Best Project Management Software For Small Business | Boost Productivity & Organize Goals

If you’re an entrepreneur, chances are you’re not sitting idly, twiddling your thumbs, and waiting for more clients to knock on your door. Nope, most entrepreneurs are ambitious and goal oriented and slightly very impatient when it comes to achieving the vision they have for their business and life. 😂

I’m willing to bet that most of your business currently lives inside your head… am I right? 

This may have worked well enough up to this point, but as you continue to grow, the mental load of entrepreneurship is starting to get heavy. You feel drained, your brain feels foggy, and every Monday morning you need to figure out who you are and what you’re doing and where you’re supposed to be focusing…

Here’s the thing: when your business lives inside your head, not only is it not scalable, but it also starts to deplete your mental energy. 

When you’re a small business owner, the success of your business depends on your energy. If you’re not showing up with mental clarity and focus, you’re not doing your business any favors.

It’s time to get your business out of your head and set it up for success with a project management software for small business owners that will free up your headspace and help you stay on top of everything that goes into running and growing a business!

  • The 5 most popular project management softwares for entrepreneurs
  • The 6 key things that make a good project management software GREAT
  • The BEST project management software for small business owners (and why I use it and love it and recommend it to everyone I know)

So, if you’re an entrepreneur – especially if you’re a service provider that’s grown to six figures and is looking to scale beyond that – this article is going to help you get your sh*t together and start scaling your business with more ease.

Project management software

In this blog post I talk about why ClickUp is the best project management software for small business owners. If you use one of our affiliate links to join ClickUp, we’ll receive a tiny kick-back at no extra cost to you. And before you think that I wrote this blog post just to get pocket change from ClickUp, let me tell you that this entire post was written & published before I even thought about becoming affiliated with ClickUp, I truly just love the platform so much.

Does your business need a project management software for small business owners?

Here are some clear signs that it’s time to put your big girl panties on, organize your business goals, and implement the best project management software for small business owners.

So basically, you’re just doing sh*t as it comes up, and you’re probably doing it slightly differently each time, searching for information, re-designing how you do it, and re-making a ton of decisions you’ve already made in the past, all of which takes more time and energy than it needs to.

So you’re the one in charge of everything and it’s currently not a problem that all the information is in your head but it’s quickly going to become one!

Related Post: How To Manage A Team | 8 Management Tips For Small Business Owners

So it’s probably not written down or organized in a way where you can trust that what needs to get done will get done and sleep peacefully at night (that definitely doesn’t help your energy or focus the next day!)

When you sit down at your desk each week you have to re-figure out who you are and what you’re doing and where you’re supposed to be focusing your time. 😂 All of this takes time and energy, and sometimes you don’t implement great ideas because you don’t have a clear plan for executing on them. 

If you were to step away from your business for 2 weeks, no one would know what they’re supposed to be working on. There’s no visibility to your goals and priorities. And this basically means that you can never have a vacation… a fact I’m sure you’re just thrilled about. 

Whether it’s trying to remember where to find all that stuff your accountants need come tax time, or figuring out when a client contract is supposed to end… you’re perusing the black hole of your Google Drive much too often for information you should have at your fingertips.

If you want to reduce the mental load of running your business, get key strategic projects done on time, and scale your business to the next level, implementing the best project management software for small business owners is essential.

When you transfer all the knowledge from your head into a system, your business can start running itself instead of running you ragged.

There are a variety of project management softwares for entrepreneurs to choose from – so much so that you can spend hours researching, become completely overwhelmed, and put “find the best project management software for small business owners” back at the bottom of your to do list for future you to deal with 😂 (I do speak from experience).

Here are the project management tools I’ve seen entrepreneurs have the most success with:

But none of those comparison charts mean anything if you don’t actually know what you need in a project management software. 

So first let’s cover what to look for in a project management software for entrepreneurs so that you can find the best project management software for you and your specific business!

Your project management software needs to have the ability to list tasks and subtasks, assign deadlines, assign owners, have a place for descriptions, store comments, and be able to attach files or images. Those are the bare essentials. 

But here’s where a good project management software becomes GREAT…

A project management software for business owners needs to be able to clearly demonstrate high level goals.

You see, it’s not actually about the projects, it’s about working on the key things that will help you achieve a positive outcome in your business.

As a small business owner, you need to be able to see exactly how each project ties together into the bigger picture goals. You don’t just want a list of tasks that need to get done; that quickly becomes overwhelming and if you’re judging projects as complete based on tasks and not outcomes, you’re not actually paying attention to whether they’re making a difference in your business.

Tying your projects into your high level goals allows you to stay focused on the high level and assess if your effort is generating real results.

Related Post: Are You Working On The Right Goals?

Therefore, the best project management software for small business owners allows you to see not just your projects but exactly how they tie into your goals!

Let me show you an example: 

At a high level, you can see what your core goals for the year are (massive visibility to the blog, etc.) When you click into each goal you can see the projects and targets related to that goal and how you’re progressing on them!

I absolutely love this feature and I believe it’s one of the things that makes ClickUp stand out from all the other project management softwares for small business owners. 

But even if you don’t use ClickUp and you choose a different project management software, make sure you can set up a list that specifically outlines your high level goals. You might not be able to link to the projects associated with it, but you’ll at least have visibility to the big things.

Setting Goals Before You Set Up Your Project Management Software

Now, if you haven’t set goals that are clear enough to list out in a project management software, then you’ve got some pre-work to do! 

You can also check out our post on how to create a business vision board to help you visualize your goals off the screen. If you’re a pen & paper person like me, or if you have ADHD/object impermanence, having a physical business vision board up in your office allows you to keep your goals and priorities front and center. 

Once your vision is clear and your goals are set, you can break them down in a project management software.

The best project management software for small business owners has a way to track progress toward your high level goals and your projects so that you can see clearly how you’re performing in that area.

Being able to mark things completed is not the same thing as being able to visually see how much of a project is done or how close you are to hitting a goal.

And in projects, you can set up a column that either automatically calculates your progress based on tasks completed, as you can see below:

Or you can set it up to manually update your progress based on how you feel it’s going with the progress column: 

Being a CEO means working on your business and getting projects completed on time. Being a service provider means delivering the service to your clients on time. Having a tool to help you visualize your progress will not only free up your mental energy trying to remember where everything is at, but it will help you deliver a better service to your clients by keeping you on track!

Every business needs a strategic plan for how you’re going to achieve your goals. You need to know exactly how your products/services, marketing/sales, customer experience/results, processes/systems, team, etc. are all going to work together to achieve those high level goals.

Create a strategic plan for your business by reading our guide to strategic planning here or downloading the CEO Strategic Success Planner which walks you through the step by step process of strategic reflection & planning for service based businesses.

But once you do know the 3-5 things you’re going to focus on this year to really move the needle on your goals, you need to be able to map them out in your project management software.

  1. Increasing visibility through collaborations/exposure
  2. Increasing visibility through paid advertising
  3. Optimizing for SEO

Each of those is a strategy for increasing visibility and hitting your goal of 500,000 views this year.

Optimizing for SEO might include

  • Doing keyword research
  • Rewriting copy on your website
  • Setting up metrics to track SEO performance

So your project management software needs to be able to accommodate this hierarchy. From outcome goal, to process goals/strategies, to actual projects, and then the to-dos under those projects.

(For more on lagging outcomes vs leading indicators, and process based goals, read our ultimate guide to goal setting for entrepreneurs here). 

If you choose a project management software that doesn’t have a robust hierarchy, you’ll basically be operating from a giant to-do list, not knowing how to prioritize the endless tasks, and forgetting why they matter or how they even get you closer to your goals.

So make sure you pick a project management software that can go at least 4-5 levels deep. 

This is why I love ClickUp. It has goals that can be broken down into projects, which can be broken down into tasks, which can be broken down into subtasks, which can be broken down into checklists. There’s so much to work with. 

When you set up your projects, you want to be able to tag them by quarter and by month so that you can filter views based on what quarter or month you’re in. 

The thing I probably love MOST about ClickUp is that you can literally customize ANYTHING. 

You can add columns that didn’t exist so that you not only track assignees and due dates and priority levels, but you can create your OWN tags and start tracking the project it’s related to, or the area of the business it focuses on, or the content pillar it’s coming from. It’s very versatile.

I will say that because it’s so customizable, it takes time to get this set up how you want it, and can feel overwhelming to some people. So if you’re just looking for a simple place to track tasks, ClickUp is probably too much for you. But, if you’re looking for a robust system that can house your entire business and help you stay strategic, ClickUp doesn’t have competition.

As an entrepreneur, you’re juggling a lot of balls, so even when you get all of this set up for your business, you might feel overwhelmed. 

That’s why your project management software needs to be able to show you your immediate priorities without making you look through anything and everything you want to do this year.

I have a “CEO” dashboard that shows me:

  •  our progress on our goals
  • the projects I’m supposed to be working on this month
  • the tasks I committed to doing THIS WEEK, and
  • the regular recurring things I need to not forget about

I LOVE this because I can open up ONE screen on my laptop and see EXACTLY where my time needs to go that week. This allows me to be strategic and productive and not spend 30 minutes figuring out wtf I should do that day.

Whichever project management software you choose, make sure you set up a ‘view’ where you can see just the high level goals you’re focused on THIS MONTH and just what you need to get done THIS WEEK in order to achieve those goals. That will keep you sane.

There’s nothing worse than having a list of projects outlined in a project management software but having to communicate about every aspect of those projects via email with your team. 

If your project management software doesn’t have a chat feature, (or if you’re not using it) it’s going to drive you nuts.

ClickUp and Basecamp are the only 2 in this list that have a direct chat feature, so that certainly gives them an advantage over the competition!

I’ve personally used every single one of the most popular project management softwares for entrepreneurs at various points in my business and career and can confidently say that I love ClickUp the most. 

With ClickUp you can

  • Clearly visualize high level goals with their specific goals dedicated section
  • Track progress to goals and projects in fun, unique ways
  • Break down projects up to 5 levels of hierarchy deep
  • Customize every single freaking thing (from statuses to custom fields, you can do ANYTHING in here) which then allows you to sort and view in so many different ways
  • Build custom dashboards that show you just what you want to see

But there are also other things ClickUp does that I absolutely love

  • Has a docs section where you can organize everything, which essentially replaces (or syncs really well with) Google docs and sheets
  • Has a chat function so you can not only comment on projects underneath their specific tasks, but also have an unrelated conversation 
  • Integrates with Gmail so you can easily pop any request/to do you get via email into ClickUp
  • Allows you to view things in so many different ways: board views, list views, timelines, gantt charts, the possibilities are endless.
best project management software

Having the best project management software for small business owners in place can help your business run like a well oiled machine. 

Instead of flying by the seat of your pants, trying to land more business and keep current customers happy while starting/stopping a bunch of projects… you can make momentum on strategic priorities that move the business forward while feeling focused and grounded.

And if you’ve created some success in your business, are generating consistent revenue, and are ready for exponential growth, book a discovery call to see how private coaching can help you scale your business while freeing up time and energy for a fulfilling life.

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