Time is the most important resource for a freelancer. Every minute you spend working counts towards your paycheck, most minutes you spend on mundane tasks or distractions don’t. So how do you increase the minute spend in category A and reduce those spent in category B?
Automation is the answer.
Setting up automated processes for recurring scenarios is the best way to save time. Automation eliminates repetitive worktime, and that’s how it can increase a freelancer’s profit. It will also help minimize mistakes. No more sending emails to the wrong person or forgetting to do something when it’s all part of your automated system.
Interested? Here are the two most-used tools for automating freelancer businesses. Following that, we’re going to give you some tips on how you can best use them.
Two essential automation tools for CRM:
Zapier is the top solution when it comes to automating your business. They work with over a 1,000 apps, including stuff we all use: Dropbox, Gmail, Slack and more. With Zapier, a zap sets up an interaction between those apps.
Let’s say you get an email with an attachment – you can have a zap set up that automatically downloads all attachments and directly puts them into a predetermined Dropbox folder.
There is a free plan for Zapier, which will allow up to two zaps to be run simultaneously and 100 tasks per month. Premium plans start at 20 USD per month and higher prices depend on how heavy of a user you are.
IFTTT stands for “If This Then That” and does exactly what the name suggests. Unlike Zapier, it is completely free. It is less professional and a bit less user-friendly, but still a great tool to automate.
The best part about IFTTT has to be the amazing community. It is always hard at work creating some awesome recipes (that’s what automating solutions are called). We actually did a whole article covering IFTTT last year; check it out here to learn more.
5 Automation ideas for your client management process
1. Set up a detailed contact form
Whatever your niche is, you might notice a lot of repetition when talking to clients for the first time. There are specific things you need to know to understand what kind of project they’re offering.
Where there is repetition, there is also room for automation. You can set up a detailed contact form (aka project planner) on your website (rather than just an empty field). Ask those potential clients questions like “How long is the project going to take?” “Which core skills are you looking for?” and give them several choices for an answer. We already numbered the essential elements that you should include in your project planner.
As they fill out those forms, have Zapier or IFTTT set up to move those potential clients into categories – for example, “projects longer than one month,” “projects longer than three months,” and so on. This way you can see what kind of work prospects you have at a glance.
2. Educate your client – onboarding
Similarly to how you always ask clients the same types of questions, they are likely to have their own questions as well. Instead of going back and forth in dozens of emails each time you seal a deal, have all that information in one place. Use a Trello board, YouTube video or a tutorial in a shared Dropbox folder. This not only saves you a lot of time, it also makes a good impression on the client. They will appreciate a resource they can consistently refer to at any point in your contract. A professional with a streamlined system for onboarding is a client’s dream.
3. Set up the infrastructure for a project: Contracts and further documents
Once you have settled a project with a client, there are a couple of things you will always need to do. And if you got this far into this article, you know what that means – automation.
You might want to create a specific Dropbox folder with every new client or set up a basic project board on Trello.
What about time tracking? If you’re using an app to do that, you can create a new project there, too. Think about all the basic infrastructure you need when you start a new project and automate setting it up. That way, when you get a new client you can go to work straight away.
4. Send updates when you finish a project phase or task
Updates – clients love them, but they are a hassle to write. They don’t need to be. If you work like most freelancers, you probably split up projects in smaller phases. If you use an app that has a list, you can tick off that task as completed and easily set up an automated update. Each time you complete a phase, your client will be notified that it’s done. All of the updates for them, none of the hassle for you.
In what ways do you use automation for your freelance business? Share your ideas in the comments below this article!