Freelancers — How to Streamline Your Most Tedious Tasks
Having a few years of experience of freelancing under my belt, I started to discover shortcuts that helped me get more done in less time. The best shortcuts are the ones that automate tedious tasks that can eat away at your billable hours, without sacrificing the quality of your work. Working in a frenzy and not accomplishing anything is the worst.
As you work your way through different projects, you'll start to notice that you often repeat steps and tasks during the progression of the project. A lot of these tasks are things you can't bill for, but are necessary for effective communication and project success. Here's a few tips on how to streamline your most time-consuming tasks:
Canned E-mail Responses
Whenever I get a new lead, I have a prepared canned response with a little introduction, my rates, availability and a thank you for contacting me. It's really important to give your rates upfront because it can save a lot of time if the client doesn't have the budget. This e-mail takes me 1 minute to draft and send, rather than spending 20 minutes per every new lead. If the client only have a $200 budget, you don't want to wasting 20 minutes of your time there.
Thanks for reaching out about your project. I’ve attached a PDF with more information about me, my process and rates. Please take a look and let me know if you have any additional questions. I currently have availability starting ____.
If you’re interested in proceeding, I’ve also included a questionnaire I ask all my potential clients to fill out so I can give a more accurate quote. Most of my projects start at ____ and up, depending on how much work is required. Thanks!
Looking forward to chatting with you further. Have a great day,
Not available e-mail
When I'm completely booked for work, I send a polite e-mail detailing that I'm not available at the moment, but will have availability in the next couple months. If the client can't wait until than, give them recommendations of other designers that are available.
Remember to make sure you still sound like a human being. You will have to edit, add and change some of your e-mail content based on what the client is requesting.
Thanks very much for the inquiry! I would love to help out, but I am fully booked at the moment. However, my colleague ____, might be able lend a hand. He/she runs ____, and specializes in UI/UX. We've worked together on some projects and his/her quality and professionalism are fully recommended. I’ve added them to this email so that you two can connect if you like!
Alternatively, I have availability in a couple months if you'd like to wait until then to chat further about your project.
A media kit is something that was brought to my attention last year. Even though I had a canned responses for new leads, I was receiving the same questions from clients over and over again, resulting in days of e-mail threads going back and forth. Although media kits are more popular with bloggers, it can be a handy tool for freelancers.
A media kit is essentially a PDF of everything there is to know about what it is like to work with you — about you, your experience, rates, availability, pricing (if applicable), process and common FAQ's. Ever since I started using a media kit, I've noticed a sharp decline in the number of e-mails I receive and send before I close a project.
Invoicing & Time Tracking
Automating your invoicing and time tracking is a must-have for freelancers. I use Harvest. It allows me to track time, manage project budgets & timelines and send invoices. My clients can also pay right through their e-mail with an integrated PayPal feature. For $12/month for a single user, it's a valuable asset to my business that pays itself over and over again in value.
Scheduling Client Phone Calls
Trying to find time between two different schedules can create a lot of unnecessary back and forth emails. The best solution for this is to use a software that connects with your calendar and allows your clients to book time that also works for them.
Just like invoicing and scheduling, automating your contracts is an easy win. Please don't make them print your document, sign it by hand, scan and upload it, and then email it back to you. This is too many steps when you can simply this process for both of you. We want our clients doing as little work as possible.
Not many freelancers can do their job properly without some kind of project management software. If you've been trying to manage your clients through email, you'll eventually end up wasting a lot of time digging through archived email threads.
Software like Basecamp or Trello will help automate to-do lists, deadlines, important documents, feedback, and conversations all in one place for both you and your client to see.