Seeing as you’re here reading our Freelance Project Management Guide for Solos, we’re going to guess you fall into one of two categories:
No matter which kind of solo you are, the undeniable truth is that self-employed life is no walk in the park. Without a manager dishing out instructions and keeping you on track, you’ve got to be a master organizer to stay on top of things.
But it’s not rocket science either. At Xolo, we’ve been there and done that, and we’ve written this article to fast-track freelance project management skills. We'll start by contextualizing what project management means for you, then tackle the unique challenges you'll face as an expat freelancer in Spain.
Finally, we’ll give you six of the best freelance project management tools that our users couldn’t live without.
Alright, amigos, let's start with the basics. What does project management mean for us freelancers? Most people envisage project management on the scale of a new skyscraper, with an enormous team of people and a million subtasks to complete.
As a solo, you’re probably not going to be dealing with that kind of responsibility, but that doesn’t mean you can wing it. In the context of freelancing, project management is all about planning and controlling your projects to achieve your goals, keep your clients happy, and get that work-life balance right.
We’re not saying that downloading a project management tool is going to solve all your problems. Instead, it’s a place to organize all the chaos that’s inside your head. You’ll be setting deadlines, scheduling reminders, and recording all your progress in an online app, rather than trying to juggle it all in your mind.
You’re effectively outsourcing your admin to an online algorithm. And trust us, once you get used to it, you’ll wonder how you ever survived without it. When you hit those points with a million deadlines for work and your annual tax returns creeping up on you, smart organization is your secret weapon ⚔️.
With that said, let’s take a look at some examples you’ll face as a freelancer in Spain.
As expat freelancers in Spain, we have a lot in common with Spanish solos and a lot in common with expat salaried workers. But we’ve still got our own little ecosystem, so it’s important to help each other out.
Here’s a bunch of challenges that you’ll be faced with, and how to overcome them.
While it's true that many Spanish people hablan inglés (speak English), you might still encounter some language barriers when working with local clients or navigating the legal and tax labyrinth.
If your Spanish ain’t so bueno, tools like DeepL will help you quickly (and pretty accurately) translate client emails, but when it comes to phone conversations, there’s no way around it — you’re just going to have to practice.
One area where automatic translators aren’t going to be much help is with your Spanish freelancer forms for taxes, social security, and more. Whether it’s simply registering or the long, drawn-out process of your tax returns, the legal lingo is not easy. That’s why pretty much all freelancers in Spain, native or not, hire the help of experts like Xolo to take care of their admin 😉.
If you're working with international clients, time zones can be a pain in the you-know-what that you could really do without. If you count up all the time spent googling “time now in New York”, pulling out your abacus, and doing your sums, that’s a lot of time wasted.
Project management software for freelancers often solves your time zone issues when they include calendars with multiple time zones. When you get a deadline from The Big Apple, mark it in your project management tools on Eastern Time, and it will automatically appear on your calendar in your time zone. This is a real life-saver as it prevents misunderstandings and missed deadlines.
Forget your lazy stereotypes about the laid-back Spanish working day, when it comes to deadlines, you can't just leave it for mañana and expect there to be no repercussions.
Time trackers like Toggl are a great way to measure how long your projects take so you can plan a productive — and achievable — working day. Block out time slots so you know you can achieve everything on time, and stick to your plan. If you get offered a job that you don't have time for, your clients will always prefer changing the deadline before you begin, rather than getting a last-minute apology email.
That said, it’s good to know that standard office hours in Spain are from 9.00 am to 6.00 pm. And here’s another hint — it’s hard to contact clients over lunchtime, which can vary between the hours of 1.00 pm and 4.00 pm.
Taxes and bureaucracy in Spain are notoriously confusing. We’re not saying they’re intentionally designed to be confusing (thanks, legal department), but it can really feel that way.
As an expat freelancer, you need to have a clear understanding of the Spanish tax laws, social security contributions, and other legal requirements that apply to you. Bury your head in the sand at your peril — you can get yourself lost in a quagmire of difficulty if you don’t fulfill your obligations.
Now you’ve got an idea of the environment you’ll be working in, it’s time to hit the training ground. Even the best tools are only effective if you’ve got the right mindset, and here are the top freelance project management skills you need to know.
As a freelancer in Spain, you'll need to master the art of multitasking. Prioritize your projects according to deadlines, complexity, and importance. It’s not about feeding your cravings, like choosing between churros and chorizo. You have to be honest with yourself and choose what works best. Perhaps you’re best at checking off easy tasks in the morning to get yourself started. But many of us prefer tackling the big, difficult stuff in those early hours of deep focus.
However you choose to work, create a schedule with strict deadlines. Having a time frame to work within can give you a boost of motivation and stop projects from creeping into your free time.
Be transparent with your clients about your availability and work hours. Newbie freelancers can easily fall into the trap of saying yes to everything, but it’s not great for your business, your clients, or your mental health. If you make a habit of working until four in the morning, surviving on caffeine and adrenaline, you’re going to burn out pretty quickly.
Don’t be scared — very few clients will dump you if you have to turn down work or shift deadlines every now and then. But what they really don’t like is a lack of transparency. The golden rule is to communicate any project management difficulties as early as possible and keep your clients updated on your progress.
Similarly, think about the channels you want to use to communicate with your clients. WhatsApp and calls are easy and quick, but it’s all too easy for information to fall through the cracks. Instead, use emails or ideally the same project management tool to keep all your project-specific communication in one place.
You know that person who seems like they have everything under control? Life is just easy for them and they seem to have never had a stressful day in their life.
Well, usually there’s no witchcraft going on. Discipline plays a part, of course. But these people have almost always mastered the art of working smart, not hard.
Automations in project management help with a huge range of tasks, like setting recurring meetings, pinging automatic response emails, and logically assigning tasks to yourself without lifting a finger. By delegating the boring, repetitive admin work to the algorithms, you free up extra time for yourself.
An all-nighter isn’t pleasant, but it is a great learning experience. Once you’ve caught up on sleep and treated yourself to a tapa or two, set aside some time to reflect and plan for improvement.
There are a bunch of ways to improve how you manage multiple projects as a freelancer. Overestimating how fast you can work is a common problem, as are unclear instructions from your client.
Write down what went wrong and how you’re going to improve it next time. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and you’re not going to solve all your problems overnight, but bit by bit, you’ll start running your projects like a pro.
There is a huge amount of freelance project management tools out there, and they all take care of the backstage work so you can take to the stage. Here, we’re going to outline some of the most popular (for good reason) so you can choose for yourself.
Trello is one of the biggest project management tools in the world. It's simple, versatile, and oh-so-deliciously effective. This visual tool allows you to organize your projects using Kanban boards, lists, and cards, making it easy to prioritize and track your progress.
Pros: User-friendly, free basic version.
Cons: Limited advanced features on the free plan.
Similar to Trello, Asana uses a Kanban board layout so you can track the progress of your projects. You can create tasks, subtasks, milestones, and even customize fields. You can switch up visualizations to see things as a calendar, timeline, or list — whatever suits you best.
Pros: Robust features, integrations with other apps.
Cons: Can be overwhelming for beginners.
Redbooth is a homegrown Spanish project management tool that gives you a lot of useful features like project templates and unlimited conversation on the free version. Although you’re limited to two members, Redbooth Free gives you intelligent workflow methods and good analytics and reporting.
Pros: Good automation and workflow software.
Cons: Fewer integrations compared to global competitors.
Sinnaps is like a refreshing glass of sangria — a forward-thinking freelance project management software, it gives you extensive training and courses with the free version. Another Spanish-born tool, Sinnaps helps you get the most out of it, which is probably why it’s so highly rated.
Pros: A range of visualizations, free training courses.
Cons: Still relatively untested on a global scale.
Project management is a massive part of life for freelancers in Spain, but it’s not everything!
A sweet bit of task management software will help you get your work done, but when it comes to invoicing, tax returns, and social security obligations (yeah, all that fun stuff), Xolo is the go-to platform for solos all over the world.
Xolo’s team of English-speaking experts will help you:
✍️ Register as a freelancer for free
✉️ Create and send invoices easily
⬇️ Deduct your business expenses
🤝 Stay compliant with tax and social security
So if you want the fun of freelance life without the stress, sign up for Xolo today!
James McKenna has been a freelancer since 2017, working in subtitling, translation, and his main passion — writing. He loves nothing more than falling down a rabbit hole, a habit that has helped him specialize in areas as diverse as biotech, climate change, higher education, and business strategy.
Based in Barcelona, James learned the ropes the hard way, making mistakes that turned into valuable learning experiences. After working hard to establish himself, he is now working smart, and is always on the lookout for ways to streamline his business.