I'm new to the forums and relatively new to freelancing. From my experience so far, I'm finding the hardest part is managing leads / clients. Do you have a successful process for client management that you can share?
This has been my process (more or less) so far:
1. Make first contact with a lead
2. Send portfolio of items that relate to the potential project (I'm a PHP developer, so I send links to websites and sample code if requested)
3. Discuss project objective with lead via phone / email
4. Send a proposal by email - usually hacked from a Word template that I've used for another client
5. Follow up with the lead to answer questions / confirm their interest
6. Send a PDF contract for them to sign and return
7. Collect deposit if agreed upon
8. Begin work on project - very little communication happens during the work phase
9. If it's an hourly project, jot hours down on a timesheet and send invoices (another Word template) periodically
10. Send URL of work-in-progress to client for review
11. Follow up with client, get signoff
12. Install project on client's server
13. Send final bill and wait patiently for a check
These are the issues that I'm facing:
- I feel extremely disorganized. Each time I share a portfolio, I gather resources to send and it seems like I'm doing duplicate work. For proposals / contracts, editing Word documents seem kludgy at best. Communication with the client is spread across many emails (and phone calls that aren't even tracked).
- Clients change their minds. It's a problem with scope as well as flip-flopping on features. Then I need to dig up an old email to "prove" to them that they originally asked for "A", not "B".
- Need to drag clients through the process. I'm often waiting for feedback from a client that puts development on hold. And getting them to pay for work that is already done can be like pulling teeth.
- Lack of transparency for the client. While I'm working on the project, it would be helpful if the client knew what was going on. I think part of the reason that they drag their feet is because they don't realize all the work that I put into their project.
So, any insight into whether you deal with the same issues or how you have mastered a process that works for you? Also, is there any software that will help manage the whole process? I know there are tools for certain aspects, like BaseCamp or Freshbooks, but I'm wondering if there's an overall magic bullet that takes care of everything?