For a long time in my business (maybe too long?), I wanted each and every client process to be unique. I chose to spend a lot of time writing out personalized responses to every potential client, and would often already be exhausted by the time I’d landed the client. Earlier this year I realized exactly how many hours I spend each week simply on emailing, and knew I needed to invest a little time and money in my client process.
Once I dove into how I could streamline and automate this process, I found a few things - a) it’s wayyy cheaper than I thought, and b) my clients LOVE working with these programs, mostly because they make things incredibly easy. There’s little to no learning curve, and my clients don’t need to sign up for their own accounts in these programs. I was worried that using multiple new programs in the client experience would complicate things, but it’s done quite the opposite.
To Get the Client: 17Hats
17Hats is a CMS (customer management system) created just for small/entrepreneurial businesses. There’s a lot of similar CMS systems (Dubsado and Honeybook being two of the most popular), but 17Hats ended up being the best fit for me. All of these CMS systems have a myriad of uses, but this is what I use 17Hats for the most:
Automating workflows. For example, I have a full workflow that seamlessly takes potential clients through the inquiry phase - after filling out a form on my website, 17Hats triggers a follow up email with a few more questions to ensure they’re a great fit. If it seems like they are, all I need to do is review and hit a quick “approve” before 17Hats sends another email to set up a phone meeting. Something that used to take me at least an hour to do now takes 5-10 minutes.
Invoicing, contracts and proposals all in one place. Instead of creating PDF invoices for clients who wanted to write me a check and sending others a PayPal or Stripe link, I can keep track of everything all in one place. Those check writing clients can easily print invoices and others can pay online - no excuse for lost invoices! You can also set up 17Hats to automatically send reminder emails when invoices are nearing their due date. Also, a client can quickly approve a proposal, sign a contract, and pay their invoice in one fell swoop - no more going back and forth with clunky PDFs each time you are landing a new client.
Client portals. 17Hats automatically creates a client-facing portal, where all of their invoices, questionnaires, etc. can live; it’s also a place where you can upload files (such as final deliverables). It’s amazing to give clients a single URL where they can always head to if they can’t find a file, or need to print out an invoice for any reason.
Want to check out 17Hats? You can take 10% off an annual plan by using this link!
Full disclosure: this is an affiliate link, and I get a little something if you sign up.
For Client Onboarding/Project Management: Asana
I’d heard people raving about Asana for years, and I’m kicking myself for exactly how long it took me to try it out. Asana is a free tool (there is also a paid version for larger teams) that is truly amazing for organizing both client experiences and your own business to-dos.
Above is a screenshot of my current Asana board. On the left, I’ve organized personal, business and client boards, all of which are displayed on this calendar view by due date. It’s a great way to eliminate a to-do list, and get a visual idea of what’s coming up next. You can also view each individual board on their own and as more of a checklist. For me, I love this as a central place where I can keep track of blog ideas or social media posts.
And the client experience is just as awesome. As soon as a client has signed off on a project, the first thing I do is built out and send over their Asana board. It can be viewed as a checklist (pictured above), or as a calendar, showing what is due when. This way, there’s never any confusion about what comes next - you also have the ability to assign each task, clearly setting boundaries about who is responsible for what task.
For Client Offboarding: Loom
Loom is one of those products I didn’t know I need until I found it. Loom is a video recorder that operates as a Google Chrome extension, and is amazing for recording and sending videos to clients. I personally use it when I’m sending over drafts of work to clients, and want to include a rationale of some of my design decisions (I personally prefer to do this via video instead of phone call, so they can check it out on their own time); as well as for offboarding. Especially with website clients, I’ve found videos to be the best way to communicate any final steps and walkthroughs of how to edit their site.
I also love Loom because it operates via Google Chrome extension - which means you just need to click one button in your browser to start recording. You can also upload it right to your general channel or a folder where you can store all your client’s videos. It’s incredibly easy, and eliminates the need to find a place to store those giant video files. And best of it - it’s totally free!
What do you guys things? Any favorite client tools you can’t live without?