If you’re a freelancer and someone asks you what you do for a living, you may tell them you’re a writer, consultant, designer, or whatever it is you do.
But you know that’s only half the story.
Freelancers are also business owners. In addition to delivering your services, you’re also busy networking, managing client relationships, tracking your expenses, sending invoices, and more.
In order to run a successful freelance business, you can’t be wasting your time losing track of your projects or handing in things late. That’s why many savvy freelancers rely on project management software to stay on track.
We’ve reviewed the project management tools available today, and below we’re sharing the best of the best with you. Read on for the best project management tools for freelancers. We break down their pros, cons, and everything else you need to know.
Best for: The freelancer who wants to do it all
Founded in 2012, Asana has quickly made a name for itself as the project management software. As of 2018, the company boasted 1 million free customers and over 50,000 paid customers. Counted in their ranks are well-known brands like Disney, Airbnb, Lyft, and Blue Apron.
How much does Asana cost?
Asana offers four pricing plans, ranging from their forever free Basic plan to custom enterprise plans.
The Asana Basic plan costs nothing and supports organizations up to 15 members. This plan offers more than enough for freelancers, even if you work with several subcontractors or want to share accounts with your active client contacts.
However, the free plan does not include Timeline view, milestones, forms, rules, and more personalization features. For those, you’ll need to upgrade to the Asana Premium plan for $10.99 per user per month.
Finally, the Asana Business plan includes additional features, like goals, approvals, and advanced integrations for Salesforce, Adobe Creative Cloud, and Tableau. This plan costs $24.99 per user per month
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What are the pros and cons of Asana for freelancers?
Pro: Multiple project management views
One of the best things about Asana is that it doesn’t force you to adopt a particular project management mentality. Instead, you can choose a view to suit your workstyle. If you prefer to chart your progress Kanban style, you’ll find yourself working primarily from Asana’s Board view:
Asana’s Calendar view shows you at-a-glance which projects are due when, allowing you to efficiently plan your workload:
Finally, Gantt aficionados will love Asana’s Timeline view.
Pro: Ability to create task dependencies
What are all those little arrows in the Timeline view? Those, my friends, are how Asana visualizes task dependencies.
For example, let’s say you are designing a website, and you sub-contract out the graphic creation to another freelancer. If you can’t start prototyping until the sub-contractor gives you those graphics, you can create a task dependency by simply dragging a connector between your “prototype” and “create graphics” tasks.
Pro: Sophisticated people and project management
Asana refers to your account as an “Organization.” Within your organization, you can create different Asana teams and projects. Teams are groups of people who can work on sets of projects together, so they make sense for freelancers who manage groups of subcontractors for various client projects. Otherwise, teams aren’t super applicable to freelancers, as you’ll mostly be working solo in Asana.
Projects, however, are very useful for freelance workflow management. Many freelancers name their projects after their clients, and then create different tasks associated with that client for each of their deliverables. Whenever you’re ready to work on that client’s project, it’s as easy as clicking the Project name in the Asana sidebar.
If you want to view all of your upcoming work, regardless of client, you can click on My Tasks. Here, you can drag and drop tasks to reorder them by priority:
Asana’s change tracking and collaboration tools are also excellent. Whenever you open a task in Asana, you can see a full list of every single change made to a task, and when it was made. You can also comment with other freelancers, or leave notes for yourself in a comment.
Asana recently introduced “appreciations.” These are animated emojis you can post to a task to celebrate your sub-contractor’s work or simply build morale among your remote team.
Pro: Ability to create sub-tasks
With every task you add to Asana, you can enter a description, assign a team member (yourself, a subcontractor, or your client), and add a due date. You can also create sub-tasks. These will appear in a list on the main task card.
Subtasks are also denoted with a special icon on the List, Board, Timeline, and Calendar views:
Pro: Agile and scrum support
As you’ve probably gathered from these screenshots, you can manage almost any type of project in Asana. If you’re a freelance developer or technical consultant, you’ll be happy to hear you can also use Asana for sprint planning.
Asana supports agile and scrum methodologies. Asana even has special project templates designed for bug tracking:
Pro: Dozens of project management templates
Speaking of templates, Asana offers 50 project management templates you can use to get started. There are templates for event planning, product launches, editorial calendars, and more.
Cons of Asana:
Here are the main cons you should consider before choosing Asana as your freelance project management tool.
- Tasks can only be assigned to one person. Occasionally, you may be working on a task with a subcontractor. In order for you to both keep track of the task in Asana, you’d have to split it into sub-tasks.
- Users must have the same email domain to be a member of your Asana board. If you invite subcontractors or clients to your board, they’ll only have guest access. This is good in that they’re limited to viewing only the tasks and projects you invite them to. But, it requires you to do more work if you manage a team of sub-contractors and want them to view all of your boards. Also, guests do count toward the 15-member limit of the free plan.
- There’s no two ways around it: Asana is not user-friendly. It definitely has a learning curve, but many people swear by it once they get the hang of it. If you’ll be using Asana just for yourself as a freelancer, this isn’t necessarily a con — but it can become one if you plan on inviting clients and subcontractors. You don’t want to turn them off by forcing them to learn a confusing software.
- Time tracking isn’t included. For all that Asana offers, it’s missing a few key features. If you want to track your time, you’ll need to do so with a separate software like Toggl. Also, Gantt charts aren’t included with the free plan.
Best for: Fans of Post-it Notes and the Kanban method
Asana may be the most comprehensive project management tool, but when it comes to the most popular, no one holds a candle to Trello. Trello reached its 50 million user milestone in late 2019, and over 80% of Fortune 500 companies use the app.
How much does Trello cost?
Trello offers three pricing plans, including a Forever Free plan that allows you to create an unlimited number of personal boards, cards, and lists. You can do some simple automation, too, and enjoy the advanced security of 2-factor authentication.
However, you are limited to just 10MB for each file attachment, 10 team boards, and only 1 power-up per board. That means you can only enjoy the full functionality for one integration, such as Salesforce or Slack. You can still share links in Trello cards for other apps, but they will appear as a URL instead of a fancy clickable button.
Those who want more than 10 team boards or multiple power-ups will need to upgrade to a Business Class or Enterprise plan. These go for $9.99 or $17.50 per month, per user, with annual discounts available. We recommend the Business Class plan for freelancers who need more functionality, as well as any photographer, videographer, or designer who’s regularly working with files larger than 10MB.
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What are the pros and cons of Trello for freelancers?
Pro: Short learning curve
Trello is very easy to use, and likely the most user-friendly of all the project management tools on our list. You can use it on any web browser, from a desktop app for PCs and Macs, or via the mobile app for iOS and Android. People love Trello so much that it’s not uncommon to hear it being used to manage personal projects.
Pro: Simplified Kanban-style project management
Trello differs from Asana in that it only offers Kanban-based project management, but it does it extremely well. The Kanban Method is a visual project management style that focuses on efficiency. Tasks are organized based on their status, from Do to Doing to Done. You create columns in Trello that represent the status for a card.
If you were a freelance writer, for example, you might have separate columns for Assigned Articles, Articles in Progress, Submitted Articles, Revisions, and Billed to Client.
Like with Asana, most freelancers organize their clients by having separate boards dedicated to each client.
Pro: Ability to create sub-tasks
Trello calls tasks “cards.” Whenever you add a card to your Trello board, you can add a description, assign due dates and team members, attach files, and more. You can also add checklists, if you want to create sub-tasks, along with due dates for each sub-task.
Pro: Ability to assign multiple users to a task
Trello was made for freelancers who work with clients and team members from various email domains. You can invite anyone to join your Trello board, whether or not they have the same email domain as you. You can assign multiple users to a card. Huzzah!
Pro: Additional organization with card labels
Trello also offers card labels. You can think of these like keyword tags. They can be helpful for further categorizing work for a client.
If you are a freelance graphic designer, for example, you might have columns organizing the status of your work like we suggested for our hypothetical freelance writer above. You could also add labels like “logo,” “landing page,” or “infographic” to describe the different types of imagery you create for your clients.
You can expand and minimize card labels. When minimized, they appear as a colored strip at the top of your card:
Pro: Advanced automation and software integrations
To supercharge your efficiency, Trello offers a lot of automation built-in. With Trello Butler, you can set up rules based on different triggers.
For example, if you move a card to a Done column, it might check off all the checklist items, mark the due date complete, and remove members from the card — so you no longer receive notifications.
Trello has an equally large list of integrations, which they call “power-ups.” You can integrate a number of different software you may use throughout your freelance work, whether you want to save something to Evernote or view your latest SurveyMonkey results:
Pro: Large template library
Trello’s template library is huge and ever growing. Unlike Asana, Trello invites their users to contribute to their template library, so no matter what it is you do, you can find even the most specific of Trello boards here — whether you’re working on a freelance video game project or designing a website for your clients.
Cons of Trello:
Here are the main cons you should consider before choosing Trello as your freelance project management tool.
- Trello only supports the Kanban method. While you can certainly get creative with how you set up your Trello boards, Trello has one view and one view only. If Kanban project management doesn’t speak to you, Trello’s not for you.
- You can’t assign a card to more than one project. If a task is related to multiple projects, you’ll need to duplicate the card across projects.
Best for: Solopreneurs that operate as an agency or manage a team of freelancers
Founded in 2006, Wrike is a project management tool boasting 2.3 million customers and 20,000 organizations worldwide, including brands like Google, Dell, and Estee Lauder.
How much does Wrike cost?
Wrike offers four pricing plans, although most freelancers will find themselves choosing between the Free plan and the Professional plan, available for $9.80 per user per month and up to 15 users.
The Free plan allows for 5 users and includes all the basic functionality, including board and spreadsheet view, integrations with popular storage software (i.e. Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, OneDrive), file sharing, and up to 2GB of storage.
What’s missing is subtask management, Gantt Chart, the ability to add collaborators, and 3GB more storage. If that appeals to you, the Professional plan is your plan.
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What are the pros and cons of Wrike for freelancers?
Pro: Built-in time tracking
One of Wrike's standout features is its built-in time tracking. You can track your time while you work, or manually add time later. You can track both billable and non-billable hours. This makes for easy invoicing at the end of the month — especially because Wrike supports T&M, fixed-cost, and retainer billing!
Pro: Ability to assign tasks to multiple projects
Unlike some project management software, you can assign a task to more than one project in Wrike. This makes it easier to keep multiple teams informed across projects.
Pro: Customizable visual reporting features
Wrike’s Dashboards are an agency freelancer’s dream. You can add different widgets to show your clients the status of projects, such as what tasks are in progress or what’s waiting on approval. Dashboards give your clients a high-level view of everything you're working on for them, in an ultra-professional way. They’re ideal for projects that involve multiple teams or tasks, such as a website redesign or marketing campaign.
Wrike’s data reporting features are equally impressive. You can export dynamic visual reports to share with the CEO who’s asking for a progress update, or to help you further plan your own client workload and prepare for future growth.
Pro: Support for multiple project management styles
If the dashboards were any indication, Wrike is highly customizable. You can choose to work from a Kanban, Gantt, or folder-style view — a unique view that will feel familiar to those who have worked on desktop computers all their lives.
Wrike also offers Table view for spreadsheet fans. These conveniently instantly export to spreadsheets if you don't want to add your clients as collaborators in Wrike.
Pro: Enhanced security
All of the project management tools on our list are cloud-based, so there’s always a question of security. Because Wrike is meant to be your one-stop dashboard for everything you do for work, with integrations as far-ranging as ADP to Salesforce, Wrike has multiple layers of security, data sharing and role-based access options.
Cons of Wrike:
Here are the main cons you should consider before choosing Wrike as your freelance project management tool.
- The learning curve is steep. There’s a lot you can do with Wrike, but there’s also a lot to learn.
- Gantt charts aren’t available with the free plan. You only get Kanban, Folder, or Table view.
- Sub-task management is not available with the free plan. This means you’ll either have to upgrade, or you’ll get used to inputting all of the tasks with a project as separate tasks.
- Shareable dashboards and collaborators are also not included with the free plan. You do get 5 users with the free plan, but this may not be enough for freelancers who work with multiple large clients.
Best for: Freelancers looking for one software to rule them all
Unlike the other tools on our list, Bonsai is project management software designed for freelancers. All of its features were designed to make your life as a freelancer easier, rather than you having to adapt team-based PM software to your solopreneur workflow. And from the looks of it, Bonsai is doing something right. To date, the tool boasts over 200,000 freelancers.
How much does Bonsai cost?
Bonsai offers two pricing plans. The most popular plan, Workflow, costs $19 per month, while Workflow Plus costs $29 per month. Both plans offer annual discounts that give you 2 months free.
We recommend the Workflow plan for most freelancers. The only features exclusive to Workflow Plus are subcontracting, client forms, and the ability to fully customize and brand your Bonsai.
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What are the pros and cons of Bonsai for freelancers?
Pro: Much more than just project management
Bonsai includes all the essential project management features, along with a few extras just for freelancers. These include the ability to create proposals and contracts, track your time, send invoices, and manage your clients in a CRM. By bringing all of these essential functions into one tool, Bonsai aims to be the one-stop solution for freelance business management.
As a result, Bonsai’s project management features are less robust than other tools, but that’s mostly because it’s missing the features designed for teams. For most freelancers, that’s a pro, not a con. It makes the software much more lean and easy to navigate.
For example, the project management section itself leverages a basic list view. Bonsai features a clean UI, with the ability to add checklists, assign due dates, and categorize tasks by client. If you ever want to give your client access to a task you’re working on, you can add them for free as a collaborator.
Pro: Time tracking included
While you work on a track, you can track your time. This makes invoicing and managing your time a whole lot easier.
Pro: Comprehensive invoicing features
One of Bonsai’s most impressive features is the included invoicing software. As anyone who has experience with Square or PayPal knows, invoicing and payment processing software isn’t cheap. But Bonsai includes it with their platform.
You can create, send, and process invoices. You can also automate your invoices to be created from completed tasks, remind clients of late payments, and accrue late fees.
Bonsai even offers additional accounting features, available for an extra $10 per month. With these, you can keep track of your income and expenses for easy reporting come tax time.
Pro: Ability to create client proposals and contracts
Even if you’re not a designer, you can have professional proposals that win you work, thanks to Bonsai’s built-in proposal creation feature. You can send out proposals and track their status, allowing you to perform lead generation at scale. You and clients can also sign these forms electronically, saving you from purchasing signature software!
Once you win the work, it’s time to seal the deal. Bonsai saves the day gain, with contracts vetted by real lawyers to ensure your freelance business is protected. Templates include agreements, NDAs, and more.
Pro: High-level client management
You can create client dashboards through Bonsai’s CRM feature, giving you a space to track everything related to a client in one place. No more using separate note-taking apps or saving invoices to another folder on your computer. You can take notes, view tasks, save key documents like a proposal or style guide, and manage expenses from one dashboard!
Cons of Bonsai:
Here are the main cons you should consider before choosing Bonsai as your freelance project management tool.
- There’s no truly free plan of Bonsai. The best you can get is a 14-day free trial.
- It may not be suitable for freelancers who work with larger teams. Bonsai’s project management features are robust enough for straightforward projects, but lack the sophistication required for more complex projects with lots of moving parts. Also, subcontracting is only available with the more expensive Workflow Plus plan.
- Client forms aren’t included with the Workflow plan. Bonsai’s form builder allows you to create your own client intake and feedback forms, but you need to upgrade to the more expensive plan to use them.
Best for: The creative freelancer, or those who like to whiteboard
Milanote is project management with a creative twist. The company boasts customers like Adobe, Dropbox, Apple, and Facebook. This project management tool was made for creatives first and foremost. You can do all the basics you can with traditional PM software for freelancers, like create tasks and checklists, leave comments, and assign due dates — but it all lives in a visual board.
How much does Milanote cost?
Milanote offers two pricing plans: one's free and the other costs $12.50 per user per month (with an annual discount). With the paid plan, you unlock unlimited files, notes, images, and links, along with the ability to search your board.
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What are the pros and cons of Milanote for freelancers?
Pro: Pinnable, visual project management
With the Milanote Web Clipper tool, you can pin text, images, and links from the web to your board. It’s like Pinterest or Evernote, but made for project management.
You can also use the Milanote app to add notes and photos, which sync in real-time for viewing on your computer.
Pro: Drag-and-drop interface
Thanks to Milanote’s drag-and-drop functionality, freelancers can create client-facing dashboards with widgets that are pertinent to them. A freelance UX designer might upload wireframes and mockups, and invite their clients with comment-only access to leave their feedback by a deadline.
Pro: Large template library
Milanote includes dozens of templates to help you get started with your boards, from customer journey mapping to creative briefs.
Pro: Multiple user roles
Milanote’s collaboration features are also impressive. Individuals can write notes and leave comments. You can also assign different permissions for different subcontractors or clients, including read-only, edit, or view and comment access only.
Cons of Milanote:
Here are the main cons you should consider before choosing Milanote as your freelance project management tool.
- It’s less user-friendly. Because Milanote was made for creatives, its interface is modeled after other creative software. It’s straightforward for visual folks, but for non-creatives, it does have a bit of a learning curve.
- The free plan is very limited. The free plan lets you share an unlimited number of boards, add 100 notes, and upload 10 files. This will only work for freelancers who plan to rewrite over all of their projects, or for those who work for one or two clients, max. For freelancers with multiple clients or who want to be able to save records of their projects, they’ll need to upgrade to Milanote’s paid plan.
Best for: The spreadsheet lover
Airtable offers spreadsheet-based project management, with additional views for calendar and Kanban project management. Designed for creatives, marketers, and UX folks, Airtable claims over 170,000 companies use it, including the likes of Medium, BuzzFeed, and Netflix.
How much does Airtable cost?
Airtable offers four pricing plans, but most freelancers will be interested in the free plan or the Plus plan, which costs $10 per user per month.
The main difference between these two plans is the storage. The Plus plan offers 5,000 records per base, 5GB of attachments, and up to 6 months of revision history, compared with the Free plan’s 1,200 records per base, 2GB of attachments, and just 2 weeks of revision history.
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What are the pros and cons of Airtable for freelancers?
Pro: Ability to assign tasks to multiple projects
Airtable’s terminology is inspired by databases. So, instead of creating a board or project, you’ll create a base, and instead of cards or tasks, you’ll add data. Because AirTable is record-based, you can link tasks to as many tables as you want, and sort them according to tags.
Pro: Spreadsheet-style project management
Airtable was made for those who love working in a spreadsheet. This PM tool for freelancers takes the basic planning you might do in a spreadsheet software like Excel, and makes it dynamic and interactive. This software works extremely well for freelancers who like to sort and filter among their various projects and tasks.
Pro: Support for other project management styles
You may love working in a spreadsheet, but your clients might not. If that’s the case, you can easily translate your Grid view into a Calendar, Gallery, or Kanban view to show your clients how their projects are coming along.
Pro: Large template library for marketing and creative projects
Airtable’s Grid approach is different from traditional Kanban-style project management. So, Airtable eases the learning curve with its large library of templates, which can be used to kickstart any project.
For example, a freelance PR pro might use their Kanban template for media outreach:
Pro: Huge list of supported integrations
Airtable supports over 1,000 integrations so you can sync information easily between your project management tool and your other software, such as Evernote, Facebook, and more.
Cons of Airtable:
Here are the main cons you should consider before choosing Airtable as your freelance project management tool.
- The free plan only saves up to 2 weeks of revision history. While that may work for some freelancers, it’s likely too short for those who consult on longer-term projects.
- When it comes to collaboration, Airtable is pretty weak. You can assign tasks and comment on them much like you would in Google Sheets, but that’s about it.
- Access permissions are also fairly limited. You can invite collaborators to have access to bases on an individual level, or to your entire workspace. However, you can’t invite someone to collaborate on just a single record. The best you can do is give them view-only access via share link. That’s fine if you’re a freelancer who wants a PM tool solely to manage your own workflow. But, if you like assigning and discussing projects with sub-contractors, or inviting your clients to leave feedback within the software, it makes things much more difficult.
- Blocks are only available with more premium plans ($20 and up).
Blocks allow you to create visual interactive dashboards with widgets from various bases in Airtable:
Best for: Freelancers who just want simple project management, without too many frills
Task Pigeon promises straightforward project management that’s easy to understand, for busy freelancers and their clients alike. The tool offers Kanban boards, tiles, and list view.
How much does Task Pigeon cost?
Task Pigeon offers two pricing plans, a forever free plan and a Premium/Business plan for $9 per user per month, with a 14-day free trial.
With the free plan, you can have up to 3 users collaborate on an unlimited number of general tasks. However, you don’t get access to checklist, recurring, or private tasks, or the ability to create private or sub-categories. Those features are exclusively available with the paid plan.
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What are the pros and cons of Task Pigeon for freelancers?
Pro: Easy breezy project management
Ease of use is Task Pigeon’s main selling point. You can log in and generally figure it out pretty quickly on your own, without the need to learn new lingo or look up any support documentation.
The New Task screen in particular is very user-friendly. You can choose from two options: a general task or a checklist task. Then, you simply fill out the description, add attachments and deadlines, and assign one or more people:
Task Pigeon offers a few shortcut filters on the left sidebar, such as In Progress, Due Soon, and Completed. These allow you to quickly see what projects you need to work on first, and tally up your work for invoicing at the end of the month.
Pro: Ability to label tasks by category
You can also add task categories in Task Pigeon, which offers freelancers an additional layer of organization. Create categories for clients, projects, non-billable vs. billable work, paid vs. uninvoiced, and more.
Pro: Better privacy features
Private tasks are one feature that’s unique to Task Pigeon. You can check “Mark as Private” on any task, and only you and anyone you assign to it will be able to see it. This is a great feature for freelancers who work with sensitive information, like freelance recruiters or HR consultants.
Pro: Ability to create recurring tasks
Task Pigeon also supports Recurring Tasks. You can set these up for tasks you regularly complete, whether it's a daily social media post for one client or your monthly expense tracking and invoicing. You get to enjoy all the satisfaction of marking a task as complete, without any of the hassles of having to recreate the same task for the next time.
Cons of Task Pigeon:
Here are the main cons you should consider before choosing Task Pigeon as your freelance project management tool.
- The free plan has limited user permissions. When you add a new user with the free plan, they get access to everything in Task Pigeon, so you’ll need to become well-versed in marketing tasks as private if you plan on giving multiple clients access. Alternately, you can add guest users, who only have access to see and comment on the tasks you assign them to, but those are only available with the Premium plan.
- Task Pigeon only offers two main ways to organize tasks. You can create categories and sub-categories. That's it. Then, it’s up to you to use the filters to organize your view to see what’s due and for what client. Due to this organization, Task Pigeon is best for freelancers who work alone, with a minimal amount of subcontractors or clients, and who wish to use a project management tool to manage their own workload, as opposed to collaborating with their clients on complex projects.
There you have it: the best project management tools for freelancers! Which one will you choose?