Using organizational tools to communicate with clients about their ongoing design projects

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If you are anything like me, when you start landing your first design clients, you work right out of your inbox. “Working from your inbox” means that all communication with your clients is through email. This means that unless you are extremely organized with sections, folders, and tags, you are always scrolling through to find that one email with that file about something important. All the files then end up in your downloads folder where you again have to scroll to find anything.

This is not going to get you anywhere, much less get you more great clients.

You will literally be stuck in a cloud of disorganization until you cave and get yourself organized.

Organize yourself first

Before you can even attempt to organize a project with a client you need to organize yourself first. This means organizing your files in your computer, setting up naming systems and easy indexing.

Eryn wrote a great article about it here on the Freepik Blog:

The Importance of Organizing Your Design Files and How to Develop Your Own Naming System

Once you have a system in place for your own files, you can start organizing yourself for client communication and ongoing projects.

Project Management and Customer Relationship Management

Once you have your design files in order it’s time to really dive into good organizational skills. Setting this up will not only help as you grow your client base and staying on track, it will also show your clients that you mean business and your process is a professional one.

There are two types of tools that you can use for both the management of your projects and client communication. Some designers prefer to use one tool that does both, while others prefer to have one of each with integrations between each other.

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Project Management Apps and Software

Project Management software are the ones that help you stay on track with your “to do” lists, no matter how many projects you are working on at the same time. The favorites with designers are Trello and Asana.These apps are very different from each other and attract different kinds of people. The only way to know which one fits your style better is to try them out.

If you are already using apps like Dropbox and Google Drive, these can be integrated to the project management to better keeps tabs on your files.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

Another resource you can use is a CRM, which is a program that helps with how you communicate with your clients. You might think that this is a resource for bigger companies, but some CRM’s are great for small businesses and solopreneurs. Dubsado is a favorite among designers. Dubsado actually works as both a Project Management App and a Customer Relationship Management, including invoicing and contract management.

Another favorite is Basecamp, a simplified but still quite powerful tool to not only keep your tasks organized, but also your clients’ ongoing projects. It’s easy to communicate with clients through basecamp and keep everything on track. Another favorite is ActiveCollab, a tool a bit more complex than Basecamp but very powerful as well.

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Getting set up for success

First of all, look at all your options in terms of software and apps, look through their capabilities and pick the one that suits your style better. Some are more visual and others are more like lists. Kaban style boards and sections are quite common inside some of these project management apps and the CRM’s. Others are organized more like an inbox.

The first step to having a successful system is to set everything up from the beginning. Create boards and groups (depending on the software) to organize all your ongoing projects. Don’t just concentrate on clients but also set up systems for the processes you follow on a regular basis. Things like website maintenance, blog articles, and promotion, creation of courses and personal projects.

Set up boards for the services you offer; like branding, web design, and other design services. Lay down every step in whatever way you feel is most productive. In a program like Trello, these boards can be copied and used for a new client, just adding their information. These boards can essentially be used as templates. Imagine the time you will save!

Use the deadlines tool to figure out how long your usual tasks take. After a while, you will know exactly how long your processes take and you’ll be able to book yourself out and not get overwhelmed with too much work.

Once you have all your ongoing client projects and personal projects mapped out in the calendars and boards, you are ready to start including your clients in the process. Add them as part of the team and explain how to use the program. Include the instructions inside the board and offer them help with it if they are confused.

Over to you

Are you using Project Management Software and CRM’s in your small business ventures? Or are you not feeling ready for that yet? The time is now to start! Getting organized is a great way to get ahead.

 

By Orana Velarde

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