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Last modified date

Mar 5, 2024

The Best 8 Work Management Software for Small Agencies & Firms

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Alexandra Cote

Blog average read time

22 min

Last modified date

March 5, 2024


If you’re working on project and non-project tasks and are billing your clients too, but haven’t found the right software, you might be looking in the wrong places.

While advanced project management software might help you to a certain extent, managing non-project activities or day-to-day operations, tracking time, and sending invoices to your clients requires a different type of software: work management software.

What is Work Management Software?

Work management software is a digital tool that allows you to plan, track, organize, and review project and non-project tasks and activities to improve your business results and team performance. Ideally, work management software comes with a dedicated invoicing module or integrates with invoicing software to allow you to bill your clients from the same platform.

But where did this need for work management software as a distinct tool come from?

People commonly search for project management (PM) software to manage all their professional work. The catch is that most of them have other activities besides project-related tasks. They prefer using one software to manage client and internal work-related activities, from daily tasks and activities to client projects, time tracking, collaboration, and invoicing.

And it makes a lot of sense. Why would you use several apps to plan, track, manage, and organize all your work, including what’s out of project management software’s scope?

It’s like building a second brain where you have all the project notes, entries, and files. When you use work management software, you pay less, the workflow is more streamlined, you have all the information you need in the same place, and onboarding new colleagues is more straightforward.

Work Management Software Core Features

A good work management software should allow you to do these four critical things related to your work:

  1. Plan and schedule tasks, resources, and projects
  2. Track the time you spend on each task
  3. Collaborate with your teammates
  4. Send invoices to your clients

What specific features you should look for in work management software:

  • Advanced task management – Create and assign tasks, manage priorities, and track your team’s work to stay within budgets and deadlines.
  • Centralized communication – Teams collaborate through message boards or discussion threads, leave comments, and receive notifications whenever a task changes to stay up-to-date.
  • File storage and sharing – Use the tool as a centralized place to securely store all your documents and images and access them whenever necessary.
  • Time tracking – Track work hours, create timesheets, and share time reports to identify potential bottlenecks in your workflow and keep your clients in the feedback loop.
  • Resource management – Schedule out your team and see who’s working on what to avoid distributing more work than they can chew.
  • Kanban boards – Create workflows to manage work on a visual board through sequential steps.
  • Reporting capabilities – Create and send reports on time, costs, and resources to oversee progress, spot potential problems, and update your clients.
  • Invoicing module – Create and send invoices to your clients and get paid online.

Certain work management software offer modules or features specific to an industry, like proofreading, prototyping, CRM, whiteboards, documents, or integrations with third-party tools.

To speed up the research process, here are some of the best work management software to consider. Except for Toggl Plan, these are free work management tools you can test & trial for yourself:

  1. Paymo – best for successfully managing a project with time tracking & invoicing
  2. Teamwork Projects – work management software with finance and reports
  3. Toggl Plan – best for timeline-first work
  4. Bitrix24 – best for CRM-focused projects
  5. Redbooth – a simple solution for managing work tasks
  6. Quire – a task management tool with a modern look & feel
  7. Zenkit Base – a basic solution for “collections” of tasks
  8. TeamGantt – best for projects with dependencies

8 Work management software for you

1. Paymo

best for successfully managing a project with time tracking & invoicing

Pricing: Average

88

of 100

Pros
pros-image

advanced task and work management features

pros-image

native time tracking, both automatic and manual

pros-image

multiple task & project views (List, Table, Kanban, Calendar, MetaKanban, Portfolio, Gantt)

pros-image

task granularity, multiple assignees, customizable project statuses

pros-image

in-app notifications and reminders; e-mail and Slack options as well

pros-image

intuitive invoicing and cost tracking

pros-image

clean interface

Cons
cons-image

limited integration options

cons-image

Gantt and Portfolio available in the Business plan

Start planning & organizing all your work in Paymo

2. Teamwork Projects

work management software with finance and reports

Pricing: Average

86

of 100

Pros
pros-image

robust work management features

pros-image

automation and various project templates to choose from

pros-image

customizable dashboard for work tracking

Cons
cons-image

time-tracking feature could be improved on

cons-image

floating tracker can be glitchy and distracting

cons-image

the UI can feel overwhelming and cluttered

cons-image

integration issues

cons-image

challenges with support

3. Toggl Plan

best for timeline-first projects

Pricing: Average

83

of 100

Pros
pros-image

great option for first-time users of PM tools

pros-image

timeline-oriented work visualization, e.g., swimlanes

pros-image

UI with no frills

pros-image

‘My Work’ dashboard

Cons
cons-image

limited functionality in terms of project management, e.g., time tracking, reporting, invoicing

cons-image

It needs time-tracking integration with Toggl Track

cons-image

not suitable for complex projects and granular project tracking

4. Bitrix24

best for CRM-focused projects

Pricing: Very Low

82

of 100

Pros
pros-image

multiple task views: List, Calendar, Gantt, and Kanban (‘Deadline’ and ‘Planner’)

pros-image

scrum team available (New feature)

pros-image

miscellaneous task management mini-features

Cons
cons-image

ugly user interface; poor UX; it is glitchy and slow-loading

cons-image

steep learning curve

cons-image

impractical for most project management use cases

cons-image

poor customer service

5. Redbooth

a simple solution for managing work tasks

Pricing: High

80

of 100

Pros
pros-image

simple task and project tracking

pros-image

portfolio view (Timeline Overview) of all projects

pros-image

templates to help set up your projects faster

Cons
cons-image

the user interface needs a facelift

cons-image

super basic time tracking

cons-image

unintuitive reporting

cons-image

free plan limited to 2 workspaces (projects) among other constraints

6. Quire

a task management tool with a modern look & feel

Pricing: Average

79

of 100

Pros
pros-image

clean and modern UI (dark mode included)

pros-image

simple task management features

pros-image

little delighters like ‘Peekaboo’ tasks—overwhelming tasks that can be hidden from view

Cons
cons-image

it lacks robust project management features, e.g., reporting, invoicing

cons-image

some limitations regarding task management, e.g., workflow statuses

cons-image

it needs more reliable time-tracking

7. Zenkit Base

a basic solution for “collections” of tasks

Pricing: Average

78

of 100

Pros
pros-image

easy onboarding for first-time users

pros-image

templates available

Cons
cons-image

it lacks advanced project management features

cons-image

no time tracking unless manually added into a custom field

cons-image

old-looking UI

cons-image

integrates with other tools from the Zenkit suite, so subscriptions will add up

8. TeamGantt

best for projects with dependencies

Pricing: Average

77

of 100

Pros
pros-image

visually appealing Gantt charts

pros-image

easy-to-use task management features

Cons
cons-image

Gantt charts can be too technical for first-time users

cons-image

can be glitchy at times

cons-image

lacks advanced budgeting features

cons-image

significant price leap from the free to standard tier

How Work Management is Done in Paymo

You now know what work management software is and some of the available options.

It’s now time for a real-case scenario and to see exactly how you can manage your entire work in Paymo.

Paymo is one of the most reliable work management software options. It is ideal for small and medium agencies (like, for example, marketing agencies) and businesses that want to manage client projects, internal activities, and invoice their clients from the same platform.

If you want to follow along, you can start immediately by creating a free trial.

Plus, there’s an appealing free plan in contrast to the above-mentioned software.

Here are all the steps you need to take to manage your work with Paymo:

1. Setting up your internal project

Start by setting up an internal, non-billable project. This is where you’ll later add all the non-project-related activities.

Yes, you’ll still have to associate a client with it, but it will be your own company this time. Just remember to add it under the Clients module. Name this project “Internal Activities” or “Admin Tasks” and use it for specific groups of tasks (task lists) like “Accounting,” “Emails,” “Meetings,” or “Team Training.”

After all, there’s no problem if the Projects module contains regular structured and internal projects—that’s the idea behind work management software.

To better distinguish between them, create new project statuses from Company Settings (see below) and label each project with a distinct status. You can filter projects after them for increased visibility, like “Proposal” for upcoming projects that still need contractual agreement or “Internal Project” for the administrative ones.

Setting distinctive project statuses in Paymo

2. Customizing your workflow

Next, you’ll be asked to select an existing workflow.

A workflow is a group of task statuses that indicate how tasks evolve from creation until completion. A visual process, if you like, focused on the actual movement of work.

The default workflow in Paymo contains three statuses: TO DO – IN PROGRESS – COMPLETE:

default workflow for work management

Default workflow in Paymo

This one has a straightforward structure to get you started, but we encourage you to set up your custom workflows. Through them, you’ll be able to spot bottlenecks and prevent further errors whenever too many tasks are placed under one stage or user.

Clearly define your workflow at the start of any work management process and customize it to handle your needs. Add as many statuses as you need with distinctive names and colors to better distinguish between them. To create your own, please head to Company Settings > Workflows.

To see examples of how different teams apply their workflows in Paymo, check out our detailed Kanban board examples. Also, 20+ free Kanban workflow management software are tested and reviewed for you.

Please note that any changes you make from your Company Settings will also apply to your live projects.

3. Creating and managing your tasks

Any work management software should come with an advanced task management module. Based on your work style, there are several different ways of organizing and visualizing tasks:

1. List View

The List view (To-do lists) is for simple tasks lined up under each other, together with only the essential details, such as assigned users, deadline, etc.

Your team’s To-do list in Paymo

2. Table view

The Table view (Detailed task lists) handles complex work that involves multiple team members or resources simultaneously.

Detailed task list may include all sorts of project information, even financial & time estimates, costs, and project margin.

3. Board view (aka Kanban)

The Board view (Kanban) is visual tool for getting a bird’s-eye-view of one project so you can quickly move an activity from one workflow stage to another.

4. Gantt view

A Gantt chart is a project management instrument that visually represents a project schedule, and tracks progress (learn how to make a Gantt chart):

Gantt view of your project in Paymo

5. Calendar view

A view for those who organize their work around due dates.

Regarding work management, you’ll need to use the organizational methods on a larger scale, including your regular projects and non-project or admin work.

Luckily, Paymo’s Home module allows you to see your and your team’s activities across the entire company through multiple views:

6. My Day

Paymo’s “My Day” is a simple daily to-do list for you to focus on the task at hand. Head to Home > My Day:

My Day allows integration with Google, Apple, and Outlook Calendar.

7. My Tasks

The next Home view is ‘My Tasks’ which displays your tasks organized around workflows and multiple views.

The first thing users should do when they start work is check out the My Tasks area. If you never know which tasks to start with, Paymo offers you the ability to sort them according to Project, Due Date, or Priority:

Tasks sorted according to priorities

8. Team’s Tasks

Your team’s tasks organized around workflows and multiple views, especially the Meta Kanban:

Paymo’s Meta Kanban for an overview of all your project and non-project work

9. Dashboard

The Dashboard is a panorama of your time, costs, and projects at a glance through various widgets.

These display options can be paired with the highly customizable filters to help you make sense of your workload. This will make you more productive and efficient so you can focus on executing work and not just sorting it.

For more details on efficiently managing your tasks with Paymo, look at our personal task management software.

4. Monitoring your team and reviewing work

Supervising your team members’ activity and the status of each task is an ongoing process. Besides the everyday visual tasks list like Kanban boards, there’s resource scheduling.

Think of a resource scheduler as a calendar showing who’s working on what, when, for how long, and what physical resources can be used.

Team Scheduler

In Paymo, we call this Team Scheduling. This module allows you to determine if your team is available for 2-3 more tasks or if they are over-allocated and spot any current constraints to prevent conflicting resources. Your team’s allocation—your resources—can be viewed in three different ways:

  • Ungrouped. Bookings are displayed as a timeline to see when each project and non-project task are scheduled.

Ungrouped view

  • Grouped by Projects – Bookings are grouped according to the project they belong to, so you can visualize how employee schedules compare.

Bookings grouped by project

  • Grouped by Users – Bookings are organized according to each team member, so you can easily prevent over or under-allocation—the green color highlights when someone is underbooked, yellow for complete allocation, and red when overbooked.

Bookings grouped by user

Check out our complete guide to creating a resource plan to see how you can schedule your team effectively by considering all of their activities.

Time-tracking & Timesheets

Another way of monitoring teams is through time tracking. You can use it as a future reference to create better time estimates for your following duties and prevent resource overbooking or underbooking.

Time entries in Paymo can be added either in bulk or via the web time tracker for more convenience:

Add time in bulk in Paymo

Paymo Track works on Windows, Mac, and Linux if you’d instead track time outside of a browser. It automatically records time spent in all desktop apps compared to the web timer. Match the app entries with their corresponding tasks and projects.

All time entries are automatically registered under the Timesheets module, so you’ll see the exact number of hours and minutes a team member spends on a task. Depending on your preferences, these can be edited later in case of any errors and viewed from a daily, weekly, monthly, and agenda view.

Your timesheet with all your tasks and projects for one work week

A neatly displayed timesheet in a calendar format can help immensely to visualize your work for the week. There’s also a compact, folded view of your timesheet:

Tip: If you want to see exactly who is tracking their work in real-time, what task they’re currently working on, and when they started tracking their time, go to Home > Dashboard and look at the Active Timers widget.

Reporting

You may also create a time report from the Time Reports module for more detailed information on your time spent.

A live report which highlights worked hours and the billable amount.

In Paymo, there are two types of time reports you can create and share with your clients:

  • Static − the report offers a snapshot of your current timesheet data for a specific time frame
  • Live − the report is automatically updated with new info when opened
Want to find out more about how time reports can help you? Check out this list of benefits.

Try automatic time tracking if you often juggle several tasks, handle projects and additional non-project work simultaneously, or forget to start your timer. This time tracker tool automatically tracks all the activities on your computer, whether within the web browser or not. This means you’ll no longer have to start and stop your timer for each task you’re working on. Instead, the software will do this for you and pair the entries with their corresponding tasks based on your rules.

You can also use the mobile time tracking app options (Android/iOS) to suit your needs while on the go. Or the built-in Pomodoro work and study timer app to break down your work into intervals of 25 minutes and boost your productivity.

Finance

Paymo’s profitability tracking is another strong point. Head to the Finance tab for an overview of your project costs, estimates, billed and unbilled AR, and other useful information.

Read our guide to project profitability for a step-by-step tutorial in Paymo.

5. Advanced collaboration

Collaboration is a central element of any successful work management process. Paymo offers three simple ways of keeping teams interconnected and updated at all times:

Notifications

The “I wasn’t told about that” excuse is no longer valid. Paymo provides in-app and email notifications whenever a change is made to a task. We’re discussing new comments, status changes, file uploads, and more task-related details.

Commenting

To ensure all teams have the necessary information, comment on a task or start a project-wide discussion thread. Notify only the relevant colleagues about new task updates through assigned comments so you don’t spam the others and keep the feedback circle tight.

File sharing

Considerable time is regularly wasted just on searching for a task’s files. If handling multiple files for projects and non-project tasks, you must keep your file storage connected to your work management software.

Paymo is a cloud-based solution that securely stores all your documents and images, whether you’re linking them to a specific comment, task, or project. The in-app search function means fewer team members will be aimlessly scrolling through a database searching for an image you made five months ago.

Client Portal

Besides the live and static reports you can send to keep clients updated, Paymo also allows you to give them access to a client portal. You’ll have the projects, tasks, and other relevant info in People > Guests:

This lets them view their projects, invoices and reports anytime, so they won’t have to search through hundreds of emails or ask you for a new report when they can check the live report you sent them. To give them access, go to Clients > Contacts > Edit and check Has access to the client portal.

Or you can simply add them to a project with the Share button on the right upper corner of the Project:

How Is Work Management Software Different from Project Management Software

Work management software is a relatively new digital tool still confused with project management software. Some don’t notice any difference between the tools from the list. Others regard the best project management software as just another type of work management software. There are also niche project management software for the modern engineer with document control and workflow automation, or tools that include time tracking and billing focused on creative industries or are rather architect-centric. So you understand the flurry of options.

You commonly need all the essential features mentioned above to handle work in general. Here’s a graph to help you see precisely where each functionality stands:

projects and non-project work

Functionalities and use cases for work management software

As you can see, most of these features help handle both project and non-project activities. Gantt charts are specific to project-related work and don’t have much use for other activities since they focus on tracking project schedules, while non-project work is commonly not restricted by set schedules or dependencies.

The fundamental difference between using a feature for a project or non-project activities lies in your approach to work.

Work management software helps you tackle both your project and non-project duties simultaneously. It offers more flexibility, allowing you—as a manager—and your team members to handle project and non-project activities through your workflows. In my experience, it helps stop procrastinating and tackle that hedonistic delay, that urge to engage in distractions.

On the other hand, project management software is based on rules. It is usually paired with a project management method, methodology, or framework, following a rigid structure that doesn’t always allow room for work unrelated to a project.

Having said this, with all their strictness, project management methodologies have many benefits from the experience of leading experts and tried and tested pm methods.

You don’t always start with a plan when it comes to work. Sometimes you don’t have a clear deadline or time frame in mind. Project management, though, always requires structured planning. This means you’ve got a clear deadline, budget limit, activity list, documented plans, and resources scheduled out from the beginning.

Work management software allows you to start with just one task, work on it, develop it in time, or even turn it into a project if it requires more steps. Answering emails daily, sending invoices, or buying new office supplies will never become a project.

Work management software should be easier to use and have a smoother learning curve. But in reality, an advanced tool like this has many more features that can make it more challenging than simple PM software.

Note: creative agency project management software is the right fit for you if you’re a small business owner running a studio or a boutique. We cover plenty of tools and examples on how it benefits your business.

Comparing them in this sense might not be the best way of deciding which tool is right for you.

Work Management Software Benefits

We’ve already mentioned how work management tools unite various modules and features into one system. So, naturally, its benefits are both general and feature-specific.

Its main advantages are that you no longer have to use multiple different tools and waste money paying for them since you’re only buying one solution, not 3-5 different ones.

But what are the extended benefits of these features when applied to work outside and on a project?

  • Balance schedules. A resource scheduler, for instance, offers better transparency and visibility into your team’s schedule besides projects. You can assign each team member to new tasks and balance their workloads.
  • Maintain control of your time. Tracking your time on non-project work, besides your regular projects, allows you to be more productive and self-aware of your efforts, make better time estimates, and keep your team accountable.
  • Track your work. Creating a report for all your tasks lets you monitor work progress, spot issues, and share updates with clients or other stakeholders.
  • Organize tasks. Then there’s task management. Most work management tools come with extra features to help you prioritize, track, and collaborate on each one of your tasks, so none are left uncompleted. I can’t stress enough how vital structured task lists are when working on multiple projects, even more so when you’ve got additional non-project tasks just screaming for your attention.
  • Visualize your workflow. Suppose you’re not a fan of detailed activity lists. In that case, you’ll be happy to discover that specific work management platforms offer Kanban boards, a way to segment and visualize all your duties as they go through different workflow stages. Move them with a simple drag and drop to the corresponding stage, and you’re all done.
  • Collaborate effectively. Perhaps the most considerable benefit binding all the others together is the ability to collaborate freely across multiple projects and tasks. Whether sharing a file or just leaving a comment to offer feedback, work management apps extend collaboration opportunities beyond a project.

Generally, choosing work management software in favor of a specific tool—task management or time tracking—will help you tackle your tasks and meet your client requirements, whether related to tasks, projects, time, costs, or anything else.

Tip: Consultants, lawyers, and creatives benefit the most when tracking time spent on meetings with clients or working on deliverables. If that’s you, check out this list of the best time-tracking software.

Your entire work process will improve, allowing managers to see how work is distributed throughout the company, not just within projects or at a team level. Implicitly, this increases your work efficiency and productivity to deliver higher-quality results.

Who’s It For?

Think about your daily work. Is it exclusively project-based? Does it focus mainly on non-project tasks, or is it a mixture of these two?

Work management software is the perfect solution for project-based businesses that regularly have additional non-project activities. However, choosing PM software instead will be enough if you’re only working with projects.

Move on to prioritize your needs, both general and particular. Are you paid by the hour? Choose tools with employee time tracking software with high reviews for time clock software. Do you use only software to collaborate? Aim for solid communication and sharing functions. Is more than one person going to be working on a single task? Make sure you’ve got multi-user assigning.

If you don’t know where to start, look at the tools you’re already working with. See what features your team is using and which are never used. Also, ask yourself, “Do I need an additional tool?” If you only need to work on a few non-project tasks and record your work hours, a task management tool with time-tracking functions or integrations could be good enough.

If you’ve got multiple tasks, projects, budgets, timelines, and resources all going on simultaneously, you’ll want to switch to a solution that reunites everything under a single platform. Moreover, you’ll want a platform that analyzes project profitability if you’re a freelancer or business owner to understand which tasks and projects are profitable and make sense for your business.

Finally, consider your team’s size. There are a couple of project management and work management options out there that are free, so you won’t have to invest too much unless you’re looking for something that packs in more power.

As an individual, you’ll only need a simple tool to help you sort your tasks, track your time, and send out invoices regularly. If you’re unfamiliar with the invoice format, we’ve explained in this guide what a digital invoice is and how sending invoices helps your business.

Being paid per hour as a knowledge worker means you’ll have to use an affordable and convenient project and time management app – check out twenty time tracking tools crafted for consultant needs.

You’ll have to go through the other factors to choose a tool for a small or medium team. Again, a project management tool is a good fit if your team mainly works on projects within a predefined method, methodology, or framework.

Work management software is better suited for project and non-project duties and several different teams collaborating across multiple tasks.

You’ll need a work management tool when you add a couple more teams, departments, and perhaps even company branches to your business. Otherwise, you and your team will inevitably face challenges like disruptions due to remote work, burnout, mental health issues, and even employee turnover. Maybe you’ve noticed that the latest trend of people seeking new career opportunities is the Great Resignation—and how it affects the typical workplace.

But we’re digressing—on to work management.

Tying it all

Here are a few key points to remember so you can make an informed choice when picking your following tool:

  • Work management software lets you plan, monitor, organize, review, and report project and non-project activities to support team performance and results.
  • Work management software can be used for projects, too. The only difference is that the focus is not solely on projects but on other types of work activities too.
  • Work management tools are the best choice if you have non-project tasks besides your general project-related duties that you’d usually handle just with project management software.
  • This solution provides more flexibility than a project management tool, letting you work and monitor your results beyond a project’s set dates without any client, budget, or other constraints.
  • A work management solution integrates task management, communication, file storage and sharing, time management, resource management, and reporting capabilities under one app. This reduces costs and helps you balance your resources, budgets, and time intervals for project-based and non-project duties.

Have you been using the right software until now? If you plan to switch to a work management software, you can give Paymo a try right away:

Start your free trial to manage all your project and non-project tasks from a single place

Alexandra Cote

Author

Alexandra Cote is a SaaS content writer and strategist with a passion for workplace productivity, social media marketing wonders, conversion rate optimization, artificial intelligence, and keyword research. Reach out to her via LinkedIn.

Alexandra Martin

Editor

Drawing from a background in cognitive linguistics and armed with 10+ years of content writing experience, Alexandra Martin combines her expertise with a newfound interest in productivity and project management. In her spare time, she dabbles in all things creative.

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