Being a freelancer requires a great deal of management to keep your business running and making money. Also, to ensure a continuous flow of clients, you need to advertise your services, answer inquiries, and follow up on previous potential clients. Once you’ve got some work done, you have to keep up with meetings, emails, and eventually, there’s still the issue of bills.
Each of these administrative tasks can sometimes take up the entire day leaving you no time for your actual paid work. However, by using various automation tools, you can save time, avoid errors, and reduce the stress of running a freelance business.
1. Mention: listen and study your audience
Social media plays a huge role in advertising your freelance services and reaching new clients. There are many tools to help you schedule your social media posts, and they even allow you to automatically republish or organize posts from other sources.
But before you start scheduling on your social networks, you need to know what you have to post to attract new customers. The best way to do this is by using a social listening tool that helps you study your area of expertise and your competitors.
The free version of Mention lets you set up a single alert that tracks news websites, blogs, forums, and social networks. This alert can track mentions of your brand, look at your competitors, or search for specific keywords related to your industry.
Instead of signing up for various newsletters and constantly searching the web, you can learn about trends in your field all in one place. The website’s free plan also lets you schedule posts to three social platforms—further automating that task.
2. Calendly: book meetings easily
Meetings are an important part of gaining new clients, as well as managing ongoing projects. In the beginning, when a client is not sure that your services are exactly what they need, a short introductory meeting can help seal the deal. In retrospect, meetings are a great way to resolve misunderstandings and align expectations.
However, scheduling meetings can become a time-consuming chore. Ensuring everyone is available at the same time, especially in different time zones, can result in endless emails being sent and received. There are many apps that handle meeting scheduling, but our favorite is Calendly.
The free version offers integration with your Google Calendar or other popular calendars, allowing you to share your presence without making your personal schedule public.
You simply send your Calendly link to whoever you want to meet, and they’ll pick from the times you specify as available — they also appear in their local time zone. The event will then appear on everyone’s calendar.
The app integrates with online conferencing apps like Zoom and Microsoft Teams, saving you the trouble of creating a link for each meeting. It also sends reminder emails before appointments, to make sure everyone arrives on time. If you have a personal website, you can add it there as well.
3. Gmail Forms Filters: Create Quick Responses
Emails are another time-consuming medium — from potential customers asking about your service to existing customers looking for a status report. A lot of these emails are just as redundant. Fortunately, if you use Gmail, there is not only a way to create forms, but also a way to send some automatically using filters.
First, you need to enable forms in your advanced settings. Next, create a new email to answer all the frequently asked questions. Instead of saving it as a draft, choose Save draft as template Instead of that. If this is something you’ll be submitting manually, you can leave spaces to quickly add details like a name, price estimate, and more.
To automatically submit an email form, you need to create new filters. Choose the keywords most relevant to this query, and in the filter actions select Submit form.
For example, the key phrase could be “how much”, so you will have a pre-written email detailing the packages and services you offer.
4. Zoho Invoice: Don’t look for any other invoice
While some freelancers choose to manage their fees on an Excel sheet and use a standard invoice form, there is a much easier and more structured way to make money, with a variety of invoicing apps. Our favorite option is Zoho Invoice, which has so many features in its free plan that you may never need to pay for the service.
You can create an invoice form with all your bank details and terms and conditions for use with any customer. You can also create regular tasks at a set rate, which saves you time entering these details each time you issue a new invoice.
Once you’re ready to send the invoice, the app also provides an email template, which you can edit if you need to. If you choose to connect Zoho to an online payment system (such as PayPal), it updates the invoice status and sends a thank you note when payment is received. This will ensure that you know which accounts you need to follow.
But even keeping up is easier with Zoho, where you can set a number of automatic reminders for unpaid bills, saving you the headache of chasing them down. The app also lets you track time for customers where you’re calculating hourly charges, and then generate an invoice from those details. You can even set recurring invoices for specific price projects.
5. Zapier: Automate everything else
In all of the above apps, we’ve discussed integrations—how one app can connect to another to create more automation. But what happens when you want to link two apps that don’t have a built-in integration? The magical Zapier app comes along.
It would take an entire article to talk about the different options available within Zapier. In short, the app helps you create workflows that include almost everything online that you can “set and forget”. Learn the features of the free Zapier plan: what you get and what you don’t.
For example, you can share your new Twitter mentions on Slack. Or you can send email follow-ups to new Typeform responders. You can even get new Facebook messages as SMS messages.
The possibilities are endless, and with the free version of Zapier, you can create up to 100 tasks per month. This is more than enough to automate a series of actions, but you may find yourself addicted to not interfering with the running of your freelance business.
What options do you need to automate?
There are plenty of automation tools out there, especially if you’re willing to pay a monthly fee. These apps can make your freelance life a lot easier, but just because something can be automated, it doesn’t always mean it has to be.
Especially in a freelance business, a personal touch can go a long way. Clients who turn to freelance workers for help are usually looking to build a working relationship — one reason they wouldn’t choose a large agency or company.
Tasks such as first contact emails, scheduling meetings, and updating papers can be automated. However, it is important to invest more time to prove to the client that you want to get to know them and that you care about their work. That extra effort will keep him coming back for more.