I know how much you guys love systems, the incredible response to this post tells me so! Having a process, pre-made documents, and a step-by-step to follow with each new project saves time, impresses clients & helps you keep your sanity innact. Well no matter how helpful my process has been for me since I implemented it, there is always room for improvement.
So today I want to share with you how I’m improving my workflow in 2014 to help you possibly do the same.
(If you haven’t read my big post about systems: check it out first here)
What Is Project Management Software?
It’s an online system where you can keep all your documents, to-do lists, due dates, feedback and communication with clients in one online place.
Why Using A Project Management System Will Make Your Life Easier
Ya’ know all those back and forth emails we’re trying to limit? With a PMS, you can say goodbye to that.
Ever had to send those “recap” emails re-stating to your client what needs to happen next and what you are waiting for? Au revoir.
How about having a bunch of photos, inspiration images, links to Pinterest boards, and word docs spread all over your desktop & inbox? No longer a problem. Up until now I was using Google Drive or Dropbox and asking the client to place all their files in one folder to share with me. Unfortunately, things still got lost in the mix.
Project Management Software Options
Basecamp: From the online greats at 37signals, Basecamp is straight-forward, quick to pick up, and easy for clients to use. After having shopped around a few of the options, I instantly fell in love with it. I’m currently on their free trial and plan on upgrading at the end. Starting at $20 a month, it is an investment, but one I am thinking will be well worth it.
Asana: Another very popular PMS, that has a free plan. I’ve heard from some writer friends that they prefer the features for text in Asana better than Basecamp. So I think it definitely depends on what kind of freelance work you do.
Trello: I’ve heard many people use and love Trello. It is also free, so definitely worth checking out. But at first glance on the backend, I found it not as intuitive or organized.
MiniGroup: Used mainly as a group communication software, but I haven’t tried myself. Apparently it is very Facebook like, which could make it easier on your clients to get used to.
I recommend testing out a few and see how you like them. That’s the great thing about free plans or free trials.
Why I Love Basecamp
For those interested in Basecamp, I thought I’d give you a rundown of how it works and why I love it for client projects. Many of these features are similar in all project management software. But you will find differences in how easy they are to understand and use for both you and the client. I find the ease-of-use for the client is the most important part, as they will not be as used to it as you may be.
Here are the main features I use and how I use them (plus I added a little behind-the-scenes video at the end).
Start A Project
With each new client you can add a “project” in Basecamp. This project has everything you need to stay organized on one page. You invite the client into the project and they will view, edit, and get updates on everything that happens on this project page. You can even make project templates so you don’t have to repeatedly add the same steps that you do with every client. Set it up once, then it’s all ready to go with each new client.
Add And Assign To-Do List Items
Make a master to-do list or one for each stage of your project. List out the things that need to get done on both the client and your side and assign each item to a specific person. You can also set a due date for each to-do and it will show up in the master calendar. This way your client knows exactly what is expected of them by when, and they know what to expect from you.
As soon as something has been completed, you or the client simply check the box as complete and everyone is notified.
Comments are also available on each to-do item so if there is any confusion, the client can simply leave a comment right on that specific to-do where you can then reply back with the answer.
Upload Project Files
Keep all your content & images in one place. You can either upload from your computer or simply drag and drop onto the screen. So much faster than uploading to dropbox or google drive then sharing the link or even worse, attaching to an email. It makes it very easy and clear to see what has already been shared and what might be missing.
Plus- once I have completed their first mockups (or drafts, or whatever work I’m doing) I can upload it right to Basecamp and they can give their feedback via comments directly onto that image.
This limits the need for the client to say “oh I love the colors on image783.jpeg and the sidebar on image563.jpeg” and having to take note and gather all the feedback to implement.
For any random text, login information, or whatever else you need to keep track off, you can make a text document. This can then be edited by you or your client and also comments can be added for discussion, feedback or questions on each individual document.
Keep Yourself Organized
Not only will you be keeping your project on track with your client, but you can choose what the client sees or cannot see. So if you want to add a bunch of to-do items that they client doesn’t really need to be aware of, you can still add those to the list and simply choose yourself as the only person that can see it.
Know What’s Happening At All Times
Anything that has been added, to-do items checked off and any comments or discussions that have been made, are automatically added to the “Latest Project Updates” section of the page. So you can see who is doing what and when. You can also choose to get notified via email each time a client has done something with the project- or you can choose to just check in daily.
The Latest Discussions section will also show all the comments or feedback that has been given in any section of the project- so you can easily see where you need to respond.
How This Plays Into My Current Process
1. Client fills out online Hire Me form.
2. I send client invoice (via Freshbooks), the contract (via Contractualy) and setup a new project template in Basecamp.
3. I invite them to the project directly in Basecamp where they will find my Getting Started documents (planning guide, questionnaire, etc) and can see the to-do lists and timelines.
4. The rest of the project happens within Basecamp directly and I don’t have to worry about back & forth confusing emails again!
Make Working With You Simple & Clear For Your Client
- Everything is in one place.
- They know exactly what they are responsible for and by when.
- They know what you are working on and what you are waiting for.
- They get instant feedback.
- They don’t like back & forth emails either.
The better your system is the better it is for both of you. Making it easy for them to work with you will only result in happier clients, and more referrals.
Still Curious About Basecamp?
I made a quick video behind the scenes of my Basecamp account so you can get a feel for how it works. You can always sign up for a free 60 day trial and try it out yourself!
I am not an affiliate for Basecamp, just a new & super happy client. I’ll definitely give you an update in a couple months on whether it is working for me in the long term. I stayed away from it for this long because I was worried about the investment and honestly thought it was much more expensive than it really is. Although I am still on the free trial, I can already see how much the $20/month will be one of the most worth-while expenses in my business.
Whether you go with Basecamp, another software, or conjure up your own process, one thing is certain- systems will save you time & money. And that’s what we’re after as freelance freedom seekers isn’t it? More time to do what we love and enough money to support it.