Every freelancer, contractor, or other self-employed professional has a set of tools they prefer for their workflow. Among those apps are email services, customer relationship management software, project management tools, and much more. On top of those are the apps their clients rely on for work, too.
The question is, between our own tools and our clients' tools, how do we set up new freelance arrangements in a way that is most productive to getting projects done? Here are a few of the steps I take to stay organized each time I start working with a new client.
Sure, Gmail is great when it comes to searching for emails from your newest clients. But it can become tricky when you need to make special notes about your clients, log phone calls, and see a basic summary of your recent interactions.
This is where a CRM (customer relationship management) platform comes in handy. You don't have to have a large business to use one either—Insightly is free for up to 2,500 records, Salesforce starts at $5 per month, and Nimble starts at $15 per month. These platforms allow you to import your email communications, write custom notes for your clients, and much more.
So your first step when you start working with a new client is to move them to your CRM and start making detailed notes so that you know where you stand with each one at all times. Better yet, move your hot prospects to your CRM, too, so you can track how close you are to turning that prospect into a new client.
Beyond your CRM, there are several apps that can help you discover more information about a client in order to build better a relationship with that person. To get started with one of the three following tools, you'll first need to create a spreadsheet with a list of your clients' email addresses.
I usually don't recommend adding your clients to an email list without their explicit permission. With that said, there might be times you need to email all of your clients about a specific situation. For example, there could be an emergency that unexpectedly puts you out of touch with your clients. Or maybe you offer a service such as managed web hosting along with web design. If your hosting provider goes down, your clients' websites will go down as well and you will want to notify them all immediately.
For those occasions, you want to have a selective email list—one that you would only use under very special circumstances. Not for sales or promotions or weekly newsletters, but for emergencies. You could do this by putting your new clients on an internal contact list in your own email service (like Gmail, Outlook, etc.) or on a special mailing list using MailChimp, Campaign Monitor, AWeber or similar platforms.
This would give you the option to email your clients as a group when needed. If you use this approach, be sure to do the following.
Do you like using specific project management tools to manage client projects? Do your clients send you large files? Do you track time for your new clients? You'll definitely want to get this set up as soon as you confirm your new client so that you are ready to start working on their projects immediately.
The best way to make this process as simple as possible is to create a checklist of procedures you need to do for each client, which can include the above-mentioned suggestions of adding clients to your CRM, spreadsheet, and selective email list. Your project management set up for each new client may look a little something like this.
By keeping this checklist handy and completing the tasks at the start, you won't have to worry about pausing work on a project to set up your time tracking system or coordinate with them about file-sharing options.
LinkedIn is the top social media network for professionals, and a great one to use if you want to collect testimonials (recommendations) for yourself as a freelancer.
When you add a new client to your business, you may want to send them an invite to connect with you on LinkedIn. If you use Rapportive for Gmail, it will automatically link a new client's email address to LinkedIn so you can quickly find them. Most CRM platforms can do this as well. This helps you further connect with your clients as well as expand your professional network.
If you have a process in place for each of your new clients, you won't let anything slip through the cracks in a way that might make you lose touch with your clients or get behind on your tasks. Also, look for ways to automate some of these processes so you can spend less time with administrative work and more time with revenue-generating work.
Credits: Photo courtesy Kevin O'Mara. Insightly screenshot courtesy Insightly. StackLead screenshot courtesy StackLead.