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 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!

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

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:






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!


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