Ah, the age-old internal struggle of the modern freelancer…
Do I need a system to help me organize my client relations, or not? And if I do decide that I need a system, which one should I use: Honeybook or Dubsado? Or something else?
Spoiler alert: I’m a Dubsado gal—and I’ve found that most other creative service providers feel the same…
…which is why I’ve invited Systems Pro and Dubsado Expert, Fran of The Passions Collective, to come to the BTL blog to share all of her knowledge with you! In this Expert Interview post, Fran’s going to give us all the info on the classic Dubsado Debate.
Fran’s #1 goal as leader of The Passions Collective is to help business owners beat burnout through what she calls the ‘magic combination’ of backend structure, automation, and passive income. She’s the definition of a multi-passionate, and I can’t wait for you to keep scrolling + learn from her.
A CRM, or Customer/Client Relationship Manager, is a tool meant to simplify the processes implemented to manage your customers and clients. Technically, though, Dubsado—the tool I specialize in helping my clients optimize—is a CMS, which stands for Client or Customer Management System.
The difference between a CRM and CMS is minor: CRMs focus on helping you manage relationships, while CMSs help you manage your internal processes to help you better serve those relationships.
A CMS allows you to keep track of your leads or inquiries, send contracts, prepare invoices… all that good stuff.
Most CMS platforms also have some form of automation which is a series of automated tasks that the CMS will perform automatically based on a certain trigger. This is often called a workflow.
Some platforms also have scheduling capabilities to help you get rid of the need for other platforms like Calendly. Each CMS platform has different features.
There’s a CMS rivalry between Honeybook and Dubsado. And, to be honest, their differences really all come down to personal preference.
Honeybook has a lower-tier pricing option ($9/mo) limited based on the dollar amount you earn, which Dubsado does not—Dubsado is only available at one price point, making Honeybook seem like the more financially accessible platform (although it ends up being more expensive than Dubsado, once you earn enough to warrant an upgrade).
Dubsado wins in the trial-period category, with their unlimited free trial (no credit card required!) for use up to 3 clients, allowing you to really take your time testing out the platform before paying for it. Honeybook’s free trial is only a week long.
In terms of functionality, Dubsado takes the cake: it offers 15 automations, whereas Honeybook only offers 3.
Dubsado is also much more brandable; you can customize your account by adding brand colors, logos, templates, forms, etc. Honeybook’s only branding-related capability is the option to change the cover photo for each project.
Another must-have feature (in my opinion) that any good CMS has is what are called smart fields. These smart fields basically auto-populate information based on what the client inputs, like name, business name, email, birthday…the list goes on and on.
Dubsado has over 80 smart fields, and sadly Honeybook has WAY less (and the ones they do have aren’t very effective).
BTL Note: I’m personally a Dubsado gal because a) it’s cheaper by a little bit and b) to me, Honeybook seems to be best suited for wedding-related service providers—it’s what all my photographer / wedding vendor clients use.
I also work with a contractor for BTL who sends me invoices through it, and I’ve noticed that in my portal (from the client side) there are options to tip (not customary for this type of service) and to “explore vendors” which I think makes it the wrong fit for digital service providers like me.
Without a CMS, you run the risk of cheapening your client experience. Having to keep track of all of your clients’ information and their project information and their invoices and the communication you have with them all in separate places can be… chaotic.
BTL Note: And often problematic, if your brain wasn’t built like a Rolodex.
Dubsado offers a “White Glove Migration” service which essentially means they will do the entire switching process for you and for free!
However, if you are switching to a platform that does not offer that kind of service, then I recommend doing it slowly and systematically.
Choose a day to switch over your contracts, the next day work on your questionnaires, then your workflows… don’t set aside a single day to rush it all. Take your time, set it up fully, and be extra cautious of transferring with accuracy.
I recommend the last thing you transfer over is client projects, once you’re a bit more familiar with the platform.
If you have the budget, though, I highly suggest hiring someone to help you with this platform switch, as it can be a stressful and daunting task. (You can learn more about my services here, if you’re interested!)
The best part is the automations. Though they are confusing at first, once you’ve got it, you’ve got it.
The worst part is the proposal feature, because there’s no option to add the form element that allows you to start a workflow based on what the client enters/chooses on the proposal.
Having that form element would be so useful for proposals and the ability to start a specific workflow based on what payment schedule someone chooses, and would alleviate the workarounds you end up having to do due to the lack of that option.
However, the Dubsado team is constantly making updates to the platform, so I’m hopeful that this may be added sometime in the future.
The first workflow you should have in place is one simple automated email.
Test out automation by setting up an email to be sent out after someone submits an inquiry form, to let them know that you have received it. Thank them for reaching out, and tell them when they can expect to hear back from you.
This is a great way to build a relationship with a potential new client, and it makes them feel informed about the process / what’s going on behind the scenes.
In this new generation of online technology, people often expect really quick responses—which, as a business owner, can be frustrating. Having an automated workflow in place is an easy to relieve that stress and keep your leads informed.
Knowing which workflow to set up is based entirely upon what your customer journey looks like, but here’s a quick list of what I always recommend having in place:
The actual steps included in each workflow will vary based on factors like the services you provide, how often you communicate with your clients, how many deliverables you’re providing, what you need from them to get started, how often they pay you… you get the picture.
The first thing I would say is “you’re wrong!” — lol!
But seriously, if your systems are set up properly, they are far from impersonal.
Yes, we have all received a canned email at some point in our lives, and we’ve been able to tell it was clearly the default email, and that felt a bit eh.
That’s why it’s important to edit the email templates and create your own client communication that aligns with your brand voice and the way you typically speak when you’re chatting with them.
BTL Note: Not gonna lie, I added this question in for myself… when it comes to people who hate automations, well, guilty as charged.
I can’t get down with the automated email thing, because I can always see right through it when I’m on the receiving end, and I’m nervous about my clients feeling like just another item on my to-do list (as opposed to a person I deeply value and want to communicate with).
However, I will note—it definitely does take up a lot of my time to manually send proposals, contracts, invoices, and scheduling tools, and workflows absolutely would streamline that element of my business.
As Fran said—it’s all about knowing your process inside and out, so you can create workflows and canned emails that feel genuine, so you can automate your back-end tasks like a human as opposed to an emotionless robot. (I’ll get into automations one of these days… maybe…)
Have a plan for the workflow outside of Dubsado.
I recommend outlining it in a document, and typing out every single step of the workflow, so you have an understanding (and clear picture) of what the workflow is going to look like before it gets added into Dubsado. Without this outline, you’ll be confused.
Start with a small workflow, test it a few times, adjust as needed, and grow from there.
Your mindset is also an important contributing factor to your automation success. If you go into it hoping to immediately be perfect, you may end up disappointed and frustrated.
These things take time, and you may have to go through a few test rounds to work out the kinks. Don’t get discouraged.
No, I have never had an issue with a workflow that was live. I meticulously test all of my workflows (both for myself and my clients!) before ever setting them live.
The only issue that could potentially arise in a workflow that is live is if the potential new client submitted the form and didn’t enter a valid email address.
This would mean they wouldn’t receive that first “I received your message” email. (But that’s user-error, not Dubsado-error.)
The key to avoiding issues in your automations is to test them and catch the mistakes during the test.
BTL Note: This is another question I snuck in for myself—I’d worked with someone to help me set up and customize my Dubsado account, and they scarred me for life when they automated a workflow and a lead received an email that said “hey, ____! thanks for reaching out about _____!” with the blank spaces and all. I was mortified.
The best way to do this is to use your own email address and just send everything to yourself. Fill out your forms and questionnaires like you were a potential client and make sure every step works.
The other way is to create a test project—which is basically a fake client—and try everything out to make sure the triggers are working the way you want them to.
The tasks option is super underrated. Everyone kind of ignores it, because they’re already well into using another project management tool (like Asana or Trello) – but you could totally eliminate the use of those other PMs if you wanted to streamline your systems even more.
I get asked on a daily basis what Dubsado is and what exactly it does for your business.
I’ll often post about it on social media and, because I’m so familiar with it and use it every single day, I forget that some people who stumble upon my Instagram account have no idea what it is.
Dubsado has great free resources to take advantage of, like their free courses. They build off of one another and increase in the level of complexity as you go.
They also offer free webinars, and their troubleshooting articles answer almost any question you may have. Their live chat is awesome too.
It depends on their business structure. Dubsado offers a lot of features, and the biggest mistakes I see people make is assuming they have to use all of them! Even ones that could potentially make their client experience annoying or clunky.
Just because they are there, doesn’t mean you have to use them. Use what makes sense in your business.
In terms of most essential functions, I’d argue workflows are important—but should be one of the last things you set up. Canned emails, contracts, forms, payment schedules, and so on should all be set up BEFORE you start your workflows.
Both for yourself, and for your clients.
It can be so easy to freely flow in and out of work mode, especially as a freelancer working from home, so putting limitations on things like work hours, client communications, project timelines, etc is SO important to protect your mental health.
Even if you love what you do for work, doing too much of what you enjoy can often suck the fun right out of it.
I offer 4 main packages, all with different levels of support, however my clients always have the option of customizing them to meet their unique needs.
Dubsado Setup: this is the whole entire thing; the most comprehensive Dubsado service I offer. With this package, you have the option of practically every single element of your Dubsado setup done for you.
Dubsado Workflow Setup: this is the package for you if you need a custom workflow strategy, as well as the creation of all of your workflows (and the workflow materials—like forms, email templates, etc—to complete them).
Dubsado Workflow Strategy: if all you need is someone to tell you what to include in your workflows, which materials are needed, and how to set them up, you’ll want to opt for this package.
Dubsado Efficiency Audit: have me flip through your Dubsado and determine what works, what doesn’t, and how you can improve.
BTL Note: For a complete overview of all the ways you can collaborate with Fran, visit her website and browse through her offerings to find which one is right for you.
Yes! For all the Dubsado users out there nervous about navigating workflows on their own, I’ve created the Workflows Whiz Mini-Course: a self-paced online course including everything you need to automate and optimize your business’s backend.
This mini-course includes a combination of video presentations, Dubsado demo videos, and extra resources to make setting up workflows easy as pie.
BTL Note: because she’s a generous queen, Fran is offering you a huge discount just for being a BTL reader—Workflow Whiz is available to you for ONLY $97 (instead of the usual $197!!!) if you sign up with this link — give Fran a big fat thank you on my behalf, would ya?
As a Dubsado user (and the literal opposite of a workflow whiz) I’m so grateful Fran agreed to share all her knowledge with us in this post. To get in touch with Fran (and to hire her for your Dubsado setup!), follow along with her Instagram or visit her website.
P.S. I’m not just saying this because she’s graciously agreed to be a BTL Expert Interviewee—Fran truly is my go-to recommendation for all things Dubsado, and I send my clients her way all the time. IF YOU DECIDE TO WORK WITH FRAN, LET HER KNOW THAT “BTL COPY” REFERRED YOU TO GET A 5% DISCOUNT ON HER SERVICES! Click here to inquire about working with Fran.
Don’t forget to SAVE this post on Pinterest if you found it helpful, or send it to a friend deciding between HoneyBook and Dubsado (or another CMS!) – and subscribe to be notified when the next Expert Interview goes live!
If we haven’t had the chance to *virtually* meet yet, hi! I’m Sara Noel—website copywriter and marketing mentor for creatives, copywriters, and all-around cool people. If you like my content and you want even more BTL in your life, here are a few ways you can connect with me:
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