A CRM (Client Relationship Management) tool can make you more organised, save time and ultimately make you/your business come across as more professional. All to the benefit of your clients (or potential clients).
I use one called Dubsado.
CRMs are useful for all service based businesses. Many of my clients use them – from wedding cake makers, to photographers to business coaches. There are some CRMs designed for specific industries.
What is a CRM
CRM stands for Client Relationship Management. So, as the name suggests, a CRM is a tool for managing the relationship between you and clients. Of course it doesn’t actually “manage” the relationship – you have to do that, but it is a tool to assist in the client relationship. It actually starts earlier than this – before someone becomes a client. At its most basic it is a way of storing information about each client. In an organised way. But most CRMs allow you to do so much more.
I use a CRM called Dubsado which is run by a husband and wife team in the US but has customers all over the world. It is a very popular CRM for small businesses.
I’ve been using it for over 3 years now and it has transformed my business processes.
If you want to try Dubsado you can currently get a free trial for 3 projects. Beyond that you need to pay. I have an affiliate code which gives you 20% off https://beyondthekitchentable.co.uk/dubsado.
How it helps me
1. Scheduling calls
When I started working as Beyond the Kitchen Table I had my phone number on my website.
This meant any potential client could call me at a time when it was convenient to them. I remember taking one call by the side of a swimming pool as my children were about to finish their swimming lesson. Not particularly convenient for me!
Not all clients leave a message if you don’t answer (some will call someone else and forget about you) and, even if they do, you can quickly find yourself in the game of phone ping pong.
And, I found I had more calls from people trying to sell me things than I had client calls in the early days.
So that didn’t work…
Since I started to use Dubsado I now have a “Book a Call” button on my website. This allows a potential client to see my availability and schedule a time that is convenient for them.
It means I don’t have to have my phone number displayed on my website and it means I can turn my phone off when I need to concentrate without risking missing a call from a potential client.
And it allows me to ask some questions ahead of the call. Making someone answer 50 questions before they can have a call will put someone off so I only have a few – name (it means I have the correct spelling too!), phone number, email, service they’re interested in, their business and their current website address if they have one. This allows me to be prepared for the call. If they have an existing website I’ll always look at it. I also ask on this form how they found me – because you really need to track which forms of marketing are working best.
Scheduling calls via Dubsado also allows me to offer zoom calls. I prefer these to a phone call as I can show things on the screen (like examples of other websites I have created) and I like to see potential clients’ faces too!
The other benefit is that this information is captured in my CRM. I can add call notes in there too. It means I’m not relying upon scribbles on scraps of paper…
Lots of CRMs have schedulers built into them. You can also use a scheduler like Calendly or Acuity Scheduling to get these benefits. I highly recommend you do so if you’re not ready for a CRM.
Using the scheduler:
- has saved me and potential clients time (no more back and forth with missed calls)
- allows me to concentrate on my website design work when I need to without interruptions from my phone
- has allowed me to prepare for the calls which means I come across as more professional and organised (no more calls from a swimming lesson)
- means the potential client can choose zoom or a call and
- enables me to capture key information from potential clients in a central place (useful if they come back months later as some do)
The only two downsides are:
- any potential client who wants to talk to me then and there can’t
- I must ensure my electronic calendar is kept up to date so potential clients can’t book a call when I’m not available
So overall, this is a really helpful feature
Before I used Dubsado I used to manually put together each contract for a client. I had a template professionally prepared by a lawyer. But I would take the last client’s contract, make a copy and add in the new details for the next client, pdf it and email it to them. This used to take a couple of hours each time.
Now? I add the client’s address to Dubsado. It already has the other information (name correctly spelt). I click to add the contract (it takes the original template), make any edits needed (eg extra pages or functionality) and then save it. I then email the link to the client, they can sign it electronically (or sometimes a client might print it out, manually sign and send it back to me) and I countersign electronically.
It’s then kept “on file” in Dubsado so I can easily find it.
There are other specialist services that allow you to electronically email contracts to clients for signature, like Docusign. I like the fact this is in one place and I also like that it auto fills a client’s details.
I think it has saved me 1 – 2 hours per client. That’s a lot of time throughout the year that I can spend on other things. Like marketing my business, spending time with my family or scrolling through Instagram…
I don’t use Dubsado for invoicing very much anymore. I usually use my accounting software because it reconciles with my bank account. Whilst some accounting software (like I think Quickbooks and Xero) do reconcile with Dubsado, I now use FreeAgent which can only be reconciled with Dubsado using Zapier. And I slightly prefer FreeAgent for invoicing.
However, I used to use Dubsado when I was using more basic accounting software. It is very easy to set up an invoice (the client name and address is already in there). You can have standard “packages” so you don’t need to input the same data each time. It links to PayPal and Stripe so clients can easily pay by credit card or PayPal balance. If you want clients to pay via bank transfer you do have to add the bank details separately. And you either need to manually mark it as paid or reconcile via your accounting software.
The issue really is that Dubsado is not a substitute for good accounting software, but it does have a decent invoicing system.
It doesn’t matter that I no longer use this feature. Dubsado is still valuable to me without it.
Forms are, in my opinion, one of Dubsado’s best features.
When a client signs up to my bespoke website design package, I send them an initial questionnaire. I set this up in Dubsado and it takes a single click to add this to a client’s project. It personalises it for me and I can edit the form if I want to (I don’t tend to – all clients get the same questionnaire).
You can get very fancy with the Dubsado forms (there are people who make a living doing bespoke Dubsado forms or templates of forms). Mine is pretty basic in design – redoing these is on my rather long to do list!
I send this questionnaire to the client, they fill it in (they can save it as they go) and Dubsado notifies me when the client has submitted it. The answers to this questionnaire form the basis of the initial designs I give the client – they ask about their Ideal Client, their business, other websites they like (and what they like about them) and other websites they don’t like (and what they don’t like about them) plus fonts, colours etc.
Once a form has been submitted it is saved within that client’s project so I can easily find it. I can also download it.
At the end of a website build I send each client another questionnaire asking for feedback and a review. These questionnaires are equally valuable because they help me improve my business, give me a testimonial that I can use and help me understand what my clients are looking for.
Again these are stored within that client’s project so I can easily find them.
5. Other Services
I offer a few services, like power hours, which I have set up on Dubsado. Someone can see my availability, book in the time that’s convenient for them (I can set it so I need some notice!), fill in the form for that service giving me the information I need and pay. All without me having to do anything other than set it up in the first place and then turn up at the allotted time (prepared). It even blocks out my diary so I can’t double book.
Saves me so much time and admin.
I use Dubsado for podcast guest too. I just send them the link and they book a convenient time.
All of these services (and the initial call) have different forms and different “settings”. So you can choose which times of the week you’ll do different services, how much notice and how many of each you will do each day. You can also add in “buffers” that it blocks out in your diary around each appointment. It’s very clever…
Any form of electronic record keeping allows you to see useful stats. Which is of course heaven to data geeks like myself. Data helps you to understand what is working (and what is not) so you can do more of what works.
One thing which I keep a close eye on is where my clients find me. I ask them on that initial form when they book that first call with me. Sometimes it is a bit complicated “I found you through a networking group, been following you on Instagram for years and you did my friend’s website” could probably do with its own category! But you do get a good overall picture of which sources of marketing translate into actual revenue.
If you use Dubsado for invoicing you can see the revenue each month (I can see that with my accounting software anyway) and also the amounts for different categories of revenue. You can even list clients by highest to lowest revenue over a time period.
One of the really helpful things about any CRM is that it holds the data on each client in a central location. You can give team members logins too if you want them to have access. I don’t. It is just me.
Dubsado can hold whatever information you want it to hold. If you use it for invoicing then it has the amount invoiced and paid for each client. You can add notes of calls etc with each client. You can also have different stages of projects, so you know where each client is. To be honest, I just use it for the basic data, plus the contract and questionnaires.
8. Client Portal
Dubsado has client portals. These allow clients to login and see their forms, invoices, etc. You can email each other etc. I don’t use it. Maybe I should take a proper look at it and see if it could be useful.
9. Workflows & Tasks
There are other Dubsado features that I don’t use.
- You can track time in it (I use Toggl instead).
- You can set workflows that eg send specific emails when other things happen (eg when a client signs the contract it could send them the new client questionnaire). I know many businesses use this and find it really helpful. It’s another feature I may look into when I have the time.
- And you can have a “task list” which is a to-do list. I still prefer pen and paper…
I may not use all the features but I use the ones that I find most helpful. And I get enormous value from that.
Dubsado helps me be more organised. It saves me time. And it makes me and my business look more professional. Ultimately these all help my clients too.
It was a significant investment in my business when I started using it. But one that was very worthwhile.
There are lots of CRMs. If you don’t use one then I do recommend taking a look. As well as Dubsado there is Zoho, 17hats, Plutio, Honeybook, Hubspot and many more. As mentioned earlier, there are ones for specific industries like Studio Ninja for photographers.