June 17, 2016 27 comments

How to Really Use Asana to Organize Your Clients and Projects

by Regina

How to use Asana as a freelancer

Yes, my friend. I have a treat for you today. A serious expert (in the form of trial and error and success at getting organized and making her projects flow well) is giving us the behind-the-scenes, no skimpiness version of how to really use Asana (a tool the whole byRegina.com team uses) to manage your clients and projects. She’s even taking us through specific actions we’ll want to take in Asana and giving us some screen examples. Check it out.


Nesha WooleryHi, I’m Nesha! I design brands and websites for lady entrepreneurs + teach other brand & web designers how to build profitable and sustainable businesses.

Let’s jump into organizing your clients and projects.

Have you ever tried to manage your projects through emails? You end up with hundreds of emails between you and the client, making it impossible to find the feedback they sent you last week or the attachment they sent you the week before.

To make matters even worse, your client seems to think it’s best to start a new thread instead of hitting reply on your emails, so your conversations are now broken into dozens of threads.

If that doesn’t sound familiar, how about this: have you ever gone to start a project and then realized your client hasn’t completed their pre-project homework or handed over the files you need? It halts the project right in its tracks and adds days (sometimes weeks!!) on to your deadline.

If you’re a freelance designer, photographer, writer or any kind of service-based business owner, you’ve experienced this before. It kiiiinda makes you want to pull your hair out with frustration.

When this kind of project disorganization happens, I’m guessing some of these thoughts fly through your head:

Why is my client always starting new threads even though I’ve told her not to?!

Why do my clients NEVER remember to hand in their files on time?

How come my clients NEVER remember to make their payments on time?

Why do I constantly have to remind my clients to send me their feedback on the work I’ve done?

Spot the common thought here? We like to blame our project disorganization on our client’s forgetfulness. But the reality is this: WE should be the ones making sure our clients remember to send us feedback on time or hand in files on time. WE should be the ones making sure our clients make their payments on time. WE should be the ones organizing the project management; we should’t rely on our clients to handle it.

So how can you finally get these problems solved? By using a project management tool.

A project management tool is a private space online where you and your clients can organize everything that needs to get done in your projects. You can communicate, create to-do lists, attach files, set deadlines, set reminders and tons more.

Each time you take on a new client, you simply create a new project in your PM tool of choice, name the project and invite your client! Then you can both discuss things in one neat, organized spaced.

No more back and forth emails.

No more forgotten deadlines.

No more email threads overtaking your inbox.

Your projects will not be neatly organized in your project management tool.


Now let’s talk project management tools for freelancers!

I know what you’re thinking. A little voice in your head is saying, “Ugggh, I don’t want to have to pay for another tool.”

But the tool I’m focusing on in this article is free. Yep: freeeeeee.

That tool is called Asana.

Asana is the king of all project management tools, and here’s why:

  • It’s free, as we’ve already established. You can use Asana with as many clients as you want, free of charge.
  • You can have up to 15 team members on the free plan.
  • The only time you need to upgrade is when you develop a team of over 15 members, but let’s face it: most of us run our businesses solo with the help of one or two assistants.
  • Even if you do have a team of 15+, the premium plan is only $8.33 per person per month. Can I get a hallelujah?!

Asana vs Basecamp

Basecamp and Asana are the two most popular project management tools in our corner of the internet right now, so let me help you make your choice between the two!

Pricing
Basecamp costs $20 USD per month but Asana is free of charge as long as you have under 15 team members.

Features
Basecamp and Asana have really similar features, but there are a few small differences.

Asana features

  • It is beautifully designed and easy to use.
  • It integrates with your Google account.
  • It allows you to see the progress of your projects in a simple spreadsheet.

Basecamp features

  • It is really simple to use, even for the least tech-savvy of clients.
  • It allows you to hide certain tasks and documents from your client.
  • Basecamp automatically saves your work for you, so you never have to worry.

Other than the features I’ve outlined, their functionality is almost identical. That means that the main thing you need to consider when choosing between the two is the price and which tool you feel most comfortable using. For me, that tool is Asana, hands down.


Time for a walkthrough!

If you’re an Asana virgin and you’ve never attempted to use it before, the features I’m about to show you will help you see how easy it is to use Asana to manage your clients and projects. If you already use Asana and you’re thinking, “Neshaaaa, I already know this stuff!” then skip on down to the next header: 3 unique ways to use Asana. I’m betting there are a couple of integrations in that list that you’ve never thought of before!

Now, on with the walkthrough.

First, create a free Asana account.

Just head to Asana and sign up for a free account. Oh, and I’m not getting any kind of affiliate commission if you use that link—I just have a huge crush on this tool and want every business owner to know how simple and fun it can make your projects.

Next, create a team. Even if you’re just a team of one!

Head to the sidebar on the left, click ‘New Team’ and give it a name. If you’re a one-person business, you don’t need to add anyone else to your team but if you work with a virtual assistant or any other team members, now’s the time to add them.

What are teams in Asana?

Just click ‘Invite People,’ type in their email addresses and send them an invite. Anyone who accepts the invite will then be able to collaborate with you and your clients on your Asana projects!

Create a new project and invite your client.
Head to the sidebar on the left and click ‘New Project’.

Name your project, share it with your team and click ‘Create Project’.

You’ll then need to invite your client. It’s super simple! Just go to the top right of the page and click the ‘+’ button, type in your client’s email address, and send them an invite to join your Asana project.

How to invite a client in Asana

Quick tip: To make sure your clients are comfortable with using Asana and don’t feel overwhelmed by using a project management tool, it may be a good idea to hop on a Skype call with them and walk them through Asana so you can answer any questions they have before your project starts.

Create a to-do list within your project.
When you’ve created a new project in Asana, you’ll need to create a to-do list. Both you and your client will be able to see this list, so it needs to be simple and easy to understand.

Your task list should look simple, not overwhelming for your clients, like this one:

How to create a task list in Asana

When creating a to-do list for your project:

  1. Break it up into 3-4 sections. For example, if you’re a brand and web designer like me, your sections would be Pre-work, Branding, Website Design and Final Stages.
  2. Add the tasks you’ll need to complete in each stage.
  3. Then add your client’s tasks so your client can easily see what you need from them.

Create a project template.
Instead of writing out a new to-do list every time you create a new project, use an old project as your project template! Just hover over an old project, click the three dots on the right and select ‘Use as a template’.

Copy your project as a template.

Assign tasks to your clients.
This is my all-time favourite feature. You know how clients can sometimes forget to add their feedback to a project, or forget to hand files in on-time? That will happen no more, my friend.

Asana makes it very hard for clients to forget because it can send them automatic reminders.

All you have to do to make sure Asana reminds them of tasks due is assign their tasks to them and give the task a due date! To do that, just hover over a task and select the icon on the right. Then enter the name of your client. Once that’s done, click on the task and more options will pop up on the right. Select ‘Due Date’ and give the task a date.

How do you assign a task in Asana

Now, Asana will remind your client when this task is due so you don’t have to!


3 unique ways to use Asana

On its own, Asana is only capable of so much. But when you use it with a tool called Zapier, you can suddenly do so. much. more.

Zapier is a tool you can use to connect apps together. If you’re thinking ‘huh?’ then don’t worry! Just read on to see a few examples of how you can use Zapier to connect other apps to Asana and make business easier for yourself.

Turn Basecamp to-dos into Asana tasks

Let’s say that after reading this article, you want to switch from Basecamp to Asana. Instead of manually copying your current projects from Basecamp to Asana, use this zap to turn your Basecamp to do’s into Asana tasks!

Automatically create Google Calendar events from Asana tasks

Do you consult with your clients over Skype or in person? If you’re an avid user of Asana like me, you create Asana tasks for these events to make sure your client gets an Asana reminder just before the consultation. If you use Google Calendar, you can use this zap to automatically add Asana tasks to your Google calendar.

Use Siri to send tasks to Asana

If you prefer IFTTT over Zapier (they both do the same things) then here’s an IFTTT recipe you can try with Asana. Using IFTTT, you can tell Siri to add tasks to your Asana projects! If you already use Siri and you’re the kind of person who is constantly jotting down notes and reminders while they’re on the go, this automation is for you.

Alternatives to Asana

If you’ve read through this article and you don’t think Asana is for you but you like the idea of using a project management tool, I’m not going to step in your way. The point of this article isn’t really to get you to use Asana- it’s to push you to start managing your projects more professionally so you can save yourself from irritating problems like late client files. If you’d rather do that with a different tool, here are some really cool alternatives:

Freedcamp

Jira

Trello

Wrike

Projectplace

Learn more about organizing your business

If you’re a designer (like me) and you’re interested in learning more about streamlining your business and design process, check out Organize & Automate.


P.S. This is Regina here again. This is not an affiliate link to Nesha’s course, just a suggestion to check it out if you want to be able to be more efficient and in control of your service-based business. I hope you enjoy it!

Organize-and-automate

Photo (c): Markus Spiske
Graphics: Regina Anaejionu
Content: Nesha Woolery

27 responses to “How to Really Use Asana to Organize Your Clients and Projects”

  1. Allison says:

    What a wonderfully detailed and helpful post! I’m an organization freak and normally I prefer the old-fashioned pen and paper, but I’m currently in the middle of launching a new course in August and started using Asana to keep the super hectic course related launch schedule in check. It’s been a life saver!

    xoxo
    Allison

    • Nesha says:

      Hi Allison! I’m so happy to read you enjoyed this post. You’re totally right- Asana can be used to organize personal projects (like course launches) as well as client projects. I used it to plan the launch of my ebooks at the start of the year and it helped me stay focused SO much!

      Nesha xo

  2. Paula B. says:

    Nesha + Regina = Awesome Epicness BY FAR!! Both my favs in one post 🙂 I JUST started using Trello but seen Asana about 2 weeks ago. Now here you ladies come with this awesome article. I do love the conversation aspect + task reminders it offers. So I am off to make my Asana workspace and project templates !! Thanks guys!

    Paula B.

    • Nesha says:

      Aww, thanks Paula! You’re the best. I tried using Trello a while ago but I couldn’t wrap my head around how to use it effectively with my clients. I think it’s great for personal planning though. Wishing you all the best with using Asana!! I’m sure you’re going to love it. 🙂

      Nesha xo

  3. Katha says:

    Nesha + Regina: This was a great post. I’ve been thinking about using a tool like Asana for a while now. I have one question which I’m hoping you can help me with… when I invite a client to collaborate on their project with me, do they need to sign up for Asana (open their own account)? I love the idea of working on a project in one dedicated place, but I’d hate to force a client to sign up for something he’d never use again after the project has finished. Fantastic article though. I might check out Asana over the weekend.

    • Nesha says:

      Hi Katha! That is SUCH a great question. When you invite a client to join their Asana project, it doesn’t require them to create an Asana account. They simply receive an email from Asana saying you’ve invited them to the project, and they then click the ‘Join Project’ button from within the email. That leads them straight to the Asana project- no sign up required!

      I totally understand why you wouldn’t want to use a tool your clients would need to sign up for. Fortunately, Asana doesn’t require them to! 😀

    • regina says:

      Ugh. Sad face. I think Asana may have changed this because every time we’ve tried to recreate this process, Asana has made the client signup for an account. I still love and use all the other features.

      Have you been able to make that work lately?

  4. Sasha-Shae says:

    Nesha! It was so good to see you here, awesome post!! I use Freedcamp, and have certainly been telling myself to giving Asana a good chance too. Other PM I’ve been looking at as a designer is Proofhub, and at basecamp as well. But for right now, Freedcamp works well. Will revisit Asana and see what I can implement. Thanks!

  5. Jo says:

    Love this post, so detailed and helpful! I just started using Asana a couple of weeks ago so I’m just getting the hang of it, I never realised you could connect it to Zapier though!

    I was wonderring, when you it notifies your clients, is it just a notification within the app or does it send them an email? Thanks Nesha!

  6. Marna Thall says:

    Hi Regina,

    Asana is really an amazing software, i was trying to understand it properly from last 1 2-3 days and your post is really very helpful for me.

    Thank you so much!

  7. Alanna says:

    I just started using Asana and had no idea I could invite clients (I was looking into other programs). Thank you so much, I am so excited.

    • Nesha says:

      Hi Alanna! I’m really glad I taught you something new today then. 🙂 Asana is perfect to use with your clients. You can provide them with files and tasks, keep all conversations in one place, and (best of all) it keeps them on track and within boundaries. All the best with using it with your clients!!

  8. Thank you Nesha and Regina for this helpful post. I’ve been using Basecamp for about a year and like it a lot because I can see my client’s stuff at a glance vs. going back through emails. One of my collaborators uses Asana and I’ve seen it more from the inside and like it. I think I will start moving my Basecamp peeps over to it.

    Quick question: It’s just me on my team (YEY ME!) so when I add clients to view, it’s not adding them as a team member, correct? I will still have 14 more team members I could add, in addition to me, even if I have 10 clients in there?

    Thanks again!

    • Nesha says:

      Hey Lisa! You’re absolutely right- because it’s just you on your team, you can add as many clients to your Asana projects as you want! You’ll only need to upgrade when you need to add more than 15 team members. Hope the switch goes well for you!! 🙂 You’ll love Asana.

  9. Tracey says:

    Great post and so jumping on board Asana. I’m going to encourage my peeps to use it too. Thanks ladies!

  10. Kristi says:

    Thanks for a great post! I’ve heard about Asana through other bloggers and figured I’d give it a try, but I couldn’t figure out how to make it work for me. Lol, I don’t even really know what my needs are yet! I have an occasional freelance project, but my biz is basically a blog that teaches fempreneur bloggers how to use Excel. What I’m wondering is whether it makes sense for someone who doesn’t (yet) have a team of VAs, etc., and who doesn’t intend to run a client-based biz to use Asana?

    I’m currently trying to find an optimal system of apps, and am exploring and/or use:
    *Evernote
    *Workflowy (I love this app!)
    *Trello (I have this but haven’t used it yet)
    *Asana
    *Google Keep
    *MindMeister (I don’t use it much, but it seems cool. I think that Workflowy accomplishes something similar for me…)

    I haven’t used Zapier but am game if it makes sense.

    I’ll be using other tools like BoardBooster and possibly other social media planners. And …? Could Asana help keep my head screwed on straight in terms of managing everything? My head’s spinning just trying to figure out what’s essential and what’s not…

    What do you think? Did I just puke out a whole bunch of incoherent babble?!Thanks!

    • Nesha says:

      Hey Kristi! First, I just want to say how awesome it is to see how determined you are to get organized.

      I use Asana mainly for managing clients and projects, but you can use it for personal projects too, like organizing your workflow, batch days, editorial calendar and whatever else you can think of. Asana makes it really easy to create to do lists, set reminders, and track the progress of your projects, so you’ll probably find it helpful to use when planning new services or products.

  11. Hiya
    Thx for this great post. I’ve been using Asana for a couple of months as a way to communicate with my business partner in our digital design agency but we are desperate to find a way to communicate with clients better (literally all the problems you listed!!) Clients are also so reluctant to learn something new, so at least 1. Asana is free and 2. They don’t need to sign up to participate! Asana being free really helps us designers in places like South Africa where the $ exchange rate is super high and makes a lot of great other apps unaffordable.
    Thx again!

    • Nesha says:

      Hi Samantha!! You’re soooo right. I love the fact that my clients don’t have to sign up to use Asana, and the fact that it’s free. I understand it must be hard for you in a country where the exchange rate makes apps expensive, so I hope you enjoy and get the most out of using Asana! 😀

  12. Nesha and Regina~

    I’ve seen Asana mentioned in some blog posts over the last few months. I didn’t pay much attention to it as I had no idea what it was and while reading the posts, I was focused on the post’s message itself not a comment regarding something I knew nothing of..

    I appreciate how detailed you got with specific examples of how you make Asana work for you.

    I mentioned Asana to my husband (as we own a couple small businesses together) and I know I will have to show him how it works once I’ve signed up. With our clients, especially some of them, a step-by-step list of who needs to what and when would be SO helpful. Each new client would benefit from a pre-made list of expectations for them and for us. With my writing clients, I know it would help them and I if we could track what is done and not done better.

    The forever-it-seems email chains which keep getting longer, longer, and oh, longer(!) with each reply get extremely difficult to track who is needing what done and when.

    Thank you for the post.

    Off to sign up with Asana now…
    ~Adrienne

  13. peyton says:

    Hey Nesha,
    I can pull my coat over this, I like Asana. But my team needs visuals just as much as lists. Do you add InstaGantt to this? For us, no Gantt Chart, No Progress. How do you make this visual?

  14. Carolyn says:

    Hey I was wondering how much you charge to build website or who you would recommend for that. I taught myself to code but would really like a professional to come in and redo the site.

    Also this article really helped me and I will definitely be signing up for Asana.

  15. Alessia says:

    I’m a basic user of Asana, as I started using project management tools using Trello.
    I don’t seem to grasp the full potentiality of Trello, I think it has limitations if compares to Asana. I’m looking forward to using it in depth. Thanks a lot for your articles, it’s really useful.

  16. Perfect! This is exactly what I needed to read. I signed up for Asana months ago but never really made much use of it. I have yet to add any clients to the workflow. Thank you so much for this thorough post. 🙂

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