When I first started my business, I was keeping track of my clients, contracts, and everything else in this old, white, hand-me-down filing cabinet. It creaked every time I opened one of the four drawers. To be very honest with you, I finally just sold the thing for $40 last week.
No matter where you are in business, organization can be a daunting task. Thankfully, with the uprise of start-up companies, Client Management Systems (CMS) like 17Hats, Tave and Sprout Studio are ready to help. But how do you know when it’s time to switch from your DIY system to one that will really help you tighten the loose screws in your business?
You Spend Too Much Time on Emails
I think everyone can answer yes to this one. The worst part about e-mails isn’t that you get a lot as a lot is usually an indicator that you have business coming in. What really gets irritating about e-mails is the fact that you type the same one over and over again, and you’re still not doing anything special.
At first, I was using (and I still use) Text Expander, a great product that’ll store your templates and let you use them without having to copy and paste. A lot of people also like Gmail’s quick responses. Both are great, but I wanted to communicate with my NYC Wedding clients not only in responding to emails, but in sending regular communication throughout our relationship.
A CMS is great for creating automated emails to clients. I use mine in 17Hats (that’s a link that gets you 15% off, but there is also a free version for you to scope out) to send my brides an email every month leading up to their wedding for the 6-7 months before it. I send them tips on things like creating a timeline and ways to stay comfortable in their wedding shoes. All without doing a thing. It’s completely automated within my CMS workflow.
If you want to communicate more with clients, spend less time typing and bump up your e-mail response times, you may be ready for a CMS of your own.
You Can’t Get Your Clients to Pay You on Time, or at All
Let’s face it, you didn’t start your own business to chase people around for money or to be the bad guy when they’re not paying up. The last thing more entrepreneurs want is to beg for money, especially when we might not even be that great at keeping track of it ourselves.
Most Client Management Systems have invoice tracking that you can enable to send out reminder emails when payments are coming up or are past due. That alone is likely worth the price of moving to a true CMS for your business.
However, one of the biggest reasons why I switched from my previous CMS (I’m not going to name which one) to 17Hats is because of this bonus. It has a bookkeeping element to it. I don’t have to learn QuickBooks (YESSSSS!) So, not only can I keep track of invoices and such, but I can connect my business bank and credit card accounts to it so I can seriously see what my income and expenses are for my business.You’d be surprised what you’re spending money on in your business that’s eating away at your profits!
You’re Behind or Losing Track of Your To-Do List
One of my favorite things to do for clients is to send them gifts. One of my least favorite things to do is remember if I sent it or not! Top that off with all of the “must-do” things that a business owner needs to remember like scheduling the creative call or ordering products that your clients have purchased and it’s easy to feel like your world is falling apart around you.
Almost all systems have a workflow method in place. Some are quite complicated to set up, but that’s because what you do for each client isn’t easy, is it? If you want the cheat method, you can use free templates in the 17Hats marketplace, or even grab my personal ones. Here’s just the beginning of what my to-do list looks like for the next 15 days:
If I could give advice to any business owner just starting out it would be this: start by laying the right foundation. If you start your business with an organized system, even before you need one, the rest of what you build will be firmly planted. If you don’t start off on the right foot, you’ll find yourself under a big pile of garbage and it’ll be much harder to dig yourself out and get things organized at that point. Even though I started out with my clunky filing cabinet, I’m happy to have had a system in the very beginning. Here’s hoping you never have to hear the squeak of metal drawers!
Top photo of popular food blogger Rach L Mansfield.