Top 7 Collaboration Software Tools for Successful Freelancers

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

Your Turn

What other freelancing collaboration tools do you use?

Share your answers in the comments.

Image by adactio

Comments

  1. says

    Interesting. My thoughts about some of the articles herein are they written by freelancers or employees? Do you ever wonder about that?

  2. says

    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)

  3. says

    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? ;)

  4. says

    Nina,
    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?

  5. Jack Weaver says

    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

  6. says

    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!

  7. says

    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!

  8. says

    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.

  9. David M says

    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!

  10. says

    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

  11. says

    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.

    Cheers

  12. says

    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

  13. says

    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.

  14. says

    Angel, I am glad you liked the review!
    Wow, looking forward to the version 2 of Freedcamp.
    CRM, BugTracking and Advanced Invoices sound promising.

  15. says

    Charley, totally agree with you!
    Without successful communication remote working is almost impossible.
    I am glad you’ve found the article useful.

  16. says

    NgPillai, thank you very much for your attention!
    I also hope that it can make some impact in someone’s freelance career.

    Cheers.

  17. says

    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.

  18. Sue says

    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.

  19. Paul d'Aoust says

    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’.

  20. Dan says

    If you’d like a tool for managing your time and projects, you can use this web-application inspired by David Allen’s GTD:

    http://www.Gtdagenda.com

    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.

  21. says

    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

  22. says

    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.

  23. Mike Roger says

    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.

  24. says

    From quality groundworks in Cheshire to patios in Cheshire, they
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  25. says

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    I will bookmark your blog and check again right here frequently.
    I’m moderately sure I will learn many new stuff right right here! Best of luck for the following!

  26. says

    I have been browsing online more than three hours today,
    yet I never found any interesting article like yours. It’s pretty worth enough for me. In my opinion, if all website owners and bloggers made good content as you did, the web will be a lot more useful than ever before.

  27. says

    Nice blog! Is your theme custom made or did you download it from somewhere?
    A design like yours with a few simple tweeks would really make my blog jump out.
    Please let me know where you got your design. Bless you

  28. says

    Hey! I just wanted to ask if you ever have any issues with hackers?
    My last blog (wordpress) was hacked and I
    ended up losing months of hard work due to no back up.
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  29. Joe says

    Business specific question and answer platforms are useful for improved collaboration between employees. Senexx created Solvepath which is a really useful question and answer platform. This program really helps enhance worker communication.

  30. says

    you’re really a just right webmaster. The website loading pace is incredible. It kind of feels that you’re doing any unique trick.
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  31. Jan Riecke says

    Test drive Notism (http://notism.io) – A design collaboration platform that offers realtime communication via sketches, notes and selections. You can also build clickable prototypes, add tasks and version control your design process.

  32. Pierre says

    Surprised that proofhub isn’t on the list. I changed from basecamp about 18 months ago and have never looked back. This tool has helped me a lot to collaborate my team. I will suggest you guys to try this tool once.

    • Ryan Domm-Thomas says

      Hi Pierre,

      We hadn’t tried Proofhub yet but thanks for the recommendation. We’re always up for trying new tools. Have a great day!

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