A Complete Guide to Project Management for Startups

project management startup guide

Starting a new business is an exciting time but can be equally challenging. This project management startup guide is here to make your journey less challenging. 

You have the privilege of watching your big ideas come to life. You have the opportunity to solve a significant problem your target audience struggles with. And you get to build something that’s yours.

But, as thrilling as the start of a new business journey can be, there are challenges that come with it.

From hiring faux pas to marketing campaign hangups to process bottlenecks, you have your work cut out for you. 

While we can’t help you solve every problem on your list of challenges, we can help with one crucial aspect: How you plan on managing company projects. 

Whether you’re opening up a marketing startup, a design startup, or a project management startup, there are eight crucial steps you need to take to make sure your projects are pristine.

Ready to discover what they are?

Let’s get started!

1. Outline your business plan

To start, grab a fresh doc in Google Docs or a relevant online business plan software tools and outline your business plan.

Here’s a checklist to get you started:

  • Who you are: What kind of startup do you own?
  • Who you serve: Who’s your target market?
  • Purpose: Why did you create your business? What purpose do you hope to fulfill?
  • Company goals: What are your startup’s short-term and long-term goals?
  • Project goals: What kinds of projects would you like to take on? What are your short-term and long-term project goals? What are your project quality metrics and expectations?
  • Document and files framework: How and where do you plan on storing important company documents and files? 
  • Marketing framework: What does your marketing structure look like? Will you be tackling a few niche channels? Implementing multi-channel marketing? Creating a solid ad plan?
  • Sales framework: How do you plan on managing sales and outreach? Will you be cold-pitching and hosting demo calls? Are you planning on hiring sales reps? 
  • Profit projections: According to your research, what profit projections and margins are you expecting over the next year? Two years? Five years? 
  • Budgeting and financial framework: What’s your budgeting plan? What do your current financials look like? Are you looking to secure funding? If so, break that down.
  • Staff and employee framework: What kinds of team members are you looking to hire? What roles will they fill? What will their pay and benefits look like? Will you be outsourcing any work to freelancers, such as graphic design, content creation, email marketing, or even hiring a fractional CMO

Name this doc “(Your Startup’s Name) Business Plan”.

Note: The starred items on the checklist above may need custom access permissions if you prefer to keep them private or only accessible by upper management.

2. Describe your buyer personas

Get into the nuts and bolts of who you serve by creating buyer personas in a new document. 

buyer persona

In each buyer persona, be sure to include:

  • Who the person is, complete with a faux name and age (or company name and size)
  • Whether they’re part of a B2B or B2C audience segment 
  • The pain points they struggle with
  • The solutions you offer to solve their unique pain points
  • What they need from you to say “yes”
  • How do you plan on serving them better than your competitors do
  • The types of projects they need help with and why
  • How do you plan on managing and submitting projects with them in mind

Name this doc “(Your Startup’s Name) Buyer Personas”.

A tool like Dealfront can help you identify and land customers quickly thanks to its ability to pull from multiple layers of data. This will help you create that customer profile database we will talk about in a later section. 

3. Outline the types of projects you plan on taking on 

Piggybacking on step two, grab a third new doc, and outline the project types you plan on managing for your clients.

For instance, if you’re starting your own business by opening a marketing startup, then you might take on projects such as:

  • Social media marketing action plan creation
  • B2B blog scaling plan and implementation 
  • Ad campaign planning and managing 
  • Gated content creation and implementation 
  • Funnel creation 

Name this doc “(Your Startup’s Name) Project Types”.

Next, grab the three documents you created in steps one to three (your business plan, buyer personas, and project types), make a copy of each, and bind the copies together to create a fourth company doc. 

Name this fourth doc “(Your Startup’s Name) Startup Framework”. 

Now, here’s the important part. 

This fourth doc contains crucial information you and your team will need to reference regularly to make sure:

  • Everyone is working in alignment toward the long-term vision
  • Project quality metrics are fulfilled 
  • Everyone has a full grasp on who you’re serving (and how best to serve them)

In other words, you’ll need to be careful not to prevent team members from accessing this important information. That’s why we recommend housing it in a central location, such as in a team board, in a cloud-based Work OS, or as a shared Google Doc stored in a team folder in Google Drive. 

Again, the starred items on the business plan checklist may need to be kept private, but make sure anything related to project details, the target customer, and quality metrics are available to everyone on the project team.

Best project management tools for startup

4. Create a customer profile database 

Use a customer relationship management platform (CRM) or a similar tool to create a customer profile database for your startup.

persona profile

If you already have customers and prospects ready to go, add them to the database now. 

If you’re brand new and only have prospects, add your prospects to the database now.

When filling out the database, keep your marketing and sales frameworks top of mind. Then, use your frameworks to inform the custom fields in your database.

Here are some examples of custom fields you might use:

  • Prospect name 
  • Demographic or firmographic details (depending on if they’re B2B or B2C)
  • Funnel stage 
  • Lead type, i.e., qualified, still nurturing, or cold
  • Assigned sales rep  
  • Outreach method 1 and results
  • Outreach method 2 and results
  • Outreach method 3 and results
  • Follow-up next steps 
  • Conversion plan 
  • Success! Converted to customer 
  • Assigned account manager 
  • NEW Customer: Needs, pain points, specific goals
  • NEW Customer: Project type and custom solutions 
  • NEW Customer: Assigned project workflow, milestones, and project timeline 

5. Solidify your project management methodologies 

How do you plan on tackling each project from start to finish? 

Are you planning on using an officially approved project management methodology, such as waterfall, agile, or scrum? Or do your projects require a more custom approach? 

project management methodologies

Whatever the case may be, grab your project quality metrics and expectations from step one and use them to inform your project management process. 

Unless you focus on one specific project type, you might need to vary the process you use for each project theme. 

Your end goal? Create/set a benchmark for how each project should go.

For instance, will you have pre-established workflows? Or will you need to design custom workflows anytime you start a new project? 

What tasks can you expect for every project — and what steps can you automate to streamline output? 

What tasks tend to shift per project, and in what ways can you prepare for them? For instance, can you save time with tools that offer prompts and templates? 

What does “done” look like?

Use the answers to these questions to create a project methodology for every project type you plan on managing. Document each methodology separately. 

Try Nifty Agile, Scrum, or Waterfall?
Nifty supports every project management methodology

Here’s an example of what to include in each. 

Methodology Document 1 – Project type 1

  • Goals
  • Metrics 
  • Expectations
  • Methodology 
  • Process
  • Workflow 
  • Checklist 

Methodology Document 2 – Project type 2

  • Goals
  • Metrics 
  • Expectations
  • Methodology 
  • Process
  • Workflow 
  • Checklist 

Methodology Document 3 – Project type 3

  • Goals
  • Metrics 
  • Expectations
  • Methodology 
  • Process
  • Workflow 
  • Checklist 

Then make a copy of each doc and bind them together to create a master go-to methodology overview. 

Name this fifth doc “(Your Startup’s Name) Project Type Methodologies”.

6. Outline project management daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly operations 

Informed by your methodologies, your target customers’ needs, and your startup framework, outline your business operations by day, week, month, and quarter — step-by-step.

If it helps, start by generalizing your processes and then get more granular. You can also organize your operations by role or team. 

Here’s an example to get you started:

Daily operations:

  1. Open daily agenda in Work OS
  2. Review project tasks for the day 
  3. Review new work orders 
  4. Process work orders 
  5. Assign new projects to account managers and project team members
  6. Review communication channels and respond 
  7. Complete project tasks in the daily agenda 
  8. Review submitted projects and send them to the appropriate quality analysis (QA) team member 

Other important processes you’ll need to outline include:

  • Project Scheduling: Outline your processes for milestone planning, timeline planning, and employee scheduling 
  • Routine QA checks and check-ins: List your QA process, quality metrics, and assigned team members 
  • Team communication: Describe your process for staying in touch during important tasks and other checkpoints
Nifty for Communication
  • Project planning: Outline how your team will plan projects from start to finish
  • Budget planning: List your routine budget planning process 
  • Marketing: Describe how your marketing operations will play out
  • Client meetings and communication: Describe your processes for managing client correspondence and check-ins
  • Account management: List your account management process per project type
  • Information access: Outline how your team, clients, and stakeholders can access important information 

House all of your business operation descriptions in a sixth doc called “(Your Startup’s Name) Business Operations and Process Descriptions”.

7. Optimize the processes you outlined above with efficient tools 

At this point, you’ve invested a lot of time and energy in curating your business framework, project methodologies, and routine operations. Pat yourself on the back. You’re doing an incredible job. 

But you’re not quite done yet. 

In step seven, it’s time to go on a tool hunt. 

In this step, your goal is to optimize the processes you outlined above with tools that can help you create workflows, streamline task management, and automate redundant processes. 

First thing’s first, you’ll need a “home base” for your business operations. When possible, we recommend sticking to this as your main tool and using integrations to connect other apps to it if needed. 

A simple way to do that? Choose a Work OS or hybrid workspace software as your home base.

task management software

We love this type of software because it’s cloud-based, promotes team and client collaboration, and caters to in-person, remote, and hybrid teams.

Best of all, you can use it to set up efficient workflows for your routine processes. 🎉

Whether your team needs to assign tasks, process work orders, perform QA, or do something else, there’s a workflow you can create to make project management simpler and faster. 

So, grab your Business Operations and Process Descriptions doc, choose your home base software and create workflows for as many processes on your list as possible. 

Pro-Tip: Schedule a walk-through call with your software tool’s customer support team to ensure you’re utilizing all relevant features and integrations. 

If there’s something you need that the tool doesn’t offer, again, see if you can find an app that offers it, then use a tool like Zapier to connect the app to your Work OS.

If you’re in a niche industry, then you might also need a few additional tools to help you manage projects. 

For instance, if you’re in SaaS marketing project management, then you might need specialized tools, such as an AI voice generator for branded videos, a blog staging and publishing tool, and SEO software

Or, if you plan strategies, decks, and playbooks for sales teams, then you might need niche tools, like HubSpot’s lead scoring tool, pitch deck software, and sales playbook software.

Of course, it’s crucial for start-ups to be able to plan the human resource structure required for orderly growth early on. 

Knowing there’ll be projects to manage means it’s essential to know who’ll fill the jobs so you can determine when it’s time to hire. HRIS software makes this process smoother, from planning to training. 

Once you’ve chosen your tools, take a look at the calendar and dedicate time to testing and finalizing your software and workflows.

Which brings us to the final step …

8. Test and finalize your processes and tools and make adjustments if needed 

It’s time to test and finalize your tools, processes, and workflows. 

Your ultimate goal? Streamline and automate as much as possible. Because why work harder when you can work smarter? It’s 2023, after all. Technology is your best friend. 

Get the whole team together and simulate a test project. Orchestrate it from start to finish and document what needs to be changed and what’s working well. Make adjustments as needed. If possible, do this for all project types and log your test results.

Then finalize your processes, tools, and workflows according to your test results. Describe your final choices in a fresh doc.

Name this seventh doc “(Your Startup’s Name) Final Processes, Tools, and Workflows”.

Once that’s good to go, conduct formal training to make sure your managers, staff, and freelancers understand how to manage routine processes using your tools. 

Create an online training portal or “hub” and add doc seven to it so anyone on the team can refresh their memory when needed.

This hub can contain other necessary information, like pre-existing training documents and resources. You should also add video tutorials, manuals, and FAQs. One central location for training materials makes it accessible to all team members, regardless of location or schedule.

Employees can access the central knowledge hub anytime and learn at their own pace. It can also help to streamline operations, reduce errors, and increase productivity. 

So, take the time to invest in documentation and training to ensure that your team can work together effectively and efficiently.

Wrap up 

Finally, grab docs four through seven and make a copy of each. Bind the copies together to create an eighth and final doc. 

Name this final doc “(Your Startup’s Name) Complete Guide to Project Management”. 

Success! You’ve officially created a master project management guide for your new startup. 🥳 

All that’s left to do is implement, track, and revise your guide as needed. 

Remember that project management is not a one-size-fits-all approach, and it will require some trial and error to find the right fit for your startup. So be patient, stay flexible, and keep learning and adapting as you go.

Always remember that effective project management requires excellent communication, solid planning, efficient execution, and continuous improvement. When you combine these elements, you can deliver successful projects on time, within budget, and to the satisfaction of your stakeholders.

And that means more money in your pocket at the end of the day. That’s what we call a win-win. 

Are you ready to tackle client projects with ease? We hope today’s guide has given you the insights you need to create a streamlined approach to project management. 

Set your team up for success and achieve your goals today! You won’t regret it. 

Need a Work OS that does it all? You’ll love Nifty! Start a free trial or book a demo to learn more. Annual plans are currently up to 45% off!