How To Start & Grow Your Business

5 Sales Tools Freelancers Should Be Using, Too

Christy Delehanty
Jan 13th, 2015
  • Estimated reading time: 5 min read
  • Hummy's

    1A CRM is a sortable rolodex "slapped up on a screen". 2Screensharing apps and read receipts aid collaboration. 3E-signing and invoicing software keep things moving.
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Sales Tools

Unshaven man smirking with dollar signs on chalkboard.

Sad but true: freelancing isn’t all creativity and rainbows. You’ve got to be a little bit business-minded too. You’ve got to keep your work life in order, and maybe even hustle a little when the time comes.

In big — or even small — companies, where dividing up duties is the norm, sales teams tend to rack up the apps that help bring in business. They’re the keepers of the customer information logs, email analytics apps, and follow-up timelines — the family of tracking tools my hairstylist recently called “spy stuff.”

Funny, sure, but it’s also pretty accurate. For better or worse, sales teams are well equipped with tools that put a significant amount of information right at their fingertips. Do you dismiss out of hand some crucial business practices simply because you don’t think of yourself as a “sales person?”

Newsflash! If you’re freelancing you are your own sales team. You’re a whole lot more than a designer, writer, or killer consultant. You’re about 10 itty bitty departments all wrapped into one. And you’re going to need the tools it takes to get all those jobs done.

These tried and true sales tools are best known for helping sales teams communicate better and close more deals. But why should they get all the help? Think of these traditionally sales-centric tools as a few simple ways to give your business game a boost so you can get back to the work you love faster than ever before.

1. A beginner CRM like Base to keep track of both casual connections and clients.
If you’ve spent any time around sales teams, you’ve probably heard them gush about customer relationship management tools or CRMs. To hear them talk, you’d swear CRMs were magic. In fact, the idea behind CRMs is about as simple as it gets. Think of an old-school rolodex, one where you keep a scribbly log of notes about a client on the back of each card. Nowadays, this record is slapped up on a screen and made beautiful, sortable, and seamless.

For sales teams, CRMs are an eloquent way to keep track of leads; their goal is to (a) add as many new contacts as possible and (b) close a deal with each and every one. For freelancers, a CRM can be a little more casual, which is why the inexpensive, light sort works so well.

Think of it as a stack of flashcards — one for each connection or client. Maybe your client introduced you to her coworker at a party and mentioned an upcoming project. Throw that in there! Same for any potential clients you might want to follow up with and any current clients for whom a record of interactions might prove useful down the road.

2. A read receipt program like Yesware to see who got your message and when.
Has your client looked at your latest revision? Who on your client’s team is likely to have questions about which section? Email intelligence tools give you insight into what happens after you hit send on an important email.

In outreach to prospects, sales teams use these tools to target top decision-makers and prepare the best possible type of follow up. You can use it in much the same way most of the time, picking up on cues from potential clients to hone your follow-up process and score that gig.

But you can take it one step further, too. Since you’re the one doing the actual work on a project once a client accepts the quote, you can keep using email intelligence to gauge the pace of a project once it starts. This information can help you prioritize your workload and juggle multiple projects as effectively as possible.

3. A screenshare app like to talk projects through with clients.
Nothing can ever quite replace an in-person meeting; even when virtual is your only option, Skype doesn’t always do the trick.

There’s good reason for that. Try this: Picture yourself in an in-person meeting with a client. Notice where the two of you are looking. Chances are you’re not sitting across the table, eyes on each other. More likely your gaze is trained on the table, screen, or whiteboard as you sit side by side reviewing a draft, sketching out ideas, or looking at a timeline.

If this is the type of work your meetings require of you, take note! A screensharing app — the likes of which sales teams often use to demo products — can work wonders on your virtual, collaborative meeting process.

4. An e-signing solution like PandaDoc to manage the proposal and contract process.
Proposals and quotes may be the most important of all your client interactions. It’s the moment of truth, the point at which a connection becomes a client and your prep work begins to pay off… or not.

Don’t let a messy string of back-and-forths stall your gig or slow you down. (As any sales pro will tell you, it’s little more than time that kills almost all deals.) Find an all-online signing solution to keep your paperwork accessible from anywhere and easy as pie to complete. When it’s easy to comment and sign (and anything is easier than that print/sign/scan dance), clients sign faster, you get to work sooner, and everyone walks away happier.

5. An invoicing tool like FreshBooks to help you keep your finances in order.
Here’s a business maintenance aspect you truly can’t afford to forget about. Losing track of invoices and expenses means quite literally losing money.

There are plenty of tools out there to help you track your expenditures, send invoices, ping reminders, and collect payments. When you wrap them all into one, you get an indispensable tool that helps you be the buttoned-up, money minded business pro you never thought you’d need to be.

This article was written by Christy Delehanty, Content Lead at PandaDoc, and published on the oDesk blog.

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