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July 10, 2020

Home yoga workout. Mom and teen daughter meditating to online tutorial on laptop in living room

If you are here, I assume it is because you want to be more productive and efficient. Being productive, focusing on efficiency and working smart means getting more stuff and having more free time. 

I have done countless digital projects over the past decades, and I can tell you this: Trello is THE best project management tool out there. 

This Trello Tutorial will teach you how to use Trello to work smart and boost productivity. 

  • Trello is free. 
  • Trello is easy-to-use. 
  • Trello has an excellent User Interface.
  • Trello integrates with plenty of other tools.


To this day, I still cannot believe that the free version of Trello offers so many features! 

Join the 50 million Trello users around the world! 

This Trello Tutorial is simple. No headache and no complicated explanations that require Zen monk attention levels. 

I want to teach you how the best project manager and best digital teams use Trello for maximum productivity

A while ago, I was working at one of the world’s most creative agencies.

I was a digital producer and digital project manager working in agencies for clients like Tiffany, Nike, Disney, BMW, Fendi, Mercedes… 

I am based in China and do tons of campaigns here. When you think about the size of the Chinese market, it gives you an idea of the traffic the campaigns get!


One day a colleague of mine called in sick. 

Food poisoning. 


All the info about the projects he was working on was written on small pieces of paper, in Chinese, in cursive characters. 

I can read Chinese, but not handwritten notes. 

There was no status, no precise tasks, nothing to help me take over for the next 2-3 days.

A real mess. 


If I had access to a centralized project management system, I could have logged on and saw the items in the To-Do and Doing list… and simply jump in the driver’s seat and manage his projects with minimal friction. 

That’s when I understood I had to introduce Trello to the head of the department and implement it top-down. 

I did the same in the next agency I worked at. 


Everybody I introduced Trello to loves the tool. 

What I like about Trello is its simplicity and its UI design. Plus, all the features available with the free version. 

trello homepage kanban


Trello is an outstanding productivity tool if you are: 

  • a freelancer
  • a content creator
  • an entrepreneur
  • a writer
  • a developer 
  • a consultant
  • a coach
  • a web developer 
  • doing personal projects
  • starting an online business
  • and the list goes on and on.


You do not have to handle massive projects to enjoy the benefits of Trello!


The principles in our Trello Tutorial apply to all types of users. 


I made this Trello Tutorial so that you learn how to:

  • boost your productivity with Trello
  • centralize your work, communications, comments and access to assets
  • track deliverables (=tasks,) status and dates
  • ease workflow and processes
  • achieve greater clarity of actions you need to take
  • work with teams in a frictionless manner, no matter where they are in the world


I also introduce you to 4 ways on how to use Trello:

  1. personal projects
  2. content creator
  3. agency environment
  4. public roadmap


Trello is available in plenty of other languages, so if you work with international teams like I do, it is wonderful. Sometimes, some of my colleagues do not speak English very well. 

Before starting with Trello, you should ask yourself a few questions:

  • What actions do I take daily (update website, record podcasts, write content, make tracking reports, and edit contracts)? 
  • What do I need to track?
  • What do I handle (documents, images, video, files, copy, reports, code libraries, etc.)?
  • Who do I work with (colleagues, vendors, clients, etc.)?
  • Which channels should I use to communicate with others (avoid emails ping pong and multichannel approach as much as possible!)


The most significant advantage of Trello is the centralization of everything:

  1. tracking
  2. deliverables
  3. deadlines
  4. assets
  5. communications


After checking about a dozen software and testing them with the team, we agreed that Trello is Number One. Since then, I introduced about 100 people to Trello, and they pretty much all embraced it.


The teams were generally Developers, Designers, Copywriters, Account Managers, Testers, Vendors, etc. 

Sometimes the teams were in different countries. 

We handled projects with content in Mandarin Chinese, Japanese, German, English and French. 

Trello helped us deliver fast work, great campaigns, in an efficient manner, almost friction-less. 


If you are a software developer, you can still use Trello. 

However, if you do heavy code testing and debugging for a considerable software or a service, I suggest that you add JIRA or any other code bug reporting tool. The company that owns JIRA, Atlassian, bought Trello a few years ago. I do use Trello for debugging digital campaigns, but not for code versioning and tracking. Other tools do it better. 


Now, do not be afraid. Every time you start something new, it may look overwhelming (like learning how to write using ten fingers instead of your two indexes and your thumbs…,) but in the end, you will save a lot of time by using Trello. 


Investing 45 minutes of your time to read our Trello Tutorial on how to use Trello is worth the effort and energy. 


What is Trello

Trello is a simple yet efficient project management tool used to manage projects, tasks, people and assets. Trello is based on the Kanban-model. 

Trello is available on desktop, tablet and mobile phones. 

The Trello mobile app is pretty slick and easy-to-use. 


The Trello templates can be used for different purposes like business, design, education, engineering, marketing, personal, productivity, project management, sales, etc. 

trello homepage

Why is Trello so Great and Efficient?

Project management is all about managing 6 elements: 

  1. deliverables (what to do) 
  2. assets (what to use)
  3. teams (who)
  4. time (when)
  5. communications (how)
  6. budgets (how much)


If you run a business, a campaign, a software, a website, a personal project, or pretty much anything… you are doing project management one way or the other.


trello desktop app

Trello helps you track all of the above except budgets. If you work in an agency setting, time and budget tracking is typically done via the Time Tracking software used by the agency. 

Are there ways to integrate budget and money tracking in Trello? Yes, but as I want to avoid duplicated systems and redundancies, I never implemented budget-tracking within Trello. I use Toggl for time tracking. 

If you have ever tried to manage a project with emails, I am sure that you found out pretty fast that emails are unmanageable. Why? Because emails make it hard to track the status of each individual task. 

If you send 2 emails with 5 tasks, that’s a total of 10 tasks. Some of the tasks may take 5 minutes to implement, while others may take days. Some tasks may have dependencies (e.g., A needs to be done before B.) Email is terrible to track status. 

Email is a tool to communicate, not to manage deliverables.


Trello for collaboration

What makes Trello such a useful tool is that it is a collaboration tool to:

  • Manage projects 
  • Get notifications
  • Communicate with your colleagues
  • Easily track the status of items and add due dates
  • Comment, tag, move, archive items
  • Ensure tasks velocity and volume
  • Integrate with plenty of different 3rd party tools such as Slack, GoogleDocs, Calendar, etc.


The main advantage of Trello is that it streamlines the process and centralizes everything in one single channel.

What is Kanban?

Generally, the commonly used template among project managers is based on Kanban. 

Kanban is a Japanese word that means “billboard.” 

The system was created when an engineer at the Toyota factory came up with a system for logistics; items were produced just-in-time to avoid having to stock surplus items.

The original system was built by attaching a small card to a box; when the box reached a specific step, it would be sent back to the manufacturer to start producing a new batch. This system ensured that the pipeline was up-to-date without the need for inventory. 


In the current project management setting, the Kanban system is performed digitally following 4-steps. The 4-steps Kanban process goes like this To-Do > Doing > Test/Check > Done. 

That is the gist of Kanban. It’s simple, but it works. 

trello kanban


 If there is an issue during the Test/Check phase, the card goes back at the To-Do step. There are other ways of processing tasks, but we like Kanban because a simple glance gives you an overview of the project. 

Trello is the best Project Management Software, and our Trello Tutorial will demonstrate why. 


Trello Kanban model

In Kanban, items go from Left to Right, and if there is an issue, they go back at the beginning of the pipeline. 


To give you a visual idea of how the concept of Kanban works in Trello, in the screenshot below you can see that there are 4 Lists (or Columns), each representing a step:


  1. To-Do: elements that enter the pipeline
  2. Doing: the item that I am currently working on
  3. Test/Check: check the work that has been done to ensure quality (usually checked and tested by someone else, not the person was did the task)
  4. Done: item is completed

Under To Do, the most important cards are usually put at the top. 


Trello Features and Structure

Let's go over the structure and features of Trello.

Trello has plenty of different Trello templates and Trello boards


The best board is the Kanban board that we introduced earlier. 

But feel free to explore if you have specific needs! Trello has plenty of readily available templates that you can use with a single click. 

Let’s go deeper into the Trello Tutorial. 


You can think of Trello as a pyramid. The further down you go, the more precise it gets. 

Core elements of Trello

  • Teams: the teams added to the boards (a good example would be Team A, Team B, Vendor 1, Vendor 2, etc.). 
  • Members: the people you invite to the team (s) (e.g., John, Lucy, Jane, etc.)
  • Boards: individual workspaces where you create “Cards” to manage items, the board can be Public or Private. Some Saas companies even have Public Boards where they showcase their progression and Private Boards that they use internally. You can also make different boards under different teams, for example Personal Projects could be a team, and all the boards within the Personal Projects team will only accessible by you. 
  • Lists: columns like To-Do, Doing, Done… in which you add Cards. The Lists are the core of the Kanban system. 
  • Cards: tasks that need to be done.  
  • Notifications: top-right corner, the little bell will have a notification when an action is taken (e.g., someone added you to a Card, someone moved a Card, someone sent you a comment…) *I kept the in-app notifications, but I switch off the email notifications. 
  • Menu: Quick access to Activities to see all the notifications, and one of my favorite features, “Change Background” (customize the background picture of the board, helps quickly identify projects)
trello desktop app


Core of the Kanban System

As previously mentioned, Trello has Lists (think “columns” or “steps”) in which you add Cards (think “deliverables” or “tasks.”) Let’s go into the nitty-gritty. 

  • Card: Cards = Tasks Cards are the core of Trello, you can add Members, add color Labels, a Checklist, a Due Date (that appears on the card), Attachments and even a Cover Image. The card can be open to see all the details. Join the card to get notifications about the card.
  • Card Title: one short sentence that described the card item (e.g., buy a domain name, add header image on homepage, update design contact us page, etc.) Tip: use short titles that include: action verb, task and location of action. Action + Object + Location. 
  • Card Description: inside the card, you can describe what the card is about (e.g., add header image “newimage.jpg,” new design reference of the Contact us page is here: link to Google Drive file)
  • Attachments: assets like screenshot, image, document, PPT, Excel, icon, etc. asset can be previewed or downloaded instead of linking to an external folder with the assets. Tip: only use screenshots for debugging or quick visual references. When you share assets, add a link to the folder where you keep assets (e.g., GoogleDrive or internal transfer server)
  • Labels: color labels you can tag the cars with
  • Comments: chat feature to comment on the card; all comments are visible to all. You can also drag and drop attachments directly in the comment section. Tip: keep the comments short and straightforward. If needed, call or talk face-to-face. Comments are there to clarify the task shortly and sweetly, not a novel. 
thrive architect homepage


Other interesteing elements to consider

  • Activity: historic of comments, attachments and actions history related to the card.
  • Power-Ups: extra features that you can add (e.g., “Butler” for automation with “when” “then” clauses) as well as integrations with plenty of 3rd party services (e.g., Slack, GoogleDrive, Calendar, etc.)
  • Actions: action that you can take with the Cards and the Lists like move, copy, make a template, watch, archive and share.
  • Archive: when you have too many cards in Done, you can archive all the cards, you can also Delete them forever if you want.
thrive architect homepage


Important points about cards 

  • you need to join the card yourself as a Member and add other people (called Members) if you want to be notified when the card is moved. When you add someone to the card, they will be automatically notified that they have been added.
  • If someone else needs to take action on the card, add the person to the card. No need to drop them a message. They will get a notification, and they should know they need to act on it! 
  • When too many Cards are in the Done column, simply Archive the cards (you will be able to access them afterward.)

As part of our Trello Tutorial, we want to introduce you to some Trello tips and tricks for maximum productivity. 


Trello Productivity Tips and Tricks

One Trello Board = One Project

If you manage multiple projects (or clients), I suggest that you create one board for each project (or client.)

It really depends on the size. 

For example: 

  • If you have 5 medium-sized clients, each client could get its own board. 
  • If you have 3 small clients, then you can bundle them together within one board. 
  • If you have a big client that pays you for maintenance and campaigns, you can create one board for the maintenance and short-lived boards for every campaign you deliver.


You can also create External Boards (with Clients) and Internal Boards (with the team.)

Always make sure that you have a Trello Master, one person that manages the project. Having a Trello Master will avoid confusion about who leads. 


Trello Lists

  • Keep lists to 4-5 columns. Otherwise, people need to scroll right-left to see cards. The point of Trello is to get the big picture in one glance. 
  • The most critical Cards should be at the top
  • If the Done list has a lot of Cards, simply archive them
  • I like to add a “Documents” after Done.

So it looks like this:

To Do>Doing>Test>Done+Documents

Under Documents, I put links to the External Files sharing folder for the Account team, the Creative team, and the Development team. 


About Trello Cards

One Trello Card = One Task or One Action

I like to follow the model “one card = one task,” but if you have many small tasks, you can bundle them into a Checklist within a Card. Bundling tasks into Checklists will avoid ending up with 100 cards when you could make 15-20 with checklists with 5-10 elements each. In general I avoid checklists as much as possible as it defeats the purpose of having an overview of the project in one glance. 

  • Use short Titles for Cards, add details under Description inside the Card
  • Never move a Card in Doing if you are not currently Doing the action
  • Never move more than 1-2 cards in Doing 
  • Avoid keeping a Card in Doing for more than a few days (if the task is big, break it down in smaller bits and pieces)
  • Descriptions and Comments: do not write a novel, if advanced explanation is needed, talk face-to-face, have a call, send an email or use chat
  • You can use the “Make a Template” if you customized a card and use it frequently.


Trello Attachments

  • Limit attachments: Do not add more than a few Attachments if you reference a bug or a visual reference. You can preview attachments by clicking on them, and you can download them by clicking on the small arrow under the attachment. 
  • Use transfer folders: Do not share assets within Trello, share the link to the asset! This is because you have limited space in Trello, and you cannot control the versioning of assets and documents when you share them via Trello. On top of that, assets may be altered due to compressions added by the system. 


Trello Checklists

  • Limit size of checklists: I love checklists, but be careful not to add to many elements in the Checklist; otherwise, the card will get stuck in Doing for a long time. The point of Trello is to get things moving!
  • Checklists=Can be done in a few hours. An excellent example of using Checklists is when you are doing one action that requires multiples steps to be done; within a few hours. For example, “Fix Homepage Issues” has a checklist with 7 elements like “Our Services Update Font size 14px,” “Replace header with header-company2442.jpg,” etc. Avoid using checklists that will make the card stuck in the To-Do List for more than one day. 

I use checklists for debugging, but feel free to use them for bundling small tasks together!


Trello Members

  • Do not add the whole team to a cardAdd the relevant people you want to be notified of. Otherwise, people get notifications they should not be getting. If you are the Project Manager, then add yourself to most cards you manage. This way, you can stay on top of everything. 
  • You can ping someone by adding @ in front of their name 
  • @all sends the comment notification to all people following the card 
  • @board lets you comment to all people on the board
  • @name of the person sends a message to the person (everybody can read the message bt the way)

Remember that Members need to be part of the team to be added to a board. 


Trello Automation aka The Butler 

The Butler is now available with the free version of Trello, although you are limited in the number of automations you can leverage. 

The Butler allows you to:

  • engage automated action based on specific conditions
  • automated tasks instead of doing them manually
  • conditional automation with "if, then" conditions 
  • ability to schedule automated recurring tasks

A good example would be the ability to clean “all Cards in Done that are 15 days and older.” 

There are plenty of things you can do with automation, and we make a separate post about The Butler. 

trello butler automation

Another prime example of automation could be that every time a card is created in “External Board Client ABC, List To Do,” a copy is added to the “Internal Board Team ABC, List To Do.” Doing so will help you avoid duplicating cards manually. This type of automation is helpful if you work with a client that also uses Trello. It helps you keep internal communications private. 


Naming Convention

For all the documents I create, I use a particular naming convention. After all, I worked at a German agency in China… using a set naming convention helped me tremendously. 

  • Trello Cards should also follow the naming convention, and if you work with people, make sure they abide by the rules. 
  • Card Titles should be short (details into Description, for example, explanation of the issue and link to the webpage, the Youtube video, the post…)
  • Card Titles should always follow this order: Where, Action Verb, What
  • Always use abbreviations: YT for Youtube, FB for Facebook, B for Blog, W for Website… you can come up with your own
  • Due Date: I add a Due Date only when necessary. If you work in an agency setting, you should have daily morning SCRUM meetings to know what needs to be done. 

A few examples of how Card Titles should follow the WAW system (Where, Action, What):

  1. Where: homepage, about us, YT, blog…
  2. Action: add, remove, replace...
  3. What: header image, font-family to Helvetica…

Other ways of naming Cards

  • Homepage replace header (then in the description, you add a link to the new image)
  • Blog Replace font-family to Helvetica (no need for a Description)
  • About us Add Button “Buy Now” (in the Description you can add more details, like the link to a design reference or written description like “add button under the image of the guy with a mustache”)


Labels

You can add labels to cards! And it is fantastic. Blue, red, yellow, green, etc.

  • When you open a Card, you can type in the meaning of each color. Then, when you add the Label to the card, in the Board view, you will see the color on the card's preview.
  • Labels come in handy as they give visual cues on the nature of a Card. 
  • Note that Labels are still used in the Kanban model; they add an extra layer of visual information to the card.


Trello Card Labels: how to use

You can add colored Labels to the cards. 

I believe there are 3 ways to use Labels to display:

  1. priority (e.g., low priority, medium priority, high priority, on hold)
  2. a team (e.g., Creative, Developer, Account, etc.)
  3. a type of task or deliverable (e.g., podcast, PDF, design, promotion, publishing, etc.)


Priority 

I use labels to tag the degree of importance of a card. When we are into testing and debugging just before a launch, this is extremely useful to tell developers and designers which elements are the priority and needs to be done ASAP. 

Red for high priority/critical elements (do today/ASAP)

  • Yellow for medium priority (do within 1-2 days)
  • Green for low priority (do within 2-5 days)
  • Orange for hold 
  • Purple for upcoming (details are missing)


Team 

You could also use Label colors to differentiate teams. Labeling is useful when you work in a company or an agency. 

For example: 

  • Purple for Copywriters
  • Orange for Designers
  • Blue for Developers
  • Red for Testers
  • Green for Account services


If you are a Saas product and have a Public Roadmap, you could add a color to your users' suggestions, for example, Yellow. 


You can also use colors to differentiate Deliverables. It is useful if you handle specific types of Deliverables or Content.

For example, in the case of Content:

  • Purple for Podcast
  • Orange for Blog Post
  • Blue for Facebook Post
  • Red for Youtube


For Tasks:

  • Red for Invoices and Contracts
  • Purple for Website Update/Posts
  • Blue for Social Media Post
  • Orange for Tracking Report


With all the above features (for free), I believe Trello is the best Project Management Software and Trello is the best for productivity.


Set up Trello and Work with Trello Step-by-Step

Now that you are aware of all the features and functions of Trello, I can teach you how to use Trello. 


The way to start with Trello is simple:

  1. Open your account on Trello.com
  2. Create a Team
  3. Add Members (or people) to the team, including yourself
  4. Create a board
  5. Add Teams and Members to the Board
  6. Create the Kanban-style lists, for example, To Do, Doing, Test/Check and Done
  7. Create Cards and add Members. You can “join” the card if you want to follow the card
thrive architect homepage

Et voilà!

You are ready to rock.


How to use Trello Examples

For some people, like Content Creators, I would suggest to break down tasks that take multiple days into smaller steps. 

Let me explain. 

If you make a podcast, you need to invite people, schedule the call, interview the person, adjust the recording, prepare the publishing assets, and publish and promote. That’s a lot of steps. 

It does not make sense to have one card for all of the above tasks and a very long Checklist inside the card. 

It does not make sense to have 7 steps, either. 


Some people may suggest to create a new Board just for Podcasts, with 7 steps, but the issue with this is that you need to scroll horizontally to see all the columns and cards. 

Remember that the Kanban-model gives you an overview of the whole board in one single glance. No need to scroll horizontally, which is anyway a lousy User Experience and not very intuitive. 


Instead of having 7 columns, I would still keep the Kanban-style model, but I would breakdown each step like this:

How to use Trello Kanban

TO-DO List

Add the following cards:

[Card 1] Podcast #246 1-Schedule call with John Smith

  • {Description}
    • John.smith@email.com
  • {Checklist}
    • Email John Smith
    • Confirm Date and Time
    • Email Calendar invite
    • Calendar invite accepted

(push card to Test, check-in your calendar if you have the right info, if yes, move to Done)


[Card 2] Podcast #246 2-Interview John Smith via Zoom

You can add a reminder inside the card linked to your calendar. 

No need for a Description, but you could add:

  • {Description}
    • Zoom room link and phone number of John Smith

(as nothing needs to be tested, move the card directly to Done)


[Card 3] Podcast #246 2-Adjust John Smith Recording in Software

  • {Description}
    • Google Drive link to upload the original recording
    • Original File assets: link to Google Drive
  • {Checklist}
    • Import file in Audacity 
    • Remove ambient noise
    • Adjust tonality and sound
    • Export file in .wav format
    • Import file in DaVinci Resolve
    • Add intro and outro
    • Export file to .mp3 format

…move the Card to Test 

When the card is in Test, you need to listen to the podcast; if there are issues, the card goes back to To-Do. If there are no issues, the card goes to Done. 

thrive architect homepage


As you can see, the Trello Kanban system makes the cards:

  1. high velocity (the cards move)
  2. simplified (steps are broken down into smaller pieces)
  3. action-oriented

If you had a Virtual Assistant, the assistant could jump in anytime. 

Same with a colleague, a vendor on Fiverr, a sound engineer, etc. 


How to Kanban in Trello: best practices and examples

There are many ways to structure the flow of cards in Trello. 

Our Trello Tutorial will teach you the benefits of Kanban and how it improves productivity. 


Boards

Boards are the centerpiece of Trello. 

You can create boards this way:

  • one board = one client (this is useful if you have small and mid-sized clients)
  • one board = one project or campaign (the best way to handle independent projects, for example, Client ABC gives you a lot of business that includes consulting, tracking reports, campaign 1, campaign 2…)
  • one board = mix of small clients and big projects (small clients share a board, and big clients have one board per project)
  • one board = one team (and the projects are all mixed up in one board, convenient for entrepreneurs but not for agencies)


I handle one single board that has many small projects like this: 

  • Each project has a 2-3 letter abbreviation; for example, Art of Growth Marketing is "AGM." I have another project called WeChat Experts, which has "WCE" as the abbreviation. 
  • So when I create a card, I add the name of the project at the beginning, for example, "AGM Publish article #123," "WCE generate sitemap.xml."
  • Another way of doing this would be to use Labels, for example, Orange for AGM and Green for WCE.  
  • I could also create two separate columns in one board. For example, "AGM To Do" and "WCE To Do." Not very useful. 


I am sure you will find your way of working with Trello. Let me know in the comments how you handle projects! I am always interested in learning how other people handle projects. 

If you have many small projects, you can bundle them in a board. 

We are all different, so you need to find your own way. 

Find what works for you!


4-step Kanban Board 

thrive architect homepage

Traditional Kanban-based, usually 4-5 steps. You can use status as the primary category to make the cards flow in Trello. So each step is a List (a column.) 

Kanban is useful for digital project management. It is efficient and straightforward. Pretty much anybody can use this system out of the box. 

For example: To-Do, Doing, Test/Check, Done 

Test is useful for software development, campaigns and design where someone else will check the quality of the work and see if there are any issues. 

The significant advantage of this structure is its simplicity. One quick glance shows you the status of what needs to be done, what is being done and what was done. 


Multiple Steps Kanban Board 

thrive architect homepage

Kanban-based, but a lot of different steps. You can use the action as the main category. So each Action category is a List (a column.)

For example, let's say you are a content creator who makes YouTube interviews and then exports the YouTube videos into podcasts. After the conversion into podcasts, you make a teaser image and publish the podcast on different platforms. 

This is the right way of proceeding for people who do content management and content creation that needs many steps to get done. This system implies that there are many steps and that multiple people may handle different parts of the process. 

I personally do not like this system because you end up having to scroll horizontally right-left to see the cards and the overall status of cards. 

It looks like this: invite X number of people, replied, schedule confirmed, record YouTube video, write title/description + design teaser image for video/podcast, adjust sound file, publish podcasts, promote podcasts, etc.

I have seen someone a similar system that had 15-20 steps. It’s just too much!

The significant disadvantage of such a structure is that you need to scroll horizontally; it is a clunky and unnatural user experience. 

I would rather breakdown everything into smaller bits and pieces, and use the Podcast ID number as a wayt to identify cards that belong to a specific deliverable. 


Teams or Sections of a Product 

Kanban-based, depending on the number of teams you have.

One board for each team or each section of a product. 

Each team has its own board: one board for the Marketing team , one for the Sales, etc.

Sections of a Product, for example, a video streaming company splits the boards between elements. One board for the backend development team, one board for the team responsible for the hosting and distribution, one board for website management, etc. 


Personal Project Trello Setup

The Personal Project Trello is probably the simplest of all. 

You could create a few boards for each project. 

I know someone that has a board called "Braindump;" every time he has a thought or an idea he talks to Siri who automatically converts the speech-to-text and creates a new card in the "Braindump" board. 


Agency Trello Setup

When you work in an agency environment, whether as a Developer, Marketer or as a PM (Project Manager), you need to handle plenty of things ranging from Content/Assets/Documents, Budgets, Timelines to People.  

The agency environment means that you will need:

  • Trello Master
  • Master Trello Account
  • Teams 
  • Boards for Clients and Internal Projects
  • Internal folder for sharing files
  • External folder for sharing files (password protected)


Trello Master

When you work in teams, you need to set the boundaries on who can do what in Trello. For example, the Project Managers and QC Testers are usually the only persons who are allowed to move a Card from Test/Check to Done. 


We call them “Trello Masters.” (I made up the word so you may not find it elsewhere.) Trello Masters are also responsible for:

  • deciding how Trello is structured, managed and operated
  • creating boards with the Master Account (more info below)
  • keeping the boards clean (cards need to move)
  • archiving Cards (e.g., in Done)
  • onboarding and training the new employees on how to use Trello
  • offboarding employees who left the company


Trello Master Account

If you work in an agency setting, I recommend that you create a Master Account. Best is to ask your IT to make an email address, for example, trello@company.com or pm@company.com and add a redirect to your email address, all other project managers in the team as well as the person you report to. 

If your agency is present in multiple markets or cities, you can also do it like this: 

trello-nyc@company.comtrello-tokyo@company.com

Then with the email address, you create a Master Account. 

Then you create new Boards and one or multiple Teams.

Why?

Because when you leave the company, people will be able to manage the boards without accessing your email address or account. 

I had issues in the past where a colleague created a board, left the company, and I was unable to delete the board and update the settings. The reason being that he created boards under his personal email address.


Teams and Boards

I create two types of teams: internal and external. 

  1. Internal Trello teams are my colleagues
  2. External Trello teams are the client, the vendors, the freelancers… 

If a freelancer can be allowed in a Internal Board, then I allow them in, as long as we do not have anything sensitive in the board.


Cards

Every time a Card is created, I would always add the following:

  • add a short title with selected action words (e.g., Where/Action/What—> homepage, add/remove/replace image)
  • add the link to the asset in the description (link to the transfer server to avoid using too much space on Trello)
  • only add relevant people to the card
  • add a Label
  • add a Due Date (*only if important)
  • if we are testing and things need to be updated, add a Checklist and screenshots in Attachment



Lists (Columns)

As usual, I use Kanban + Documents

  1. To Do 
  2. Doing
  3. Test/Check 
  4. Done
  5. Documents 

Under Documents, I list the link to the main transfer server. The main transfer server is where all copy, assets, documents are hosted… as well as other relevant documents for the project. This server can be a physical server in the office or in the clouds. 


The transfer server looks like this

  1. Assets folder (design references, design, images, icons, code, videos…)
  2. Copy folder (all copy in Excel or Word format)
  3. Documents folder (briefs, technical documents, 3rd party invoices…)


Transfer Servers

I usually have two types of transfer servers: 

  1. for internal transfers, secured with password and login (usually a physical server in the office)
  2. for external transfers to exchange files with the client and the vendors


Boards

When I work in an agency, the way I usually structure the boards goes like this: 

  • small clients have one board 
  • big clients have one board per project or per campaign (then I archive the board after the campaign) 
  • internal projects: one board for all projects if they are small and one board per project if the amount of projects is big 
  • personal board to list things that I have to do that are unrelated to clients and agency's internal projects


When I work as an entrepreneur/freelancer making websites, each website and each campaign that I handle gets its own board. It is the most straightforward way of managing projects.


So the same logic applies to you. Out Trello Tutorial is not limited to one scenario. If you are a writer, a blogger, you handle websites, entrepreneur, small business owner, if the consultant, coach... you can create boards the way I do: 

  1. Internal for clients (1 board for all small clients, each big project gets its own board)
  2. Internal for inhouse work (1 board for each website I manage, 1 for the software I am developing, and extra boards for all other internal projects)
  3. Personal for your own notes (1 board)


Important note: if your clients have access to Trello, I suggest that you create a board just for them. This board would be the Client Input Board for the Account Servicing them… that then relays relevant information via the Internal Board for the said projects.

Most clients do not like using Trello, so basically, the Account Team and the Project Manager end up making cards based on emails, chats, concalls and phone conversations…


If you have intellectual property like code or reports in your Trello boards, you can either:

  • put a link to the code and documents on your internal transfer server in Trello (and then block access, as they do not have the login/password to access the server)
  • create an Input Board where you work with the external vendors or external freelancers, and then relay the information in the other Trello boards
  • Keep it mind that sensitive information should always be kept on secure servers, not directly on Trello.


Content Creator Trello Setup

Content Creators usually handle Emails, Production, Design and Promotion.

I have seen many Content Creators using long Checklists in a single Card. 

For example: 

  • braindump ideas
  • research keywords
  • make structure of blog post
  • write first draft
  • correct draft
  • find images
  • add post to wordpress
  • publish and check post

The problem with long Checklists is that they defeat the purpose of Trello: velocity of cards, making stuff move, giving you the impression that you are making progress… moving cards is rewarding!


When you use checklists, a Card may get stuck into the Doing List for a long time. Now, we all want to feel good when we work and reward ourselves with some dopamine. The best way is to split the process into multiple Cards. 


Now, you may not want to end up with 200 cards in your To-Do list. That is perfectly normal. You may want to have a separate list, for example, a Content Plan in Excel or on Google Drive, and only when the item is ready to enter the To-Do list, you create a new Card in your To Do. It depends on your workflow and what you do. 


What if one item takes many many actions before being done, for example, in the case of someone that Publishes a Youtube video, then exports the sound into a podcast and the text into Blog posts?


Well, cut the elephant into pieces! Cut the process into parts that you can swallow and use a steady Naming Convention to identify each part. For example, #68-1 YT Video Recording, #68-2 YT Video Editing, etc. “#68” being the video ID number and “-1” being the step number. 


If you repeat the same action repeatedly, you can use Trello and its Card Templates. 


The reason why Trello is the best project management software: Trello makes you save time and helps you feel good about your work! 



Public Roadmap Trello Setup

More and more Saas now have a Public Trello Roadmap. It is a way to hold themselves accountable for the delivery timeframe and scope and gather direct feedback from users, mainly what features they are interested in. 

The companies publish a roadmap that lists a set of features and when they will ship the features. Some public roadmaps even include suggestions from the public!


Introducing Trello to Team Members

From my experience, people who work in agencies on the Creative side will not use Trello (Designers, Copywriters, Art Directors, etc.) It’s just the way it is. Just make sure they add the ready assets to the right folder (that you prepared in advance.) I do not care about the 50 different versions of a design; I just want the final asset reviewed by the Creative Director and the Head of Design, and approved by the client!

People who are really “right brain” (creative types) get scared by everything that looks too process-oriented, too organized, rational, and logical. After all, the realm of creativity is a bit chaotic, isn’t it? 


When I introduce Trello to new people, I usually do a 10min face-to-face explanation. Right after the meeting, I introduce then to the basic features in a mock board explicitly made for Training purposes, and I play with them a little bit. 

I also explain why we use Trello and why Trello is better than email. Then after this, I invite them to the boards they should have access to and make then create a few cards. I interact with them via Trello, and usually, after a couple of minutes, they are good to go. 


If people do not want to use Trello, the easiest way to get them is to get the Head of Department first. Work top-down, not bottom-up. The best argument is that streamlined processes make us save time, effort and money. Bang, that’s it. If people disregard those facts, maybe it is time to switch job. 



Trello Shortcuts

Trello made an infographics of the Trello shortcuts here

If you use Trello daily, they are worth learning. 

If you save seconds, you will eventually save minutes, hours and days over the years! 

trello power ups


My Favorite Trello Integrations

There are plenty of Trello integrations, here are my favorite ones:

  1. Calendar
  2. Slack (I do not currently use Slack, but I know that plenty of people do)
  3. GoogleDrive (just post the link to the transfer server in the Description)

That’s it. I said I would keep it simple. 

trello power ups


Pricing of Trello (Free! and Paid) 

I have only used the free version for the past 7-8 years!

The paid version will give you access to more automation (called Butler) and integrations. 

trello pricing


Trello Competitors

I have tried pretty much all other project management software on the market. Trello is simply the best. 

You may be using notion.io, JIRA, Asana, Wrike, Smartsheet, GoogleDocs and even Github… but in my opinion, none is as good as Trello.  


  • Notion is excellent for note-taking and looks nice, but there is no project management feature like notifications (I prefer Evernote, but anyway)
  • Airtable is probably a good competitor. I simply do not like seeing all the details in the cards when using Kanban. I just want to see the title of the card, not all the details as too much information defeats the purpose of "understand with a quick glance." Airtable has some amazing features though, you should check it out. 
  • JIRA is amazing for software development, to me, it is a tool to report code bugs (not for project management)
  • Asana feels nice, but there is a je ne sais quoi missing, the UI looks good, but it should be more minimalistic in my opinion
  • Wrike, not a fan of the design (great for Enterprise?)
  • Smartsheet is great for billing and Gantt charts, but UI is not flexible enough (probably good for Enterprise-level companies)
  • GoogleDocs can be used with Trello, but it lacks basic functionalities needed for Project Management (e.g., notifications, tagging, etc.)
  • Github can be a good alternative, but I personally do not like the UI and User Flow as much as I do with Trello’s.


If you disagree, let me know in the comments below!

Sources of the images: Trello

About the author 

Martin Couture

I help people just like you start, grow and future-proof their online business. After years of creating digital experiences for brands like Disney, Nike, Tiffany, Fendi, BMW, Mercedes... I decided to start blogging and making niche websites. Now, I want to help you achieve what I have achieved. I worked at the 2 biggest independent agencies in the world: Wieden+Kennedy and Serviceplan. Martin Couture is Content Marketing Consultant at the Art of Growth Marketing.

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