Customer relationship management (CRM) software isn’t just for big businesses anymore.
Yes, even you — the freelancer, contractor, and startup — need a good CRM. That’s because building customer relationships is the most effective way to increase the profits and overall revenue of your business.
Research shows that businesses using customer relationship management (CRM) software see an average ROI of $30.48 for every dollar spent. Plus, an effective CRM can improve sales by up to 29%, increase sales productivity by 34%, and increase sales forecast accuracy by 42%.
If you’ve struggled with lead generation, client management, or the overall organization of your freelance business, read on. We’ll go over the must-have basics of a good CRM for freelancers alongside options you should consider.
Freelance CRM comparison
|Bonsai||$19/month (free trial available)||Overall CRM software|
|HubSpot||Free plan available||Easy to use CRM for freelancers|
|Betterlance||$19/month (free trial available)||Basic CRM|
|Streak||$15/month (free trial available)||Gmail integration|
|Agile CRM||Free plan available||Sales pipeline tools|
|Zoho CRM||$14/month||Growing freelance businesses|
|Insightly||$29/month (free trial available)||CRM automation|
|Bitrix24||$39/month (free trial available)||Collaboration|
|Pipedrive||$12.50/month (free trial available)||Deal-oriented freelance teams|
Best CRMs for freelancers
With so many features to look out for when choosing new client management software, you might feel overwhelmed. We did the hard work and compiled a list of the nine best CRMs for freelancers:
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Best for: Overall
Bonsai is an all-in-one CRM geared toward providing freelancers with an easy, user-friendly CRM solution. It aims to streamline the workload of freelancers everywhere.
Bonsai does this through capabilities like:
- Sending you a notification after a client has viewed your proposal, so you don’t have to keep checking your email
- Pre-vetting legal document templates, so you don’t have to hire a lawyer every time you make a contract
- Integrating its time-tracking tool with invoicing tools
- Auto-generating invoices based on proposals and contracts you’ve built in their CRM system
Bonsai’s cons are that their project management and expense-tracking features are not as comprehensive as other CRMs. Because of that, if you’re a freelancer with a lot of projects or generally complicated ones, this is probably not the CRM for you.
Price: Starts free, then $19/month. Free 2-week trial available.
Best for: Easy to use CRM for freelancers
HubSpot has one of the best free CRMs. Not only does it allow unlimited users and the ability to store up to one million contacts, it also includes every essential tool you’ll need to run your freelance writing business, including:
- Contact management
- Gmail or Outlook integration
- Email templates and email tracking
- Project management tools (like scheduling emails and meetings)
- Third-party app integrations (like Mailchimp and WordPress)
- Some marketing tools (like email tracking, free landing pages, and ad management)
- Live chat and basic chatbots that can be embedded on your website
There are three tiered plans for each respective area of services; marketing, sales, customer service, content management systems, and operations. This lets you tailor the CRM to fit your needs.
A few cons are that free versions of its tools are fairly limited—like marketing automation. So if your business is growing swiftly, you’ll probably outgrow the free version of HubSpot.
The downside? HubSpot is not a very intuitive interface. It can also get complicated very quickly, and customer service is only available through a web form or Twitter.
Price: Free plan available.
Best for: Basic CRM
Betterlance is a CRM with a pretty good free version of their software. Its CRM features and functionality are basic, but what it’s really known for is its ability to get new sales leads.
Betterlance’s sales team matches criteria to clients and automatically sends freelancers new leads through their CRM tool. If you sign up for a paid plan (business service or higher), you’re guaranteed a leads list every month.
This CRM also allows you to:
- Customize how frequently you want follow-up emails automatically sent out for you
- Put your favorite email templates in a library
- Automate reminders to follow up on sales leads
Price: Starts at $19/month after a 14-day free trial
Best for: Gmail integration
Streak is used as an extension of Gmail. The great thing about that is you don’t have to open another window or app—everything’s done inside your Gmail window.
The interface is simple and actually looks a lot like an Excel spreadsheet. You decide what data you want displayed in which cells, and just click and type. There’s no fancy dashboard, but if you’re just looking for simple functionality, this might be right up your alley.
Streak has a good free version of its CRM, as well as tiered paid plans starting at $15/month. Its free plan limits the number of data boxes you can include in their CRM to 500, but if you’re a small freelance business, that might be all you need.
Price: Starts free, then $15/month
5. Agile CRM
Best for: For sales pipeline tools
Much like its namesake, Agile is known for its speed. Its aim is to speed up the marketing and sales processes so you can more efficiently get through this part of your business. The drag and drop functionality makes the dashboard super quick and easy to use.
One of the most notable features is the timeline it integrates into every customer profile. This timeline shows every interaction each respective customer has with your business, helping you track the progress in your sales pipeline in a user-friendly and visual way.
An added bonus is Agile offers to onboard its software. It has a YouTube channel full of tutorials alongside training webinars on its website.
Price: Starts free, then from $8.99/month
6. Zoho CRM
Best for: For growing freelance businesses
One of the key aspects Zoho boasts is real-time insights into the analytics of the sales pipeline for your business. Zoho CRM tracks your leads, activity stats, and even your emails, and breaks it all down so you can monitor every step of your sales pipeline. This makes it an ideal CRM if your aim is growing your business.
Be warned, though: Zoho can be overwhelming for first-time CRM users. Though the user interface is fairly simple, there are a lot of tools and features, so you may find it complicated to use.
Price: Starts at $14/month
Best for: Automation
As a CRM, Insightly is a standard software serviceable for any freelancer. A notable feature of its base tier is a custom chart it creates to help you understand how leads from the same company are related.
That’s all well and dandy, but Insightly is at its best at the mid-tier plan and higher. There, you get advanced workflow automations that keep freelancers on track with all projects and leads. And at the highest tier, Insightly has a great marketing automation plan, for the price of $299/month.
So Insightly might not be for you if you’re just starting out as a freelance writer. However, if you’re ready to take the next step in growing your freelance business, it’s worthwhile to consider the Insightly CRM.
Price: Starts at $29/month after a free trial
Best for: Collaboration
Even with its limited free plan, Bitrix24 offers HD video calls, shareable calendars, and a communal company workspace. As you go up in tiers, the only thing that really changes is how many users are able to use the software and how much sharable memory storage they offer your team on their servers.
This CRM also stores everything in the cloud, making it easy for collaborators to grab whatever reports and documents they need. If you’re a freelancer who subcontracts work out, this software would be a great addition to your business arsenal.
Price: Starts free, then $39/month
Best for: Deal-oriented freelance teams
Pipedrive’s focus is boosting productivity for its customers. This is done through creating strong mobile apps to pair with its CRM software, as well as by keeping the CRM simple and easy to use.
If you’re a freelancer who is constantly out and about, you need a CRM with a well integrated and powerful mobile app. Pipedrive has one of the more powerful mobile apps associated with its CRM suite:
- Full access to all your CRM data that’s on the web user interface
- Offline syncing and data recall (so if you lose service, you don’t need to panic)
- Automated prompts to help you get through paperwork, data entry, and lead follow-ups
- Ability to capture and store images associated with contacts
On top of that, Pipedrive is one of the easier CRMs to set up and operate. It offers two-way syncing with Google contacts and the rest of the G Suite. At only $12.50/month, its base level subscription is one of the cheaper ones on the market.
Price: Starts at $12.50/month after a free trial
What makes a good CRM for freelancers?
As a freelancer, your small business has different needs than a big corporation. You are your own sales team, customer support department, and project management team. A good CRM software will centralize all of your business functions into one place.
There are a lot of CRMs out there, but here are some key things freelancers should look out for:
As a freelancer, you want to save money wherever you can. You’re in luck, because there are a lot of affordable— and even free— CRMs out there.
Many companies offer completely free, base-level free versions, or even free trials of their software. Take advantage of these opportunities to try out their CRM tools so you can figure out which ones work best for your business.
This is a basic feature every CRM has. It allows you to collect and organize data on new clients and existing ones. Data like their contact information, social media accounts, purchase history, etc. All this information is collected to create a customer profile. The thing to look out for here is if this feature is user-friendly and easy to navigate.
This tool will manage new leads and incoming sales opportunities. It will track them across the stages of the sales pipeline, and keep a record of whether they’re won or lost.
Freelancers need to accurately bill for the time they’ve spent on projects. This management tool will help your small business figure out how much time each task or project takes so you can adjust project pricing accordingly.
Not all CRMs have marketing tools built-in as a standard feature, but most have them available as an add-on. This can mean anything from email marketing to full social media ad campaigns.
Every freelance business is constantly trying to find new ways to streamline the lead generation process, so why not have it all centralized in your CRM software.
This is a CRM feature to consider if you’re a busy, on-the-go freelancer. Being able to access your CRM on a mobile app keeps you connected to your business wherever you have cell service.
It can be tough to scale a freelance business since time equals money. Save time—without compromising on client experiences—with automations. Check whether your CRM software integrates with your email and document management tools. Extra bonus points if it works with Zapier.
Accounting and billing tools
A good CRM will allow you to create, send, and track invoices. It will also keep track of the bills you receive. In order for your business to find any measure of success, your books must be accurate and up to date, so this tool is essential.
Whichever CRM software you choose, remember this is a tool that is meant to help you. So the cheapest or most popular option might not be right for you. Look for software that helps with your task management, vibes with your workflow, and has the automation tools to allow you the freedom to focus on other parts of your freelance business.
Which CRM powers your freelance business?
Customer relationship management is a key factor to increasing sales for your freelance business.
So if you find yourself stuck in your business, try implementing a CRM from our list. You might just find that’s the very thing to take your freelance business to the next level.