Every minute counts when you’re a freelancer. The more time you set aside for client work, the more money you’re going to make. The trouble is, where can you find that extra time? This is where automation can help and make your life a lot easier.
As a freelance professional, you’re also a business owner. Owning a business requires you to do admin work, update your website, market your services, and an array of other non-billable tasks.
By automating as many daily processes as possible, you free up more time to either spend on billable work or, perhaps even more importantly, take a well-earned rest.
We look at 10 ways freelancers can automate their business to achieve an improved workflow and increased income.
Send recurring invoices
For many freelancers, the best type of client is one who requires ongoing repeat work. There’s a set project or task to complete, over and over again, and then after each week, month, or quarter, you send out an invoice to get paid. All the invoice details and fees are the same.
To save time, you can automate this process instead of writing out and manually sending the exact same invoice. With Invoice Ninja, for example, you can create invoices for fixed amounts that are emailed out automatically at a fixed scheduled frequency of your choosing.
Set it up once and for as long as the regular project lasts, you don’t have to do anything else.
Automatic invoice reminders for late payments
Part of enjoying a healthy cash flow as a freelancer is ensuring you get paid on time. Late payments not only potentially cause you short-term financial problems but also contribute to a buildup of stress and a reduction in billable hours as you chase late paying clients.
That’s where automating the process can save you time and hassle. With Invoice Ninja, you can create automatic invoice reminder emails for late payments. Up to three reminder emails will be sent when payments are due, each staggered over predetermined time frames.
You then don’t need to do anything until after the final automatic reminder, when you can then take any appropriate action.
Automatic late fees for unpaid invoices
It’s easy for clients to delay payment. More often than not it’s for a benign reason such as simply forgetting to deal with the invoice or misplacing it. Most clients will pay quickly after the first reminder email. Yet some clients, for whatever reasons, delay further and might even plan not to pay at all.
By including automatic late payment fees into your payment terms, and as part of your invoice payment reminder system, you can help persuade the late payers to get a move on when it comes to making a payment.
Time tracking automation
Keeping track of the hours you spend on client work is a valuable way to analyze your workflow. It’s also vital if you charge clients by the hour. Knowing how long it takes you to complete a project or task, helps you to accurately define a project’s price and also find ways to speed up processes.
Automatic time tracking software can record when you’re working on particular tasks and segment the time according to categories or client projects. With Invoice Ninja, for example, you can also then convert these time records into a ready-to-send invoice with just a click of a button.
Some freelancers build an email list. This is when you cultivate a list of potential or existing clients and regularly send interesting information to them via email, such as in a newsletter. Email lists help you to keep in contact with clients and to subtly remind them about your services, again and again.
Email automation software makes this a lot easier. The software allows you to create a sign-up box and then stores the subscriber’s details for you. You can also automate when emails are sent out, such as every other day, once a week, or 10 days after the previous email. You can set the email sequence up once, and then forget about it.
Social media automation
Social media is an important arena for freelance professionals. As solo business owners it’s your job to not only provide services for your clients but also to actively market your business so you get a steady stream of new clients. A good social media strategy can work wonders in attracting new work.
Social automation tools allow you to save time by scheduling when social media updates are sent. From tweeting on Twitter to updating on Facebook or LinkedIn, automation provides you with a way to schedule updates repeatedly, for different times of the day, so the optimum number of people view your posts.
Project proposal automation
Writing project proposals can take a long time for freelancers. When you want to close a deal fast, writing new proposal content, calculating new fee structures, and redesigning and formatting proposal documents can feel like a drain on energy and hours.
By automating project proposal documentation creation, you can speed up the process no end. Using specialist software, you can save templates, document designs, fee structures, and re-use content over and over again. You can also capture client signatures online – known as e-signatures – for even faster approvals.
Automatic appointment booking
Arranging a Skype call with an existing client or a phone call with a prospect can be challenging at the best of times. Everyone has different schedules and finding the perfect half hour for both parties can be tricky. Appointment scheduling for freelancers can be a headache.
It needn’t be. There’s specialist automation software that allows your clients or prospects to simply book a time slot during set times of the week/month that you’ve set aside for meetings. The appointment is set on a calendar and both parties are notified and then reminded just before the meeting time.
Project management automation
It’s wise to assume that client relationships shouldn’t need a lot of automation. After all, it’s two human beings working together for the good of the project. Computer software helps but shouldn’t replace human contact. However, automation software can still be a great assistant during client work.
Project management software, for example, can help tremendously by allowing a client to see the progress of their project. As the freelancer, you simply update your progress and the client is automatically notified and invited to view boards, charts, or whatever else, where they can add suggestions, provide feedback, or make edit requests.
Project request forms
Initial emails from prospective clients can be a little light on information. People are often unsure of what details to give or the questions to ask in that first email. The more successful you become as a freelancer, the more of these emails you’ll need to answer. In many cases, the prospect is an unsuitable match but you’ve still wasted time in answering and asking questions.
By creating project request forms on your website you automate the process of that initial client communication. The form allows you to ask a set of questions which the prospect is required to answer and this in turn helps you decipher which prospects are more likely to turn into actual clients. It also helps you avoid unsuitable clients.
For example, a good initial request form question to ask is what the client’s available budget range is.
The benefits of automation
With the addition of a few simple automation tools, you can free up more of your time. You can then transfer these liberated hours into billable client work or enjoy more time off. Automating as many tasks as possible will allow you to make the best decisions when it comes to your productivity and ability to relax.