Customer relationship management (CRM) platforms are those fun little tools that so many people use incorrectly. CRMs as a category have done an amazing job of positioning themselves as a sign of success. CRMs can help small businesses and freelancers get organized as they scale up their operations.
When small businesses are just beginning without a lot of clients, it is pretty easy to keep track of everything with a simple spreadsheet. But, once businesses start to grow, spreadsheet isn't enough to track things like customers, sales, progress, etc. Luckily, customer relationship management (CRM) tools exist to make business owners' lives easier. Even the smallest business can benefit from using CRM tools and it isn't expensive. In fact, there are some free plans.
If affordability is the major criteria when you go for a CRM; there is a common trend of CRM keeping their prices less than its competitors. But sometimes, you might be missing out on some important feature trying to save a dollar. You should always choose the CRM that fits your needs the best.
CRM should not be considered as a data entry system; rather it should be seen as an automated system which relieves a user from manual data entry, manual emails, and SMS. Your choice of CRM should be smart enough to capture your deal and create it for your workflow into your sales pipeline.
1. Insightly (14-Day Free Trial)
Insightly is a well-rounded CRM with marketing and project management tools as well as automation for lead and opportunity management. Freelancers with an abundances of clients could appreciate the leader profile layout. You can see your activity history with the lead, as well as email correspondence, internal notes, exchanged files, related tasks, and events. Build- in and custom email templates allow for personalized, scheduled emails to touch base with clients or build rapport, Customizable reports allow in-depth looks on data within the CRM for nearly any angle. Even after the free trial, there is a forever free option where you can use with less functions, but it is a really great tool!
2. Bitrix24 (30-Day Free Trial)
Bitrix24 is a platform that offers quite some features for free. There is even a built in telephone, the option to migrate your emails to a Bitrix24 webmail account, an internal activity feed, a calendar with sync to Google, Outlook, Mac and mobile, file storage, and more. Now onto their CRM aspects, Bitrix24's CRM functions include the normal lead, contact and deal management, as well as built-in invoicing and quptes, activity management and deal reports (not to mention summary reports for each section). There is a ton under the hood for Bitrix24- it provides a broad range of functionality for its users. Like Insightly, Bitrix24 offers free plans even after the free trial, but again, with minimal functions.
ThriveSolo targets the creative freelancers in the CRM space. Like all the other CRMs, it provides a 14 days free trial. Freelancers use ThriveSolo's software to give them a competitive edge while ensuring freelance projects run smoothly. It will have a transformative effect on a freelancer's workflow. Repetitive monthly or weekly tasks, such as invoicing, can be taken care of with the click of a button giving the freelancer the time to be creative and concentrate on clients. It also allows freelancers to keep track of expenses and time they spent on the clients' project. This is a powerful software for freelancers.
Of course there are other CRMs in the market for freelancers and small businesses, but these are 3 of our favorite CRMs for you to try out. Let us know what you think!
Related: How to Start Your Freelance Journey
You have finally decided that working from home may not be such a good idea after. The countless distractions are affecting your productivity. The loneliness is so overwhelming that many times, you look out the window just to be assured that you are not the only human left on earth. So, you want to give the idea of using a coworking space a try.
Congratulations! You are off to a good start. But you are still faced with the heavy burden of finding the right coworking space that suits you. Take a look at these tips which will help you make that decision.
Talk to other freelancers
Sandeep Jauhar says, "The only mistake you can make is not asking for help." Asking for the opinions of your fellow freelancers might steer you down the right path. So talk to them.
Here are some sample questions to ask them:
What influenced their decisions to select their coworking spaces? Has it been able to meet their needs? Can you apply similar criteria to your circumstances?
Here at Treehouse Society, we have many freelancers who come here for the creative community and comfortability. Many freelancers who work out of here are writers, video editors, IT consultants, software engineers, and etc.
How much space will your work require?
Some freelancers just occupy a desk or a cubicle. However, others who have jobs which demand privacy or need larger space may opt for a private office. So assess your needs first, and decide the amount of space that will be convenient for you. Then, ensure that the coworking space you are considering will have the right type of space you need.
Treehouse Society has options from hourly conference rooms, day passes, ten passes, and monthly open desks, permanent desks, and private offices. You could choose the option that works for you.
Consider the distance
This is a key factor when searching coworking spaces. You do not want to pick out a place only to realize that it takes 5 hours to get there, or that the routes are always traffic ingested. You may want to check out beforehand: How far is it from my house? Will it be easy to transport myself to and from the location? Are there any alternative routes to go there?
Treehouse Society is close to many public transportations and is walkable from North Beach, Jackson Square, Financial District, and SOMA.
Will the working hours be convenient?
Choose a place where the accessible hours are convenient for your work. While some coworking spaces employ a strict 9-5 policy, others are flexible enough to allow freelancers decide working hours on their own terms. If your job is adaptable, you should choose a space that offers adjustable working hours as well.
As a member at Treehouse Society, you can access the space 24/7. We have plenty of freelancers here who work with their own flexible schedule.
How much will it cost?
Coworking spaces are priced based on factors such as location, amenities, size, and so on. While you are interested in quality, you still need to remember the status of y our wallet. Hence, when selecting the ideal coworking space, ensure that the cost of membership does not rip your pocket. In summary, pick what you can afford.
You can check out our pricing here: Membership Plans
Does it have the necessary amenities/ infrastructure?
Before paying for that space, you might want to see if they are well equipped with amenities that will help you maximize productivity. For example, is there reliable wifi? Are there enough power outlets? Are there printing and photocopying services? How about lounging areas?
Yes, Treehouse Society has all of the above!
Now that you have been equipped with knowledge, make the best choice for you to be productive.
Schedule a tour today!
It could be a bit lonely being a freelancer. Also, since you are not surrounded by a bunch of other employees, it could be difficult to get the motivation and inspiration to get the best work done.
If you are living in the 21st century, there is a huge chance that you listen to podcasts. Over the years, podcasts have grown into one of the best sources for news and entertainment around.
There is a whole world of podcasts that either self-employed help people to learn how to run businesses or just teach about money management in general. For those of us who might not feel comfortable talking to family or friends about money management, these podcasts are great outlets. They are also an amazing source of business ideas and professional creativity that we wouldn't encounter otherwise.
1. The Freelance Podcast
The title makes this sound like this is a generic podcast for freelances, but it's not. This is a podcast targeted at people with steady jobs who are doing a bit of freelancing on the side and are nervous about transitioning to becoming a full-time freelance. Host RJ McCollam sets out to help by "giving real world advice and information that can be acted on immediately."
2. Product Hunt
Want to stay on top of trends? Are you a product nerd? This podcast is for you! If you are familiar with Product Hunt's website already, you know what this is about. Product Hunt is filled to the brim with all sorts of topics- career strategies, inspirational interviews, the list goes on. The Maker Stories episodes are in-depth conversations with the most influential people in tech, culture, and politics. Try it out!
3. Off the Charts
A business podcast hosted by Nathalie Lussier provides brief, actionable tips to move your business forward. As a digital strategist and online marketer, freelancers can gain insights on how to sell their business in a competitive environment.
4. Bad with Money
Host Gaby Dunn claims that she is "anything but a financial expert," but her podcast is so funny that you will forget it is supposed to be educational. Dunn who has been featured in Almost Millions before for her looks at the economics of Youtube stardom speaks with guests from all different ends of the creative world from writers to comedians and beyond about how money has impacted their lives for better or worse.
5. You Need a Budget
You Need a Budget is a popular personal budgeting, debt-reduction, and bookkeeping software package that Almost Millions have featured before. The makers of You Need a Budget also offer a great personal finance podcast that covers the basic things like saving, making a budget, and reducing expenses- in short, no-judgement segments that are perfect for listening to while in the car or doing housework.
6. Brunch & Budget
Pamela Capalad is a financial planner whose podcast is "where personal finance & social justice intersect." Topics for her show include everything from how to get health insurance to ways to close the racial wealth gap to becoming a creative entrepreneur. The long-lasting podcast has many episodes available for streaming and download that cover all the basics of personal finance.
7. The Busy Creator
Working as a creative professional isn't easy. Prescott Perez- Fox's Busy Creator podcast is one of the best places to hear about creative folks talking about their jobs and what makes them good at their job. A typical episode includes conversations with everyone from television costume designers to coworking space operators to web developers.
Next: Freelance Startup Cost
Deciding to quit your day job to freelance full time is scary. There are a lot to worry about especially in a city like San Francisco where the cost of living is so high. However, you are really excited to turn your passion into a career.
Freelancing is really enticing. As it gives you a lot of fulfillment and freedom at the same time. The common issue is simply not knowing where to start. Fortunately, building a successful freelancing career is easier than it seems.
You can start small with your ambitious journey. Start freelancing on the side to gain some feedbacks before you quit your day job. After you feel like you are ready, it is time to make the full leap into the journey.
1. Choose Your Craft
Just about everything could be done remotely nowadays. This is why there is a strong likelihood that the skills on your resume actually contain one or more freelancing opportunities. You may be be required to think outside of the box on how to fit your skillset for a remote job. It could be discouraging as remote jobs are mostly graphic designers or programmers and we are not all graphic designers or programmers. However, you may find that your "secondary" skills can offer up freelancing opportunities. For instance, if you are a strong writer, then you have the potential to develop a freelance writing business.
Don't be paralyzed by preconception that you do not have the necessary skills or experience- you would be surprised at how little experience you need to get started. A little faith in your abilities will take you a long way.
2. Create marketing materials
Lay the groundwork by developing marketing materials. This way, you can start to establish buzz before officially launching the firm. At a minimum, set up a website, create Twitter and Facebook accounts and order business cards.
As you begin to tell family, friends, and contacts about your new journey in the weeks or months before the launch, you will want to have materials that inform them about it.
Start networking and building interest right away and start collecting business cards to set up an email list so you could inform everyone when you are ready to officially launch. You may be surprised by the amount of forwarding you might get if someone is interested in what you have to offer.
3. Keep in touch
You have probably sent out a mass launching email. Maybe there are a lot of people who have replied, or maybe you are discouraged by the lack of response. Find a few business cards that might have had interests in you and send a personal note to follow up. Maybe include a message of what you guys talked about that was interesting. When you don't want to do is to follow up with an open ended request. "We should get coffee sometime" isn't something that would make anyone rush to their calendar to block out time to meet with you.
4. Play the odds
Ultimately, securing freelancing work is a numbers game- The more prospective clients you contact, the more likely you are likely to find work. That is the equation you should keep in mind. If you have a reasonable skillset and create a quality brand, there is no reason why you cannot succeed in the world of freelancing like so many others before you.
At Treehouse Society, we have many networking events for you to meet your prospective clients. We might also have members who are looking for freelancing work. Our members are open to helping each other succeed with our skills or our contact. We aim to provide a supportive ecosystem for every working person in the 21st century.
Check out more on How to Win Your First Client as a Freelancer
If you are thinking about being a consultant, a freelance developer, or a writer, you may think you can just hole up at home in front of your computer and run your business. To an extend, this thought may be true, but there are other costs you should remember to budget for. If you prepare for them before you strike out on your own, you can avoid being blindsided by them when you are already stretched out by starting your own business.
In order to run a business, you need to apply for either an LLC, S Corp, or partnership. Most freelancers have an S Corp. Even if you are planning to just be a sole proprietor, you may need an EIN for your clients.
You need business insurance just in case anything happens while you are running your freelancing business. Hiscox is one of the easiest way to get started as a small business owner.
You don't have to outfit your home workspace like the palatial corner office you never had, but you will need some things that you may not have considered. Working from a couch or your bed may be fine occasionally, but when it is time to take a video call from a client, or do some serious work, nestling up in your blankets and pillows may not be the place you want to be. You need a professional background, a decent desk, useful peripherals, and the right tools for your job. At Treehouse Society, our office is set up in a casually professional way so you can feel confident taking a call from your client here. Check our membership here.
Equipment and Tools Costs
As a freelancer, you are responsible for obtaining and maintaining the equipment that you need for performing your gig. Even if you currently own some of these items, you will need to replace them when they reach their lifetime, need upgrades, or become obsolete. Also, remember that you may need more powerful, professional resources to freelance than you probably have for personal use.
Here are some of the things you may need as a freelancer:
Advertising and Promotion Costs
As a freelancer, you may need some advertisements especially during the start of your career.
Some of the advertisement budget include:
Legal and Accounting Costs
As a freelancer, you may also have some legal or accounting costs. First of all, you will need to do your income taxes and freelancing tends to make your taxes more complex. As a freelancer, you can either choose a tax software or hire a bookkeeping or accountant, or both. You may also need an attorney to give you legal advice when the needs arise or in choosing the right business entity for your situation.
A common misconception is that starting and running a freelance business is free. Nothing could be further from the truth. While most freelances experience a lower startup costs than other types of businesses, nearly all freelancers will wind up having to pay some money to start and maintain their freelance business.
A lot of people work at a 9-5 job that they do not enjoy at all. They might be making a decent living, but they might not be enjoying their work at all. Well, the truth is that there is a better way to earn a living and actually love what you’re doing. And no, this is not happening only to the luckiest people. It can happen to you as well if you decide to turn your passion into a successful career. If you’re passionate about what you’re doing, there are higher chances for you to succeed in your passion because when you find pleasure and fulfillment in your activity, you don’t feel the task difficult or challenging. So here is how you can change your life by making your passion a profitable activity.
What's your passion?
Before you go ahead and quit your current job, which is not a smart thing to do yet, you need to know the difference between passion and hobby. A hobby is something you occasionally enjoy doing, such as fishing, playing poker, watching movies, gardening, and etc, and you might not be able to make a job out of it. A passion is something you actually love doing, and putting all your interest and effort into it. It could be car repairing, landscaping, home improvements, designing unique clothing or accessories. Just keep your mind open and weigh all your options. What is the thing you are great at and you will love doing everyday? Go find the answer to this question.
Check to see just how demanded your skills are?
Now what you have determined what your passion is, you will have to see how demanded your skills are in the area where you live. It is not such a good idea to pursue a career that has little to no demand or if the competition is too high in a particular activity field. Still, competition should not scare you if you come up with a fresh idea and if you truly believe that your skills will make a difference and bring customers your way or if the skill demanded is highly sought after. For example, a city as populated as San Francisco, there will be always be demand for skillset such as software engineer, marketing, and handyman. There might be a lot of competition, but at the same time, there is a high demand.
Don't start anything without researching first
You can't just launch a venture without doing some research first to see what it means to open and own a business in a desired industry. Perhaps you need certain equipment, machinery, to hire people, or to request some funds. Talking to people that made it in the industry you are interested in is a great way to gather valuable information.
Come up with a detailed plan
Start making a plan with all the steps necessary to get your business going. Try to do your best and make it detailed, not leaving out any details that might be important. Also, have a backup plan as well, just in case your initial plan is not working as it should.
Get the needed qualifications
So you do something with passion? That is great, but you might need some qualifications to look credible in front of potential clients. This might mean getting appropriate qualifications that will turn your passion into a profession.
Or if your field does not need qualifications, maybe perform a tiny paid test gig for your friends or potential customers and have them write a review for you!
Don't forget to be flexible
Your new job may bring a lot of happiness but that doesn't mean that everything will go very smoothly. You may come across bumps here and there, and you will come across bumps here and there, and you will have to learn how to take praises and criticism as well. Just bear in mind that people from outside your business will bring in prospectives that you might not see, so their feedbacks might help you improve and become even better.
Turning a passion into a full-time job is challenging and requires a lot of dedication.. But if you manage to succeed, and if your project is ambitious enough and has sufficient drive, you will soon be able to live even in the most expensive cities like San Francisco. Don't hesitate to take the leap and live the life you always dreamed of!
In Treehouse Society, we support individuals who want to turn their passion into their career. From providing networking opportunities to connections that will help you every step of the way.
Next: Home Office vs. Coworking Space
Being a freelancer is hard. You have to be constantly be on your A game- delivering high quality of work for your clients while simultaneously handling a morass of complicated tasks needed to manage your business. Everything from getting new prospects to ensure that you are tax compliant to getting paid by your clients.
An invoice serves several purposes. It is not just the catalyst that gets you paid, but also is needed by the client as a record so they can write off the payment. Every client you will meet will probably need an invoice from you. As a freelancer, you will probably generate a lot of invoices, so you might as well make it great.
Most businesses use the same sorts of information on invoices: contact information, sequential invoice numbers, etc. Because of the unique nature of freelance work compared to a usual job, freelance invoices should be adapted to reflect these differences.
A freelancing invoice should include the following:
Stick with what you know- I don't know many writers who can't use Microsoft Word or publisher in their sleep, so consider using one of the templates provided with these softwares to create your invoice. Of course, you can be adventurous and try to use other web based invoicing system such as Paypal, Freshbooks, or Waveapps. One advantage of of the web based invoicing is their ability to take credit card so you don't have to wait for the check in the mail.
Brand it- You want your client to remember you in the future if they have any other writing positions available. If you have a logo, or even a certain font, quote or layout that is unique to your particular service, consider putting it on your invoice. At the very least, you must include your name, address, and other identifying information in the header of your invoice.
Provide the details- The main body of the invoice should detail the services you provided. If you completed the services via an hourly rate, be sure to enumerate the hours worked. If you complete an item based project, provide those details too. Also, include any other cost that you incurred during your project so you could be reimbursed for your cost. You will want to detail exactly what you did, how, and how long.
Draw it out- Include a per charge column that cites your rate, and then draw it out to a total charges column. This not only helps eliminate math mistakes or typos, but it also provides the client and easy way to estimate the cost of hiring you for future work.
Bold the total- Make the total easy for your client to find so you can get paid quicker.
Cite your terms- Hopefully, these won't be a surprise to your clients, as terms are supposed to be discussed ahead of time. Gently remind your client by adding a one-two sentence blurb to whatever your agreed to under the total due.
Proofread- Then proofread again! Now is not the time to relax and space out. Do it after your invoice is turned in to your client. Make sure your invoice is as perfect and as flawless as your project.
Get paid- Celebrate your success!
Build an Online Portfolio
One thing a client looks for in a potential freelancer is the ability to deliver. If you are new to freelancing, there's a big change that you will lose out on projects to a more experienced freelancer. After all, clients are spending a lot of money on their projects and they want every penny to count.
Occasionally, a prospective client doesn't just choose the most experienced freelancer, but instead spends the time to review portfolios of rising stars who might offer to work at a bit of a lower rate as they are new to freelancing. This is when you have a chance to convince the client that you are worth a try.
Here are some of the websites where you can list your services:
1. Toptal is for mostly expert freelancers who are engineers. Their clients are bigger companies, such as Udemy, Airbnb, Zendesk, and Gucci.
2. Freelancer is for freelancers to bid on clients' projects. There are a different variety of jobs on there from web design to virtual assistance.
3. Guru is similar to freelancer.com where you can post your listing up and they have a variety of services.
4. College Recruiter is mostly for college and university students to find freelancing gigs to jumpstart their career.
5. Cloud Peeps is a freelance marketplace for top marketing talent.
Spread the Word and Market Yourself
Marketing plays an important role when it comes to landing a gig. You need to make yourself known in places where you are likely to find potential clients. You could meet clients both online and offline and you need to have a marketing strategy for both.
When meeting a potential client in person, maintain a casual and friendly tone. A potential client is more likely to hire you if you can connect with him or her personally, so avoid being too formal. Yes, some etiquettes you learn in business school might be outdated, especially in San Francisco. This is 2017!
If the person doesn't seem interested in working with you right now, transition the conversation into more of a personal chat. Get to know them better and build a good, friendly relationship. Be sure to follow up later and keep him or her in the loop. Who knows? Maybe s/he will need your services in the future!
You are filled with determination and drive, but your proposals aren't getting any response. Don't think of it as something bad; be patient. Sometimes, you need a day or a week to get your first response. Sometimes, it takes up to three weeks and you never know. Based on personal experience, the probability of getting a response is about 15% on average. I got my first contract within a week, and the second within a month. From there on, it gets much better and if you perform well with your first client, s/he will spread the word about your services.
Don't Set Your Rate Too Low
Know your value and be confident during negotiations. If the client asks for a discount the first time they hire you, consider it. You can offer to complete a paid test gig or offer a discount of up to 15%. But it should be more of an exception or a compromise.
Don't Try to Sound Smart
Successful freelancers know the solutions the client is looking for. Tell your clients in easy way to understand how your services will offer to them. If you are a copywriter, you don't win clients by telling them how you can craft organic SEO rich conent. A great copywriter will win clients by telling them how the articles s/he write for them will result in more email subscribers. Focus on the end result, not fancy jargons.
Offer Some Friendly Free Advice, with No Expectations
Sometimes, it is difficult to know who to trust. You will surprise and delight the prospect if you offer a little friendly advice for free. Sometime that they can do to improve their business right away without anyone's help.
You will instantly build rapport and trust, not just because you are showing that you care and that you have done your research- but you are also demonstrating your expertise. This means you will be well on your way to building a solid working relationship with them.
Follow the advice above and you will be sure to get your first client.
Check out our other blog:
Coworking Space: Freelancer's Adrenaline
The gig economy is starting to be popular around the world. There are more and more freelancers in the world as it presents a choice for them to be their own boss, pick their own schedule, and do their own thing. Freelancers don’t have to answer to anyone except maybe their clients and they even have a choice to pick the clients that they work with so they can avoid clients from hell.
It is no surprise that freelancers love coworking spaces because it gives them the feeling of freedom that they crave. This is the reason we have outlined the 5 reasons why coworking space is great for freelancers
Coworking space provides incredible networking opportunities for freelancers as they get the chance to meet with different people from different fields that can help boost their careers. The relationships that are made at coworking space can also lead to referrals because there is a great chance that a partner or another freelancer in the same building as you would refer you to someone needs the services that you are great at.
2. Schedule Freedom
A lot of coworking spaces are open 24 hours a day so freelancers don’t have to alter your work schedule to fit in. The flexible time frame gives freelancer the room to work when they are the most productive.
3. Eliminating Hassle
Coworking not only helps freelancers enjoy full comfort at work. It also helps them work more effectively because the right things are in place to ensure that their work is not affected in any way. Furniture, wifi, coffee, and whatever they need are already set up in coworking spaces. Treehouse Society has unique lounging areas, professional conference rooms, bottomless coffee, printing, and whatever a freelancer needs to complete his/her workday.
4. Killing Loneliness
Since there are other people at a coworking space, there is probably someone you could talk to about anything. From random chitchat to professional how tos, a coworking space is a perfect place to be for those who have been working from home alone. At Treehouse Society, you could also play foosball with your coworking buddy.
5. Work On A Budget
There are sometimes when you will need to have a board meeting with some investors or companies that you are trying to pitch to and you need a conference room to make it more official. You can count on Treehouse Society to provide this for you without any issue whatsoever.
The world is slowly shifting to a gig system. There are a lot more freelancers now than ever with internet and technology advancement. Coworking spaces such as Treehouse Society are here to help the world to adapt to the shift of more freelancers and to assist them in their work life.
There are so many amazing things that we can achieve as humans when we put how ideas together and there is no better place to do this than a coworking space where there are all kinds of creative people under one roof.
Coworking spaces are often made up people from different works of life with different ideas on how things should be done and this gives everyone involved a different opinion on their ideas that can help in making it better.
It is no longer fashionable to create products that only people from a particular region can have access to because the whole world is now connected. In order to succeed at building a product, you will definitely need opinion from others and there is nothing better than getting opinion from people who are related to the region of the world of your customers or have specialty in user experience. Coworking space would allow you to do that.
When you interact with people from different backgrounds, it opens your mind to new ways that can be applied to make any idea that you are working on a lot better. Because now you have a new understanding of how people will relate with what you are dishing out with your team. There is also a scientific study on how diversity can make you smarter!
Working with different people even when they are in a different field can help your creative juice go sky-high because you would be met with people who see your product or services from a different perspective and they can poke holes in what you think is a great idea. So you would be better off at the end of the day because their feedback will help you get better.
Furthermore, when you are in a room with other creative people, you will inevitably become motivated to do better because you can see others around you getting better and making new discoveries. So you will most likely want to do the same and you have people that you can rely on to help you make achieve that goal that you seek.
When people come together in a working environment, they bring diverse ideas, opinions, and perspectives that you wouldn’t get when you work alone or conventional look out for yourself office setting. People who are different from one another in race, gender and other dimensions bring unique information and experiences to bear on the task at hand. For example; a software engineer of different gender would definitely have a different perspective on how it should be and once they can collaborate, they would create a product that they could be well accepted by both sexes.
Coworking spaces are open to different people with no restrictions and this provides workers with you with a more wholesome view of how things work and it is more or less like traveling the world right in the office premises. That’s a lot cheaper than getting on the plane.