5 Free CRM Tools That Will Help Keep Your Web Design Business Organized

Free CRM: 2017

According to an infographic by CloudWave, 75 per cent of companies have no process for nurturing leads (yikes!). While lead nurturing may not be top of mind for you — at least not in the way current client projects are — it’s a business necessity.

Because, like a caterpillar that turns into a beautiful butterfly, leads have the potential to grow into profitable clients. All they need are time, patience, the right product or service, and a strong business relationship.

One of the easiest ways to manage these relationships is to use a Customer Relationship Management system (CRM). These tools aren’t just for salespeople; agencies and freelancers can equally benefit from using a CRM in their day-to-day business activities.

We’ll walk you through what exactly defines a CRM, how it can benefit your business, common terms you’ll see in CRM products, and a list of five free CRM tools you should consider using from now on.

What’s a CRM system?

As a business owner or freelancer, you’ve probably heard the term CRM before. In general, CRM refers to the strategies, best practices, and tools a business can use to nurture existing and potential customer relationships. This includes all the information necessary to maintain these relations — data and documents that are important to building the overall customer story.

A CRM system (or software) is a portal where you can keep all of this precious information.

A basic CRM gives your business the ability to:

  • Import contacts and identify them as leads, prospects, or accounts (we’ll get into the definitions of each later).
  • Add tasks, which is like a to-do list (email, call, renew contract), to each contact.
  • Upload documents to a respective account (like contracts and invoices).
  • Track outreach efforts to clients and potential clients.
  • Assign contacts to different people in your organization.

Benefits of using a CRM system

If you’ve never used a CRM, or have been relying on a manual system for organizing your leads, clients, and important sales documents/contracts, there are plenty of benefits that come along with implementing a CRM, that include but are not limited to:

1. Establishing a pipeline

Know which projects you’ve finished, which one’s you’re currently working on, and which projects you have coming up (that may or may not already have a signed contract). This information will let you know, financially, how your business is doing, and will let you know whether or not you should be looking for new business that particular month.

2. Managing your time

You may already have a time management solution in place, but nothing is quite as effective as a CRM. Depending on the system you choose to use (some have more project management capabilities than others), a CRM can show you a general overview of what you (or your co-workers) are currently working on, how many cumulative design hours have been spent on a project to date (and how many were dictated in the scope), and lets you prioritize which projects you should be working on next.

3. Understanding your clients

A CRM gives you access to a steady stream of customer information and timelines, allowing you to optimize your marketing efforts around these demographics, psychographics, and micro-moments. This information also opens up the opportunity to upsell clients on specific products or services, based on the data you’ve collected in your CRM.

4. Improving client relationships

It happens. Sometimes, when business is good and work is overly plentiful, some clients may take the backburner due to the scope of their work, their budget, or their timeline. It can be easy to lose sight of nurturing these relationships because you’re focused on the here-and-now. CRMs can fix this situation. Set-up tasks in your CRM that will allow you to remember to engage with your existing clients.

5. Increasing accountability

Seeing all of your clients in one place, with deadlines and milestones written, is a great way to stay accountable to yourself, your work, and your customers.

6. Strengthening internal communications

Make sure everyone is on the same page by giving them access to the same information. A CRM arms every member of your team with the powerful information they need to not only communicate with clients, but also between themselves. This setup also ensures that anyone in your business can take over a client relationship at the drop of a hat.

7. Creating a paper trail

Upload all of your contracts and other important documents into your CRM — that way you have everything in one, central place and readily available if you ever need to refer to it.

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Glossary of CRM terms

If you’ve never used a CRM before, or aren’t familiar with the intricacies and verbiage of a customer relationship management tool, we’ve translated some common sales jargon below:

Lead: Someone who has come to the attention of your organization, either through an email, contact us form, or phone call. Or someone you’re thinking of approaching with your services, or someone you’ve spoken to about your business. This person hasn’t requested pricing, or initiated any type of deal. They are not yet qualified, and need a little more information before they can become a prospect.

Prospect: A lead that has been qualified against your company’s criteria for “what makes an ideal customer.” A prospect is closer to becoming a customer than a lead, but still requires nurturing and negotiation to completely convert to a customer.

Opportunity: This marks a potential financial deal. It is neither person nor business, but rather an opportunity to sell specific products/services.

Closed Won Opportunity: A financial deal that has been finalized. Congratulations, you have a new client! (or at least a new project from an existing client)

Customer: A prospect that has converted. They’ve signed a contract, and you’ve set project deadlines and milestones.

Contact: A prospect that hasn’t converted for whatever reason, but you’d like to keep their contact information to try again at another point in time. This area can also be used to maintain a list of people that can be cold-called, or other members of an organization that are currently a customer but aren’t the main point of contact.

Quote: Also known as an estimate. A quote is an outline of how much a potential project could cost, given the predetermined scope of work.

Invoice: The actual amount owed by a customer. An invoice contains an itemized list of products and services, quantity, and price.

Sales Order: Once a customer accepts a quote, you can send them this confirmation of services.

Purchase Order: A Purchase Order (commonly referred to as a PO) is a request to make a purchase from a third-party vendor. You would keep these in your CRM as record of services.

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5 free CRM tools

If you haven’t already chosen the right CRM system for your business, consider one of the following. Not only are they free, they’re relatively easy to begin using — meaning you can start planning your year, project schedule, and outreach efforts.

1. HubSpot CRM

Free CRM: HubSpot CRM

A couple years ago, HubSpot decided to expand their product offering. Not only would they offer a paid version of their Content Management System (CMS) and Marketing Automation tools, but they would also offer a powerful customer relationship management suite — completely free. Forever. HubSpot is, afterall, the company that put inbound marketing on the map, so why wouldn’t they try to disrupt the sales process?

If you’re familiar with HubSpot’s business philosophy, you’ll know that they emphasize the importance of lifecycle transitions and developing customer personas — humanizing the overall marketing experience to make content and automation more relatable to your target audience.

Rest assured, the same care and depth has also been added to their CRM tool. HubSpot makes it easy to sort through existing leads, move prospects through different lifecycle stages, and track your communication with leads and prospects.

Even if you already have a CRM, HubSpot offers a unique feature that makes it a welcomed addition to any business — HubSpot Sales. Sales connects with your email account to track when a lead, prospect, or customer opens your email, how many times they’ve opened your email, and allows you to import contacts directly into the HubSpot Sales interface. There is a free version of this feature, intended for individual use, or a business license that starts at $50/month.


Perfect for: Freelancers and agencies looking to get started with a basic, no-frills CRM.
What makes it different: The HubSpot Sales email tracker is the perfect tool to support any client relationship management efforts.
Support: HubSpot’s support team is extremely responsive by email or phone, and also have a plethora of documentation/blog posts that can help you get the most out of your experience.
Price: Forever free.
Number of users: Unlimited.
Are there paid versions that offer more users/features? No.

2. Zoho CRM

Free CRM: Zoho CRM

Similarly to HubSpot, Zoho also offers a variety of products for sales and marketing, email and collaboration, and business processes. With 24 applications designed to help you grow your business, one of their most popular offerings is their CRM.

Typically a go-to for Enterprise level businesses, Zoho’s free edition also offers powerful features to its users, like Feeds, which enables socialized collaboration through direct messaging functionality, status updates, and the ability to attach files to feeds.

Other key features include standardized reporting, up to 25,000 contacts between all modules (leads, contacts, and accounts), and the ability to integrate third-party apps through the Zoho API — making Zoho CRM a practical choice for freelancers and agencies looking for a product that can quickly adapt to meet their growing needs.

A more robust offering, Zoho CRM can integrate with Zoho SalesIQ — a live chat program. Free for up to two users, SalesIQ automatically adds anyone who reaches out to you through the chat module as a lead in Zoho CRM. However, the most intriguing functionality of SalesIQ is the user’s ability to begin chatting with anyone who is live on your website, which is updated in real-time.


Perfect for: Freelancers or small agencies looking for a product whose offering can grow as they do.
What makes it different: The SalesIQ on-page chat functionality allows you to reach out to potential leads, before they even consider reaching out to you.
Support: Zoho has a standard documentation section that should be sufficient if you require a more indepth explanation of any features.
Price: Free.
Number of users: 10.
Are there paid versions that offer more users/features? Yes.

3. Bitrix24

Free CRM: Bitrix24

Bitrix24 is unique in that it offers a 360-degree business development tool — for free. Not only does Bitrix24 contain a CRM where you can track your current clients, leads, and opportunities, but it also offers project management capabilities like tasking, time tracking, and collaboration.

Easily assign yourself to various projects, keep track of your work in a variety of exported reports (such as involvement in projects, tasks per month, and efficiency), and ensure each client and lead is being nurtured appropriately by setting up tasks. One of the platform’s most powerful features is its calendar functionality. Track all tasks and projects in a visual calendar, and export it to either Google Calendar, MacOSX, iPhone, or Android.

When it comes to data visualization, Bitrix24 (and its CRM) are king; the product has a comprehensive dashboard that allows you to aggregate all of your current sales data into one place. The same functionality is baked into the overall interface, where you can perform a company pulse check with the single click of a button.


Perfect for: Freelancers looking for an instant 360 business development tool that happens to include a CRM.
What makes it different: Project management tools and time tracking capabilities make Bitrix24 a go-to resource for individuals or small teams.
Support: FAQ, how-to videos, course-like training, forums — you’re sure to find an answer to your question in Bitrix24’s robust support center.
Price: Free.
Number of users: Unlimited.
Are there paid versions that offer more users/features? Yes.

4. Capsule CRM

Free CRM: Capsule CRM

Capsule CRM differentiates itself from its competitors by focusing on the contact management portion of the CRM experience, meaning that they offer a variety of features that allow you to customize how your contacts are displayed, which information you should be collecting, etc.

One benefit of this unique selling proposition is the socialization of a contact’s profile. In short, Capsule CRM lets you import Twitter data to your contact’s feed, pulling in their tweets, retweets, and profile picture — allowing you to further customize your outreach efforts with each contact.

Capsule CRM also includes a Google integration, which makes the adjustment period of implementing a CRM to your business a lot shorter if you’re already used to using Google products, like Gmail.


Perfect for: Freelancers or small teams who want to learn even more about their customers.
What makes it different?: A straightforward focus on relationship building.
Support: A great support portal, jam-packed with useful articles, a guide, and Monday-Friday customer support via email.
Price: Free.
Number of users: 2.
Are there paid versions that offer more users/features? Yes.

5. Spreadsheet CRM

Free CRM: Spreadsheet CRM

Looking for an incredibly simple CRM, using an existing tool that your business is probably already used to using? Spreadsheet CRM has you covered. Built completely in Google Sheets, Spreadsheet CRM allows you to track sales, set up important reminders, and includes the nitty-gritty charts and graphs you’ll need to visually represent your data (pre-built with proper equations to pull values from your existing data).

Note that Spreadsheet CRM is very basic, meaning that you won’t have as much detail associated with each contact, lead, or prospect as you would with a proper CRM system.


Perfect for: Freelancers who want to work within a framework that they’re familiar with.
What makes it different?: Simplicity — it’s literally a Google Sheet.
Support: Since the product is still in beta, there isn’t as much support as the aforementioned CRMs. However, Spreadsheet CRM has a LinkedIn Group that you can join if you run into any snags.
Price: Free.
Number of users: Unlimited.
Are there paid versions that offer more users/features? No.

So, why should you use a CRM system?

No one can explain the benefits of using a CRM better than someone who relies on one for their day-to-day work. We’ll leave you with this quote from Caitlin Teed, a Partner Community Manager here at Shopify.

"Our CRM is like our superhero utility belt. It has everything we need to ensure we’re having engaging and meaningful conversations with the right people, and tracking them all in one place.

It gives us a snapshot of our interactions — we can see who we’re chatting with, when we’re chatting with them, what we’ve discussed, notes we’ve left, tags we’ve added, reminders we’ve set, and calls we’ve had in the past."

The one thing to always keep in mind about a CRM, is that it gives you back what you put into it — if you take the time to use it wisely, track properly, and pull data efficiently, it will give you everything you need to build amazing relationships and ensure you’re always one step ahead.

Do you have a favorite free CRM that we didn’t mention in our list? Let us know in the comments below.

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