How I Use ActiveCollab to Plan and Manage Complex Projects

How I Use ActiveCollab to Plan and Manage Complex Projects

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.

I knew project management apps were an option, but the cost (i.e. Basecamp) and overall clunkiness (Trello, Zoho, etc) kept me from using them for a long time.

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.”
  3. 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.
  4. 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!
  5. 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.
  6. Implementation: These get moved into specific templates or projects under my own company page (so I remember to implement them in my next project).