Creatives love spontaneity. It’s in the wild guess, the single stroke, the morning rush, or the unbridled late night that inspiration strikes. But although you can create something on a whim, high-performing creatives know that to persist in this industry, you need a system.
A system — a malleable, uncomplicated, and effective system — is the “thing” that gets your first word to a 50-page essay, a brush stroke to a hyper-realist painting, and a video snapshot to a movie.
Without a system to assist you in your creative pursuit, the inspiration will run dry, and so will your work. No worries, systems nowadays can be bought — in the guise of project management software.
These tools help you visualize your ideas, organize them into subtractable projects, seek help from other artists, and beat deadlines.
Here are the top ten project management tools to help you ease complicated creative processes at first glance:
Team Tasks by Project in Paymo.
Paymo is an all-in-one project management software that helps creatives work on their projects, track time, and send invoices to clients.
Manage your creative projects with Kanban boards, to-do lists, and multiple task views. You can divide simple tasks, like editing, researching, promotion, etc., into smaller subtasks and assign the appropriate person, deadline, file, and priority status.
Plus, there are in-app, email, or Slack notifications for when a team member messages, updates, or finishes tasks.
Their versioning and proofing tool is perfect for creatives: upload a file, have your teammates highlight design changes or comment, then upload the improved or final version.
Paymo is versatile, so feel free to explore these features: Gantt Charts, a team scheduler for bookings and work sessions, custom workflows, project templates, milestone notifications, active timers, timesheets, and more — perfect for visual artists.
But what really sets Paymo apart from other software is that you can lock your files and invite clients in through a client portal—so, networking is a whole lot easier. With Paymo, your masterpiece is down to single, achievable, and bitesize goals you can tick off as “done”—and know whether your project is profitable.
Trello is a popular project management software that is easy and intuitive. Although favorite among business owners and other professionals, Trello is also the finer choice for artists.
Why not? Its systematic Kanban boards help anyone visualize work projects in small increments. Each task is a card on the board that you can edit, customize, add files, comment, etc.
The list at the top acts as the main category under which the boards or the cards are placed. For example, if you’re working on your video advertisement, the first list is the “research” part, the next is the “writing script,” the third is the “edit,” and the fourth is “promotion.” All the cards under this list are tasks you can move once they’re finished or updated.
That simple. This simplicity is perfect for small teams, individual projects, and easy workflow.
Although well-known for project management, you can also maximize Trello for brainstorming, meetings, and calendars. Thanks to its collaborative features and notifications.
If you’re more into brainstorming and ideating, check out idea board software to get your creative juices flowing.
So feel free to keep your teammates in the loop with just a simple share button. If you change something on the board, everyone will be updated.
For starting artists, Trello offers inexpensive pricing to access all premium options. But do note that a free version does most of the work if Kanban is your thing.
Smartsheet acts as a better spreadsheet alternative for work management and productivity. It has better integrations, visuals, and simpler buttons, so even beginners can start sorting out information and collating tasks for a smoother process.
It also has some automated features so you can remove some unnecessary tasks and focus on the actual work.
When it comes to creative integrations, delight in the idea that Smartsheet welcomes Adobe Cloud so that you can use all artistic tools without hassle and fuss. Once installed, you can use Adobe Cloud while connecting with your Smartsheet people. You can review their work on Cloud, comment on their files, reject images, manage versions, update assignment details, and many more.
Finally, let’s be honest, we don’t have time for complicated tools when our deadlines are neck-deep. Smartsheets’ simplicity and intuitiveness eliminate the need for a steep learning curve. It helps us focus on the goal and get the job done.
Wrike acts like Trello but is a little more complicated. Yes, it does have a Kanban board view, and just like Trello, you can drag and drop the items from whatever list of projects. But it also comes with a whole lot of buttons that you need to learn to maximize this tool.
For instance, if you are starting a new project, you could hover over the dashboard and start a project by enlisting the most important information. Also, use a template that fits specific needs. Then, you could share this project with your teammates. And feel free to see where you are as a team using different view styles.
Wrike is also the perfect way to create reports based on your progress. You don’t have to open a separate tool for your report. And after creating, you can easily share this snapshot with stakeholders and clients in one go.
This tool comes with collaborative features too. So any document, images, and files shared can be easily altered, commented on, and edited, with changes seen in real-time.
There is a free version for small teams and single-work projects. But to maximize all integrations and displays, you need to pay a minimum of $9.80 monthly for a minimum of two users. That gets you 5 GB of storage and added functionality.
5. Zoho Projects
Zoho Projects is a productivity software under the Zoho company. It has a host of task management tools that are affordable and easy to use. And since Zoho has its own set of software, it also comes with free integrations.
However, you can also integrate your favorite apps such as Google Docs, Sheets, Slack, Skype, and many others with added costs. Only Adobe Sign is ready for integration. Using other third-party tools, you can set up popular plugins for Zoho, including Photoshop, Lightroom, After Effects, and more.
The main dashboard in Zoho acts like an email wherein the tasks are presented as lists — top to bottom. Then you can add subtasks under the main listing. On the right side is the display that you can easily change depending on your visual needs. So if you want a visual feel of your overall team’s work, feel free to explore the calendar, Kanban, chart, timeline, and other display options.
Not only do they offer free integrations, but another reason to try Zoho is also its built-in tools like chats, videoconferencing, and word processing. So there’s no need to purchase several other pieces of software or jump from one platform to another.
The free version gets you three-member access and 10 MB of storage — fair enough for a small team like a digital marketing team, freelance photographers, content writers, and more with tiny projects and fast deadlines.
But more complicated teams like design agencies and firms might need the premium version for bigger storage and more collaboration features.
Unlike Trello, Asana provides a lot more integrations from other platforms. So you have the freedom to use your favorite tools like Microsoft Teams, Slack, Google Drive, Gmail, Skype, Salesforce, and more while staying on one platform.
Asana is a lot more complex than other project management software because it provides boards, calendars, list views, timelines, and more in beautifully crafted visuals. So, for example, if your project is to create monogram logos, you can view your task workload using Kanban boards for dividing tasks like “researching,” “actual creation,” and “editing.” You can also see your workload with charts and get a feel of when your deadlines are approaching with timeline features.
The best thing about Asana is some of its features are automated. You can automate work and reduce common errors by creating simple custom rules. Other tools make work management easy with Asana, such as form creations, template options, approval buttons, and feedback integrations.
Hive is another work management tool for every professional artist and creative. It has a dozen integrations, such as Microsoft Teams, Google Workspace, JIRA, Salesforce, and many others, with extra costs.
But the best part is its partnership with Adobe Photoshop, a plugin that creative managers can install to approve and comment on photoshop files directly on Hive easily.
To set your projects up for success, feel free to use several features like Kanban boards, Gantt charts, tables, calendars, teams, portfolios, summaries, labels, and more. It has a very flexible project division, so you can easily create the main project with subprojects while also creating your own tasks and subtasks.
Hive is also famous for its AI-backed technologies known as the Hive mind. With these ideas and buttons, you can kickstart and finish your project faster, removing bottlenecks and distractions.
Monday.com is an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink platform for team management and task completion. You can arrange all sorts of tasks, timelines, urgency, people, and other details under a single board and as many boards as you want. You are also able to transfer each row to other boards.
Moreover, the main table section allows you to change the presentation of the data. So you can organize it into charts, tables, maps, workloads, timelines, and more.
Because of its integrations, you can still use some favorite tools while staging on Monday. Among them are Adobe plugins you can download. There are even creative management templates to start. Just customize their looks as you go along.
Its collaborative features enable cross-country teammates to work together or manage teams with different time zones. Any updates done on one section will reflect on the whole team, so the deliberation, meeting, and goal completion are faster and more connected.
If you’re an avid spreadsheet fan, then you’ll love Airtable. Apart from its several integrations, you can also see information presented in many different ways. For instance, you can see your project based on timelines, or you can see it bundled in a single Kanban board, or have it laid down in simple columnar format, or beautiful charts and graphs.
Whatever presentation you choose, Airtable’s intuitive and user-friendly interface lets you start your tasks, complete your goals, and manage your teams quickly and without fuss.
Another positive thing is its collaborative features. You are free to add as many teammates to your projects, and have them comment, reply, and attach their content, files, and output with simple buttons and drag-and-drop features.
Filmmakers, architects, interior designers, engineers, and managers would love Airtable’s slightly complicated but not overwhelming features. It’s file-driven software to incorporate big files like short films, photoshopped images, digital blueprints, and more.
Unlike other tools, the best part about Airtable is that you can customize your own interface. Of course, since work projects require a different interface, not all set templates will work. So Airtable allows you to create the platform you’re going to work on, the kind of images to display, the types of buttons, and the information needed (and not needed).
ClickUp was founded in 2005 in San Francisco and is among the fastest-growing PM software.
Here are what you can do with ClickUp: visualize projects with boards, Gantt charts, calendars, maps, work views, list, timelines, and more; create tasks and multi-edit bulk tasks from different operations; track all your project and teammates in one page — the dashboard; and import data from other project management tools.
The best part about ClickUp? There are over a thousand integrations for developers, marketers, and professional creative people. Just make sure that because it’s a little bit complicated, you must take the time to learn the tool. Once on it, you’re on your way to a clean, organized, and manageable workload.
ClickUp is also among the most affordable options for freelancers at $9/month. Similarly, Paymo offers a Starter plan at $5.95/month for freelancing endeavors or a Small office plan ($11.95/month) for small teams.
To get ahead of the competition, it’s not always skills that give you the edge. Sure, talent paves the way for you to be noticed, but you need to manage your time and work well to win.
Project management tools are our best friends when it comes to that gap. With just an inexpensive monthly subscription—some offers are free—we get on top of most problems and even solve them before they arise. We can network with co-creatives faster and easier. And we can seek their professional advice when we need to.
The best part about project management tools is that they allow us to discover more of ourselves. We get to be better creatives in the end. The free time due to an efficient system can be devoted to fine-tuning our talent. So try it out and see for yourselves.
Marvin has been specializing in blog writing services, striking a balance between accuracy and SEO, but never at the expense of creating content with value. His journalism background has given him a solid writing style and broad experience in approaching diverse topics. When not writing, Marvin loves to sing—everywhere!—and bakes goodies. His sweet tooth makes him bake whatever he craves.