Once you’ve landed your new client, it’s important to have your systems and structure in place to service them effectively. My favorite saying is “it takes years to win a client, it takes seconds to lose them.” I remind myself of this daily and thrilled each time we have a successful project launch.
It also takes a lot of work to stay on top of your game and service your clients as you grow. There are new business opportunities, marketing campaigns, project management, industry trends and maintaining your company's financial health.
This may feel like a lot, but there are tools I’ve learned over the years to help structure and automate my daily routine. It has allowed me to stay on top of the important tasks and pass other key tasks to others.
I hope this list below helps spark a few ideas to help you grow your own business and manage along the way.
It can be difficult starting out to make a name for yourself, build relationships and find the right clients. If you’re just starting out or already have a business, there are great resources for finding clients and building your a name for yourself.
Creative Staffing agencies are a great way to build a relationships and find work that inspires you. They have the contacts and know the right people within the top companies. If you have the right skill set and experience for the job, they will work hard to land that great contact for you. It’s like having a sales team dedicated to you!
UpWork (formerly Odesk). I’ve used this for both finding talented designers and developers to handle my projects and sourcing new work. As you grow your business, I highly recommend using them to staff your projects. Starting out, it’s a great way to find project listings, showcase your work and ultimately land the job.
LinkedIn. A little research and finding the right connections can go a long way to your next account. Treat this process just like you would with any new job prospect. Stay organized on the potential leads with an affordable CRM tool (Nimble, Nutshell or Zoho CRM). You’ll not only be forging new relationships but most likely finding that next exciting project. Some of my favorite long term clients have come from this process.
There is nothing worse than missing a deadline or dropping the ball on an important piece to a project. Thankfully I’ve utilized some great project management tools over the years.
Time is everything when you’re billing by the hour. It’s essential to get it right and accurate. To handle my time tracking, I recommend Harvest. I’ve used several methods over the years to track time, but Harvest is the easiest and most efficient way to manage my time. It also integrates with my project management and financial software.
Tracking hours is only part of the process, I also need to manage my day-to-day tasks and projects. I’ve tried everything from Trello to Basecamp and Microsoft Project. They all have their strengths, but Asana is my tool of choice for managing my projects. I can track project details from beginning to end and delegate responsibilities to others. I can also remove unnecessary email threads by utilizing the built-in conversation tools. Plus, it’s free for teams up to 15 and affordable as you grow.
One of the first items I offloaded when I began to grow was hiring a bookkeeper and accountant. This was an eye-opening experience for me and allowed me to focus on important tasks for the day. I also freed me from the minutia of reconciling, expense reports and tax guidelines. To do this, I use Quickbooks Online. It’s invaluable and has grown beyond the days of being tied to my computer and no visibility when I was on the road. Now it’s all online and available to me via computer, phone or tablet. I know my cashflow at any moment, view outstanding invoices and projected monthly income. I can’t live without my bookkeeper or Quickbooks.
NOTE: Be careful who you choose as your bookkeeper and accountant. There is a great deal of trust involved, so ask around. Also, be sure to understand all the upfront and continued monthly costs (if there are any). When you’re starting up, your cash flow is everything. The last thing you need is unexpected bills for basic business functions. Know your costs!
Within any career and continued growth, you need to keep up with current trends, insights, and industry evolution. I’ve come a long way from the days of designing at Disney and I’m amazed at where I started and what I’ve learned over the years. It never stops, just keep at it and always stay curious. Here are a few tools I use to keep engaged within your industry and advancements in software.
This is my go-to for reading just about everything that interest me. I can set specific boards to follow and also follow individuals or companies that peak my curiosity. It’s also a great way to save “read later” articles and other stories that help with business growth.
This is a great way to automate articles that are relevant to industries, competitors or interests you have. You can also measure articles that are performing over time and use for your own future keyword optimization.
Continued learning is key. There’s always a new software platform or upgrade to learn along with just understanding new business trends.
Lynda.com (recently acquired by LinkedIn) has been my favorite for years. I started with her books long before she had an online presence. Her ability to break down learning software has allowed me to learn key applications in short order (sometimes even just a weekend). They cover everything from software to business 101 and everything between. If you’re looking to add to your arsenal of knowledge, this is the place to start.
Udemy.com is another great place to learn and continue to grow. There are endless courses available and most are pretty affordable. Just make sure you look at the ratings and how many have taken the classes. I’ve made the mistake a few times purchasing a class that definitely wasn’t worth the cost.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the endless options available. I recommend setting a goal and charting the steps you need to take to achieve those goals. Then do the research on the classes available and make your selections. Just taking 30 minutes a day will compound over time to amazing results. It’s pretty addictive.
Backup with Backblaze
As my company grew and I continued to close out important projects, I began asking myself “what happens if everything crashes?” Even though I have a backup drive, what happens if the backup drive breaks? I would lose years of work.
Backblaze is one of the most affordable and flexible online backup solutions I’ve found. For only $5/month they backup my computer and many backup drives. It’s also come in handy when I’m on the road and away from my backup drive. I can log in, find the file I’m searching for and download it (it’s saved me countless times).
I currently use both. Simply because most people are familiar with Dropbox. Google Drive is becoming my go-to for managing most of my documents and sharing files. They both work great and offer similar functionality. However, the ability to share, manage and edit my documents within Google Drive is a big plus.
Automate just about anything with Zapier
I can’t say enough about Zapier. The automation triggers allow me to connect my sales with Stripe and PayPal. I am also able to automate my email communication with customers and subscribers. As soon as I realize a repetitive process in my daily life, I immediately ask how Zapier can handle it for me.
I encourage you to give this one a test run. It’s astounding the tasks I've removed from my daily life using this platform.
What other tools do you use within your daily life? How do you manage new business relationships?