As a software developer I've picked up my fair share of freelance work over the years. To keep track of this I've always used Google Drive to keep me organised.
My setup is really simple, I use Google Drive to create folders for each client and then create Docs for any proposals and then use Sheets to create invoices. Email fills in the rest of the gaps, Nothing flashy. It's worked well for me and best of all, it costs nothing.
If it aint broke, don't fix it?
That's true, I could keep using this setup forever. But, and there's always a but! I could build something extra, something to call my own, something I could share with other people and maybe even make some money from. The docs and sheets work well, however I want little extras, such as:
- A breakdown of how much I've made this year, the past 6 months.
- Which client has brought in the most money, which clients have been difficult to work with.
- To be able to create professional estimates and invoices, save as a PDF and email to the client at the click of a button.
- Log the hours worked so I can keep an eye on if my estimates are correct.
You get the idea - there's lots of useful things I'm not utilising.
The plan and execution
I have 3 main goals I want to achieve:
- Make something useful for myself and other people.
- Build in public and grow my Twitter audience - More about this further down.
- Offer something for free, but also make a side income from it.
Build In Public
#buildinpublic is a topic I've been following on Twitter for a while now. Its where people, who sometimes call themselves bootstrappers, build a product and tell everyone about it as they progress. It's good marketing and helps you find people in your niche. I've seen this be put to good use by lots of people.
However I also feel that this opens you up to scrutiny. The majority of people who want to say something about your work will either say something nice, or be tactful about it when they have criticism. But since this is the Internet, you have to be thick skinned, or better yet, not care.
I've seen comments such as "Why would I use this" and "no one is going to pay X for that" and while sometimes they might have some truth to them, I'm a firm believer in "If you never try, then you'll never know".
Checking out the competition
I'm well aware there are plenty of other freelance CRM websites and platforms out there. I'm definitely not the first and won't be the last. Which is why I've first decided to solve my own problems. I don't want to create an all singing, all dancing solution, I want to take my current setup and add a bit of flair to it, whilst keeping it as simple as possible.
There will be many people who use a similar setup to me, who perhaps want what they've got but with a little sprinkle of goodness on top. This is my target audience, my niche so to speak.
And here it is, this is the start of me building something in public. If you would like to follow me on this journey, I'll be posting updates over on my Twitter page. Feel free to follow me.