When I started my design business back in August 2016, I thankfully had enough foresight to know that I needed a way to keep contracts, invoices, client correspondence, and my general workflow organized. I knew that, because I’ve completely failed at that type of organization before. Oops.
My first instinct was to find tools and programs that would help me manage every aspect of my business. My thought was that if I found the best tool for each aspect, I’d somehow manage to be super organized and look “totes proffesh” like the other cool kids who all seemed to have themselves together – rockin’ it out with their design businesses.
Oops. I failed… again.
Your first instinct isn’t always correct, and that’s okay. Sometimes a little failure helps us understand our needs as business owners… and what I needed was to not have my work flow spread out over several different websites and mediums:
- G Suite – Client correspondence
- Hello Bonsai – Contracts & Invoices
- Gravity Forms – Contact & Lead forms
- Quickbooks – Bookeeping
- Happy Planner – Project scheduling
Don’t get me wrong – all of these tools and services are wonderful (and I have every intention of continuing to use my G Suite email service and my planner in general), but it doesn’t make a lot of sense to have to use all of them in reference to working with a design client. In fact, it just leaves room for mistakes and confusion – for both parties.
What my design business really needed…
What I needed was a Client Relation Management System (CRM) that could handle every event that would occur between myself and a design client. It needed to be designer friendly, have an easy to use interface, allow me to organize everything in one place, easy to understand for even my most tech confused clients, and most of all… be affordable. It sounded like a pretty tall order.
I had several CRM recommended to me: 17Hats, Táve, and Honeybook to name a few. But one newcomer to the scene was being recommended above all others… to the point that I couldn’t help but check it out for myself.
Trying out Dubsado
Coming from the vast array of tools I was using, Dubsado at first felt a little overwhelming… a feeling which quickly subsided. I grew accustomed to Hello Bonsai, the free contract and invoice system I’d been using. For about 5 minutes, I longed for the pre-made contracts and invoices to which I had grown accustomed.
Once I was done internally whining, I realized the amount of control I now had over my business interactions. The wording, the setup, the workflow, the branding… it was all mine to do with as I pleased. There was no right or wrong way. I could be as creative with it as I wanted to be.
Pro Tip: Free isn’t always better anyways. If you don’t have a contract set-up already, you need to get one sorted. A contract not only clarifies everything for your client and keeps you on the same page but it keeps your business protected so you aren’t up at night! I recommend looking into a contract from The Contract Shop that you can set-up and send off in 15 minutes.
Click here to take a look at their Independent Contractor Template. – this is awesome if you’re a freelancer who can’t afford to be sitting up in a lawyer’s office getting this stuff written for you.
Reasons I’m Loving Dubsado
1. Dubsado highlights your brand and only your brand.
The biggest complaint I’ve received from my clients involved the confusion of where their contract and invoice were coming from: a branded email from another company, rather than directly from me. This is a huge problem for a business because it slowly chips away at what trust you’ve established with your clients. Why are they ever doing business with someone else!?
Dubsado allows you to connect your email account to the system, so all of the email exchanges, contracts, and invoices come directly from you. Best of all, they leave no trace of their branding on any of it. All the client sees is beautifully designed forms featuring your logo, your graphics – just YOU.
2. Lead Capturing is part of the system… and super easy.
I have to grumble for a moment so that you can understand why this feature is so important to me.
When I first started this website, I downloaded the Contact Form 7 plugin for handling my web forms. It’s known as an industry standard in terms of totally free WordPress plugins. That said, I wasn’t really a fan of it for my business. It didn’t look how I wanted, and it certainly didn’t behave how I wanted since emails kept ending up in spam or worse… the G-mail trash.
Frustrated, I spent the $59 annual fee for Gravity Forms – another well known plugin with a lot more options and generally better usability. Like Contact Form 7, the inquiries would get sent to my email for me to answer, but would also get stored on my website – allowing me to view them at any time from my WordPress dashboard.
This too would fail me. Not one, not two, but three leads somehow never reached me despite the plugin sending me a ping for lead captures in between. I lost out on what could have been a $1,200+ project because the client moved on long before I knew they’d contacted me. Hell to the no.
Dubsado to the rescue.
You can create as many lead captures as you need and put them on your website. You can check out my Contact page to see one of mine in action. When someone fills it out, their information is captured by Dubsado and they are added to a Leads tab in your Dubsado dashboard.
BEST of all? Every correspondence between you and that lead are available for you to view via your own email and your Dubsado dashboard. Convenient and awesome.
3. You can create forms for everything!
If you’re like me, you send the same emails over and over. It’s a huge waste of time and it sucks. I love that I can create forms for Contracts, Invoices, Client Questionnaires, Testimonial & Feedback requests, Design Quotes, and more. I can click and send to any of my leads or clients knowing that their project information will be filled out for me by the system. It’s smart, personable, and it’s already saving me a lot of time and hassle.
Best of all, it’s easy and they always look beautiful!
The form creator is intuitive. Dubsado gives a wonderful example form which showcases so many ways you can customize the form and make it yours. All of the elements are drag & drop, able to be copied, and set to required if needed. And as if that wasn’t enough – there’s an entire library of already built forms that you can choose to copy to your account for free… already made by other Dubsado users in a wide variety of niches.
4. Automated Workflows are brilliant.
Imagine not having to worry about sending an invoice to a client after they have signed the contract. Even better… sending it to them only during your work hours, so it totally looks like you’re on the ball.
Another Dubsado user gave me the genius idea to set up an email that gets immediately sent to the client after the invoice is paid. It thanks them for their payment, sends a form which lets them choose the best times for a phone call with me, and generally expresses my enthusiasm for their project. Genius.
5. Two Words: Client Portals.
Above all else, this totally blows my mind. You can actually send your clients a link which allows them to see everything related to their project – every correspondence, contract, invoices, etc. So not only does Dubsado keep you organized, it keeps your clients organized as well!
The Portal can be embedded into your own website and customized with your logo and branding colors to give your clients a cohesive experience.
I know you know the pain of unorganized clients who can’t seem to find that one email from you that you know you sent because they totally responded to it. No problem – it’s all there in their personalized Client Portal. Oh the hours (and handfuls of hair) you’re going to save!
6. The community is amazing!
Husband and Wife duo Jacob and Becca Berg have one of my favorite, most helpful Facebook Groups. The Dubsado Community is where you get updates about new or upcoming features. It’s also a great space to leave feedback, request features, or get help from other members of the community.
You’re going to find creatives of all types – Photographers, Graphic Designers, Cake Bakers, Doulas… you name it, they are probably in there.
7. It’s much more affordable than it sounds.
Although Dubsado recently raised their prices (August 2018 to $30/mo), they are ridiculously affordable for what you get from them – a system that takes your clients from start to finish in their project.
For $30 USD per month, everything I talked about (and so much more) can be yours. Considering the cost of G Suite for 1 email is $5/mo, an annual Happy Planner costs $30, Quickbooks for Small Business is $20/mo, and an annual subscription to Gravity forms is $59, Dubsado is a steal.
I even did the math for you… and the monthly cost of just those 4 tools comes out to more than $32 per month.
Don’t take my word for it.
If you have a business that craves organization and automated workflow, Dubsado could very well be for you. Sign up for free (no credit card required) and you’ll get access to Dubsado for up to 3 clients.
Use my code kimikinsey (it’s case sensitive) and you’ll receive 20% off of your first month, or your first year.