Sometimes the hardest part of freelancing isn’t the actual work.
Often it‘s the other stuff.
Hustling for contracts (of course). Digging deep to uncover what a project or brief is really about (many times). Keeping track of who said what, when, and on which platform (probably the most time-consuming).
I could go on, but you probably get the idea. Anyway, here’s the thing. Among all that other stuff I mentioned, there’s one constant theme. The need for clear communication – with your customers, partners, and prospects. Otherwise how else would you know how things are going, and how else can you manage your business relationships?
In theory, communication is pretty simple: Talk and listen.
In practice, communication can get pretty complicated. And not just because it’s hard to know when to talk and when to listen. Let me explain…
Covid-19: The digital transformation enabler
I‘ve worked on many projects encouraging big companies to digitally transform. So much copy, all those ebooks, plus plenty of white papers – and then Covid-19 came along. It did a better job that I or anybody else could have done to persuade companies to use virtual platforms and new tech – in a fraction of the time.
Of course, it’s also meant that communication can be a real challenge. Here’s why.
If you’re a freelancer, you’ve probably got different clients using different platforms to collaborate. Perhaps some using a combination of more than one. They’re all great in their own way. They definitely deserve a medal for ending messy reply-all email conversations.
These tools also make it possible to collaborate across borders. So for freelancers, and pretty much any small business wanting to work globally, the challenge is in finding a way to make it all work – end-to-end.
Particularly when you’re involved in ongoing projects, where you have to set and manage expectations and start things off in the right way. It’s exciting to have all these systems, but can mean it’s easy to lose track of threads, especially across time zones and with different cultures. Freelancers may be used to working online, especially in digital, but many people are still used to doing business face to face (or face-mask to face-mask).
Happily, there is a solution. A way to keep track of communication, build customer relationships without you having to search your files and folders, meaning you can claw back some of your valuable time.
Freelancers, I’m talking about a CRM.
Hang on, you might be thinking. CRMs are for big corporates. CRMS are for teams of marketers and analysts. They’re clunky, expensive, and often one-size-fits-all. Right?
Well, some CRMs definitely are.
However, I’ve started using one that is different. That‘s because it’s developed for freelancers and small teams. And it’s ideal for the sort of environment where you can – and should – move fast and break things.
Perhaps by now you can guess I’m talking about… Mailbutler.
I was attracted to Mailbutler for several reasons. For one thing, it’s budget-friendly. Try working out how much time you spend each month on managing customer relationships manually. Checking meetings, going over old messages, seeing who to follow-up with, trying to remember who said what in the last meeting.
Once you add up all the hours involved in doing that, bill yourself for that time. Then test out Mailbutler for a month, and do the calculation again. Believe me, that’s a lot of potential savings right there.
Sure, at first you’ll spend a bit of time learning about Mailbutler’s many features. But that’s like a one-off cost compared to how much time you’ll save afterwards.
For example, if you’re a freelancer who works from anywhere, you probably do plenty of communication using your phone. I don’t know about you, but I’m not a big fan of using a phone to find emails, manage folders, archive and restore – often when I just need to remember something about who I’m emailing.
That’s why it’s great having Mailbutler integrated inside your email, whether you’re on Apple Mail, Gmail, or Outlook. It solves the hassle of switching between email and CRM to check and keep records.
The inbox for your office
I’ve been writing professionally for over 10 years now, and for a long time, I figured that I’d just write to people and manage relationships all from my inbox. How difficult could it be? I would use my normal email inbox to organize everything. Every client had their own folder, and it was a system that worked fine – when I just had a couple of clients and projects were small and simple.
Then, I started taking on more clients. Bigger projects, with more partners. Suddenly tracking email threads and setting reminder follow-ups got a whole lot tougher. Bcc’ing myself on emails I was sending out soon turned my inbox into a battleground, with different emails all vying for my attention.
Now there are all manner of project management systems out there that help with communication. But when it comes to building business relationships, you need something else. A place where you can make notes about who you’re speaking to and what their needs are.
Mailbutler gives me all that, plus lots more features. Check out some examples below
The CRM for getting more freelance contracts
You’ve probably seen statements like, “It costs 7X more to attract a client compared to keeping a client“. I don’t know about that ratio, but I do know that emailing existing clients I haven’t heard from in a while is good business.
The thing is, your clients are busy. Naturally, you want to email when it’s convenient for them. Partly because you may want to send them something useful that they’ll have time to look at (rather than go straight in with a proposal). Also because it means they’re more likely to reply.
Here’s when it becomes difficult.
There are plenty of email case studies out there that say stuff like, “Don’t email on a Monday – people are catching up after the weekend.“ Or, “Don’t email on Friday, people are getting ready for the weekend.” Or, “Don’t email Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday as that’s when people do most of their work.”
I’ve done more AB tests than I can remember, and if there’s one thing I’ve learnt, it’s to ignore blogs that try to tell you when is best.
The only answer is to test with your audience. The thing is, if you’re running an AB test properly, you usually need thousands of people if you want to be sure of your results. I don’t know many freelancers with thousands of clients. Lucky you if you’re one of them.
This is where one of Mailbutler’s features becomes a game-changer. The Contacts feature gives you predictions of when is best to send emails. Even better, this is broken down for each one of my contacts, so I know when is best for Person A, Person B, etc. It also shows timescales between when a contact opens an email and when they reply. I do a lot of work on email campaigns, and configuring tests can get technical when you use some of the bigger platforms. However, when you just want to be told when is a good time to send to a particular person, Mailbutler makes it really easy for any freelancer, even without any technical know-how.
That’s an example of a feature that can have the biggest instant impact.
Combine that with Mailbutler’s CRM capabilities, for long-term growth, and you’ve got the best of both worlds.
See for yourself right now – for free: https://www.mailbutler.io/demo
Have you already checked out our latest blog post revealing how you can strengthen your customer relationships with Mailbutler? Go read it now! 🙂