So you’re starting or starting to grow a creative business. It’s a super exciting time with lots of new decisions to make, employees to hire, and challenges to overcome.
However, with a growing client base comes growing operations challenges. Sooner rather than later you’ll need to start putting a system into place to manage your work, or else things are going to get a whole lot more convoluted.
Sure, you can use systems like email, calendars, and a Dropbox account in the beginning, but you’ll soon find out that with every new client and every new project you add, more things will get lost, projects will become less transparent, and clients will become more frustrated with your inability to track deadlines.
We wrote this guide with an assumption that you’re relatively small now and will be growing to 10 or more employees (including freelancers) in the future. You’ll want to control some level of access for individual team members (for example, not every freelancer will need access to your entire client base of work), and won’t want to manage all of your work out of your inbox.
We’ll compare three different solutions for managing your workload commonly used by creative teams: Asana, Jar, and Freshdesk.
Each one of these has their own strengths and weaknesses and is best for different types of creative teams depending on how they work. If you want the bottom line up from, here it is:
- Asana is great for teams that work on longer-term projects
- Jar is great for teams that work on requests – or items somewhere between a task and a project
- Freshdesk is great for teams that work on short, well-defined tasks
Let’s get into the details of each and what you can and shouldn’t expect from each one of them.
If your creative agency is tackling lots of long-term projects – things like advertising campaigns, design and development of entire websites, or large scale print design, then Asana may be a good bet for your team. It’s a full-featured project management application with all the bells and whistles.
Asana offers features that larger projects require – things like multiple due dates, progress tracking, conversations, task management, teams, dashboards, and dependencies. Asana does have support for creating limited client account so clients would only be able to access tasks, projects, and conversations you grant them access to – a handy feature for collaborating long-term with clients without having to rely on back-and-forth emails.
For simple tasks or straightforward requests, Asana is likely overkill. Tracking each request or task in its own project would become unmanageable and burdensome. You may also need to pay more attention to what you add to Asana. If you have clients on the account – they’ll be able to see the project, tasks, and conversations – so make sure you keep those items client friendly. In addition, adding your own branding to Asana requires an enterprise level plan (pricing for that is not available on the Asana website).
However, if you will be dealing with lots of projects requiring lots of coordination – Asana is a good bet for your business.
If you’ll be working primarily on ongoing requests and want a great white-labeled experience you can share with your clients, Jar is your best bet. It helps teams to manage requests and collaborate with clients throughout the process with simple communication and native file management. A big bonus with Jar is that each client gets their own portal where they can submit new requests (using a form you customize so you get the information you need), see the progress of their current requests, and download files from previous requests.
Say you’re a web agency and you manage client’s websites. Whenever a client needs a small change made to their website, they would head to Jar and submit the details of their request. You’ll be able to see all the details of their requests plus any attachments and assign the request to someone to work on. All the while, the client will be able to communicate with the team and track the progress of their current and previous requests in their own white-labeled client portal.
If you’ll be tracking complicated projects requiring multiple handoffs, Jar may not have all the features you need because of its lightweight, user-friendly interface.
While Freshdesk is touted as customer support software, creative teams have tweaked its typical use case into one that matches their creative operations process. Emails to the team turn into tickets, which can be accessed through Freshdesk’s team inbox.
If you’ll be resolving client issues or managing straightforward tasks that can come from a variety of channels (email, phone, social), Freshdesk may be a good solution for you. Freshdesk also lets you set up a knowledge base and community forums for potential and existing customers.
While Freshdesk is made for ticketing, with some tweaking and a little customization, Freshdesk can definitely be used to track work for creative teams. That being said, it doesn’t have the robust file management systems creative teams rely on – you’ll probably need a separate application to manage assets. If you’d like a white-labeled option – you’ll need to upgrade to their $49/user/month plan.
Asana vs. Jar vs. Freshdesk: The Results
So there you go, three applications for three different creative business needs.
Asana = Project management + client access + file sharing solution integration
Jar = Request management + client portal + native file management
Freshdesk = Ticket management – client portal – native file management + advanced tracking & reporting
If you’re looking for a full-featured application to track projects, chose Asana. If you want to manage requests and have a client portal and easy-to-use file management, use Jar. If you need to support clients through tickets and don’t necessarily need any kind of native file management or client portal – go with Freshdesk.