You’ve set up your freelance business and you’re ready to take on the world. A few referrals are coming in here and there. Then things start getting really busy.
How do you keep track of what projects are active, who’s paid what, deadlines, status reports, delegated tasks…yikes!
Things can get out of control pretty quickly for a freelancer without a solid project management tool.
Choosing the Right Tool
There are quite a few project management tools out there but some of them are better than others when it comes to freelancers. Some of the best project management tools right for freelance work are those that target smaller, micro organizations – i.e. you, you + one or more team member(s).
Anything too complex can get overwhelming and the goal is to keep things simple so you can focus on getting the work done.
Ask Good Questions
How do you know which tool is right for you? Here are a few starter questions to get you going:
- How many people will I need to collaborate with using the tool?
- What type of projects will I manage within the tool? All of them, or a select group?
- What budget can I set aside monthly to pay for the tool?
- What do I prefer to work with most – text, visual charts, spreadsheets?
- How will the tool integrate with systems I already use – i.e. calendar, email, etc.?
- Does this tool work on my computer platform – i.e. Mac or Windows?
- As my business grows, will the tool expand with it or will I have to move all of my data somehow? If I do have to move it, will it be easy or difficult?
10 Project Management Tools
I reached out through my social network to a group of freelancers to find their favorite picks. We came up with this short list of 10 online project management tools along with brief descriptions:
- Wrike – This tool uses a social platform to monitor your team progress across all projects. Wrike has an interactive dashboard, microblogging, real-time activity streams and instant email notifications with both free and paid subscriptions.
- LiquidPlanner – Professional online project management software with integrated features for scheduling, collaboration, time tracking, analysis and reporting. Has easy to use, drag and drop tasks capability.
- Dooster.net – This is a pretty neat task & project management app with a user-friendly interface if you’re not a real “techie”. Has a dashboard where you can see everything that’s going on, organized by priority.
- Basecamp – A very popular tool for freelancers, Basecamp probably has the most tenure of all the tools on this list. It shows tasks, stores files, tracks deadlines, and more. Recently, it’s become more mobile friendly which will be an advantage to freelancers who prefer to manage from an iOs or Android device.
- WorkEtc – This one is a pretty comprehensive service and it may be a bit hefty for a freelancer without a team. Check out the “all-in-one” concept they’ve put together – everything from tracking billable time and managing customer support to marketing and invoicing.
- Daylite by MarketCircle – Note: this project management tool is for Mac, iPhone & iPad users. It lets you quickly review your phone calls, emails, notes, or meetings based on contacts in your database.
- SUBERNOVA – Installed with the Adobe Air platform, SUBERNOVA (yes, that’s not me yelling; they usually spell it all in caps) lets you create invoices, schedule emails to clients, synchronize tasks with your calendar, and more. Another one good for multiple platforms – desktop and mobile devices.
- Insightly – One of my personal favorites, this tool integrates easily with Gmail and Google Apps. Looks similar in some ways to Basecamp but a bit more user-friendly and simplistic on the surface. Great for keeping up with customer contacts over email.
- ThriveSolo – This is in beta currently so you need to sign up for approval to participate, however, the initial version has a very simple platform and covers the basic well for solo freelancers without a team, tracking things like time worked on a project, and budget for resources.
- Apptivo – Good tool for small teams, this project management tool will track time and help you categorize what’s billable. You can also set up invoices to your clients by integrating with PayPal, Authorize.net, and more.
As you’re considering the best project management tool for you, there will be other questions you’ll probably add to the starter list above.
Here’s a couple of suggestions: write out your list of “must-haves”, then make up a chart to compare your top 3 picks. Once you have them, evaluate which ones best fit your needs using a trial (most of these will at least give you a 10 day or more trial version to see how it works for you).
The most important thing is to pick a project management tool that helps make your life easier.