Planning timelines and budgets for a freelancer

    For almost three months now I have quit my office and have been working on free bread. “Hacks” came across even before that, but I did not take more than one project and did only what was part of my broad, but not unlimited area of ​​competence.
    I do turnkey programming. I specialize in projects requiring related competence, I usually work with customers for a long time - for several years. I am for the contractor and the customer to work together and help each other find the optimal vision for the project. My development process looks like this:
    • Incoming request: either they find me, or I respond to some order placed on one of the exchanges. I give a rough estimate of the cost and timing, or ask to phone / write off / clarify obscure points
    • If the project is large, then the first stage is the design, the result of which are prototypes of pages (in balsamiq, if you need visual design, or designed for bootstrap) + "architecture" of the project: technologies used, server layout, etc.
    • This stage is paid separately, after which, with the help of prototypes and "architecture" I provide a detailed estimate
    • The estimate is discussed, sometimes some functionality is thrown out, as too expensive
    • If other artists work on the project, then I add them to my YouTrack, tasks are piled up there, join the artists and travel from todo to done

    For now, financial information and deadlines are stored in my Google Docs. I came to the conclusion that this does not satisfy my needs, namely I want:
    • see in the calendar the terms for the projects and the current status (does the project succeed)
    • see how much I personally earn this month, how much I will pay contractors. Now I don’t understand whether it’s profitable for me to work on freelance at all: there are a lot of additional costs, and the monetary “exhaust” is about the same as when I worked in the office. In addition, everything is complicated by the fact that most projects are fixed-price, therefore, in contrast to office work, I risk not getting the expected amount at the end of the month if the project is late
    • it’s better to plan the start dates for the next projects / iterations so that the projects do not overlap, on the other hand, to avoid “holes” between orders
    • have a collaboration tool for clarifying requirements, preferably integrated with a task tracker, say, that there was a button “clear requirement”, which would create a story in the task tracker. Storey can be disassembled into tasks already in the tracker

    Partially, many existing solutions solve this problem, such as Megaplan, Basecamp, SharePoint, etc. This is not about task trackers, but more about CRM-like software that will help me better plan sales and track payments. Unfortunately, I do not like them all, either because of the monstrous interface, or because I lack some kind of functionality.

    In short, I would like a solution that simplifies the relationship of a freelancer / small studio - customer. In order to discuss, agree, bill, agree on an estimate, confirm the prepayment and transfer the ball to production, when the developers finish the demo, confirm the acceptance and confirm the payment. At the same time, I absolutely do not want to drag task tracking into this software. All project management in CRM systems is simply monstrous. Programmers love Jira and YouTrack, not Microsoft Dynamics. This task could be solved by an individual person - the “middle manager”, but I do not want to hire such a person for a number of reasons, including the fact that everything that can be automated must be automated.

    At the moment, I’m thinking about writing such software to myself, although I understand that it is quite expensive. Dear Habra community, do you face similar problems? I wonder how you solve them, what software do you use and do you use?

    Only registered users can participate in the survey. Please come in.

    I use

    • 3.3% SharePoint 7
    • 4.3% 1C 9
    • 7.6% Megaplan 16
    • 10% Basecamp 21
    • 18.6% Excel 39
    • 36.8% Google Docs 77
    • 3.3% Scores 7
    • 25.3% Notebook 53
    • 14.8% Other (in the comments) 31
    • 15.3% I don’t care, I don’t even follow 32
    • 11.9% Own software 25
    • 4.7% MsProject 10
    • 6.6% Redmine 14

    Do small studios / freelancers need such software

    • 28% No, and so normal 34
    • 22.3% Yes, SAAS, install laziness 27
    • 25.6% Yes, but only on your server (same money) 31
    • 23.9% Yes, do not care SAAS or need to install 29

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