Interesting. My thoughts about some of the articles herein are they written by freelancers or employees? Do you ever wonder about that?
Top 7 Collaboration Software Tools for Successful Freelancers
Posted August 12, 2011 in Tools/Resources
Freelancers are people who have first-hand knowledge about effective collaboration. Often they have to deal with remote teams. Freelancers may also have to deal with both location differences and time zone differences.
For successful communication and file sharing many freelancers use online services like Skype, email and ICQ. However, anyone who has used these tools knows that having too many active applications is not convenient and may cause your computer to become overloaded. As a result of an overloaded machine, you may have to stop all your project work for an undetermined period of time.
Let’s face it–having a common workspace with all the necessary collaboration and project management (PM) tools in one place is much easier and more effective! (You get a lot with less effort!)
Luckily, today business software is one of the most developed areas in the IT world and freelancers have quite a wide choice of collaboration tools available. I would like to share my own experience of using collaboration and PM software by reviewing seven solutions that meet all the requirements of most freelancers. All the applications have either open source code or are available at zero cost for at least a trial period.
Top 7 Collaboration Tools
Here are my top seven collaboration tools for freelancers:
- IBN Instant Business Network. This tool is from Mediachase. It provides users with an open source solution so the platform can be modified to meet your needs. The trial version is available for 30 days. IBN has a flexible access rights system. All the users are divided into three groups: inside users (company workers, administrators, project managers, etc), outside users (those who have access to certain pages of IBN portal only), and partners (those who do not work in a company, but appear in the group of its partners). Instant Business Network also has a document workflow system. You can download docs, attach them to concrete projects, set up the priority and even project work(ing) hours, so that your customer is able to see how long it will take you to get things done. There is also a possibility to rollback the document to the previous version and integrate files with Microsoft Project.
- ProjectPier. This application enables you to set up tasks and project milestones and send messages to other members of your team. You can host ProjectPier on your server for free. The only (but quite significant shortcoming) is that the system doesn’t have access rights. This means that clients and freelancers can both track current projects. At the same time, I can’t but thank the authors for the ability to download and store files directly in the portal, comment on them, and watch the versions.
- Clocking IT. This free project management system was developed for those who work as consultants. Even the pickiest users will be satisfied when they get the complete report detailing each minute that you’ve spent on their project. GANTT charts help them to visualize the project schedule and update it with date changes. The application is translated into 15 languages and it has absolutely no limitations on the number of users or projects.
- Teamlab. This is a web-based Open Source document and project management system. The main advantage that distinguishes Teamlab from similar PM solutions is that it has a powerful document management module, represented by the built-in Open Office application. It includes their newest feature–an Online Document Editor that easily competes with Google Docs. It enables users to create, share and edit documents and spreadsheets online directly in the corporate portal. As for the basic features, there is a huge toolkit of everything you need for successful collaboration: time tracking, tasks and milestones, blogs, forums, chat and multi-chat, the ability to create polls and vote, automatic reports and other nice functions that can enhance your communication efficiently at zero cost.
- TeamworkPM. This tool helps you do things on time and under budget. It will certainly be useful for those who always miss project milestones–the notification system is almost perfect! The application has an intuitive user interface. It never makes you think twice before pushing a button. Even if you hesitate, the system prompts you about what to do. The functionality of TeamworkPM is similar to Basecamp–there are many similar features and data can be imported easily without any data loss (which is a great advantage if you are moving from one platform to another). You can use the free version as long as you only need two projects and no more than 10MB of storage space.
- Ardzo.Teamwork. This is the simplest system created for small and medium groups of freelancers who manage projects online. The application is quite popular among programmers, designers and content managers. As for the basic features, Ardzo.Teamwork enables you to track project progress, set up tasks, and manage the list of clients/partners and colleagues. They made the system simple so that anyone can use it whether or not they are knowledgeable about project management. It also provides self-hosting on PHP and is available for free to those who send a query with a description of their activity.
- Freedcamp. This is one of the newest and the most promising collaboration solutions. You can register via Facebook. Freedcamp developers can be proud of the nice, friendly interface. The system provides users with instant communication tools such as the built-in Meebo Chat that can easily be integrated not only with Gtalk and ICQ, but also with Facebook Chat and other IM clients. All the essential options are available for free: time tracking, automatic reports, and the ability to create discussions and set up milestones for a project. To me the most “delicious” feature is those small to-do lists that you can create with just one click when the button “To-Do” appears on the main Dashboard. This small feature may seem simple and insignificant, but I can’t keep silent–this is missing from many other applications.
Tools I Would Like to Add to the List
There are many options for freelancing collaboration tools. The previous list barely scratches the surface of what’s available. Here are some additional tools that I haven’t had time to review:
- Dotproject.net–as an example of a project management system supported by volunteers.
- Project-open.org–as a powerful PM solution fully integrated with ERP.
- Redmine–as a bug-tracking tool and as a PM solution for Gantt Charts.
There is no doubt that such collaboration giants as Basecamp, Zoho and Microsoft Project will stay up to date, but in this post I was trying to cover platforms that are not that well-known. Besides, the ideal collaboration system has not been created yet, so I strongly recommend that you try as many applications as possible and choose the one that suits your needs.
What other freelancing collaboration tools do you use?
Share your answers in the comments.
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August 12th, 2011 at 9:19 am
August 12th, 2011 at 9:57 am
Roman, thanks for sharing!
Conceptboard looks really nice.
Gonna check it out in the nearest future, I believe it is worth including to the next apps review)
August 12th, 2011 at 10:03 am
Gold, thank you for your attention to the article!
I feel that if resources are useful, there is no great difference who shares them – freelancers or employees )
Besides, I also believe that there is a thin line between being a freelancer and an employee, as one often turns into another, don’t you think so? ;)
August 12th, 2011 at 10:16 am
Cheers for the great article guys. Will no doubt unclutter my weekend freelance gigs..
TOSAugust 12th, 2011 at 12:14 pm
Also take a look at Finch, it’s an automatic time tracking app for Mac OS. http://touchstudios.net/finch
August 12th, 2011 at 12:53 pm
Interesting choice of software. I must take a closer look. Thanks! :)
August 12th, 2011 at 1:35 pm
No there is a big line being a freelancer and an employee. One thing to consider is the way taxes and fees are applied. The “TWC Independent Contractors Test” (that’s Google-able) suggests the differences between the two.
My thought was and is that the way they think is different and if I knew which was which I would better know what was going on from that prospective. Wouldn’t you?
Jack WeaverAugust 12th, 2011 at 4:37 pm
Don’t have website at present time. Used to have TheJackWeb.com but my hard drive was crashed 3 times by outsiders. All I want is to set up a site and post my short stories for others to read. Q; re my software and typeface. Thanks
August 12th, 2011 at 5:38 pm
Nina thanks for the great review of Freedcamp.
Version 2 is coming in 17 days and it’s going to be a real game changer in the Collaboration software for Freelancers. We are introducing CRM, BugTracking, Advanced Invoices, Wikis, and much more!
August 12th, 2011 at 7:28 pm
Communication is such an important part of business, especially when you aren’t working in the same place. Tools that make that process easier and more reliable are worth looking into. Thanks for sharing!
August 12th, 2011 at 8:25 pm
Been using Skype since it is where I get my interview done sometimes. I swear, I often experience freezing and hanging every time I use videocall. Then I need to take off my laptop’s battery just to make it work again. I already managed to re-install my flash player. Still it happens.Overloaded.
JasonAugust 12th, 2011 at 8:28 pm
Another article promoting the authors product/service/whatever.
And that’s strike 3, bye.
David MAugust 12th, 2011 at 10:41 pm
These are solid, but this is what confuses me:
Why are people choosing to go with single-purpose applications when consolidated systems out there can manage everything they need, so they aren’t required to go with 3+ non-integrated apps?
As a freelancer, I was jumping between a CRM system, a project management app, and a billing system (i’ll avoid naming these), to get everything organized and managed. This was headache-prone and extremely inefficient, as well as costly. No thanks. I’ve since moved on to WORKetc: http://www.worketc.com
Using WORKetc I’m managing contacts, potential clients, projects, toDos, scheduling, invoicing, time tracking, and email marketing, and all of these separate modules communicate seamlessly within one UI. I’m effectively avoiding the need for additional apps while being able to collaborate with everyone on everything i’m doing, you can even invite clients to collab with WORKetc’s customer portal. I hate to see so many apps being used so pointlessly when it can all be consolidated into one efficient system!
August 13th, 2011 at 3:01 pm
Proud to be a great fan of Freedcamp here! We love their features and such a nice treat all for FREE!
Another great collaboration tool we recommend is “Highrise”. It saves and organizes notes and email conversations from different clients or people that you interact with. It has task manager and reminder so you will never forget your to-do lists or your deadlines.
You can check our full list of recommended tools here: http://bit.ly/qGkrQC
August 13th, 2011 at 3:21 pm
Nice and interesting article for any freelancers out there. Hope that such ideas and tools will help them out in making big impacts throughout their freelance career.
August 13th, 2011 at 8:31 pm
Thanks for sharing this.. Many of this tools I don’t know, but I will check this tomorrow !!
August 15th, 2011 at 3:22 am
Danny Whitehouse, I am glad I managed to arouse your interest )
August 15th, 2011 at 3:27 am
TOS, thanks for sharing!
Finch seems to be a nice tool preventing you from time wasting.
Will it always be only for Mac OS?
August 15th, 2011 at 3:27 am
Take a look at Shared Paper, a visual brainstorming app for the iPad. This lets you visualise your thoughts and ideas on a scalable digital workspace and collaborate in real time with other iPad users. Then organise and summarise your workings across the canvas into a concise and professional slideshow that can be connected to a projector or streamed to other iPads wirelessly. Finally it lets you document your slides as a pdf or image file which you can mail out on the spot.
A really powerful and portable idea management tool with collaboration built in:
App store link: http://itunes.apple.com/app/shared-paper/id450451819
Web page: http://www.shared-paper.com
August 15th, 2011 at 3:27 am
Aljiro, I am glad you liked it! )
August 15th, 2011 at 3:37 am
Gold, true – the way they think is definitely different.
There might have been a piece of misunderstanding in the previous comment.
Going back to your first question – as far as I know, it is usually mentioned in the author’s bio below the article – whether he or she is a freelancer or an employee, so you can always check it.
August 15th, 2011 at 3:44 am
Mario, thanks for sharing!
I’ve checked them. Todoyu looks promising.
Does any of these apps provide Open Source?
August 15th, 2011 at 3:53 am
Angel, I am glad you liked the review!
Wow, looking forward to the version 2 of Freedcamp.
CRM, BugTracking and Advanced Invoices sound promising.
August 15th, 2011 at 4:02 am
Charley, totally agree with you!
Without successful communication remote working is almost impossible.
I am glad you’ve found the article useful.
August 15th, 2011 at 4:24 am
That’s what I am talking about, Ann!
Overloading happens when it is less expected and always at the most unsuitable moment (
August 15th, 2011 at 4:28 am
David, thank you for sharing your experience!
WORKetc is certainly worth checking out.
August 15th, 2011 at 4:35 am
Thank you for sharing, Vadim!
Wow, it is available in Russian! Great.
Going to take a look at it – sounds interesting.
August 15th, 2011 at 5:20 am
Paul, thank you for such a list!
Haven’t heard about apollohq.com
August 15th, 2011 at 5:29 am
NgPillai, thank you very much for your attention!
I also hope that it can make some impact in someone’s freelance career.
August 15th, 2011 at 5:31 am
I hope you’ll find something useful for yourself!
August 15th, 2011 at 9:57 am
David, thanks for sharing Shared Paper.
It seems to me that the area of whiteboards is one of the fastest growing among other collaboration solutions.
Unfortunately, I haven’t found pricing information on the web-site.
September 1st, 2011 at 4:23 pm
We just launched Version 2. Hope everyone gives it a shot, it’s truly a revolutionary piece of software and it’s completely free!
SueSeptember 8th, 2011 at 12:02 am
I’d love to see you take a look at Dooster. I started using it a few months back for task management – it helps me keep track of my clients’ tasks, new and existing projects, due dates, and even helps me manage a team of subcontractors if necessary.
Paul d'AoustSeptember 8th, 2011 at 12:09 pm
I second Feng Office – I use it for project management, and it has a really handy time tracker (lets you start and stop timers, so you don’t have to remember exactly how much time you worked on a job). It’s open-source, so you can download a free, self-hosted version – just search the website for ‘Feng Community’.
DanSeptember 16th, 2011 at 4:05 am
If you’d like a tool for managing your time and projects, you can use this web-application inspired by David Allen’s GTD:
You can use it to manage and prioritize your goals, projects and tasks, set next actions and contexts, use checklists, schedules and a calendar.
Syncs with Evernote and Google Calendar, and also comes with mobile version, and Android and iPhone apps.
March 2nd, 2012 at 7:43 am
Being an IT guy I am glad to say that after using Bootstraptoday a project management tool
i need not to worry about daily tasks and tickets as BST brings intelligence and
integration into the software developent lifecycle and detection of bugs becomes quicker
saving a lot of time and project cost. Apart from cloud/online it is also available as In
house set up. An insight of the tool can be experienced at http://zfer.us/AeiG9
PaulMarch 9th, 2012 at 10:43 pm
May 3rd, 2012 at 2:27 am
I would add agreedo.com to collaborate on meeting content
June 1st, 2012 at 7:48 am
Glad to stumble upon your site. Thanks for sharing quality information.
July 9th, 2012 at 10:00 am
According to the feedback we get from our customers, Wrike saves the day when it comes to project management and collaboration for remote teams. Our tool allows you to organize an unlimited number of projects in one workspace, build plans, collaborate on docs and discuss things in real time. It’s easy to share certain projects or their parts with particular freelancers you plug into your work. If you’re interested, you’re welcome to try this in action at http://www.wrike.com. By the way, there’s a free version available.
Mike RogerMarch 22nd, 2013 at 6:49 am
Thank you for the above list. Another option is deploying on premise RHUB http://www.rhubcom.com online collaboration appliance in order to conduct online meetings, webinars, web conferences, online presentations etc.
April 24th, 2013 at 1:10 am
jseful website thanks
April 26th, 2013 at 4:37 am
I read this piece of writing fully about the difference of latest
and preceding technologies, it’s amazing article.
April 30th, 2013 at 10:51 pm
What a information of un-ambiguity and preserveness of valuable know-how on the topic of unpredicted emotions.
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