A Creative Workflow Process

All writers need a workflow process. They need a workflow process to manage contacts, proposals, projects, and billing. You can do this any way you want, but some methods will be more chaotic than others.

  1. Contacts: you need a way to store contacts and flag contacts that are new leads
  2. Proposals: you need an easy way to create professional-looking approvals which includes an approval mechanism
  3. Invoicing: you need good invoicing software with online payments and low merchant fees
  4. Project Management/Creative Review: you need a way to organize project tasks and other to-do’s, plus a way to present and discuss your work online if you work with clients remotely

Automating the creative workflow process is not easy

I finally reached the point where I wanted to automate these tasks. You would think finding software to handle this would be easy as pie. Nope, it’s hell.

I spent months testing software and integrations. It was really difficult to find something affordable that would automate the administrative workflow of my freelance business.

  1. A lot of apps don’t integrate together
  2. A lot of apps are super expensive
  3. Zapier will connect apps, but not always the way you need it to

“I am obstinate (part of the reasoning behind my bull logo). So I trudged on. I hope I can save you some pain through my experience.”

 

I started with my must-have app

Your must-have app is the one piece of software is most critical to your business. If you have a lot of projects to juggle, project management software may be your priority.

I invoice clients online, so FreshBooks is my must-have app. I use it because it is easy and its merchant fees are cheaper than Quickbooks’

I tested the app’s native integrations

Sign up for free trials for all the apps that integrate with your must-have app. And then look at how those apps integrate with other apps.

  1. FreshBooks has native integration with several CRM apps: Capsule, Solve, and You Don’t Need A CRM. Capsule is the cheapest ($12 mo.) but I found it complicated to use. Solve was too expensive at $25 mo. YDNACRM was too complex for my needs; it is really built for teams.
  2. FreshBooks only has native integration two proposal software apps: Proposify and Blinksale. Proposify is really expensive if you want to use it for all your estimates ($50 a month for 30 proposals). And Blinksale just isn’t very pretty.
  3. When an estimate is approved, I need to create a project. FreshBooks integrates with with Proposify, which integrates nicely with Basecamp. This means Proposify will create a project when an estimate is approved, but you still have to enter the tasks. Proposify is $25 mo/10 active proposals  and Basecamp is $20 mo/10 projects. In reality, you will need to step up to the next subscription level for both apps, which will be $50 mo. each.

Total cost: $112 mo + $29.95 mo FreshBooks = $142 mo ($1702 annually)

Test alternate integrations (Here is my solution)

  1. I use Pipedrive ($12 a month) for a CRM. It is super simple, so I will actually use it instead of letting it gather “software dust.”
  2. I use NiftyQuoter for estimates. It has the same functionality as Proposify but costs $19 a month for unlimited proposals. (I save a whopping $456 a year!) It also asks prospects to give a reason when they reject a proposal. With some effort, NiftyQuoter can be set up to export quotes to FreshBooks as invoices. You can also tie proposals to “deals” in Pipedrive and they will synch, letting you know in Pipedrive which leads result in projects and for how much.
  3. The last piece of the puzzle is project management. Ideally, when a proposal is approved, one could export it with all the “to do items” to a project. Basecamp is the best-known project management software out there, but I like the functionality, live chat, and interface of Teamwork ($49 mo./40 projects). Sadly, even though NiftyQuoter claims to integrate with Teamwork, I could not get the integration to work. Since I have to enter the projects manually anyway, I decided to go with a free solution – Freedcamp – which is similar to Basecamp but prettier.

Total cost: $31 mo + $29.95 mo FreshBooks = $61 mo ($732 annually)