Consulting with External Clients in Asana


#1

Hi - I’m a web consultant. I work with my clients on projects where they’re active participants in the process, from discovery and strategy, content creation and marketing tasks.

I’m setting up Asana for the first time and I’m wondering what the best strategy is to handle this. Questions:

  1. I set up my account as an Organization. So my external clients will be guests. I create a Team, add my clients to it, then create a Project for their project and assign it to the Team. Will I run into any limitation with this setup?

  2. When a project is completed and a particular client does not sign an ongoing retainer agreement, they will need to take ownership of the project management, so they will have the history of the project and be able to continue using Asana after we part ways. That means I need to transfer the entire Project over to another account. Is Asana going to allow this?

If not - is it a better strategy to have them open the account in their name, then add me into their Organization? However - in that case, from what I’ve learned so far I’ll be a Guest. Will I have enough access rights to be able to manage the application and do what I need to do?

Thanks for any pointers or advice!


Should I add clients as Guests to their projects?
Workspace vs projects?
Virtual Assistants who use Asana?
Use case for a large data collection & research project
#2

Oh boy do we have some great people for you to talk to! Some of our Community Champions are using Asana to manage their consulting work, as well. Looking for your thoughts, @Todd_Cavanaugh, @paulminors, @Sebastian_Paasch


#3

Hi @Josh_Vaughn.

I set up my account as an Organization. So my external clients will be guests. I create a Team, add my clients to it, then create a Project for their project and assign it to the Team. Will I run into any limitation with this setup?

To make this more efficient, you could have a team for all clients, called “Clients” and a project for each client. As long as you add your clients to their project only (and not the team), they’ll only see their project and no others. This would be cleaner and you’d still have control over who sees what.

When a project is completed and a particular client does not sign an ongoing retainer agreement, they will need to take ownership of the project management, so they will have the history of the project and be able to continue using Asana after we part ways. That means I need to transfer the entire Project over to another account. Is Asana going to allow this?

Unfortunately, you can’t transfer projects to another account. Yes, you could set up the project in their account and as a guest, you can do most things. You can read more about guest limitations here: https://asana.com/guide/help/workspaces/basics#gl-people


#4

@paulminors has given some good suggestions for your consideration and @alexis has called out the other full-time consultants. I would mention that you can transfer projects to other organizations/workspaces with a third party tool https://asana.kothar.net/. I am sure it is unsupported by Asana but many of us have used this successfully. I believe it may only support List View versus Board View projects albeit I have not tried this lately.

In addition, there are several iterations of guests/team member etc that provide a great deal of flexibility. You can be a Team Member in your clients organization without having an email address from the organization. As far as my experience has been if you are a team member you have all the rights of any other team member. Guests on the other hand can be members of a project without being members of the Team and in fact can be limited to a single task within a project.

There is a least one other item to consider also. Free versus Premium accounts. There are a number of features in Premium accounts ie Custom Fields etc that are not available in Free Accounts and it appears that list may continue to expand. It is my understanding that a guest will have the feature of the organization that the guest has been invited to but if they are a free account the reverse will not hold to be true. So this may cause some inconsistencies on how you use features. @alexis could you verify this. All things to consider.


#5

Hi Paul! First off - I have to thank you for the great YouTube tutorials. I learned how to get this far in large part from your vids, so imagine my surprise that you are on this forum helping out. Very cool.

“you could have a team for all clients, called “Clients” and a project for each client.”

My first thought here is that all of my clients are unrelated. They’re totally separate jobs and projects. The idea of putting them all on the same Team sounds off to me. Apparently I’m missing some essential knowledge about Asana then …

“As long as you add your clients to their project only (and not the team), they’ll only see their project and no others. This would be cleaner and you’d still have control over who sees what.”

My understanding (so far) is that the Asana hierarchy is – Account > Organization/ Workspace > Team > Project. We add Teams to the Organization, then create Projects under Teams. Correct?

Right now I have my Organization > Client Team (all of the individuals that are working with me for that client > Client Project (this is assigned under the corresponding Client Team)

Are you saying that these individuals now have permissions to see other data (of any kind) in my Account and Organization? I’m a bit unsure about that now, thanks

Yes, you could set up the project in their account and as a guest, you can do most things. You can read more about guest limitations here: https://asana.com/guide/help/workspaces/basics#gl-people

So if I have them create an Asana Account under their email - should they set it up as an Organization or a Workspace? What about in the event that they might want to use Asana for other project management tasks for their business?

They might use it and end up liking it, and I would hate to have them boxed in by limitations that prevent them from scaling it.

The main thing for purposes of my business is that 1) I have enough control over Asana and the Project so I can be project manager for the project they hired me for, and not need them to do much of anything administratively with it on their end and – 2) (again) … If they don’t become a retainer client after project fulfilllment, we can part ways and they will retain all of their data in Asana (as I stated in the OP)

Thanks again for the great tutorials, cheers


#6

Yes, thanks I found that and have it bookmarked. However after looking it over it looks like it would not be able to (say) export all of the Project data from my Account … then import all of that data into a totally different Asana account opened under another email. Which is what I would want to do if I part ways with a client and need them to retain all of their Project data.

if you are a team member you have all the rights of any other team member. Guests on the other hand can be members of a project without being members of the Team and in fact can be limited to a single task within a project.

Looks like I need to go back and do more research on the permissions and rights in Asana then. I thought I had a fairly decent handle on it, now I’m not so sure!


#7

Thanks, happy to help :slight_smile:

The benefit of making a “Clients” team is that you can then avoid creating multiple teams (one for each client). In this situation, don’t think of it as a team. Think of the “Clients” team as a folder for your client projects.

To confirm, when you add a user as a member of a project and that user is NOT part of the team, then the user can only see that project and no other projects in the team. So, if you add a client to their client project and you do NOT add them to any other project or team in Asana, then they will only see this one project.

If they have a company domain used in their email, then they will be forced to set up an organisation which is fine for most companies. However if they start a workspace, they can always upgrade to an organisation later (they just need to contact Asana support).

Hope this helps!


#8

Thanks Paul. I think I must be really confused by Asana terminology

The benefit of making a “Clients” team is that you can then avoid creating multiple teams (one for each client)

Isn’t it easy enough to create Teams? Then there are reasons why you wouldn’t just want to create a separate Team for completely unrelated clients and jobs?

In this situation, don’t think of it as a team. Think of the “Clients” team as a folder for your client projects.

I thought Teams contained people - ie. users - email addresses that I add into my account that give people access. Not Projects. From the Quick Start:

“Projects are ways to group tasks together, and projects are organized within teams in Asana”

To confirm, when you add a user as a member of a project and that user is NOT part of the team, then the user can only see that project and no other projects in the team. So, if you add a client to their client project and you do NOT add them to any other project or team in Asana, then they will only see this one project.

Right now I have an Organization. I invited two individuals with external email addresses to join a Team, one that includes myself. So they are Guests, correct?

Then I created a Project for their web project. And I assigned that project under the Team. (all of this is what I thought I learned from the initial tutorials)

So because they’re Guests, I’m gathering that they cannot see anything else in my Organization other than the Project that is assigned to the team. They will also be able to see any other future Projects I may decide to create and assign to the Team.

Based on what I’m saying here - I don’t understand the concept of creating a ‘Clients Team’ and how that would be beneficial for efficiency, scalability or security. I think the answer to this might help me understand Asana better, because at this point it looks like I’m lost.


#9

@Josh_Vaughn Go to you icon on the top right corner and click organizational setting-members. You will immediately know who is a member of your organization and who is a guest. @paulminors is correct. So lets talk about this a little bit. I am going to give you my perspective on this as I have several companies that I consult with and have guests. The three that @Alexis mentioned are the heavy hitters and this question has come up many times for consultants. So one major question. 1. Are you running the Premium or Free version of Asana. That will make a lot of difference. In the free version, you are limited to 15 members and guests are counted in some instances. In the premium version you buy the number of member seats and guests are not counted, only members with same domain email address.

I highly recommend you consider the hierarchical structure of Asana as you consider your set-up. You are set up as an organization which is the default Asana set-up if you are using a non-personal account. Personal accounts normally get set up as Workspaces and not Organizations albeit I think you can request support to change a personal account to an Organization.

  1. So here is the hiarchy
    Organization
    Teams
    Projects
    Sections (Don’t forget this one as it is very useful)
    Tasks
    Subtasks

  2. Generally you want to have available as much of the hierarchical structure as possible but there are other considerations to take into consideration such as how many tasks represent a typical project, are you clients re-occuring, do clients have multiple projects, how many clients are your working with at the same time etc. Depending on some of theses answers can determine how much of the hierarchical structure you need along with visual considerations of you left pane etc.

  3. I would access your role with clients and whether clients use Asana across their organization. I have several companies I work with that I participate in their structure as a consultant, not the other way around. So they have their organization set up and I am either a guest or member of various teams and projects. They are hosting my activity within the scope of their much bigger use of Asana. I am a financial consultant for them spanning many parts of their business. So in the end I access them by clicking on their organization in the top corner. I can go to My Tasks within their organization or create as many advanced searches as needed. But that involves switching between organizations that some people have complained about.

  4. Now comes the flip side of the coin which appears to be your situation. You are a consultant with a mixture of clients knowledge of Asana. Fundamentally they will have to have an Asana account to participate in your desire for them to be part of your use and management through Asana. You are trying to determine the best structure. They may have a free or premium Asana account.

  5. So consistent with @paulminors I think your next question is how many executable task and reoccurring engagements occur in your typical client. And I think the other question you may want to ask yourself is how cluttered you want or need your farthest left pane of Asana to be. Yes you can set up each client as a Team or Project but make sure you know how it may use up your available seats in Asana. I will make a later post on that so I can confirm with @Alexis my understanding.

  6. So after some long winded background here are my thoughts:
    A. It is more likely than not you will be very functional to set up most of your clients as Projects having
    the available hierarchy of Projects-Sections-Tasks-Subtasks. That is quite a bit of flexibility.

B. @paulminors suggestion to use a Team was only a way to organize your Asana. He suggested you set up a Team called Clients and have every Client be a Project, consistent with what I am suggesting.

C. If you have a very large client or your work per client involves many projects and many tasks you can consider setting up each client as a Team to gain another level up the ladder. I would think this would only be necessary if your are talking about some substantial quantity of non-reoccurring unrelated projects and lots of tasks within a client. But if you feel more comfortable with every client being a Team because they are re-occurring with many projects than you have the flexibility to do this.

D. There are other ways to help the visual portion of your set-up. Prefixes and colors or both are available for further use as you see fit for good visuals of your left pane and quick identification.whether Teams or Projects

  1. The next part of your decision tree is of course the big area of Permissions. Asana has great flexibility on Permissions and I am thinking it is greater on Premium accounts but I could be wrong. I have a Premium account so I will speak from there.

A. https://asana.com/guide/help/permissions/team-permissions
B. https://asana.com/guide/help/permissions/project-permissions
C. If you choose to set a client up at the project level most likely you will want to set up you main contact with the client as a Project member. You can choose other employees of the client to be part of the project or they can only be assigned to tasks or followers of a task but not be a Project member. Most likely anybody participating you will want to be a project member.
D. Permissions can be as low as the task level (I have not checked sub-task) but remember if you set a permission at the task level only the user will not even see the name of the project, so better to have all participants be Project Members. Highly confidential tasks need high re-refinement of permission. Wouldn’t want a task to fire somebody show up to a person that is in the project :).

E. As far as you point of a client not re-engaging but wanting to leave them with Asana, what kind of things do you believe the transfer tool would be inadequate for your needs. It is a Project transfer tool so if you set up clients as Projects you should get quite a bit.

F. Also their is much to be gained by using templates which are at the project level.

So in conclusion I think your driving questions again are your role in a Client, the amount of activity both starting with projects within a client, the number of tasks etc. And don’t forget Sections as another part of answering that question. May have confused you more :).


#10

@Josh_Vaughn As I promised I have posted the question on what uses up seats as you determine you best route. Albeit I have been an Asana Champion for some time there was lots I learned on the great follow-up by Asana on the question. When do member seats get used up?. Worth a read for everybody. An important point to remember in your structure is if you are a Premium Account and you invite guests that have a free account, they will still have access while in your organization to premium features such as Custom Fields. This allows them to start out in free Asana only with your engagement but if they like what they see they can use Asana in their organization and upgrade to a premium account. I believe all consultants are better to have a Premium Account even if it is the smallest level because it introduces much greater features that you free Clients can use while in your organization within their Asana account.


#12

FYI - I did find out that this tool can and does - in fact - move Projects from one account to another successfully. I’m a member of a WordPress consultant bootcamp program, and they provided us with a template by using the tool to make the transfer.


#13

I highly recommend you consider the hierarchical structure of Asana as you consider your set-up. [etc…]

Thanks for the comprehensive reply James. This is a huge help. After a bit of research and consideration I’m going to start off by:

  • setting up a Team called ‘Client Projects’
  • create a generic ‘manual’ template Project called ‘[TEMPLATE] [CLIENT] Web Launch’
  • copy that project over for each client, customize it for their requirements, and add them to the Project
  • when the site launch is complete and I have their final payment, I can transfer the project over to them if the situation calls for it

If they become an ongoing retainer client - I will have another template project called ‘[TEMPLATE] [CLIENT] Care Plan’ - which will have all of the ongoing marketing and other post-launch tasks that I’ll be assisting them with.

If they decide not to get on an ongoing Care Plan, then I will not be continuing to support them on any regular basis anyway. So I can transfer / archive their original Web Launch project and free up some slots on my account.

This way each client will have at most two Projects - divided into all of the prelaunch tasks in one project (discovery, branding strategy, content strategy, design, development, launch) - and all of the post-launch tasks in the other.

I think I’m going to itemize ‘Project Management with Asana’ on the initial quote from now on regardless - and so build the expense of a Premium plan right into it from the beginning.


#14

@Josh_Vaughn Sounds like a good plan, just remember @paulminors caution to not add clients to the Team but to their Project so that no other clients see each other.


#15

Wow! Great tips everyone. What a great community!! :+1:


#16

Really great suggestions here. I would add a few tips I use when working with larger clients that may or may not apply:

  1. Instead of trying to manage client company permissions within a project by splitting them up as members and guests, I’d set them all up as guests, and create 2 separate client projects. One as the “working project” which is open to all members of the client’s company needing access to the project (where all the tactical work gets done), and a 2nd project set up as a “management project” which you can use for more sensitive info such as legal docs, financial transactions, etc.

  2. As @James_Carl suggested, I would definitely color code each project so you can quickly separate and visualize which projects have client visibility, which ones have management visibility, and which ones are private to your company. This goes a long way in preventing mistakes, like posting confidential info in the wrong project.

  3. If you decide to use multiple projects for each client, for example manager and working projects for both your company and the client company (which would be 4 projects/client) it’s helpful to create some sort of standardized labeling for project names. (in addition to the color coding) so everyone can easily tell them apart.

Hope this helps.


#17

Hi,
as a consultant I have different client projects managed in ASANA. In my next meeting with a client, I would like to track the results directly in ASANA, but I do not want the client to see my other projects, clients.
How can I do that?
I have more than one project with this (client) team, so hiding the sidebar is not an option, since when changing the project, the whole sidebar reappers and shows the other clients/teams/projects.
Any suggestions?
Thanks
Thomas


#18

Hi @Thomas_Pohl - I’m going to take the liberty of adding your question to an existing thread on this topic. We have lots of consultants who use Asana and participate in our Community here, so there are lots of people here who can help!

As a first step I recommend that you visit the posts in this thread (the thread your post is merging to) Consulting with External Clients in Asana.

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts @Amy_Mitchell, @Sebastian_Paasch, and others :slight_smile:


#19

There’s no setting in Asana, but there are workarounds:

Option 1: Leave the sidebar open on each Asana browser tab/window you’re displaying to the client so you can navigate, but scroll the sidebar vertically such that the client’s team appears at the top. Drag and drop another innocuous or even a dummy team/projects immediately below this client the client’s team and expand both teams to show team conversations/calendar/projects enough to fill the vertical area of the sidebar, thereby hiding the other clients. Just don’t scroll the sidebar up or down during the client work.

Option 2: Add to Favorites all the client’s projects that are ok to be seen and drag and drop them so they’re contiguous. Scroll to that region vertically and add more innocuous or dummy projects if needed to fill the remaining area to “hide” other content.

Option 3: Although you said it was not an option for you to hide the sidebar, I often work that way and navigate project-to-project by autocompleting project names in the search bar; it can be faster than using the sidebar, allows you to reclaim more real estate, and hides the other clients (just make sure autocomplete doesn’t reveal them!).

Re “when changing the project the whole sidebar reappears…”; my experience is that this only happens when I shift-click or ctrl-click to open a new tab/window. Instead, only use existing windows with Options 1 and 2 where you’ve pre-scrolled vertically to the sidebar area you’re ok having the client see. With Option 3, you can use the existing window, or you can ctrl-click or shift-click a project in the suggestion list and freely open a new window, since in this case the sidebar is closed, and the new window inherits the current window’s sidebar hide/show setting.


#20

Thank you @lpb. I will try your suggestions.


#21

@Thomas_Pohl Just saw your question, so sorry for the late reply. This is how I’d personally handle this. I’d just create a new internal company login using a unique email address on your domain that you have access to. Then you can share only the client’s projects with that new user, and use that login when meeting with your client.

The downside is that it’ll use up a paid seat if you’re on a premium plan, but you could reuse that same login for multiple clients by revoking access to the current client’s projects and then giving access to new ones for future clients.