Time is money. This is no surprise to you — as a freelancer, you’re painfully aware of every minute lost that could be generating cash. On the flip side, you know every productive moment is a positive dollar in the bank.
To rake in more high-paying gigs, time efficiency is a must. One of the best ways to tighten your systems and spend less time on administrative tasks is to automate them. The term “automation” is a buzzword often applied to bigger brands, so it’s important you nab the best automation tools for freelancers specifically. Here are the best picks for streamlining your systems and processes:
Social Media Marketing
Creatives love to create. Marketing, however, is a pain. Hootsuite can automate your social media posts, so you don’t need to take breaks when you’re in the creative zone. Simply set aside a few minutes at the start of each week or month to plug content into the free scheduler. Include photos, kudos, videos, links, witticisms and advice. Then, get to work on projects with a more immediate effect on your cash flow.
According to the nonprofit Freelancers Union, of the freelancers today, 53 percent agree that a diverse portfolio of clients is more stable than one employer. Referrals are, hands down, the best source for quality leads. To get more of them, consider automating with Referral Rock. While pricey, this super smart tool uses the power of your own network to corral your next high-paying client. The software spurs commendations by offering colleagues incentives to tell the world how awesome your work is and how much value you bring to a project. Receive the benefits of a shining, organic referral without becoming that person who constantly asks friends for favors.
Vetting Potential Clients
A good client can make or break your business. That’s why it’s important you gather key information when someone visits your site and wants to get in touch, specifically about the kind of work they need done. If your site is on WordPress, check out Gravity Forms for building drag-and-drop forms. You can also use SurveyMonkey to run an online questionnaire called Wufoo, which reports data back to you in real time.
Sometimes, you need to close your email program to focus. Don’t run the risk of getting a “perfect” client inquiry and not seeing it or responding for a few hours while you roll out client work. Instead, automate. Draft a response and use Gmail’s Mail Merge add-on to ensure your prospects — who, by the way, just filled out your automated online form — receive a quick, customized reply explaining what to expect next in the process. A quick video tutorial is all you need to automate this step of your work flow.
Client Onboarding Processes
Emailing back and forth is tedious, especially if you’re trying to phrase your capabilities perfectly. Streamline this process with these time-saving automation tools for freelancers and their potential clients who enter the intake funnel:
- Yesware for Outlook or Gmail. Manage a few templates: one for rerouting clients to other consultants, one for putting a project on hold and one for requesting more information from a client, to name a few possibilities. Yesware then shows you what happens next. Who opened your message? Which links did they click?
- Calendly. When it’s time to schedule a discovery call or bagel drop, don’t do the “what-time-works-best-for-you?” dance. Instead, charm your client with a few options from Calendly. Especially effective when two or more people are involved, this tool cuts the back and forth to efficiently maximize your time.
- Slack. Ditch the email and phone calls in lieu of an ongoing collaborative conversation with everyone involved. Slack is an online “room,” where no one feels obligated to speak up, but everyone feels free to. Think of it as a collaborative work space, but online (so, you know, emoticons).
Research is part of almost every freelance service, and outsourcing the work to a virtual assistant can cost you money and, ironically, time. Toy around with the Ultimate Research Assistant, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised. While other automation tools for freelancers come with a learning curve, this one saves you time starting now.
Yes, it will require your energy to adopt one, two or all of these tools, but depending on how much time you spend on each task, you’ll quickly see a return on your investment. In fact, automating frees you up to create, so your business can build itself automatically.