The Way We Work
January 11, 2012 by Stephanie Gonzaga

Have you ever found yourself managing three to four clients (and multiple projects) a day? It is a stressful business, especially if all you have are Excel and Word to organize email addresses, contact information, notes, tasks and schedules.

What you need is a time saver – a tool that simplifies contact management, project management and customer service. What you need is a client management system.

Also known as CRM or customer relations management, it involves organizing all of your contact information and communicating with your clients in a time-efficient manner. Some CRM systems simply integrate email and import contacts while others offer more flexible features, such as customer support, data analysis and social media engagement tools.

There are plenty of client management tools in the market today, so let us start with five feature-rich CRM apps for contractors working with multiple clients.

1. Insightly

Dubbed as the most popular CRM and project management tool in the Google Apps marketplace, Insightly manages all of your contact information, breaks down projects and monitors your business activities. It is famous for its real-time search feature, lightning-speed performance and easy user interface.

Completely integrated with Google Apps, Insightly saves email conversations and documents, keeps track of all of your leads, opportunities and prospects, and provides you with the tools you need to both collaborate and communicate with clients and members of your team. Its free basic account makes it ideal for solo professionals and start-ups.

2. Zoho CRM

Zoho CRM is another popular client management system that contractors can use to build customer loyalty. Integrated seamlessly with Google Apps, you can sync email, attach documents, import contacts and calendar events, and keep track of leads and opportunities in one centralized workspace. To top it all off, Zoho CRM generates reports to give you an idea of how your business is performing.

Zoho CRM offers a free basic account for up to three users, giving contractors a great and affordable CRM tool to use for their freelance businesses. Check out GigaOm's overview of how it works and why it might be a great option for you.

3. SugarCRM

sugar-crmIf Insightly and Zoho do not seem as in-depth as you would like, consider SugarCRM — a more powerful system that combines social media and customer support into one. Apart from organizing all of your contact information and driving sales for your business, it manages your social media accounts in activity streams and offers online collaboration tools to quickly arrange meetings directly from the app. It has its own iPhone app as well!

SugarCRM is best for contractors who work in small to medium remote teams and who work with multiple clients at once. Pricing plans start at $360/year, but the software is open-source for you to customize it according to your business's needs.

4. Salesforce

If you run an independent agency and handle small to large-scale clients, Salesforce has more powerful options for you. This CRM system offers a wide variety of features that are both flexible and beneficial for any business of any size. It is available anywhere and accessible to everyone thanks to its cloud-based platform.

Some of Salesforce's main features include real-time visibility of sales, a powerful social contact center to help provide superb customer service, and secure and private social networks to increase productivity among employees. You can also build apps for your own business using the system's built-in development tools.

Since it is more feature-rich, it is more difficult to master and more expensive in price. It is best to test out the demo or sign up for a free trial to see if it will work for your freelance business.

5. High Rise

highrise crm logo37Signals, the company behind popular business apps Basecamp and Campfire, offers its own client management web app called Highrise.

This CRM system takes on the painstaking task of managing client contact info, searching through email conversations, and keeping track of leads and deals for you. With its slick user interface and great features, you can manage up to 30,000 contacts, nurture client relationships, follow-up on prospects, and monitor sales and your business's performance.

Highrise is a lot cheaper than Salesforce and SugarCRM but manages your client database and business activities all the same. Pricing plans start at $24/month for a six-member team; a $99/month premium account covers 40 team members, offers 30GB of storage and lets you track an unlimited number of business deals.

Whichever CRM you decide to use, the success of your client management operations will depend on how responsive you are to the needs of your clients. Choosing the right system to invest in is an important decision for your business; take time to research and test your options to see which fits your business size, needs and processes.

Have you ever used a client management system for your freelance business? Did it help boost sales and grow your business? If you used other CRM tools, what would you add to this list? Share your experience in the comments section below.

Stephanie Gonzaga

Freelance Writer

Stephanie Gonzaga is a freelancer on oDesk who specializes in writing top-notch web content, such as product copy, articles, and blog posts for clients all over the globe. During her free time, she writes on her blog The Freelance Pinoy, a site dedicated to providing Filipino freelancers with tips, advice, and strategies to help them reach freelancing success.

  • Jillian Mikonnen

    Great Article! ... May I recommend Snapforce CRM software. Snapforce has 4 different editions depending on the size of your business, you can even try them out for free, which includes a live demonstration so that you are not lost in the loop.
    Check them out at
    http://www.snapforce.com

  • Belinda Bernhard

    Just wondering…is there an oDesk specific CRM tool? I need one, too ;-) Thanks~~

  • Ha

    Thanks so much for this post. I'm in need of a CRM tool :)

  • http://ExcelCRM.vn ExcelCRM.vn

    I would suggest to use zoho due to cost reason.