If you haven’t heard of Trello by now…have you been living under a rock?
Seriously, though – Trello is a powerful and user-friendly board-style app. People use it for all sorts of things, but for me it has always been a handy organization system for my work. Trello boards consist of lists and cards; cards can be moved from list to list and can contain descriptions, checklists, attachments, and comments. You can even assign members of your board to a card.
I set up my boards with Backlog, Do, Doing, and Done lists. Cards start on the left and move, column by column, until they’re done.
For a long time I was the only member of my boards, but now that I’ve been able to bring on some freelance help I’ve also been able to add them into my boards, assign cards (tickets) to them, and communicate with them on a card-by-card basis. It’s really nice!
One thing that has always held me back, however, is that Trello has not been my one-stop-shop for tracking work. Trello doesn’t natively come with time tracking in cards, and it doesn’t natively come with a way to email status updates to clients who aren’t a member of the board. But I recently found workarounds for both limitations, and they have turned my Trello boards into powerful tools to track my work *and* communicate with clients.
Tracking Time in Trello
Time tracking apps are a dime-a-dozen, but I’d like to focus on a service called Toggl. Toggl integrates with 100+ services, including Trello, and with their Chrome-powered Toggl Button Extension you put a time tracker in every Trello card. Heck, you can put a time tracker on every checklist item. Want to know how much time you spent on every aspect of your gig? Toggl can do it.
Click here to read more about the Toggl Button Extension. I would note that while the extension is available in several browsers, I’ve found that it only embeds a tracker in my Trello cards and checklists on Chrome. Maybe that will change down the road.
Sending Notifications for Trello-powered Tickets
Zapier is an integration app that uses webhooks to connect various cloud systems, which is awesome. An action in App A magically triggers an action in App B. And by combining the power of Zapier with the content in your Trello boards and cards, you can easily automate notifications to your clients when cards get moved into your Done list, for example.
In Zapier, you’ll need to connect to Trello and your email provider of choice – I use Gmail.
You’ll then need to set up your trigger. Zapier will walk you through the set-up process. By the end, you’ll be selecting your Trello Board, List, and determining which card(s) this trigger will apply to. I set this to all cards.
Next up, you’ll set up your Gmail action. When a card is added to my Done list, I want to send an email to my client to let them know that the work has been completed. I’d also like to remind them what the work was to begin with, so there are a couple of fields we need to import from the Trello card.
For starters, I set the Gmail “To” field to match the Trello “Card First Comment Data Text” field. To make this work, right before I move the card to the Done list, I enter the client’s email address as a comment in the card.
Then I manually fill in the From, From Name, and Reply To fields with my own information.
I set my email Subject to match the Trello “Card Title” field.
Then in my email Body I add a nice message to the client letting them know that the work is done. You can see in the image below that these fields can be sent in-line with plain text, which is an awesome way to create automated but conversational messages for your clients. I even include the Trello card’s “Description” field in the email to remind my clients what I was working on.
You can even add attachments to the email based on your Trello card’s comments – that could be the description, or data from checklists and attachments, etc. Whatever Trello offers, you can plug it into your email message.
And voila! Finish the set-up process by testing your Zap (that’s what Zapier calls these integrations) and your customers will get a pleasant notification even time you complete work on a ticket.