12 CRM Options for Freelancers

by Steven Snell

September 17, 2009 in Resources

Freelancers are typically in communication with a lot of clients and potential clients at any given time. It’s important to be able to keep track of your contacts and to have an organized approach to provide service to them, not to mention the need to keep track of professional contacts in your network.

Gmail, Thunderbird and Outlook all offer some contact management features in addition to email, and in this post we’ll look at other resources that can also help you with CRM (customer relationship management).

There are a lot of options for CRM and many different types of professionals that use these resources. Some of the more robust options are better-suited for large sales forces and (in my opinion) are more than what is necessary for a freelancer or a small design studio. Not surprisingly, those options also tend to carry higher price tags. Here we will look at affordable (and some are even free) options that may be a good fit for designers.

BatchBook

BatchBook

BatchBook comes with features like a shared company address book, custom data management by using tags, communication history, lists and reports, and more. A few features that can be especially useful for freelancers are the integration with social media (view blog posts, photos, and tweets of your contacts) and integration with FreshBooks, Google Contacts, MailChimp and more. It also offers customizable web forms that can be used on your website to send data directly to BatchBook. There are several different plans to choose from, with single-user plan available for $9.95 per month. There is also a free plan available with fewer features.

Highrise

Highrise

Highrise from 37signals is a popular choice for CRM. It includes features like importing and exporting with Outlook and Excel, history of conversations with your contacts, instant reminders via email or text, and integration with email (forward or BCC your emails into Highrise). There are a number of different plans available. The price for the Solo plan is $29 per month, with a limited free plan also available.

Zoho CRM

Zoho CRM

Zoho CRM offers features like a plugin for Outlook, tracking of email correspondence with customers, sales and marketing campaigns/reports, and more. There is a free version available for single users that includes most of the features of the professional edition, which costs $12/month/user.

Salesforce

Salesforce

Salesforce is a full-featured CRM that offers a few differnt plans to choose from. The bigger plans are much more than most freelancers would need, but the group plan ($9/month/user) offers contact management functionality, as well astracking of leads, and integration with Gmail, Outlook and Lotus Notes.

Big Contacts

Big Contacts

Big Contacts includes features like an address book for all of your contacts, a calendar to track your meetings and events, file storage, custom reports, a detailed search, and more. An iPhone app is also available. When paid annually, the price is $14.95/month/user. There is also a 30-day free trial available.

Work etc.

Work etc.

Work etc. includes CRM, project management, time tracking and invoicing components. The CRM features include the ability to capture lead data through web forms, customer support requests, actioning a billable item and invoicing the customer, and more. Work etc. can be used by larger businesses, and as a result some of the features will not be relevant to freelancers. The single-user plan is available for $29.95 per month and includes all software, not just CRM.

Plaxo

Plaxo

Plaxo is kind of a combination of social networking and CRM. The site allows you to create a profile and connect with other users (free), plus it offers a toolbar that helps to keep contact information up-to-date from the members of your network (a premium feature for $59.95 per year).

Xobni

http://www.xobni.com/

Xobni offers a free plugin for Outlook that adds additional CRM features, including enhanced search, online integration with sites like LinkedIn, threaded conversations/emails, and management of attachments. Xobni Plus is also available for $29.95 and includes advanced filters, integration with appointments and tasks from the calendar, and more.

Mac Address Book

Mac Address Book

For Mac users, Address Book can be a free and simple way to keep track of your contacts. You can store pertinent information and you can email, chat, or visit someone’s website directly from an Address Book card.

SugarCRM

SugarCRM

SugarCRM is a commercial open-source option. The Sugar Express plan costs $9/month/user and the Sugar Professional plan is $30/month/user. The express plan includes basic CRM features, a plugin for Outlook, as well as the use of modules and custom fields for tracking data.

Splendid CRM

Splendid CRM

Splendid CRM offers account relationships, customer management, project management, lead tracking, and more. There are a few different plans to choose from, starting with the Community Live plan for $10/month/user.

vtiger

vtiger

vtiger is an free open-source CRM that inlcudes features for lead and contact management, trouble tickets, invoices, calendars and to-do lists, reporting and more. Plugins are available for Outlook and Thunderbird.

(UPDATE: additional option suggested by readers)

Daylite

Daylite is a full productivity suite from MarketCircle for the Mac. It includes features like project collaboration, shared, calendars, task delegation, and more. A single-user license costs $189, or you can pay $29 per month for a pay-as-you-go plan.

What’s Your Experience?

What tools and resources do you use for CRM? Do you have any recommendations that you would like to share with readers?

For more freelancer resources see:

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About Steven Snell

Stephen Snell is the owner and editor of Vandelay Design.Connect with Stephen on google+

  • Steve Brown

    Sep 17th

    I highly recommend Daylite from MarketCircle (google Daylite or Market Circle to find them). We’ve been using Daylite now for a good few months and I’m sure I’m only using half of what it can really do for me, but for customer contacts it’s great.

    It syncs with Address Book and iCal, and from there to my iPhone, although if you want an actual iPhone app you can also purchase (as we did) Daylite Touch which gives you a fuller interface to your Daylite database.

    Needless to say it’s Mac only (though I wish they’d do a version for windows cos I have clients I’d put on to it in a heartbeat, but they won’t switch to mac)

    Highly recommend it. Not free, but I believe it’s a decent price point for what it offers.

  • Tiago

    Sep 17th

    I use MOOV, for brazilians freelancers.

  • Jeff Schoolcraft

    Sep 18th

    I’ve just went through the painful process of trying to find a decent CRM to use on Mac. I ignored most online versions because I wanted it to integrate with tools I’m using daily, iCal and Address Book and Mail.app.

    In the Mac space that really leaves you with only a few options:

    Contactizer (http://www.objective-decision.com/en/products/contactizerpro/)
    Relationship (http://www.jumsoft.com/relationship/)
    Daylite (http://www.marketcircle.com/daylite/)

    I couldn’t even get Contactizer to run. Either version would go through the setup stage and crash.

    Daylite has been working like a champ though. Keeps track of mail I send to my contacts in Address Book. Lets me add new opportunities for web leads.

    It works well for my workflow.

  • Steven Snell

    Sep 19th

    Steve, Tiago, and Jeff,
    Thanks for sharing your comments about your own experiences with CRM. It’s helpful to me and to readers.

  • BebopDesigner

    Sep 19th

    These are brilliant! thanks a million.

  • Douglas Bonneville

    Sep 20th

    We’ve had great luck with all the products from 37Signals. It’s a bonus to be able to have similar UI’s and workflows between HighRise, Basecamp, and Backpack. All the products deal with the most fundamental aspects of the problems they solve and focus on those. As a freelance graphic designer, I need to rely on a clean, simple, easy to understand and use interface or else, with all the other complexities of a typical day, I just won’t use the tool.

  • Miroslav

    Sep 20th

    And what about http://www.cas-pia.com? 20EUR per month Outlook sync, contacts, opportunitis, calendar, documents etc. Based on cutting-edge Eclipse RAP technology.

  • Jim

    Sep 20th

    I have no need for this type of app, so I’m not sure what features & capabilities would be considered good or bad – but would Apple/Filemaker’s Bento app fit the bill? It integrates with AddressBook, iCal and Mail.

  • CueSent

    Sep 21st

    Thanks for the post, readers comments are also very useful….thank you all..

  • AtiKuSDesign

    Sep 21st

    CRM’s are something i’ve tried to use before but never really got to grips with. Maybe this list of them will help me find one I can use

    Thank you

  • Matt Fenn

    Sep 22nd

    Can I add Moobiz http://www.moobiz.com to your list? It is a CRM with a wide range of business apps such as invoicing, accounting, project management, time sheets, calendar, even ecommerce.

    Every account has access to all of the apps and they can be switched on or off as required to match individual businesses needs. It’s a web application and works great for both Mac and PC.

  • Jon

    Sep 27th

    Zoho works great for some of my clients, but I have found that outlook with the advance contact management works best

  • A.Hariri

    Oct 10th

    Nice Post.

    It might be a good idea to point out that there is a community edition version of SugarCRM which in itself offers more that what a freelancer needs really. I have used both SugarCRM and vTiger and personally I like SugarCRM more.

  • SmartyCZ

    Oct 11th

    Opengoo isn’t listed here. There’s a free version you can set up on your own server or locally if you wish.

  • Aldo Zanoni

    Nov 26th

    I thought this list might like to hear about this new game-changing CRM integration option for Macintosh Entourage users: Riva Integration Server for Exchange.

    Macintosh Entourage users can now get full integration with hosted and on-premise versions of Microsoft CRM, SugarCRM, Salesforce, Oracle CRM, NetSuite and others. Riva provides full support for Macintosh Entourage, Outlook, Outlook Web Access, BlackBerry, ActiveSync and other Exchange clients. It is compatible with on-premise and hosted Exchange 2010, 2007 and 2003.

    I look forward to answering any questions you might have about Riva Integration Server.

    http://www.omni-ts.com/newsroom/exchange-crm-integration.html

    Best regards,

    Aldo Zanoni
    CEO, Managing Director
    Omni Technology Solutions Inc.
    The Integration Company
    http://www.omni-ts.com
    780.423.4200

  • Bobby Bree

    Dec 9th

    A perfect product for freelancers is Insight, it will manage all your invoicing as well as workflow and manage your projects and tasks. check it out, http://www.arquila.com

  • Intelestream

    Jun 10th

    Another CRM worth considering is intelecrm, a web based CRM built with small businesses in mind. Basic instances include features like integration with Outlook, tracking of email correspondence with customers, sales and marketing campaigns/reports, and more. The unique pricing model provides a flat fee for unlimited users and you can take advantage of a free 30 day trial. Additional information can be found by visiting Intelestream web page.

  • shine2u

    Jun 26th

    I absolutely enjoyed going through this article. I enjoy tools and social media that assist freelance productivity!

  • Josh R.

    Jul 12th

    I have been happily using a filemaker pro based app from freshlists for about 6 months. Wish it looked better but otherwise it’s great.

  • lv

    Aug 4th

    he unique pricing model provides a flat fee for unlimited users and you can take advantage of a free 30 day trial. Additional information can be found by visiting Intelestream web page.

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    Aug 20th

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  • Candelaria Bain

    Dec 29th

    I’m still learning from you, while I’m making my way to the top as well. I absolutely enjoy reading all that is posted on your website.Keep the posts coming. I enjoyed it!

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    Jan 26th

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  • playground equipment

    Mar 9th

    we use sugar crm its working fine for us, but i would like to suggest to improve the graphical look of the module, i feel it like the old windows 98 or 2000 version, would like it to look like tha latest windows 7..

  • Ahmed Sabbour

    Mar 22nd

    I would have to suggest Insightly (http://insight.ly/) which is a free CRM/Project life cycle management software (at least for now) that runs on top of Google Apps.

  • Lesja Gontschar

    Apr 5th

    Please, check out workforcetrack.com. It may be the solution of all problems whatever OS you have you always have internet connection. That may be the reason why i always prefer web-based applications not only workforcetrack but also GoogleDocs (by the way there is kinda integration between them).

  • Andre

    May 21st

    You might want to have a look at kiwili.com, it’s another interesting option with a limited free package that lets you try it out before having to commit to a paid option.

  • Fabian

    Jul 8th

    Has anyone used business catalyst? I am looking to switch from salesforce.

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