Get Organized, Babes! All About Client Management Systems for Creatives
This post is not just for calligraphers! Whether you’re a florist, a photographer, an event planner, etc - basically any type of creative business entrepreneur - this post is for you!
Alright my dears, it’s time to get down to business! I decided to write this blog post because I get a lot of you lovely darlings coming to me when you have sticky situations with clients, and I see a lot of the same issues arising quite often. This inspired me to do a little poll on Instagram, asking the question: Do you have a system in place for sending out quotes/contracts/invoices and receiving payment? I wanted to know exactly how many girlbosses were out there winging it. The answer? A whopping 70% of those who answered said No. I practically spat out my wine when I saw those results! So if you fall into the group of business babes who do not currently use a Client Management System - please, honey, let me help you, by answering the questions you are probably thinking right now.
“What the EFF is a Client Management System?”
It is your personal saviour. Your new best friend. It is your virtual assistant, your bill collector, kind of even your lawyer, and your personal calendar all rolled into one. Or in less dreamy terms; A Client Management System is a program that you use to streamline your business - a single system that allows you to craft & deliver quotes, contracts and invoices. It also allows you - and this is my favourite feature, because I love making money - to be paid instantly with a credit card*. If you’re not using a system like this, I honestly can’t stress enough how much it will change your life, babe! Like, truly I don’t remember what I did before I discovered this magical business tool.
“Why do I need a Client Management System?”
Okay. So. God there are a lot of reasons. Let’s start with the most basic - and again, my favourite - making money. How many times have you waited for a cheque in the mail (ew) or had a client come to pick up their order and forget to bring you cash? How many times have you waited to be paid, because a stressed out bride has maxed out the amount she’s allowed to e-transfer because it’s the week before her wedding? When you have a Client Management System, getting paid is literally as simple as sending and receiving an email. You are able to send digital invoices that include a beautiful, magical little button at the bottom that says “Pay Now”. When your client clicks that (which they should do right away, because you have a clause in your contract stipulating that any late payment will incur a fee, right henny?) they can immediately pay you with their credit card.
Speaking of digital documents and immediacy - you can also send your contract in the same way, and the client can sign it digitally right away. No more waiting forever to put a client in the books because they have to print the contract, scan it, find a goddamn pen, sign it, and somehow send it back to you (like, do they fax it? Are people still using fax machines? What year is it?).
Beyond the digital contracts and easy-peasy invoicing, you will also have access to basically all of the other business tools that you need - all together in one place. Bookkeeping, scheduling, quote building, time tracking - it’s all there. You can sync your email inbox, organize all of your pricing, email templates, and project workflows in one beautifully streamlined place. Some of these apps even tell you the weather. It’s like a de-cluttering program for your brain.
“How will all of that affect my day-to-day life?”
I can tell you from experience that your life will literally become less stressful overnight. First of all, the fewer hoops that a client has to jump through in order to hire you, the more likely you are to book them. Again, I don’t really remember what it was like before I started using an app, but the client journey now goes a little something like this:
1. Client reaches out to me via email or through my website asking about a specific project.
2. I email them back using a template which I will tweak a bit to personalize it to them and their project, giving them an outline of my pricing for their project. In this first email I state that the next step if they want to book is to sign a digital contract & pay an invoice for a 50% deposit in order to reserve.
3. If my prices fit the client’s budget, they will let me know they’d like to move forward.
4. I use my invoice template to make a deposit invoice, plug in their name & project info into my contract template, and send both off simultaneously.
5. Client signs the contract, pays the invoice, and I put it in my calendar. I just secured myself a job, got paid, and delivered a seamless & professional service all in the span of most likely a day or two. No crazy long back and forth emails, nothing lost in a sea of DM’s, no time for the client to hesitate, no waiting around to get paid. Just a simplified, straightforward onboarding process. And if ever there is a delay - for example, the client doesn’t sign the contract or pay the invoice within the allotted time - the Client Management System reminds them for you automatically.
From there, you can use your Client Management System to schedule in that client’s project and all of the steps you need to do to complete it, track the time you spend working on it, make to-do lists and check off the items as you go, etc. As you continue to use the program for your client work, you can use it to simplify your bookkeeping, keep a record of all your clients’ contact information, and just generally get your shit together and organize your life!
“Okay FINE. You talked me into it. Where do I find one of these babies? “
There are several different options out there to choose from, but I’ve focused on the following 3 platforms because A) they’re the most widely used among creatives & solopreneurs that I know personally and B) I didn’t want to overwhelm you by listing 87 different options to pick from! Here is a quick breakdown of each (since I’ve already written a tome and you probably have other stuff to do).
I’m listing this one first because it’s the one that I currently use, and not to be biased - but it is pretty awesome. At first, what drew me to it was honestly the aesthetic. Everything about it is clean, gorgeous, streamlined, and professional looking. Then once I signed up for it, I discovered that their customer service is killer. I switched over from 17Hats, which I expected to be a long and arduous process - transferring allllllll of that information was going to take me forever - but one of their reps literally did everything for me. I felt like a princess. They also have fantastic built in templates for every scenario imaginable. Their contract templates are especially amazing, so that’s one less thing you have to spend money on elsewhere. They are also affiliated with the Rising Tide Society, so being a member comes with a huge potential for networking and community building. And the best part for last - I get to give you 50% off your first year of membership (!) when you sign up for a free trial here. Yassss Queen.
I don’t have any personal experience with Dubsado, but my girl Jesi from Cabin Calligraphy does, so I asked her! She said that if you’re located in Canada, the setup process is on the time consuming side - apparently Canadians don’t get the same welcome package that American users get (so if you’re in the U.S, this wouldn’t be an issue for you!). She said that the Pros are being able to do things on the fly on your phone, it’s aesthetically pleasing, they have a phenomenal support team & Facebook group, and it’s designed by creatives for creatives. You can also give clients their own portals! If you opt for using Dubsado, you get to take advantage of 20% off when signing up here - courtesy of Jesi Yay! I’ve heard pretty much nothing but good things about this platform, so I think it’s a pretty safe bet.
Okay so 17Hats is the first Client Management System that I used, and I stuck with them for about two years before that saucy minx HoneyBook caught my eye. It is extremely user friendly and easy to work with. You can have Client Portals, it’s very functional and can be synced with Quickbooks! This is maybe a bit superficial, but the main Con for me was the aesthetic - even though it’s somewhat customizable, I just don’t love the fonts, backgrounds and colour options that are available. They also don’t have much of a referral program in place, so sadly I don’t have a discount code for you! That being said, it is still a very solid platform and if you’re not as much of an aesthetic snob as I am, I would recommend it!
There you have it - exactly why you need a Client Management System and how it will change your life. Now go forth, get organized, and get paid, babe!
*Quick Note about being paid with a Credit Card - you will need to have an account with Square, which you will then link to your Client Management System, so the funds can be transferred to your bank account. Square accounts are free and super easy to set up, with the caveat that they take a small processing fee from each transaction. But, if you sign up here you get your first $1000 worth of sales processed fo’ free.
Thank you for reading, babes! I hope you found this blog post to be helpful - If you did, it would mean the world to me if you could share it on Pinterest!
(Like, I would send you a bottle of champagne and a box of chicken nugs as a thank you, if I could)
To share on Pinterest, just hover over the photo below and click on the little Save button!
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links! Which means I will receive a small commission from some of the above links. Purchasing something you would buy anyway using an affiliate link is a really lovely way of supporting your fellow girlbosses! I love to share my knowledge & expertise in order to help you improve your biz, and I would never promote anything I didn’t believe in 1000% Thank you so much for taking the time to read my blog!