This post covers everything you need to know about managing your users in Teamwork — and how you can optimize your setup for success.

Understanding the basics

We know that teams, departments, and organizations are complex. No two are the same. And every company has different requirements when it comes to managing people and their access to information.

Our goal with Teamwork is always to enable our customers to have full control over the way you manage work and help you to customize it to your own needs. This includes how you manage users.

That’s why we designed Teamwork to have a user hierarchy — that is, a few different layers underpinning how users work — to help you ensure that everyone on your team can have the level of involvement and input that’s right for them.

Here’s what that user hierarchy looks like:

user management matrix

In this post, we’ll take you through each element of this diagram, what it means, and how to use it.


Let’s start at the very beginning. There are two types of company in Teamwork: the owner company and external companies. The owner company is created when you initially set up your Teamwork site. Think of this as your team’s “home”.

External companies are created in addition to the owner company, and can be added at any time. Creating an external company enables you to group users according to their company; associate projects to companies; assign default permissions to all companies; and bulk set the privacy on an item based on company.

Site administrators in the owner company are — at least within the realm of Teamwork — omniscient. That is, they have access to everything: all projects, all areas, all private items, everything. They’re designed to be used selectively.

Administrators in external companies, on the other hand, will only have access to the projects they’ve been added to by the owner company site admins.

Standard users in both the owner company and external companies will only ever see the projects to which they’re assigned, and will be further limited by any project-level permissions applied to their individual account by the site administrators.

Learn more about companies here, or see how to add or edit a company by reading this help doc.

User types

Within Teamwork, there are two user license types: standard users and collaborators.

Standard users can be given full permissions right up to administrator level. Each standard user is counted in your recurring bill.

Collaborators have limited permissions and visibility but can perform basic actions. This user type is completely free and enables you to easily bring clients into your projects without incurring extra costs.

For a more detailed comparison of the different permissions and access abilities for standard users and collaborators, check out this help doc.

In your site, you can easily tell who is a user and who is a collaborator from the color of the icon next to their name (green for standard users and purple for collaborators). You can also hover over this icon to see the user type.

User management in Teamwork Projects 2


Collaborators are one of two license types in Teamwork. However, collaborators do not take up a user seat within your Teamwork subscription — that is, they are a free user. The Collaborator license type was designed for clients, partners and other people outside of your organization who require visibility into the project or are responsible for a limited scope of work.

We introduced the Collaborator license type because we know the nature of working on projects requires different stakeholders to have access to, and visibility over, the project at different times. While you may need them to take certain actions to move the work forward, you may not necessarily need them to be a full-time user, because a) they are not a member of your team, or b) their input is only required sporadically.

In this way, Collaborators allows you to give immediate visibility to stakeholders without revealing the inner workings of the project.

This cuts down a huge amount of manual reporting to clients (a task that was taking Strencom over 34 hours a week). What’s more, the added level of transparency also fosters better working relationships with stakeholders.

So what can collaborators do?

For all the reasons we’ve just outlined above, collaborators have restricted permissions. It’s easier to remember what they can do in Teamwork rather than what they can’t do. As with everything in Teamwork, we’ve made it completely customizable, so you can still edit any individual collaborator’s permissions. You can also set default permissions for collaborators in your site’s general settings. It’s important to note, however, that this only applies to permissions at the project level.

Collaborators can perform basic actions such as:

  • Completing tasks and milestones assigned to them
  • Viewing files
  • Editing files they upload
  • Adding and replying to messages
  • Adding comments
  • Setting privacy on project items

Collaborators cannot:

  • Create new tasks, task lists, milestones, or links
  • Update milestones, task lists, tasks, notebooks, links
  • Log time
  • View the calendar
  • Set statuses
  • Access Billing

At site level, they can only view the Home and Projects tabs, so a collaborator cannot perform any of the actions below:

  • Be made a site or project administrator
  • Add new projects
  • Manage task templates
  • Manage people and companies
  • View or manage Portfolio
  • Be an observer on projects

How should I use different user types?

As a general rule, regular user licenses are great for people within your organization or team, while Collaborator licenses are normally best for people outside of your organization.

If the person does any of the below then it’s best to make them a regular user:

  • Is the owner of a project
  • Creates or assigns work (i.e. will need to create tasks)
  • Adds context to work (i.e. needs to edit task descriptions)
  • Needs to log time
  • Runs reports or needs to view granular information

Some examples of people we would recommend adding as standard users include:

  • Your immediate team or department
  • People from other departments in the company that may be stakeholders on your project
  • Managers or executives with significant interest in the project reports

If you need to give someone visibility of the project or work, but not necessarily take any action on it, you can add them as a collaborator.

For example, a lot of our customers will set up clients as collaborators so they can immediately interact with their project plan without getting access to what’s going on behind the scenes. You can also assign tasks for collaborators to complete, which is useful when you need a client to approve or review a piece of work.

In this way, collaborator licenses are better suited for:

  • Multiple contractors or freelancers working on different projects at different times
  • Users who don’t need to create work, but are working with you
  • Someone who only needs to approve work or leave feedback occasionally
  • Someone who just needs to read instructional information (i.e viewing a file or message)

Here are some examples of the kind of people you might want to add as collaborators:

  • Clients
  • External vendors
  • Contractors or freelancers

If, down the line, you realize that a collaborator needs more permissions than they currently have, you can easily upgrade them to a standard user.

How do I manage who can access what?

Customizing the permissions for users in Teamwork is simple, whether you’re working with standard users or collaborators.

You can set these permissions when you’re adding a user in the first place, or you can edit them at a later date from the People section of your site by selecting the pencil icon on the far right of a user’s name.

User management in Teamwork Projects 4

You can also customize user permissions at the project level, depending on which features of the project or information you want them to be able to access.

User management in Teamwork Projects 5

While collaborators will have restricted options to choose from, you can still adjust the permissions they do have; just be aware that certain options will be unavailable, and these will appear as crossed out.

Still have questions? Leave them in the comments below.