There comes a point in time in your business when free just doesn’t cut it anymore. When you need to create systems and processes so that you can manage your business. And often you’ve got to make a financial investment to get the right systems and processes in place.
Late in 2014, I was feeling that crunch in my law firm. I needed a solid client intake and management system. I did my research and it seemed like a CRM system was the way to go.
One of the big features I wanted was the ability to automate the tasks for specific parts of my client work. For example, I wanted the same exact process to occur every time:
And I wanted the CRM to generate me automatic to-dos and reminders so that I didn’t drop any balls. After testing out several platforms, I ended up selecting Insightly. What I didn’t realize at the time, was that the investment I was making wasn’t in the monthly fee, but the hours it took to set the system up.
Creating a client intake roadmap
When I started mapping out each of the processes, I thought I had a pretty good idea. So one afternoon, I got out a blank 13×19 sheet of paper, grabbed a stack of Post-It Notes and some pens and started creating a roadmap of the process.
When it came to my client intake process, I quickly learned two things:
- I really had no system
- the system I had was focused on me, not my potential clients
So I scrapped the whole thing and started from scratch. I decided that the first step needed to be to figure out how my client should feel at every step. So I wrote in big bold letters easy and transparent at the top of my roadmap. As I created my new client intake system I measured every step against those two objectives.
What ended up on that 13×19 sheet of paper first got transferred to my CRM system and a detailed version now lives in Evernote. But it’s something that I’m constantly tweaking and honing.
In fact, based on client feedback:
- clients can now electronically sign my services agreement (via HelloSign)
- potential clients can book and pay for our first session online, eliminating back-and-forth emails
- our first session is now recorded, so clients can go back to it later when their notes don’t make sense
Because I’m a little OCD, okay a lot OCD, not only did I outline the process, but I created template emails to use at each step. These template emails were saved as Canned Responses in Gmail. (Oh, how I love Canned Responses.)
This way all I needed to do was customize the email and hit send. No need to cut and paste or type a version of the same thing over and over. When I was creating these emails, I thought if I were in my client’s shoes, “what would I want to know” (because remember, my goal was transparency).
Sign and Pay email
Creating some of these emails were really easy. For example, the Sign and Pay email goes like this:
I’m so excited we are going to be working together to [WHAT ARE WE DOING]!
To avoid the hassle of printing, signing and scanning you’ll shortly get an email from HelloSign with your Services Agreement.
If everything looks good, go ahead and sign. If you have any questions, corrections, or concerns let me know and I’ll take care of it.
The link to pay the invoice is in your Services Agreement, but just to make it easy here it is as well:
Once I have the:
(1) signed agreement
we’ll be ready to kick things off and get rolling. ADD SOMETHING SPECIFIC ABOUT THE PROJECT.
Price negotiation email
However, the hardest one for me to write was the one that crops up every once in a while: the price negotiation email.
Honestly, every time this comes up I draft it and then take a walk before hitting send. Sending this email is always a struggle and fight for me.
Sending this email is always a struggle and fight for me.
The devil (AKA my imposter complex) asks me if I deserve to charge the rates that I do. The angel (AKA my logical brain) chimes in that my prices are based on a complex formula. This formula makes sure I can continue to live modestly where most of my clients do and that I can invest in my business.
My logical brain usually wins out. But every time I hit send on this email, I get a little sick to my stomach. After several iterations this is what it currently says:
The short answer is I need to honor the price I quoted you.
The long answer is that I don’t come to my flat rates willy-nilly. These rates attempt to balance my business needs as well as my client’s budgets. This is a difficult balance. I try to find the line between making sure my own needs are covered while charging rates that the people I really want to serve can afford.
Additionally, paying it forward and supporting creative women entrepreneurs is integral to my business model. As such I’ve built into my model a percent donation on all my gross profits. These donations go to organizations working to support creative women-owned businesses within the San Francisco Bay Area.
As someone who runs two businesses, I understand that at times our account balance makes decisions for us. So if that’s where you are, I completely understand your need to pass on working together.
That being said I’d love to work with you on this project, so let me know if you’d like to move forward.
What emails do you send as part of your client intake process? Are any of them hard for you to send?