Project management is a freelancer’s best friend. You have to be organized and stay on top of your projects. That’s a given. But as a WordPress developer, have you considered doing your project management in the site itself? WordPress project management can be a way to merge your love of WordPress with your need to be organized.
You can do all kinds of things with WordPress today, and being WordPress fanatics (you know you are too), we love the idea of WordPress project management.
Benefits of Project Management Systems
If you’ve been doing freelance WordPress development for any length of time you understand the need for a project management system. You need something to keep you organized and on track, and generally a post-it note won’t cut it.
Some of the most-loved benefits of project management systems include:
- Organization – Keep track of what needs to be done when. Don’t let anything slip through the cracks again.
- Deadlines – Moving a project forward means keeping an eye on the due dates. Juggling multiple deadlines can get crazy, and that’s where project management really shines.
- Collaborate – Few people work in the same office these days and can share a whiteboard together. Collaboration has to happen remotely and you need an online system to make that happen. Some systems restrict that interaction to your team, while others invite outside clients into the process.
- Archive – Collaboration is key, but you need to keep track of those conversations. A bunch of email discussions or decisions made in a chat window are great, but it’s hard to find those again when you need them. A good project management system archives those conversations and decisions so you can go back and find them in one place.
- Reporting – Every client wants to know where a project is at, and a good project management system either lets you know so you can update the client or tells the client directly.
Other Project Management Options
There are loads of project management options out there. Basecamp is the standard. We prefer Trello in the iThemes office. Sometimes it’s easier to keep your project management separate or let someone else build it. Sometimes you’re busy with clients, and you don’t have time to build your own.
But the real benefit to WordPress project management is you can set it up just how you like it. Few other options give you the flexibility of a WordPress project management solution.
Make It Work For You
For project management to be effective in your freelance development, it needs to work for you. If it’s frustrating or distracting, it’s not saving you any time. You need something that can work the way you want to work.
Sometimes that’s easier said than done. How do you want to work? What’s the most effective way to do it? What’s going to create the least amount of extra work and bureaucracy?
Sometimes you need to think through how something might work, maybe even try a few different ways of doing it, before you settle on the method for you.
Here are some questions you can ask to help figure out what you need:
- Internal or External? – Do you want your WordPress project management to be primarily internal for your team only, or do you want to include external partners like clients? It can be part of your process to include clients in the project management, but it also means you need to keep things professional. If you want a more casual, laidback project management system you might not want to invite your clients in to see the mess.
- Front End or Back End? – Do you want something smooth and polished to look good on the front end? Or do you just need something for yourself on the back end?
- Single or Multiple Projects? – Do you need to keep your projects separated, or do you want to see details across all your projects? For example, do you want to look at a calendar with dates for only one project at a time, or do you want to see all your project deadlines (or do you want to be able to see both)?
- What Do You Manage? – What are you looking to manage? Do you want to-do lists, milestones, a place to schedule deadlines, a place to track conversations, a place to upload files? Figure out which features you need and which ones you don’t.
- Any Extras? – Are there any extra components you track elsewhere that might make sense to tie into project management? Maybe you track your time or chart budgets, and it’d make sense to see that info here. You don’t want to over-complicate things, but if it works for you it might be a good move.
The point is to figure out what works for you. Just because someone set up a project management system to work a certain way doesn’t mean you should work that way.
And that brings us to the real pros of WordPress project management.
Why WordPress Project Management Rocks
There are a lot of benefits to doing your project management with WordPress:
- Get What You Want – The biggest bonus of using WordPress is it’s easy to customize and get exactly what you want. You’re not hemmed in with whatever system someone else came up with. Add the features you need and make them work the way you want.
- Sharpen Your Skills – Building a custom solution in WordPress is a good way to sharpen your skills. It’s a new challenge, and you’re learning new stuff—who knows when that will pay off?
- Simplify – By building your project management into WordPress you’re dealing with one less login. Whether you build it as part of your site or part of your client’s site, you’re making things simpler.
- Help Your Clients – If you built project management into your client’s site and invite them into the process, you’re helping familiarize your client with WordPress before the site is even live. They’re getting comfortable with the backend, and that can be a huge win.
- Use Your Site More – If you build project management into your own site for internal use, it’s a good way to get yourself using your own site more. For anyone too busy to keep their own site updated, simply being there and being reminded of it can be half the battle.
- Share It – If you create a custom WordPress project management plugin, you can always spin it off and share it with the community. There are loads of project management plugins out there so it will be hard to stand out from the crowd, but it can still be a good opportunity to give back.
How to Do WordPress Project Management
Now that we’ve covered why it might be a good idea, let’s talk about how you can actually make WordPress project management work. There are two primary ways to do it:
- Grab a pre-existing plugin (and get back to work).
- Code it yourself (and get exactly what you want).
Pre-Existing WordPress Project Management Plugins
You could start with a pre-existing plugin and see what works for you:
- WP Project Management – There’s a basic free version, but upgrading to premium gives you a lot more features.
- Orbis – They created it for internal use, but then they rolled it out to the public.
- Project Panorama – Built to answer the common client question, “Where is the project at?”
- TaskFreak! – An open-source, stand-alone project management app with a WordPress component.
- Freelancer – Includes client management and a task timer.
You could also move away from project management plugins entirely and use themes and other plugins to create private project management sites for each client. WP University walks you through the process to do that. It’s less simplification and more customer service, but whatever works for you.
Code Your Own WordPress Project Management Plugin
Another option is to code your own plugin. If you’re already building WordPress sites and plugins, this might be a no brainer. Think through what you’ll need and plan out exactly how it should work.
We even walk through how to start customizing your own system in a WebDesign.com webinar (members only).
Earlier this year Bill Erickson talked about building his own customer relations management software for WordPress. It’s not the same as project management, but his approach might give you some insights.
Get Organized & Get Work Done
The whole point of all this project management is to help you get work done. Be careful that you’re not getting lost in a rabbit hole of organization and process, creating more bureaucracy than actually getting anything done.
Figure out what you need, find or build the tool that works best, and get work done.