Have you ever tried to research an answer to a question and realized you have no idea what to ask Google? Are you familiar with the phrase “garbage in – garbage out?” How about “time is money?”
Behind the scenes at Solo Hustle, we’ve noticed that a lot of our visitors are searching for “solo project management” and it makes sense that they would find their way to our world. But what is it they are really looking for with that search? An easy to use all in one system for managing their solo projects? Project management made easy for a single person? While we can offer those things (and more), our overall goal is making sure that freelancers and side hustlers have what they need to successfully manage and grow their business. So let’s break down what you should look for in a project management solution, regardless of whether we’re the right solution or not.
Enough with the spreadsheets
Spreadsheets are accessible, affordable, familiar… and completely wrong for accurate and efficient project management. Put simply, spreadsheets:
- Are not ideal for collaboration. Even if you are your only employee, you’ll want to coordinate with your clients.
- Are not intuitive. Excel aficionados will tell you how a spreadsheet can be made to tackle any task if you just know the right formula or trick. Project management templates are even available. But for most casual users there is a steep learning curve and a lot of manual entry required.
- Are not ideal for generating reports. True project management software makes it easy to generate data in a comprehensible way to see if your business goals are on track. And such software often reveals answers to questions you didn’t even know to ask.
Before you ask, yes you need something
Even though we think spreadsheets are not the right tool for project management, they are better than nothing. No matter how small your freelance business is, you need a way to stay organized and on track if you are going to grow—or even just maintain your current place.
Project management ensures that you don’t take on more work than you can handle. It keeps customers happy. It is essential to getting paid. It prevents confusion, missed deadlines, and misunderstood deliverables.
Figure out what you need
Step one starts with figuring out what information you need or where you’re struggling. Make a list of things like:
- What are you currently using to stay organized, and where is it lacking?
- What questions have you been asked (by customers, accountants, family, yourself) about your business that you struggle to answer?
- What do you do badly now? Meeting deadlines? Staying organized? Remembering to send out invoices? Taking on too many projects?
Step two involves deciding what you need and want:
- Do you want to share access with employees, clients, or sub-contractors? What level of access do they need?
- Do you need to track time?
- Do you need reporting functionality?
- Do you need to integrate with other tools such as Quickbooks?
- Do you need scheduling/calendar options?
- Do you need to collaborate or review work within the project management system?
Rank items by a system that makes sense—must haves, like to haves, nice extras, etc. This will help you stay on track as you start evaluating solutions, rather than getting distracted by cool features that are not actually necessary to your work.
Step three is your budget. What can you logically afford? Many solutions do not make pricing front and center, but knowing your hardline budget before going into demos can save you time and frustration.
Start your search
With your needs and goals outlined, conduct your search for specific features (the “must haves”) to hone in on the solutions that have the best chance of meeting your requirements. Don’t just rely on search results though:
- Do you belong to any industry or freelance groups? Ask the other members for recommendations.
- Add your specific industry to find solutions tailor-made for your work’s needs.
- Look at industry-related associations and check their vendor lists for project management providers.
- Pay attention to social media ads. As you expand your search you will likely start to notice related ads in your social media feeds.
- Check sites like Capterra, G2, etc. for overviews and comparisons of different solutions that meet your needs.
Test your options
When you start to narrow down your best options, sign up for demos and test accounts. This is a repetitive process where you will enter a lot of the same data into possibly multiple systems. But only by testing and playing will you be able to tell if the chosen system meets your needs. Some things to consider:
- Check data security, especially if you will be sharing customer files through the system.
- Look at terms and conditions. Your solo business likely has thin revenue margins and you can’t afford surprises. Do you have to sign a contract? Is there a fee to cancel? What happens to your data if your credit card is declined or you miss a payment?
- How easy is the system to adopt? Are there additional costs for training or implementation?
- Can you access your data from a mobile device? Do you need to?
Here’s the sales pitch
Well, this is not really a pitch. Right now Solo Hustle is free for all users. Want to test out our advice? Sign up for a free account and see what works for you. If we’re not the right answer, you’ll still be on your way to determining what is.