Ask FreelanceSwitch: Project Management Tools and Finding New Clients
In this issue of Ask FreelanceSwitch, we look at project management tools and finding clients. Ask FreelanceSwitch is a regular column here that allows us to help beginners get a grip on freelancing. If you have a question about freelancing that you want answered, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’ve been freelancing for a while now and I’ve been getting more and more into the nitty gritty of lead generation, conversion of customers, etc. the business side of things; however, there are two things that always stump me: Project Management and Customer Relation Management.
Project Management is easy for a single project but when running four/five projects in parallel, it becomes a hassle. Do you know of a good (and cheap) project management suite? I’ve been using Podio but it seems a tad bit complicated and I find Basecamp a bit dumbed down.
When it comes to CRM, I can’t find any good software for that either. I’ve been using Mingly, but that’s more for personal contacts than business, and keeping clients’ names in my head and try to remember to call them/email them is a hassle. I’ve heard good things about Zoho but the interface just kills me. Again, any suggestions?
There are a huge number of project management tools out there and, to a certain extent, it’s a question of your work flow — what tool is going to work best for you is going to depend on your personal preferences. Personally, I use Basecamp. I’ve used a whole slew of different software from spreadsheets to web apps that I had to install on my own server and configure. I like that Basecamp is easy and that I can manage a lot of what I need to do from anywhere. Most of my work revolves around writing, though, and I’ve heard some horror stories from freelancers who got in the habit of sharing video or other large files through their project management tools.
As far as CRM goes, I actually just switched from Gist to Highrise — the CRM tool offered by the makers of Basecamp. The big factor for me was ease of use and uptime — I’ve had some difficulties getting into apps in the past. So far, Highrise has been smooth to work with. The biggest benefit of Highrise that I’ve found is that I can automatically dump the results of forms on my website into the site, letting me start the process of winning over a new client practically automatically.
Let us know what you use for both project management and CRM in the comments. Any tools you particularly recommend?
Here are some helpful articles on this subject here on FreelanceSwitch:
- 20 Best Online To Do List Apps for Freelancers
- Top 10 Open Source Project Management Apps for Freelancers
- 10 Applications for Keeping Client Contact Data Organized
I am a designer who has 4 years experience in the design field (9 years with higher education) and I’m not too sure in what steps to take to go out there and get some graphic design work from businesses.
Do I just go out there and ask each shop if they need any designs doing or is that too straightforward? Do I need to produce some business cards and leaflets for my self and hand them out? Do I need to take a portfolio with me on my iPad or something to show them my work? Any help would be well appreciated.
While you can go approach businesses directly, that’s one of the hardest ways to land new clients, along with cold calling. You can’t even begin to guess if a business needs graphic design work done — and trying to guess from the logo on their sign is just asking for trouble considering how many small business owners designed their own logos and are proud of them.
You need to start by creating a way for prospective clients to find you. Just starting a website, for instance, isn’t enough. You need the website, but you also need to do something to bring people to your site like writing about graphic design on sites that your ideal clients spend time on.
The same goes for interactions in person — go where you expect clients to be, like networking events or business incubators. Most business owners go to networking events because they need to connect with people, such as specialists who can help their businesses do better. The odds still aren’t perfect, but they’re a lot better than just visiting every business on a given block.
As you freelance more, you’ll find more opportunities to connect with businesses — as well as decide which ones work for you. For instance, some graphic designers find job boards to be a great way to land work, while others prefer to rely on networking.