CRM for Creators: The 5 Best Apps for You
You're a creator, which is a fancy way of saying, "I make stuff for a living!"
Maybe you're a freelance website designer. Maybe you sell florally-scented bars of soap on e-commerce stores like Etsy. Or maybe you're a social media influencer.
Whatever the case may be, you need a reliable way to track leads, store customer information, and otherwise facilitate the sales process for your small business.
I've got four words for you: customer relationship management software.
In this article, I'll explain what CRM software is, the benefits of CRM for creators, how to choose the right solution, and five specific apps you can use to supercharge your creative business. But first, let’s talk about why you need a CRM to begin with.
What Is CRM Software?
Customer relationship management software, often abbreviated to CRM software, is a specific kind of application that allows users to store contact information, communicate with leads and customers, automate workflows, and implement marketing campaigns.
I know what you're thinking: "Why should I buy a CRM system? I already have tools I can use to store contact details and talk to leads. Ever heard of spreadsheets and email software?"
It's a valid point. Here's my counter: CRM simplifies sales and marketing processes by bringing disparate solutions together, which makes them easier to use.
You won't have to transfer information from app to app. You'll be able to access all of the information you need to make more sales from one convenient location. This will make you way more productive. It will also save you money, because you'll only have to pay for one tool.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. In the next section, I'll share three reasons why creators should invest in CRM software—even if they're artsy-fartsy, allergic-to-technology types.
Why Do Creators Need a CRM Solution?
CRM is incredibly beneficial, which is why every sales team in America uses it. But there are three specific advantages that creators enjoy, once they buy this kind of solution:
I'm a creator, too, so I'm allowed to say this: we aren't known for our organizational skills.
We can take people's breath away with our artistic creations. But ask us where we put that one thing that one time and… Well, good luck to you. That's not our strong suit.
CRM software streamlines the organization process. How many leads are in your sales pipeline? Check your CRM. When was the last time you followed up with Prospect XYZ? Check your CRM. How many sales did you make last month? Yup, check your CRM.
To be a successful business owner, you have to prioritize organization. CRM makes it way easier, which means you can spend more time doing what you do. Yay productivity!
Automate Your Business
Speaking of productivity, most CRM solutions include automation features.
Imagine how much more you'll get done when your CRM collects customer data for you. Or sends follow-up emails on autopilot. Or generates sales reports automatically.
CRM software can do all of these things, improving the accuracy of your records and eliminating tedious manual tasks from your to-do list. You can then use the time you save to create more products, take on more client work—whatever you want, really!
Better Understand Your Clients
Who do you sell your products and/or services to?
If your answer is, "To whoever lands on my website or Etsy store," we need to have a serious discussion. When you try to sell to everyone, you end up selling to no one. Fact of life.
CRM software will give you access to detailed client data. Study this information, and you'll learn who your ideal customers are. You can then optimize your marketing efforts to reach specific demographics, and your sales processes to create better customer experiences.
When these things happen, your business will naturally achieve more success. Successful businesses make more money. Money opens up a lot of doors in life. So… Win!
How to Choose a CRM System for Your Business
Let me guess, you read the last section, got super excited about CRM software, and started Googling solutions. That's when you realized that there are an overwhelming number of options. Which one should you choose? Just follow this four-step process:
Know Your Budget
First, how much money can you spend on CRM?
Some solutions are free. Some cost thousands of dollars a month. Most fall somewhere in between. Before you do anything else, decide which price brackets are available to you.
(Note: unless you run some kind of creative agency, complete with multiple team members and salespeople, you probably don't need an expensive CRM system.)
Assess App Features
Second, which features does your CRM need to have?
Every app in this category includes contact management features. But you might need access to other tools, too. Want marketing automation functionality? What about sales forecasting capabilities? Maybe you want to create customer support tickets as well.
Think about your business needs. Then choose a CRM software that can meet them. Just don't go overboard. Too many features can be just as bad as too few.
Look at Integrations
CRM software can replace multiple tools in your current tech stack. But it won't be the only tool you use to run your business. With that in mind, check for relevant integrations.
You might use Calendly to book appointments, Zoom to meet with potential clients, and Asana for project management purposes. Choose a CRM that integrates with each of these apps. Doing so will streamline your workflows and boost your productivity levels—guaranteed.
(Another note: most SaaS tools connect to Zapier, which simplifies the integration process and prevents creators like us from learning about APIs, webhooks, and other technical gobbledygook. But Zapier isn't free, so native integrations are generally preferred.)
Read Customer Reviews
Last but certainly not least, read reviews on sites like G2 and Capterra. Then ask your LinkedIn connections what they think about the CRMs you're considering.
This is a great way to learn about each app's strengths and weaknesses. You don't want to waste time and money on a CRM that won't actually benefit your small business.
(One last note: read reviews about each app's support team, too. Make sure that the CRM you choose employs quality support reps. That way, if you ever get stuck and need their help, you'll enjoy a pleasant experience. Not every company can provide that.)
What's the Best CRM Software for Creators?
Which CRM should you choose to power your creator business?
I can't answer that question for you. But I can point you to five viable options*. Each will help boost your productivity, eliminate tedious tasks from your daily to-do list, and optimize your approach to sales and marketing so that you can grow to new heights.
*You'll notice that Salesforce is not included in the list below, even though it's one of the most popular CRMs in the world. That's because, in my opinion, Salesforce is better suited to large enterprise, not small creator businesses. Just wanted to put that out there.
Best for: Streamlining the sales process
Close is a popular CRM because it combines top-level lead management, email marketing, and sales reporting tools, but doesn't charge users an outrageous sum. Give your creator business a boost with the CRM that's designed to turn leads into paying customers.
- You won't have to train for weeks to use Close. You can start managing leads, communicating with prospects, and checking customer histories in about an hour.
- If you communicate with customers via email, you'll love Close. Our platform is equipped with a full email marketing suite, which can be used to automate email and text sequences. Send your messages at the exact moment they're likely to be read.
- Quality CRMs include analytics dashboards and reporting features. Close delivers in spades. Easily view a variety of metrics, then use them to generate customizable reports. This will allow you to quickly optimize your sales and marketing processes.
- Close also integrates with a ton of different tools, from calendar apps like Calendly to video conferencing platforms like Zoom to email marketing services like Mailchimp. Don't see an integration you need? Just connect Close to Zapier and away you go.
- The Close customer support team is extremely well-rated. Like, in the top 2 percent of all SaaS companies, kind of well-rated. Our reps are always available to help if needed.
- Close was specifically designed for sales professionals. That's why it doesn't include a meeting scheduler, invoicing tools, etc. If you want a do-it-all app, rather than one that can integrate with most other tools, Close probably isn't the right option for you.
Close Pricing: Don't worry, Close won't cost you an arm and a leg to use. The "Startup" plan will give you access to a ton of our top features, but only costs $99 a month, billed annually.
Want to try before you buy? Sign up for a free 14-day trial of Close to get the inside scoop.
Best for: Simple pipeline tracking
Looking for an easy-to-use CRM solution with a beautiful interface? Pipedrive might be a good option for you. This app is well-known for its visual nature, which simplifies the pipeline tracking process. But it includes other high-end sales and marketing tools, too.
- As mentioned above, Pipedrive excels at visual pipelines. They're a joy to look at, which combined with the app's drag-and-drop functionality, make it an easy tool to use.
- I think Pipedrive has a great email marketing suite as well. Easily access email templates, build autoresponders, segment your subscribers, and track your results.
- I can't forget to talk about the Pipedrive add-ons either. While the base platform is full of features, add-ons give users additional lead generation, email marketing, website analytics, project management, and e-signature capabilities—for an extra fee.
- Similar to Close, Pipedrive includes handy features, but is specifically built for sales teams. If you want to invest in a creator-focused tool, look elsewhere.
- Some users also complain about Pipedrive's integration capabilities. The app connects to many others, but setting up said connections is more tedious than it should be.
- Pipedrive isn't expensive—at least not compared to other apps in this category. But it isn't cheap either. This is especially true when you factor in the cost of add-ons.
Pipedrive Pricing: To use Pipedrive, you'll need to pay somewhere between $14.90 and $99 a month, billed annually. Access to add-ons will run you an additional $6.70 to $49 a month.
Best for: Cash-strapped creators
HubSpot is a powerful sales, marketing, and customer success software. But for this review, we're going to focus exclusively on the app's CRM functionality, which is totally free. That makes it a solid option for creators on a budget, who don't need access to tons of features.
- Maybe you didn't understand what I said before—HubSpot's CRM is completely free!
- HubSpot also includes features you can use to store contact information, track leads, and view sales pipelines. You can then view reports related to these tasks.
- HubSpot also has a bunch of tools you can use to promote your creator business, too. Landing pages? Check. Online forms? Check. An email marketing suite? Check.
- What about meetings? HubSpot CRM comes with a scheduling tool as well, which can be synced with Google Calendar, Office 365 Calendar, and Outlook.
- Finally, HubSpot CRM can be accessed on iOS and Android devices via mobile app.
- Unfortunately, HubSpot isn't super customizable. If personalization is important to you, I suggest purchasing a different CRM solution.
- HubSpot's CRM is more limited than other options. I can't complain. It's not like they charge people to use it. But if you want access to more advanced features—or think you might in the future—consider a different tool that will scale with your business.
HubSpot Pricing: Once again, HubSpot's CRM is free. If you ever want to upgrade to a paid plan, though, plan to spend at least a few hundred dollars a month, if not more. Ouch!
4. Zoho CRM
Source: Zoho CRM
Best for: Marketing automation needs
Zoho CRM does a lot of things. Some argue that it does too much—at least for solo creators who don't need access to process management and team collaboration features. Here's why I've added it to this list: Zoho's automation capabilities are pretty high-level.
Zoho CRM Pros:
- Use Zoho CRM to foster strong relationships with your leads and customers. The platform will help you view pipelines and manage conversations. It will also send you real-time notifications when customers contact you or post on social media.
- With Zoho CRM, you can easily communicate with your leads and customers. Send them emails, respond to their social media posts, and engage in live chats.
- Okay, we have to talk about Zoho CRM's automation features. Update your lead and customer database automatically. Crush your email marketing efforts with autoresponders and follow-up sequences. And generate custom reports on autopilot.
Zoho CRM Cons:
- Zoho offers a free version of its CRM, but don't get too excited. It's pretty limited and you'll probably need to upgrade to a paid plan immediately after you sign up. Bummer!
- Zoho CRM is an extremely powerful platform, helping companies do a variety of sales, marketing, and customer service-related tasks. This makes it a bit difficult to navigate at times. If you don't need its top-end features, consider a simpler tool.
- Earlier, I talked about the importance of your CRM's support team. Sadly, Zoho isn't known for amazing support reps. In fact, the opposite is probably more true.
Zoho CRM Pricing: Get started with Zoho CRM for just $14 a month, billed annually. Or spring for the "Ultimate" package and get every feature for $52 a month, billed annually.
Best for: An all-in-one tool for creators
What makes Clientjoy so great? Well, it was specifically designed for creators—one of the few CRMs that can actually say that. Because of this, it includes all of the features you need to run and grow your creative business. Let's take a closer look at these features now…
- Clientjoy includes numerous tools you can use to grow your creative business. I'm talking about web forms, a meeting scheduler, visual pipelines, and reports.
- Want to save time? Tap into Clientjoy's automation features. Send personalized outreach and generate custom reports that give you the data you need to succeed.
- Once you land a new client, you can use Clientjoy to manage the relationship. Get notified when clients open your emails, accept your proposals, and pay your invoices. You can even create an entire, white-label client portal on the Clientjoy platform.
- Clientjoy wants to help you get paid. Use this app to create and send contracts, and invoices. You can accept payments with Clientjoy, too, which is convenient.
- Clientjoy bills itself as an end-to-end solution for creative professionals and businesses. But, unfortunately, it doesn't include true bookkeeping features.
- Clientjoy includes automation, but they're not nearly as powerful as the other CRMs I tested for this article. So expect a bit more manual labor with this app.
- Clientjoy doesn't seem to offer native integrations. You can connect this app to thousands of others using Pabbly Connect. But since most people use Zapier for integration purposes, this means users have to invest in another third-party tool.
Clientjoy Pricing: Clientjoy is super cheap. The "Starter" plan will run you $9 a month, billed annually. The "Agency" plan will run you $15 a month, billed annually. And the "Enterprise" plan will run you $30 a month, billed annually. Monthly plans cost about 67 percent more.
Streamline Your Small Business with CRM Tools
The right CRM will help you manage and grow your creative business—without tearing your hair out in frustration. You just need to choose the right app for your specific needs.
Don't worry; choosing is easy. First, decide on your budget. Next, choose a few must-have features. Then, assess integrations. Finally, read reviews. If you do these four things, you should be able to pinpoint the perfect app for you. Then you just have to buy it.
Can't decide which CRM you want? Just choose Close. Our platform is well-rated, easy to use, and packed with features you need to succeed as a creative professional.
Sign up for a free 14-day trial of Close today to see if it's the CRM you've been waiting for.