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If you’re an independent designer, freelancer or an e-commerce maven bootstrapping your way through your next project, then this post is for you.
The hard truth?
You’re running a business now.
And to-do lists aren’t enough for businesses.
Sure, they’re perfect for individuals and individual contributors. Your daily to-do list probably contains tasks related to lots of different projects, and it’s difficult to monitor each element on a daily basis. Plus, to-do lists won’t have subtasks or dependencies to help you link your work together.
But what you need now is a comprehensive system for getting work done.
Let’s examine what project management software lets you do beyond a to-do list...
Map Out Beyond The Next Step
Project management lets you map out a whole plan before you get started, so you can see the next steps and how they interact with one another.
Things get magnified if you’re working with several clients, where you may need to create a strategy for each of them. In that case, project management software helps you plan for each client and opportunity. You can plan it separately and then the tasks get “mixed” on your to-do list as you respond to each need.
Project management gives you a macro view and to-do lists help you focus on the micro.
Track Moving Parts
Even if you’re working for yourself, you depend on others for your work to move forward. That could include getting mockups back from the printer, waiting on another vendor to pay you, receiving shipments and more.
All of these are not up to you...they’re up to another party entirely.
For example, you may be waiting for a manufacturer to send you the right parts or components. If that’s the case, it impacts all of your tasks from there on out. One delay could cause another. From there, you’ll need to alter and change your due dates.
Project management software helps you do that seamlessly.
With a to-do list, you can either scratch off your list and keep on there indefinitely, with little room to add context.
With a project management tool, you can:
- Create subtasks
- Link to other important information (eg, contracts or supporting documents)
The benefit is not only that everything is in one place, but you're able to manage everything easier and access it quicker.
With project management software, you can create dependencies between tasks and projects.
So in one section, you can unlock the next task that was dependent on that work. This helps you fit the puzzle together, and allows your strategy doc or project plan to really work for you beyond only a sketch on paper.
If there are any delays from a vendor, manufacturer or your design staff, you can alter one due date and then the rest will update accordingly.
Your whole schedule is updated, and then you can accurately gauge if you’ll make your estimated timeline or not.
Collaboration with Others
Even though you do work alone, you may need to interact with clients, vendors or other contractors.
Project management software provides a central place for those conversations, that’s more versatile and organized than email or chat alone.
Help with Retail Store Management
If you’re the owner of Tom’s Hardware, you have many variables to track. Employee schedules, inventory, the daily cleanup and maintenance, and larger projects (like a seasonal display) that you’ll need to tackle.
With project management software, you have important tools at your disposal to track everything that’s happening in your store. Set up projects for your team members to do, such as inventory or re-ordering.
Due dates, recurring tasks and project/task templates that can be used again and again will help you stay organized.
And that big seasonal display?
Create a project template with every task that you need, then create a project with a start and date. You won’t forget any details from year-to-year and you can order what you need in time (without a salesman nudging you along).
You’ll finally be prepared and won’t have to rush at the last minute.
You could also set your team’s schedules or record their contact info by using a flexible system with custom fields and notes.
Other Productivity Tools & Integrations
The best project management software will have tools and features that enhance your work, rather than creating more friction against you from getting things done. For instance, ClickUp offers a notepad for jotting down reminders and quick ideas, as well as a Chrome extension that you can use for tracking time, taking screenshots and creating tasks.
The benefit for you?
An improved workflow beyond what a normal to-do list can do.
Another advantage with project management software? They can connect to the tools you use most. Sync your Google calendars, track your time and more. Any due dates will appear on your Google calendar along with meetings. Time tracking in your project management software will give you a central place to record what work you’re doing for a client and how long it takes.
The best tools will have the APIs set up to seamlessly help you move from one task to another.
With project management software, you can scale beyond your normal list and see the big picture of everything that’s happening with your business. Your side hustle and hobby has escalated and it’s time your work systems do, too. A big hold up for many is the price. But that’s just a perception.
There are many amazing options for free project management software that is especially great for solopreneurs and freelancers.