Freelancers have to wear a lot of hats and handle lots of tasks that aren't design-related. One of those tasks is client relationship management. CRM is a system for managing your interactions with existing or potential clients. I'll be honest- I didn't have a CRM system in place until my second year of business. I went through my first year simply using the Gmail labels to label clients as potential, current or past clients. But that changed when I found Streak!
Do you need a CRM system?
Absolutely. To remain organized and, you know, sane, you need to have a system in place that keeps track of who your potential, current and past clients are. Here's why:
- You can't possibly remember all of your clients by yourself. You could probably list 20, tops. Let technology handle the remembering.
- Your inbox isn't good enough. Sure, you can search through your inbox to find clients. But finding key information (like their URL, address, key problems etc) is tough because it's spread across lots of messages. With a CRM system, you can keep all this important info in one place.
- With a CRM system, you can track the status of each of your clients. Every time you make progress with a client you can update their status and know exactly what stage of your process they are in.
What does Streak include?
Streak is CRM inside Gmail. You simply add it to your Gmail account with the click of a button and it's mostly free. I love it because it provides lots of useful functions. With Streak you can...
- Create pipelines (processes).
- Schedule emails to send later.
- Keep all your clients information in one 'box'.
- Schedule reminders about a certain client within Gmail.
- Keep notes on each client.
- Track when clients open your emails.
- Create and organize better canned emails.
If the 'pipelines' and 'boxes' part of that has confused you, don't worry. I was confused too, when I first started using Streak.
Pipelines are your processes. I have an Inquiry pipeline, a Design Process pipeline, and an After Project pipeline.
Boxes are a little harder to explain. When a project inquiry enters your inbox, for example, you create a box in the clients name and add the box to the relevant pipeline. In this case, it would be my Inquiry pipeline. Everything to do with your client goes into their box: their emails, attachments, notes etc.
How I use Streak
I use Streak to keep track of where my clients are in my process, and keep all their details organized in one place. Streak is incredibly versatile, so the way I use it may not be the way you want to use it. I hope my way gives you some ideas though!
My inquiry pipeline (process)
Above is a screenshot of my inquiry process with clients details blacked out for security reasons. (Click the image to see it larger.) Every stage of my inquiry process is in green. Here's how it works:
- When an inquiry comes in, I create a box in the clients name and add the client to the Inquiry pipeline.
- I then fill in what their project is, the price of their project, and add any necessary notes. You can change these categories or add more. You could have sections to enter their address, phone number, URL and more! I like to keep things simple in my inquiry pipeline though.
- The box starts in the first stage of the process: New Inquiry.
- As we communicate and the client progresses, I move them down the pipeline until they're at the end and ready to be moved to my Design Process pipeline.
- If the client stops replying and their progress halts, I add them to the Pending stage and set a reminder to follow up with them in one week, as you can see in the screenshot above.
I have pipelines for my design process, The Shelancers Club, collaborators and more, but I thought showing you one pipeline was enough for today.
Streak is the CRM system of my choice but if you don't use Gmail you could try Contactually. Overall, Streak is one of my most-used business tools and I'd be a lot less organized without it. As freelancers we need a place to keep track of out clients and contacts, and that place shouldn't be in our heads or in notebooks. Since using Streak my business has been a lot more streamlined- I don't forget to follow up with clients, and I have all my clients details at hand. No sifting through emails or notebooks to find their details.
Do you use a CRM system? If so, share how you use it over on Facebook!