Let’s be honest. Project management is the ugly duckling of freelance.
It can be extremely difficult, time-consuming, and boring. But, quite frankly, I think the tools—not the process itself—are at fault.
When I started freelancing, I was using a combination of Microsoft Word documents, emails, and my brain to keep track of everything, which (spoiler alert) was a nightmare, not a viable project management system.
ActiveCollab to the Rescue!
I subscribed to ActiveCollab in the middle of a large website project that had become too much to manage via email and static notes.
The company promises a “Powerful, yet simple project management tool,” and that’s exactly what you get.
The interface is clean and modern, and it was, indeed, so simple to use that I got up-and-running in a matter of minutes.
A Few Features I love
My favorite thing about ActiveCollab is that the app seems to “anticipate” what I need—whenever I find myself wanting a new feature, the first thing I try often works exactly as I expect.
Multiple Platforms: ActiveCollab can be downloaded for iPhone, accessed in the browser, or installed on your Mac (the desktop app is still a beta version, but performs marvelously).
Sortable Projects: It’s easy to create projects and assign them to a new or existing client. The various filters (client, category, etc) give me a quick bird’s eye view of everything I’m working on.
Tasks and Lists: Lists within a given project keep things organized, and you can add helpful details to individual tasks (like due dates, file attachments, and assigned team members).
Pricing: $25/mo is very reasonable!
My Process For Building Websites
- Preparation: My first step is always to conduct an in-depth information gathering session with my client to discuss their primary challenges, and then define an effective solution.
- Setup: Next, I create a new ActiveCollab project from a pre-existing template to map out some high-level milestones, such as “Home Page Mockup Review,” “Testing,” and “Website Launch.”
- Notes: Whenever I have a call or receive input from a client, I take notes directly in ActiveCollab and parse out todo items into individual tasks, which ensures we don’t lose track of anything we discussed.
- Accountability: I assign all tasks to a team member, add due dates, and attach files, so everything can be managed from one location… no more scouring my inbox for elusive emails!
- Debrief: Once a project is finished, I check back on a task list called “Project Debrief,” which I use along the way to capture any mistakes or ideas for future improvement.
- Implementation: These get moved into specific templates or projects under my own company page (so I remember to implement them in my next project).