The 3 Tools You Need to Run a Professional Services Business

John Reeve | December 3rd, 2020 | , ,

Tools for Professional Services

We started Pelago as a professional services business over 20 years ago, providing web design and development services to small businesses in our community. Getting started was the easy part. We simply rented an office, bought a few computers, and reached out to every contact we knew and begged them to hire us.

Growing the business was not as easy. It took a lot of hard work — and we made a lot of mistakes along the way — but, we also learned what core strengths we needed to focus on to be successful. Once we figured that out, we went on to develop several hundred projects for over one hundred different clients. Here are the 3 tools that we found to be indispensable in running our professional services business.

Task Management

Once a contract was signed and the first payment made, we dove headlong into the project. We would start by breaking down the project into smaller tasks, then schedule and assign them to each person on our team. This required a collaborative task management tool that the team could use to delegate work, record ongoing updates, and keep track of time spent on each task.

Keeping all of our project work centralized and organized was critical to delivering projects on schedule. And, leaning on reliable task management practices meant that we could juggle several projects at once without dropping any of them.

Time Tracking

As each project progressed, time tracking was the second critical tool we’d employ. Whether it was a fixed-fee or time and materials contract, knowing how much time went into it was important for two reasons. First, it gave us the data we needed to forecast deadlines and keep projects on schedule. Because we knew exactly how much time had gone into any project at any moment, we could accurately predict how much more time was needed to complete the work.

Second, time tracking data revealed whether or not a project was profitable. As a professional services business, our primary expense was people’s time. By tracking it we could calculate project cost, and therefore profitability, in a matter of minutes. This is exactly the kind of data you need to create more accurate project estimates, improve productivity, and increase profitability.


Sending out sub par invoices to get paid for your work has the potential to become problematic, especially if you are billing under a time and materials contract. Your clients will expect clear and concise billing, and may even ask for more details to justify your invoices. We quickly learned that we could address 99% of our client’s questions preemptively by delivering detailed invoices. This attention to detail not only got us paid faster, it helped build client trust and solidified our reputation in the local business community.

However, we could not have perfected our billing without first having solid task management and time tracking practices in place. Each invoice we delivered would reference the individual tasks that were worked on and would detail the time spent on them. Because we had good data to pull from, billing for professional services became almost effortless.

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Intervals Blog

A collection of useful tips, tales and opinions based on decades of collective experience designing and developing web sites and web-based applications.

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Intervals is online time, task and project management software built by and for web designers, developers and creatives.
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John Reeve
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John Reeve

John is a co-founder, web designer and developer at Pelago. His blog posts are inspired by everyday encounters with designers, developers, creatives and small businesses in general. John is an avid reader and road cyclist.
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Jennifer Payne
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Jennifer Payne

Jennifer is the Director of Quality and Efficiency at Pelago. Her blog posts are based largely on her experience working with teams to improve harmony and productivity. Jennifer is a cat person.
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Michael Payne
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Michael Payne

Michael is a co-founder and product architect at Pelago. His contributions stem from experiences managing the development process behind web sites and web-based applications such as Intervals. Michael drives a 1990 Volkswagen Carat with a rebuilt 2.4 liter engine from GoWesty.
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