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Use Email as Your Freelance Management Hub


Productivity experts might tell us to make lists and draw chains, create files and label folders but in practice, there’s one productivity system that all freelancers use every day. Email might not have been invented to manage our work routines but that’s often how we use it. We flag messages to make sure that communications aren’t forgotten. We email ourselves reminders to make sure that we complete tasks. We pray that every time we reply to an enquiry, our email service is automatically adding the address to a contact list we never organize.

There are more efficient ways to use email as your freelance management hub. Here’s how to do it.

 

Build An All-In-One Control Center with Google Apps 

Google Apps provides a range of different services and products. It’s targeted at businesses who pay up to $50 per year per user or as much as $10 per user per month for more services that include email and chat archiving, applied “retention policies,” and e-discovery that makes litigation and compliance audits simple. For individual users though, it’s free.

What Will It Do?

Google Apps is a suite of applications some of which you’re likely to already use — at least occasionally. It includes Gmail, for example, as well as Google Docs, Google Drive (its Dropbox competitor) and Google Calendar, among many others.

Once you’ve signed up, you’ll get access to a cpanel from which you can control the settings for each of the apps in the suite.

You’ll be able to personalize your Gmail, share documents and even create mini-sites.

Who Is It Really For?

Google Apps used to be called Google Apps for Domains and is now called Google Apps for Business. It’s really aimed at managers of virtual teams. As administrators, they’ll have access to all messages and content used as part of a project. Individual freelancers can use any app separately and won’t need to sign up, let alone pay.

Disadvantages

Google Apps is big and unwieldy. Few businesses are likely to use all the apps available and the sign up process includes domain confirmation which doesn’t always work. Even the “express” set-up takes half an hour. You’ll find it easier to sign up to any apps you want to use individually.

Advantages

Although the entire suite will be overkill for most freelancers, the service does include some little known apps that are remarkably useful. Cloud Connect, for example, integrates with Microsoft Office to save documents and files automatically to the cloud. It’s a kind of instant back-up of your current files that saves you having to remember to back up manually. Now that’s useful.

Manage Your Contacts with Contactually

Every time you write an email through Gmail, the program records the address and adds it to a list. That makes for quite a list. It’s going to include customer service addresses you used once, email addresses you used for confirmation as well as the addresses of clients, leads, friends and family.

You never sort through those lists to segment and categorize them. No one ever does. Google helps a little by separating out the most contacted addresses but for the rest, you’re on your own.

If you want to send an update to leads and prospects inviting them to get back in touch, you’ll have to sort through thousands of lines of data to pick out the best options.

Contactually will do that organizing for you.


What Will It Do?

Contactually connects with your Google account to pull up all your contacts. It also works with other email clients, as well as social media lists and mobile contact to put everyone in one place.

But that’s only the beginning. Contactually also scans the Web for publicly available information about each entry, keeping your list updated automatically. It categorizes contacts on the basis of a quick email that you send, including tags and keywords. And it even notes when you haven’t contacted someone for a while and encourages you to get back in touch.

The basic service is free and a “freelancer” version costs $15 per month.

Who Is It Really For?

Contactually will probably work best for sales people who bring in plenty of leads and have trouble managing and acting on them all. But it is good for freelancers too. The company’s case studies include freelancers who use Contactually’s reminders as a way of maintaining a network and keeping in touch with old clients.

Disadvantages

Fifteen dollars a month isn’t much but until an old lead hands over a project you’ll wonder why you’re paying it. The twice daily reminders are likely to be more annoying than useful (although you can shut them off.) More worrying is the feeling of lost confidentiality. Use an email to categorize your contacts and they will be seen by real people:

“Any information you send to us is accessible to only a select few individuals, and all have signed NDAs (non-disclosure agreements). We process the emails you send to us to better understand the meaning if your data, and parse it accordingly.”

That can feel a little creepy.

Advantages

Organize your contact list even from within Gmail, know that your entries are being updated automatically, bring them all together from across social media platforms and you’ll have a pretty valuable resource — one strong enough, perhaps, to keep the work flowing in.

Beat Filing with CloudMagic

Just as no one ever manages their various contacts lists so our folders and files are never as organized as we might wish — and not everything we want to find is buried in our hard drive. Google’s ability to pull up a social media post, for example, is limited and you’ll need to use different search fields to plough through your email, your document folder or your Twitter timeline.

CloudMagic lets your search everywhere, all at once.

What Will It Do?

CloudMagic is a universal search engine for your personal data. It will index your information and allow you to make one search that covers:

  • Gmail
  • Google Apps Email
  • Google Chat, Docs, Calendar and Contacts
  • Twitter
  • Microsoft Exchange Email, Calendar and Contacts (Exchange Server 2007 and 2010)
  • Microsoft Office 365 Email, Calendar and Contacts

Who Is It Really For?

The people who will benefit most from CloudMagic are heavy users of Twitter, Gmail and Microsoft’s email, calendar and contacts.

Disadvantages

Despite its attempts to be universal, CloudMagic doesn’t cover everything. You’ll still be dependent on your OS’s search engine to find your hard drive documents and if you’re looking for a post someone made on Facebook, you’re out of luck.

Advantages

Searching your contacts on Twitter can be frustrating. CloudMagic is fast, effective and sits in your browser.


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