You’ll face numerous challenges as an independent or freelance consultant. Everything from chasing down overdue invoices to properly screening and responding to new client requests can add hours upon hours to your weekly schedule. Every moment spent tackling business management is time not engaged in client work. Customer relationship management tools (CRMs) are an effective solution to most of the common business management problems you’ll face as a freelance consultant. And thanks to its low cost, easy templates, and an all-in-one suite of features, the best CRM for consultants is HoneyBook.
What is consultant CRM?
“CRM” stands for customer relationship management. As a freelance consultant, it’s the very essence of what you do. Every time you interact with a client, perform a service, or research and deliver a report for actionable recommendations, you’re managing that client relationship.
Still, client relationship management is more than just providing an excellent service. It’s also in how effectively you record and follow-up on all parts of that relationship in ways that ensure a steady and positive flow of communication between you and your clients.
Strong and effective communication is one of the best strategies in any consultant’s bag of tricks that help win over clients and land more referrals. It’s also one of the hardest parts of the job, especially once you start growing your businesses and increasing your client list.
A fragmented or scattered approach to communication makes it nearly impossible to give clients the attention they deserve. Dropping the ball on this end could lead to strained business relationships or missed opportunities, something no consultant wants.
Business consulting expert David A. Fields puts it this way: “…consulting isn’t about you; it’s about them—the clients.”
He also puts it another way: “The secret of delivering value to a client is in valuing the client.”
When your personal business management starts to look like a mess, it slows everything else down. If clients don’t hear from you when they need to and in the manner that best fits their needs, they’ll take their business elsewhere. A frightening prospect, to be sure, that’s the nature of competition in the consulting market.
Put relationships first with a CRM tool
This is where the technology aspect of CRM for consultants comes into play. The way you communicate and the reasons you communicate with clients can be complicated, but good, efficient communication makes everyone happy.
Your client relationships span everything from invoicing to contract proposals to inbound marketing. There are dozens of single-purpose small business consultant software options that’ll do the trick, but they’re not commonly integrated to work together.
An all-in-one CRM service like HoneyBook reduces how many different tools you need to sign up for, learn, and operate for client communications and relationship management. Efficiency is key. You can increase the competence of business management and boost the positive relationships you have with clients by using a turnkey CRM solution instead of creating a patchwork solution made of different tools.
Most important CRM needs for consultants
Your top needs from a consultant CRM tool will vary. HoneyBook is the best CRM for consultants because it offers features that cover what most seasoned consultants identify as the primary struggles or issues that consultants encounter.
Just as you might do when you’re entering a contract with a new client, let’s start by identifying and talking through those key pain points.
What areas of your business management as an independent consultant do you find the most challenging to overcome? Depending on how long you’ve been operating your freelance consultant business, your answers may vary.
For example, the CEO of Alton Enterprises, Larry Alton, identifies 7 key areas he believes are the biggest challenges for starting a consulting business. These include:
- Finding the right target audience
- Building credibility
- Finding your first client
- Establishing consistent revenue
- Differentiating yourself from the competition
- Setting the right price
HoneyBook can help you get more control over all of these issues; even intellectual property. As you clearly define your services and project scope with exceptional online contracts, both you and your clients will develop smooth and efficient interactions. And with HoneyBook’s project tracking, you can follow each project phase in more detail.
Let’s walk through some of the tools HoneyBook provides that help solve the biggest relationship and business management issues you face as an independent consultant.
Elevated and branded online invoicing
You can invoice in a number of different ways, although many consultants choose to either send a PDF or issue clients invoices using software applications.
HoneyBook invoicing fits into the latter category. You can create invoices with your personal branding, then send each invoice immediately or on a schedule. Clients can pay your invoices online through an online payment software using most credit cards (VISA, Discover, American Express, or Mastercard accepted), or through a direct bank transfer.
Hate chasing down clients for payment? Set up your HoneyBook invoicing to send payment reminders for upcoming and late payments.
You can also use HoneyBook invoicing for recurring payments. This is an excellent option for long-term consulting contracts that allow you to bill the same amount at regular intervals.
HoneyBook’s invoicing tool makes it much easier to establish consistent revenue. The editable invoice templates also will build your credibility with the professional look and feel of the invoices, especially after you’ve inserted your personal branding.
You can also get a much better handle on your potential self-employment tax liabilities thanks to HoneyBook’s data-based approach to payment tracking. Identify all of your incoming and outgoing payments with a solid paper trail, eliminating any guesswork you might have regarding how much you’ve earned.
Faster client onboarding
Don’t spend every free moment writing responses to potential clients or former clients who are interested in new work. Respond quickly with HoneyBook’s Automation tool.
This tool automatically responds to inquiry requests with responses you’ve designed ahead of time. Once you’re ready to set up an online contract or send a proposal, the automation provides fast tools that let you quickly edit and send the contracts or proposals, reducing the time it takes to get from inquiry to signed contract.
Use the available templates to create the automation, then let HoneyBook’s software do the work.
HoneyBook’s Automation will let you send questionnaires to better understand the clients’ needs or brochures that give a more detailed explanation of your services. When both parties are ready to sign on the dotted line, HoneyBook incorporates digital contract signing (no fiddling with Adobe needed).
This small business consultant software also provides a 3-in-1 proposal tool that includes a proposal template, a freelance consulting contract template, and an invoice template. Edit each one as necessary, or send documents you’ve already prepared. Set up your workflow to send the documents you want automatically to reduce the number of back-and-forth communications and accelerate the time it takes to close the deal.
Tools like HoneyBook’s Automations are perfect for independent consultants who need to scale up. You can’t spend your entire day responding to inquiries. Proper scaling means reducing how much additional paperwork and communication you engage in. Automating as many processes as possible quickly becomes an essential tool for growing businesses.
Powerful task management
What’s worse for your client relationships: missing a scheduled meeting or failing to find time in your schedule for prospective clients? Either way, consultant businesses ride and fall through task management. Any interruption or failure on that end could damage your relationship with a client.
HoneyBook has multiple tools that solve your biggest task management needs, to include:
- Time tracker
- Task manager
- Scheduling tool
- Project status reminders
- Communication notifications
- Workflow status updates
Since HoneyBook also integrates with both Google Calendar and Calendly, you can get the full force of some of the best calendar services on the market using a single all-in-one business platform.
HoneyBook also makes it easy to receive inbound requests through lead capturing tools. For example, you can easily create a contact form that embeds onto your website and updates you automatically through HoneyBook’s platform.
You can even install the Google Chrome extension to keep track of Gmail communications between yourself, your clients, or your leads. All project-related communications appear in your HoneyBook Activity Feed for quick referencing.
Spread your consulting wings with HoneyBook
Your clients deserve the best you can give. Maintaining bandwidth in your schedule is the best way to ensure you have the time and energy to give your clients the best service possible. Offering service with a smile is always a boon, but it’s also important to step back and realize you can’t spend your entire day responding to inquiries or chasing payments.
The best solution to scaling and growing your freelance consultant business is to employ the best CRM for consultants on the market. HoneyBook will reduce the pressure your schedule as you scale, giving you the space you need to focus more attention on more direct client engagement.
Ready to get organized and scale? Try HoneyBook risk-free for 7 days.
This post was updated in August 2021 when the HoneyBook Workflow tool was renamed to Automations. The HoneyBook Automations tool maintains the same functionality with the ability to automate communications, tasks and more. For more information about the Automations update, check our August 2021 Release Notes.