After studying graphic design and art in college, Courtney spent a few years working in different office jobs while doing freelance design work in the evenings and on weekends. Last year, she decided to devote more of her time to her art and went to part-time at her office job so she could focus on creating her own design business.
This has proved to be a great decision for her, especially because she has successfully been able to leverage the Internet to connect with clients around the country. Things have been going so well that she thinks she will be able to quit her office job entirely within the next six months and work full-time on her design firm.
Because the majority of her business (more than 75%) comes from Internet-based clients, she rarely meets her clients face-to-face. She uses email as the main way to communicate and share drafts and final copies of work. She uses her own cell phone as the main communication line for her business. Courtney keeps track of all her orders and expenses in Excel and uses a web-based POS system to send invoices that she then copies into her spreadsheet. Sometimes she also texts her clients because it is faster and some prefer it.
Most of her initial contact with customers comes through her website, so she regularly logs into her web provider account to check for new form submissions. As her business has grown, she has occasionally outsourced some of the work to other graphic designers she knows. She shares documents using Dropbox and Drive.
Courtney prides herself on using different forms of technology to do her best work. And all of these different accounts worked just fine when she was pursuing graphic design in her spare time. She would access everything from her home computer, so it was basically all in one place.
However, now that her business is expanding, she realizes that the system is starting to hinder her productivity and organization. Some clients give her work once or only occasionally, while others regularly submit orders for new projects. She is now trying to keep track of more than 50 clients using a system of different services that sort of work together but often are not truly integrated.
The good news is her business is growing and she is taking on more jobs and more clients. The bad news? She is struggling to keep track of everything herself, and a few things have already slipped through the cracks. She missed a text from a client requesting a draft of a project, and while the client was understanding, Courtney does not want to establish a reputation of missing important communications from her clients because she knows this reflects poorly on her and her business.
In another instance, she was using an older version of an Excel spreadsheet to do some billing and did not realize until she had already sent out her invoices that they were the wrong version.
Courtney is considering adding another person to her business to help keep track of everything. She knows she could use the help, and with her business’ growth she will be able to afford it. However, she is not sure exactly how to go about doing this. She thinks the easiest way to take on an employee would be to hire somebody who can work from home and do most of the communication and information-sharing over the Internet.
She has no idea how this will work with her current system, and the idea of constantly sending the most up-to-date versions of spreadsheets, work drafts, and other information back and forth over email makes her head spin. Add the occasional freelancer to that mix and Courtney knows it is time for a different approach if her business is going to successfully transition from a part-time hobby to a full-time business.
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