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Importance of Keeping a Journal

Freelance Developers Manual
A Project of Frontntweaks.com
1st Edition Ver 1.0.1
© Copyright 2018 Gerald Watanabe

Why I Started Journaling

When I began building websites, I would finish one assignment, then move on to another project. When problems or obstacles appeared, I would have to research the matter and try suggested resolutions. When I eventually rectified the issue, I had failed to make a note of the problem and the fix, trusting that I would remember the resolution.

“Do you close your laptop, turn off your phone, and shut your office door at the end of the workday? You may be missing out on the most important activity that can make you better at your job.”

“According to a recent working paper from Harvard Business School, setting aside 15 minutes to reflect at the end of the workday can boost your performance and impact your career success.” [1. Fastcompany]

Big mistake, months later the same bug appeared and I recognized the problem but totally forgot what I did to correct the issue. So I had to spend time researching the same topic over again, this is known rework.

Lesson learned, keep a history of everything you do, our memories are so overloaded with all our daily activities (both personal and business) that we just have memory overload. That’s why I made a habit of journaling every important detail of my freelance business, for it can only save me time and heartache in the long run.

You may ask, what shall I keep a log of?
Whatever is important, things that you spent hours, days, or even weeks on before solving the problem or issue. How about tips, tricks, helpful websites, an important email address are just a few suggestions.


Besides your troubleshooting activities, I recommend that you jot down all facets of your freelancing business.
Here are actual examples:

Hacked Websites: Since I also restore hacked and malware infested websites (mostly WordPress), I keep a log of what I found, which folders are infected, mysterious new folders and files, etc.

Estimate requests: You will receive requests from potential clients for an estimate of their project. Not everyone will hire you, so don’t trash that estimate. Log it in your journal, because you never know when they will get back to you.

I had a request from a potential client who was thinking of one day selling his products online. He contacted me explaining his plan and asked what his responsibilities were. Being an E-commerce site, I explained he needed to provide high-resolution photos of his products with different views. In addition, he had to provide a product information sheet with colors, sizes, etc. for each item.

I prepared the estimate, explaining that the current prices were only good for a limited amount of time. I never heard back, then 10 months later he said he was ready. Now if I didn’t keep a log of his estimate, I would have to redo his estimate from scratch. Or in a worst-case scenario, I embarrassingly would have to ask, “What did you want now?” Total fail!

Key: It is essential to show the client that they are important to you, that you remembered them.
This is all part of building a trustworthy relationship.

Clients: I keep a journal of each client, as once their website is completed, you will never know when you will have contact with them again.

Examples: Client A explained she had a hearing loss in the left ear so she wanted me to sit on her right side during our initial meeting. Write this down as you may have to meet with her again, and it would really make the client feel you are concerned about them.

Client B was always requesting changes and wanted to squeeze in additional features for free. I made a note of this client and wrote: “a very comprehensive contract is always required for this client explaining in detail what they will receive for the funds agreed upon.” This will prevent any misunderstandings later.

Client C is easy to work with and I totally enjoyed my relationship with his office staff.
You get the idea.

Tools: If you’ll like me, I have tried just about every text editor available. Keep a log of why you moved on or what you didn’t like about a particular editor, This goes for other developer tools like frameworks, FTP, image editors, etc. What features you liked or what features were missing.

There are two reasons I keep track of my evaluations:
1) As time moves on, I may forget what I did or didn’t like about a particular tool. If I didn’t keep a log, I would have to download the app again for a retest just to quench my curiosity. What a time waster.
2) I may notice developers flocking to a particular tool I once tried but it was missing a feature so I uninstalled it. My journal would reveal what the missing feature was, so I can check if the tools latest version has added that particular element. If it did, I can download for another evaluation.

Other examples

  • Hosting Providers: Pros and Cons, why you moved on
  • CMS: Pros and Cons of the various CMS you have tested
  • WordPress plugins: What didn’t work, problems?

Journaling Tools

How can I start a journal?
Or methods to log your entries.

1) Journal Notebooks

Manually hand write your notes.

“Writing by hand requires more subtle and complicated motion from your fingers than typing, it actually increases activity in the brain’s motor cortex, an effect that’s similar to meditation. This explains why journaling can feel therapeutic and why it helps with mindfulness.” [2. Lifehacker]


  • You can carry your Journal with you
  • No internet required
  • Low cost


  • Requires shelf space to store your journals
  • Harder to do a search (manually flipping pages)
  • Slows you down
  • If you write in a hurry, could end up with hard to read entries

2. Online Tools

1) Basic word processors: Google Docs, OneNote, Evernote, Writely, etc.
2) Online Journals: More sopisticated – Journalate, Online Journal, Penzu, etc.

  • Access your journal from anywhere
  • More legible writing (typing)
  • Many have apps so you can write and read from your mobile device
  • Writing faster
  • Performing a search is faster
  • Free versions

Requires internet access
Backups a must
Depending on your source, you may run out of storage space, need to upgrade to premium (more costly?)

Bottom Line

If you feel it’s important, log it down! It will never happen again, log it down! I’ll never forget this, log it down! Journaling will save you time, money and frustration. Journaling: !important;


1. Why You Should Keep A Journal At Work. Fastcompany
2. Journaling Showdown: Writing vs. Typing. LifeHacker