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 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 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 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 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 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. 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 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 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.
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 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 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 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 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?
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