12 Simple Ways to Grow Your Freelance Business through Automation
What would an extra hour a day mean for you as you try to grow your freelance business?
Being able to get another client onboard?
How about learning a new skill to expand your services?
Perhaps being able to spend more time with your partner or kids?
Whatever your answer may be, one thing is for sure: your freelance business can scale if you just had a little bit more time to do other things.
But I know how this is easier said than done.
Starting a freelance career sure has its benefits. That’s why more and more people are making that shift. In fact, the freelance workforce population is rising so much that it’s estimated that there’ll be 24 million people working as freelancers in 2018.
That’s not to say it’s not without its challenges. You must have an understanding of your definition of success and pursue Exponential Living to live your life with purpose.
The biggest challenge I’ve personally dealt with when trying to live out is time management because it requires giving up control. Most freelancers are a one-man (or woman) band. That means you’re responsible for reaching out to clients, pitching to them, doing the follow-ups, create the contracts, send out the invoices, monitor your expenses, paying your bills, and filing your taxes. Let’s not forget all the other responsibilities you have at home.
Just listing all these things down can leave you feeling overwhelmed. Yet, there are lots of successful freelancers out there catering to several clients at a time, provide them with quality service, and able to maintain a healthy work and life balance.
So, how do they do it?
I asked this question to some successful entrepreneurs I know. They all said the same thing: automate your business.
Ben Richardson, Director of Acuity Training, said it best: “If you take a look at all the different tasks you need to do in a single day, you’ll be surprised on how many of them take a lot of your time that are repetitive. You find a way to make these tasks run on automatic pilot, and you’ll be able to do more and get that work and life balance you want to achieve.”
That said, here are 12 of the different tasks you usually do in your freelance business that you can either simplify or automate.
This is one of the most critical tasks you need to do each day. No clients mean no income for a freelancer.
Ariel Chiu, Principal Planner of Wonderstruck Weddings, suggests that instead of looking for clients, have the clients come to you.
How do you do this? By setting up a Hire Me page.
“Putting all of the different services you offer along with answers to the most common questions you’re asked means that you don’t need to have to explain the same things over and over with each prospect that comes knocking,” she explains.
If you don’t have a website, you can create one using Google Forms. This is a free form creator that’s easy to set up and comes with several different templates to help you get started. The information that’s collected is automatically transferred to a Google Sheet that you can download as a CSV to save into your email database.
Setting up meetings with prospective clients can be very tedious. Often, you need to send several emails back and forth just to agree on a day and time.
Marc Yonker, the Managing Partner of Winters & Yonker, P. A., explained that you can save a lot of time and effort by using a scheduling tool like Calendly.
Instead of letting prospective clients decide the best day and time to talk, you give them a list of the days and times when you’re available to meet. They then choose the schedule that best suits theirs. Once they do that, you get notified of the schedule via email.
What’s great about using a tool like Calendly is that it prevents you from double-booking clients on a particular day and time. Once a schedule is booked, Calendly automatically updates itself so that it will only show the days and times that you’re available. At the same time, it also allows you to set a buffer in between meetings. That way, you don’t have to worry about being late for the next meeting, especially if you’re meeting with them face-to-face.
Following-up with clients
“Whether you’re trying to close a sale or get a client to buy into your services, email drip campaigns are the most efficient way to do this,” Adam Steele, Founder of Loganix Citation Building, explains.
I personally use MailShake to create my email drip campaigns. It’s a very straightforward tool that lets you upload a list of the clients you want to reach to in CSV format.
For the content of the emails and follow-up emails, you can choose to tweak one of the many templates it has in its library. You can also create your own message and save it as a template.
MailShake allows you also to block off certain days like weekends and holidays. That way, you can be sure that your email doesn’t get buried under other emails your client received.
Most of the tasks you do on a daily basis are repetitive tasks that can quickly take up most of your time. By the time you’re done with all of these small jobs, the day is almost over, and you haven’t even started on the major ones you need to finish. I’ve been there, so I know how frustrating that can be.
These days, I “delegate” these tasks to an app called Zapier. It’s a tool that essentially lets different apps and platforms automatically work together to complete a specific task.
In addition to choosing from different pre-made tasks (called “zaps”), you can create your own to fit what you need. What’s really neat about this is that you can program multiple steps in one zap.
For example, when I get the approval from a client for an outline in my Gmail, Zapier then tells Gmail to store the attachment into my Google Drive, create a task for it in Asana, and create a reminder for the deadline in Google Calendar.
Paying your bills
Getting behind on your payments is one of the last things you’d want to happen for your freelance business. Not only do you have to pay late fees, but also risk some of the services vital to your business getting cut.
Setting up payments to be automatically debited is the best way to make sure that all your bills get paid on time. I follow Ramit Seth money automation strategy that I discovered a while ago on Time Ferriss blog.
First I dedicate one credit card for making payments for my freelance business. That way, I can be sure that there are enough funds there for all the fees to go through without a hitch.
If you can’t afford to hire an accountant at this point, using an accounting software is an efficient way to make sure you get paid on time while managing your expenses.
Ben Dronkers, Founder of Sensi Seeds, recommends using FreshBooks for this. “It does an excellent job of automating many of your accounting tasks like sending recurring invoices and organizing expenses. It also has a time tracker that logs your work time if you’re paid by the hour, and easily convert the time logs into an invoice,” he explains.
The best part about this is that it has its own mobile app, so you can send out an invoice or update your expenses while you’re on the go.
Social media marketing
Staying active on social media can help you find clients. But if you’re not careful, it can quickly turn into a huge time waster.
Instead of directly checking and updating my different social media profiles one by one, I use a eClincher for social media automation. This tool lets me schedule posts in advance for all my social media profiles, which I do weekly.
eClincher also allows me to monitor my brand’s reputation and that of my clients’ online. I can also quickly generate reports here that I can use when I meet with my clients for an update or use this as part of my portfolio when meeting with new prospects.
Segmenting and filtering emails
“As the number of clients you serve increases, it can be quite challenging to keep track of important emails coming from each client,” Mark Leman, Marketing Director of Blinds UK, explains. “You need to come up with a way how you can group these messages together as they arrive in your inbox. Otherwise, you can easily get overwhelmed with overlapping tasks and deadlines.”
Some freelancers use Gmail filter message feature. Although it does a good job filtering messages, it doesn’t do much when it comes to segmenting emails.
One tool I found that’s promising is Postbox. Aside from filtering your email to make sure that junk mail stays out, Postbox allows you to segregate your emails so that you can keep track of the conversation you have with a specific client. It also lets you browse through previously sent file attachments right on the compose message when you need to resend it. No more having to waste time searching for it on your desktop or through your different emails.
Using canned responses
It’s not just tasks that are repetitive. In some cases, even the messages you send is also repeated over and over.
Aaron Haynes, the founder of Fenix Pro, recommends using a tool like TextExpander to deal with these kinds of situations.
“It’s more efficient than saving a list of canned responses in your inbox,” he said. “For example, if I scheduled a meeting with my team on Skype, I can send the exact same message to them to their email, and on their Skype whether I’m on my laptop or on my mobile phone. It also works very well if I’m sending a relatively long or complicated URL to my clients and team members.”
Collecting topics and content ideas
Don’t you just hate it when you suddenly get a brilliant idea for an article, and then lose it just when you’re able to write it down? I’ve had my fair share of that, which is why I started using Evernote to collect my ideas and topics for my content.
Evernote is that it allows me to dictate my notes as I brainstorm. What’s neat about this is that it types it out for you as you dictate it. I find this incredibly efficient because it’s much faster than typing it.
Another feature I like about Evernote is that I can store articles worth referencing to my articles and blog posts either via email or through its browser extension.
And since it syncs with all my devices, I can quickly collect ideas and store it here while I’m on the go.
Of course, this isn’t the only thing that you can do with Evernote. In fact, it’s incredibly flexible that you can use it for a host of other tasks. Productivity expert and Evernote enthusiast Steve Dotto created an entire webinar on the different features of Evernote. If you want to learn more about this tool, it’s worth checking out.
If you have a website, it should be more than just your working portfolio. It should be able to help you generate leads that you can eventually turn into clients.
One tool you can use for this is HubSpot’s Marketing CRM. This free (that’s right, it’s free!) tool integrates with WordPress. What makes this different from most email
marketing providers is that it not only collects the contact details of those that email you on your site’s Contact or Hire Me page but also groups all future conversations you have with them. That way, you can determine which ones you should continue to pursue, and which ones to put on the shelf.
It’s important to make sure that you’re keeping track of each of the different tasks for your different clients to make sure that your deliverables are on time.
The one that I found that works best for me is Asana. This project management tool is very flexible and robust concerning its features. I can create projects for each of my clients here, and color-code them so that it’s easier for me to find.
What I really like about Asana is that I specify not only the due date but also the start date for each of the tasks. This helps me plan out my schedule more efficiently throughout the day to make sure that I get everything done.
Automating various tasks in your freelance business like these can easily shave off hours from your work time. At the same time, it helps increase your productivity because you’re now able to focus on the areas of your life that really matter.
The tools I mentioned here are just a few of the many apps and programs you can use to automate your tasks. If you’re using one that’s worth mentioning, but not on this list, be sure to share it in the comments below.
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