Freelancers are often one-man bands — “solopreneurs”, if you will. You do everything. And today, you’re probably working from home surrounded by your kids, dogs, and endless snacks. So not only are you the sales person, project manager, bookkeeper, business manager, admin, but you’re also being pulled in all new WFH directions. Let’s not even talk about e-learning for school.
A project management system might seem like one more thing to learn and implement. However, despite some research and onboarding time, if you put your system to use it will help you juggle all the balls up in the air and improve your efficiency. Which means you can do more of what you ultimately want to do, work. And if you’re a Superfly member that really means ‘create.’
So if you’re not sure, or you’ve been thinking about getting a project management system to help run your business (and yes, you are a business) here are some things to think about.
First, you do more than you think. Take some time to sit down and make a list of all the ‘hats’ you wear and all the associated tasks. (Even if you never sign onto a PM system, this exercise will be helpful!) For instance, you are the sales person for your business. Being the sales person involves knocking on doors, returning phone calls, submitting proposals, pricing, etc. Being the business manager means you’re handling the invoicing, the tracking of hours, giving yourself time-off approval (we hope). Once you sit down and think about it, I bet there are things you do but never really thought about. You may even think of some things you WANT to do if only you could gain some extra time, like finally sending out thank you cards to your clients after each project or learning a new skillset.
Once you have your list, now it’s time to narrow it down to what you would like — or expect a project management tool to help you with. I hesitate to call these all “project management systems” because oftentimes the first help you need in place is more financial management and many systems are capable of much more than just project management. Here is a short list (yes, short) of what you might find:
- Time tracking
- Templates and reusable tasks
- Status and progress tracking
- Billing, invoicing, etc.
- Reporting, both for your business internally and for your clients
- Lead generation and other sales tools
- Intake forms
- Ability to communicate and collaborate with clients and other freelancers
- Saving and sharing files
Once you have your wishlist, it’s time to start researching. Talk to others who do what you do – what do they use? Excel doesn’t count. Google it. Yes. Just do some research and compare your wish list to the capabilities of each program. Divi many Facebook groups are also an excellent resource for this!
Keep in mind that many of these systems really have small to large businesses and corporations in mind. You may need that one day, but if it’s just you at the moment, find one that is the right fit. Don’t try to overcomplicate what you need and don’t pay for more than what you need. Many have free trials – use them. (Just don’t forget to mark your calendar when you need to cancel if they asked for a credit card up front.) Some have free versions that are great for single person or for small teams. Keep the future in mind and see how each system can grow with you – many have tiered levels for that purpose. But also know that if you outgrow what you originally choose, it’s not the end of the world to find a new one down the road. (My company switched programs 3 times in the first 6 months – I was there!)
I could make several arguments for having a system to help you – basically your own electronic assistant – but the big ones are, more efficiency will lead to more time which will lead to more business (read: more money) or maybe more time for life (read: more joy). And everyone needs some help and accountability. As your business grows, you can no longer depend on your memory, Google calendar, and multiple spreadsheets to maintain your growth. Let’s work smarter, not harder. Take your time, test some out, talk to your friends about what they’re doing and find one that will fit your needs.
Rather than reinvent the wheel, we found this list of project management tools to begin your search.
If you use a project management tool for your business, let us know which one and what you like about it in the comments! We’d love to have your feedback.