productivity tools

Magical tools for project management

When is it time to amp up your business and embrace legitimate project management?

Ideally when you start out, or maybe like many of us, when you drop the ball a few too many times.

Starting a creative business with mostly your wits and a few dreams leave less time and effort for creating workflow processes. When you only focus on billable hours it’s easy to drop a few important balls along the way.

After a while, you learn that you need to think beyond project to project, and more on customer service and engagement. It’s more profitable to work with returning customers, instead of constantly investing time in prospecting and pitching to new ones.

In order to ensure your clients are happy, keeping yourself and them on task is key. As the consultant, unless they take the lead on project management, it will be on your shoulders. Project management tools all serve the same purpose, planning out all the elements of the workflow and track start and end dates so you meet expected deadlines. 

Before I dive into the different Project Management tools out there, you will need a core understanding of what information you need to track and manage. The first struggle is knowing how to get started. Do you start from scratch? Or do you dive into a template you find online? And then, what should you need to track and how detailed does it need to be?

Getting Started

I’d like to suggest two tables and the following column headers that will get you started:

Table/Sheet No. 1 | Projects 
  1. Project Name
  2. Type of Project
  3. Description/Notes
  4. Client
  5. Start Date
  6. End Date
  7. Assigned To
  8. Completed
Table/Sheet No. 2 | Tasks
  1. Project Name (preferably can link to the same-named column from Table No. 1)
  2. Task
  3. Description/Notes
  4. Start Date
  5. End Date
  6. Assigned To
  7. Completed

Anything beyond these suggested fields is the icing on the cake of making sure the work gets done.

Where do I find magical tools?

Now that you have an outline of the information you need to track, what are these magical tools? I’ll start with the basics and show you where you can really level up your game. 

These first two are the epitome of manual tracking, so don’t expect any dings or reminders to tell you that a deadline has been missed. Make sure you have a system in place to review and check the status as you go, or scheduled into your week.

Project Management Tools

Pen and paper. Whether it’s a notebook on your desk, some fancy bullet journal system, or a basic sketched out a table listing the work and tasks for each. This is a place to get started. 

Spreadsheets. You can be a lover of Excel, prefer the UX of Apple’s version of Numbers, or think the benefits of Google sheets or basic tables in Dropbox can serve your needs just fine.

Calendars. Whether it’s Outlook, iCal, or GMail, you could slot in your work within your calendars. The benefit being you can get notifications to keep you on track.

Software Applications. Are you ready for the big leagues? If you are ready to really dive in and benefit from people a lot smarter than you, there are hundreds of online software applications that can really amp up your game. The real struggle is choosing which one. Make sure to tally a list of the following qualifications when you start investing time into the research:

    • Budget. Most of them likely offer a free subscription or trial. But to likely get to the real benefits of their program you will be encouraged to upgrade. 
    • Training. How much time do you really have to invest in learning new software? How much does it need to be intuitive? Use the free subscription/trials as an opportunity to dig around the templates and tutorials. See how the UX works for you. 
    • Backups and Downloads. Ultimately all the information you store in the application is your bread and butter. Can you easily download your content in an easy to digest way should the company shutter, or you switch platforms?

Outside of researching on your own, sometimes it helps to learn from others who have already been where you are. Consider joining Creatives Roundtable and connect with fellow creative business owners. Learn from and lift each other up.

Written by: Crystal Reynolds

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