perfect piece of software would need to accommodate – and ideally improve upon – these processes:

  • Planning structure – whether that’s a sitemap for a website, a single page, a content strategy or an entire project.
  • Writing and editing copy.
  • Tracking changes, adding comments and managing version control.
  • Storing everything securely and reliably – backed up lots.
  • Exporting copy while maintaining its appearance, structure, changes and comments.
  • Collaborating internally (between the Unramble team) and externally (with our lovely clients).
  • Encouraging timely client feedback.

There are tools that do a good job in many of these areas.

Thankfully, we found one that does a pretty great job of everything.

Content collaboration software trials (and tribulations)

To streamline our project management, we trialled every relevant piece of content collaboration software we could find. I’m going to outline some of these now.

First, let’s take a look at our fallback option – the one we wanted to replace: Google Drive.

Google Drive

Price: Free

In a nutshell: You can store documents and collaborate in real-time.

We think: It has a comfortable, familiar feel to it. Many of our clients will have used Google Drive before working with us, so there’s little need to explain how it works. It’s trusted, incredibly secure and reliable. It’s made up of a number of components including Google Docs (similar to Microsoft Word) and Google Sheets (similar to Microsoft Excel).

You can:

  • Store documents (including word documents and spreadsheets) in a cloud and share these with other users.
  • Track any changes, comments and versions.
  • Save everything automatically.
  • Share folders or individual documents and give users different levels of permission: e.g. view only, or edit.

But it’s not an all-in-one solution. In-house, we use it alongside other software, including Slack and Microsoft Office, to make it work for us.

It’s also a bit clunky at times: sometimes tracked changes and comments can be buggy, not showing up when you log in. Compared to Microsoft Word, edits are more difficult to see, so we frequently find ourselves scouring documents looking for minor changes made by our clients.

And as a word processor, Google Docs isn’t as powerful as Microsoft Word. Consequently, we do most of our writing in Word, then upload completed documents to Google Drive.

A typical Jack of all trades: there are lots of things it does right, but it’s not great at everything. It’s suited to companies wanting to share and keep track of their documents. It’s not the most elegant software for planning, structuring, comparing in detail and editing documents.

Google Drive screenshot

GatherContent

Price: From $79/mo (around £54/mo + VAT)

In a nutshell: You can plan, organise, produce and collaborate on content/copy.

We think: GatherContent is very good.

It’s especially nice looking and does everything on our list of must-haves. It’s extra handy because it has lots of intuitive project management tools built in.

GatherContent’s creators clearly had businesses like ours in mind when they built this software.

It does everything Google Drive does, but it also has a load of copywriting- and content strategy-specific features:

  • You can track at what stage each item or website page is at: draft, revision, final edits, or ready to be published.
  • You can attach files and notes.
  • You can notify clients and other team members of tasks requiring attention.
  • A project planning calendar makes it simple to assign due dates and times.
  • It allows for both internal and external collaboration with adjustable user permissions.
  • You can add HTML markup with the click of a button.
  • It lets you design and visualise sitemaps.
  • It integrates with WordPress.
  • And the list goes on..

Sounds amazing – it is. The more I use it, the more I love it.

Of course, nothing’s perfect. Like Google Drive, GatherContent has a couple of bugs – although none are deal-breakers and the ones we noticed seem to have been fixed. GatherContent is a little steep: at £54-ish + VAT it’s toward the high end of what most would expect to pay for subscription software.

After much deliberation, we switched to GatherContent this month. It may be pricey, but it saves us a bunch of time managing our projects. And it’s just so nice to use. I’m using it to write this blog post and it’s truly an enjoyable experience. Aside from how much it’s helping us out, I really believe our clients will love using it too.

GatherContent screenshot

Confluence

Price: From $10/mo (around £7/mo + VAT)

In a nutshell: You can create, organise and discuss work with your team.

We think: Before choosing GatherContent, I put a call out on Twitter – in case there was any software we’d overlooked.

Enter Confluence.

You may have heard of, or used, the rather complex project management app, JIRA. While JIRA tracks issues, Confluence is more focused on copy and content, letting you produce, share and organise text-based documents.

In Confluence you create ‘spaces’ to organise teams, projects and departments within your company. You can then add ‘pages’ to your spaces, to produce documents with text and images. You can also organise pages in a hierarchy.

Unlike GatherContent, Confluence wasn’t specifically built for our sort of work. It actually functions a bit more like a wiki than content collaboration software.

Like JIRA, it’s complicated. That’s fine for collaborating internally. But when we’re working with clients, we need an option that’s intuitive: it needs to be obvious what to do, right away.

Because of this, I feel Confluence is better suited to sharing processes and documents within a company than for collaborating on copy with clients.

And, while we’d have to mould Confluence around our processes, GatherContent’s features are all there and tailored to our work.

Starting from just $10/mo, Confluence is cheap. So it’d definitely be worth considering – but you’d need to invest a significant number of hours toward setting it up right.

Other software

Some of the less comprehensive copywriting project management options we tried were:

Draftin.com

Typewrite.io

Poetica.com

I like each of these in their own way. Unfortunately for us, they’re all missing more than one of our must-haves.

Draftin has a nice interface, but it’s functions are too simple for our needs – crucially it doesn’t actually allow for collaboration with clients.

Similarly, Typewrite was too simple: while it does allow for client collaboration, it doesn’t have any real structure, which just wouldn’t work when planning large projects.

Poetica is visually interesting, with fun copyediting markup. And it seems to do a lot. But it was originally built to integrate with WordPress, rather than as a standalone app. They’ve now built an API so it works with other content management systems – even so, we’d need to use it on a per website basis, rather than across all our projects.

Happy clients

We can force Google Drive to do near enough everything we want, but it’s a little clunky. We also could’ve opted for Confluence as a cheaper alternative to GatherContent, but like Google Drive, it’d need to be heavily moulded to fit in with our processes. In the end, we chose the option that’ll make our clients the happiest: GatherContent.

So we’ve sacked Google Drive, at least for now. Maybe one day we can sack Microsoft Office too. We’re keeping Slack though – mainly for the emojis. Here’s hoping for a GatherContent-Slack integration soon 😉 😀


Originally published at Unramble.

Comments

21st January 2016

Laura

Thanks for this! I’ve been thinking a lot more about this topic lately. I’ve been using trello.com for internal use only. It’s been a handy and free tool but has a lot of limitations.

I would love a system where you can create tasks, or people can brief in tasks, with a deadline and you can then allocate a length of time to that job card. That job would then appear blocked out in a calendar (which is, of course, adjustable and view-able by all). Anything like that out there – preferably free? Many show the job on deadline day, but that’s not useful for time management.

I often have the issue of people seeing I ‘only’ have a few job cards briefed in, but they have no idea how long that’ll take me to do and so brief in other jobs with deadlines I can’t meet because the other jobs will take a while. All suggestions welcome!

PRO
21st January 2016

Alice Still

Hi Laura

You could give JIRA a go. As mentioned above, it’s made by the same folks as Confluence. It does loads of project management stuff and is free for up to five people 🙂

What do you think?

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