Managing Projects

Projects and Clients in BigTime


Some firms have a flat client list, and some firms create multiple projects for every client.  No matter which approach you take, this article helps you understand how BigTime organizes client and project data.


  • Most of the information you enter into BigTime rolls up into a project. When you log time, expenses or tasks - you must assign them to a project.
  • Firms that don’t use projects can still use BigTime. Firms that don’t use Projects will have a single project per client, and a “flat” project list. BigTime supports flat project lists, and even has simplified versions of the screens you use to add/view projects to make flat lists easy to maintain.
  • BigTime will mimic your QuickBooks structure. If you are a QuickBooks user, BigTime takes a look at the structure of your customer list and mimics it automatically.

Clients vs. Projects

BigTime is built upon a  standard client/project hierarchy. Every client in the system has at least one project.  Tasks, teams and budgets are all optional (But, if you choose to set them up, they are all maintained beneath the project).

For a firm that creates multiple projects per client, that hierarchy looks like the graphic shown above.  Here, we see one client with three separate projects (each with it’s own set of tasks).

TIP: Use Your Tasks To Track Budgets

If you’d like to use BigTime to track budgets, you’ll create those budgets at the task level. Have a simple project with a single “one-line” budget?  Add a single task to the project to track that detail.

Don't use projects? No problem.

Just because BigTime supports multiple projects per client doesn’t mean you need to create multiple projects per client.  If your firm doesn't traditionally use projects, you’ll have exactly one project per client (just a general "consulting" project, for example).

In this “flat” client list, there is exactly one client for every project in the system (eg - 2 clients, each with 1 project).  Many firms in this scenario make the client name the same as the project name.

You Can Mix and Match If You Need To

Some firms use a mix of flat + hierarchical data -- choosing to add multiple projects for certain clients, and a single project for others. How you set-up BigTime is up to you, and the system will accommodate whichever approach you decide to adopt.

What If I Use Sub-Jobs in Quickbooks?

For QuickBooks users -- where the job list is the only way to keep track of budgets and status -- this simplified structure may take some getting used to. If you have a 3 or 4 tier structure within your QB system, BigTime will import the bottom tier into your project list automatically (skipping the hierarchy levels), and we’ll setup your project names to mimic your QuickBooks organization.

TIP: Use Display Names for Context

In BigTime, the name you see on screen for a project is not actually the value in the project's name field. It's the project's "display name."  For firms that use both projects and clients, the display name is typically set to “Client Name:Project Name” (providing context when project names appear in reports and screens alone).  Your firm can adjust your display name settings to fit your specific needs.

Everything is Managed in the Project List.

No matter how you organized your data, you add edit and manage both client and project data from the MY COMPANY...PROJECT LIST screen. Since all of your data rolls up to the project level -- there is no separate interface to enter/edit client data.

How Do I Enter A New Client or Project?

Whether you need to add a client, a project or both — you can add items to your project list by clicking the Add Project button at the top of the MY COMPANY...PROJECT LIST screen.

Once you do, you’ll see an ADD screen similar to the one shown here. Choose the type of entity you’re adding on the left (client, project or “both”), and BigTime will ask you for the information it needs on the right.

For more information on adding new projects/clients to the system, take a look at the step-by-step guide.

When To Use Tasks

Sometimes, it’s difficult to decide how to break down your work (projects vs. tasks).  To make that easier for new BigTime users, follow these guidelines to determine whether to create a new project or simply add a task to an existing project’s budget.

  • Projects typically bill separately (eg - on a separate invoice). All the tasks for a project, however, are typically billed together.
  • Projects have unique budgets, teams, or billing terms. Tasks can have sub-budgets and assignments.
  • Retainer-based firms usually create a new project whenever a contract renews.
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Further Reading

Need more details? Once you understand the basics, the articles below will take you a little deeper.