Any small creative business owner will agree that the hardest part about getting your business off the ground (or going out freelance) is setting up the systems, processes, and day-to-day operations. Everyone has this one small thing in common when starting out.
Do any of these sound familiar?
- How the heck am I going to find ‘extra’ time for this stuff?
- I’m flat out working in my business, let alone on my business.
- I’ve heard of this magical term ‘streamlining’ but how do I achieve it?
If you’re still typing up individual invoices in a templated file, having to remind yourself to chase up overdue payments, punching figures into a spreadsheet (puke!) for the tax guy, or are stuck on an email loop of “When’s a good time for you?” trying to get that enquiry scheduled, then you need to stop what you’re doing and get acquainted with a CRM.
What’s a CRM?
It’s your new bff, my creative friend! CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management—when you read it like that things start to make sense, right? They’re insanely handy tools that simplify the way you communicate with clients and perform the day-to-day operations of your biz.
Put simply, a CRM is an online tool that will transform the way you do business by streamlining the ‘boring’ tasks of running your business, so you can focus on the fun, creative tasks that were the reason you started your biz in the first place.
Freelancing is the way forward for creative industries but no matter what field you specialise in, the market is already extremely competitive. Talent, skillset, and unique creative process aside, it takes a lot more than pretty designs to succeed as a small creative business. Customers want to get their desired product or service but they also want for you to lead them through the process and make it easy for them to keep doing what they need to do… run their business.
Imagine if an enquiry came from a form on your website, then a branded email was sent out automatically with a thankyou message and a link to your schedule to book a consult call. The potential customer acts on the prompt while the lead is hot in their mind and books a time to chat. The meeting is locked into your schedule and syncs with your calendar(s). The customer receives an email with the details (and a reminder before the meeting!), and you just locked in a call with a potential client without. doing. a. single. thing. All the while looking super professional and efficient to work with… which you no doubt are!
This is just the beginning of the potential of CRM’s and their workflow possibilities. Here’s a few of their standout features:
Completely simplified, your CRM will be your best business ally by housing and taking care of all the necessary backend bits and pieces. Everything you need to TCB (take care of business), keep on track and grow your biz. You can also set it to follow up leads and payments automatically. Umm, yes, please!
Contracts & Forms
I cannot stress enough the importance of having contracts and detailed proposals in place when running a small business (yes, that includes freelancing). No one wants to see a bunch of legal jargon in a Word document or pdf or to have to painstakingly print it out to sign then upload it and send it back in an email. If you’re still doing ridiculous things like this you’re going to start seeing a dropoff rate because customers want things to be easy. A CRM allows you to create contracts and sub-contracts that can be digitally signed at the click of a button, right there on the same browser. You can also create a myriad of forms for all sorts of uses and assign them to a project to keep everything tidy. See ya later, paperwork!
Automation & Workflows
Automation and workflows are the best thing to happen to creative business owners! They can also be pretty fun to set up. Think of any process of your business and there’ll be a way to automate it with a workflow. Even if you only set up the major processes for your biz you’ll reap the reward of timesaving and looking really professional along the way.
Sending Invoices & Getting Paid
Struggling to get paid (and on time) is a recurring theme amongst the small guys and girls in business but it’s seriously time to break that negative trend. With a CRM in place, you can set up invoices, assign payment schedules, and even automatic reminders. You can even set up a payment gateway to receive payments right away. Keeping on top of your finances is the only way to run a sustainable business.
Gone are the days of having individual apps for running different parts of your business. I used to rely on a completely external app to schedule appointments but now have it set up in the same system as everything else, syncing with my calendar and sending out consistent, branded emails to the rest of my streamlined onboarding process. I’ve got separate schedulers set up for different purposes, tailored to set availability and durations. All I have to do is share a link or embed it on my website or social channels. Say goodbye to email chains and hello to locked in appointments where all you have to do is show up!
Accounting & Reporting
If you’re anything like me, you cringe at the idea of anything to do with reporting and especially tax. I started my business for creative freedom, not to be tied down to working out numbers. But with a CRM, reporting sheds insight into your project sources, project breakdowns as well as the finance side of things so you can truly keep track of where you’re at and have an actual opportunity to grow and scale your business.
There’s a lot to say about first impressions. There’s also a lot to say about how freaking awesome automating your business is. A little time spent setting things up from the get-go will save you a lot of time when your business starts thriving, time to actually be creative.
So, which CRM do I use? Without hesitation, Dubsado! I did a whole bunch of research on competitive products before committing and this tool has everything a small creative business needs. They also have a dedicated team behind them whose passion is making life easier for creatives. You can test it out for free but when you realise it’s the game-changer you’ve been looking for, feel free to use my code for 20% off.
Note: This post contains an affiliate link, which means I may receive a small commission. Rest assured it’s been hand-selected by me to feature here because I use it every day and trust it.