Egyptian blogger from Cairo.
Revolutionary Socialist.
Partner & Creative Director at ThePlanet.

Manage Your Freelance Projects with ProjectPier

Starting off your web design freelancing career might not require advanced tools and applications, but you’ll soon realize that’s organization is key. Thankfully, many entities have reached that same conclusion, and therefore there are numerous tools on the table for you to make your pick.

Project management tools help freelancers and agencies collaborate and organize tasks between the different members to meet milestones and sign-off projects with their clients. It might seem like a bit of a luxury to have at the beginning, until the 3rd or 4th client gets angry due to late work and brands you unprofessional. That’s when it becomes the kind of tool you simply cannot live without.

A quick Google search will inevitably lead you to 37 Signals’ hot shot, Base Camp. It is by the far the most popular project management and collaboration application in the market. Its fame is not unfounded; Base Camp’s sleek interface makes it a breeze to create milestones, assign tasks, share files and more. The main problem is that Base Camp’s value is a function of its add-ons – from billing, invoicing and financing, to time-tracking and aiding widgets, it’s a growing list. In theory, the concept behind plugins is genius, but when you consider how much you have to pay for Base Camp alone, and then the individual add-ons that make it sufficiently comprehensive, the package becomes rather hefty. Realistically, you’re looking at about $50 a month, which will only rise as you gain more clients and projects.

Even if you find Base Camp the ideal solution, chances are it doesn’t need to be your starting point. Enter ProjectPier, the “free, open-source, self-hosted PHP application for managing tasks, projects and teams.”

With ProjectPier, you can add client companies (with members), projects, milestones, task lists and tasks. Together, these features qualify it as a reliable project management system. Moreover, you can share files, start forum-like messages, and collaborate with co-workers and clients.

ProjectPier

ProjectPier message details

What makes ProjectPier special is that it’s free and open-source, meaning with updates, it can only get better and offer more powerful functionality. On top of that, it is hosted on your own server, which gives you complete control (and privacy). The installation process is a straight-forward one, with your standard shared hosting supporting PHP and a MySQL database doing just fine. I’ve personally installed it at http://manage.tarekshalaby.com

ProjectPier

ProjectPier with a nicer theme

Don’t be pushed away with its 90s Geocities-style interface – thankfully there are alternative themes. I personally prefer the Zura Blue Steel (shown here). You might also notice its email notifications’ feature is not complete, and there’s no way to view all of the upcoming milestones in a traditional calendar, but it is still the number one choice in my book.

The part I like most about ProjectPier, is that my clients actually find it very user-friendly and easy to use. It doesn’t take me the standard ‘technical courses’ to get the clients to add files to it, check out and comment those that I post, and follow up on the tasks as they are being completed. A must-have for any freelance web designer/developer, and I would go as far as saying the same to agencies and small to medium companies in the field.

NOTE: Credit to Omar Mohamed from Hadaye Helwan, Egypt for hand-picking ProjectPier when we were looking for a project management tool for our startup touringa (which is my next post’s topic – stay tuned!).

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9 comments

PM Hut

April 2, 2010

I wonder how many Project Managers will actually install and use ProjectPier, with the exception of those that wish to toy with them.

I think free PM tools are not in demand, not because the product is bad, but because of 2 things:

– Project Managers do not really like to run their projects on free platforms that may or may not be supported (of course, support is optional, as it’s essentially free)
– Project Manager don’t want to be involved in the technical details of such tools (backup, etc…), they want the complete solution hosted somewhere else and outsourced.

I’ve published an article (a while ago) on choosing a project management software, hope you will get the chance to read it.

Tarek Shalaby

April 2, 2010

Hi Alberto (that’s your name, right?), thanks for the comment.

I agree that not enough people have installed ProjectPier, but the reasons are clear: ProjectPier is not yet at the 1.0 stage. It’s a young project that’s growing and improving rapidly.

More importantly, companies and agencies have the tendency to move away from open-source tools because it’s not ‘guaranteed’ (whatever the hell that means). Consequently, they pay ridiculous amounts on a monthly basis to seem ‘professional’.

I think any design agency that has project managers who prefer not to go with self-hosted, open-source solutions are incompetent. Anyone in the industry knows that it is always best to be in charge of your own tools and information, without relying on other people hosting them for you. Besides, any web agency has to have its own testing server where they run their applications before handing them off to clients (or charge for hosting them).

While I understand that it is best to focus on what you’re good at, and outsource the rest, in the field of web design and development, you’re the expert. You can outsource many things, but project management tools wouldn’t require that, in my opinion.

I saw your article and it was a good read. But I think it would’ve been much more effective if you had listed examples of project management tools for the different points you mentioned – so as to put the theory to practice.

M-J Jones

May 13, 2010

I just came across ProjectPIer myself. Looks neat. Only problem I see is that one can’t make files subfolders. Problem when one handles lots of small projects.

But more broadly, I’m just wondering is this project is dead/frozen. Can’t see any posting for 6+plus.

Do you have any idea? Have you been in touch with the developers.

Tarek Shalaby

May 13, 2010

Hi M-J,

Creating subfolders would’ve been a neat feature, but for more it’s not that important at all. Personally, after a couple of months of intensive use, what bothers me most is that the clients don’t receive notifications when I add a file/task/milestone to the project. More importantly, I can’t see a list of the upcoming milestones and their task lists.

However, I still believe it’s the best one out there (especially given that it’s free and open-source).

And unfortunately, it does seem like the development is inactive, which is a shame, because with a bit more work, it would be the undisputed king.

Keep us updated if you get any leads on the developers and their progress. Thanks.

Ruturaaj

July 1, 2010

I’ve used Project Pier and it’s really a great tool to have. activeCollab is my choice but its price is too much I suppose. Needs to be lowered down by at least $300! :-)

Talking about Project Pier, then it needs to have:

1. Ability to graphically show the Project completion status
2. Ability to send “Reminder” for Tasks at least 48hrs before the deadline.
3. Ability to alter Tabs in more intuitive manner. Adding a new tab is a too much of learning process.

But, it’s still good. WebCollab is also nice; interested people should give it a try.

bayilik

September 5, 2010

We started to a software as Bayilik Franchise Program. This post made help us for develop our software. We will send our program for your recommend.

Tom

October 6, 2010

So at http://manage.tarekshalaby.com you now have Collabtive installed — how do you find it?

Tom

Laura

August 19, 2011

I have been evaluating PP along with Active Collab, Ace Project, BaseCamp, Huddle, and Central Desktop.

My favorite is Central Desktop but it is really expensive. Plus, I’m not crazy about SaaS. My next was Active Collab and then ProjectPier.

I found problems with what clients can see though with each software. I think they need to focus on the client’s view more to make these tools successful.

PMBozo

December 6, 2011

This junk tool needs lots of improvement and many more features.Proves beyond doubt why open source fail.Its a copy paste of base camp

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