A spreadsheet will do

 •  Filed under Posts, Freelance

Over the weekend I closed my Highrise account.

In case your not familiar with the name, Highrise is a CRM product for small businesses. It started life as part of the 37signals range of products, but has since branched out onto it's own.

The initial pull to using a CRM tool like Highrise is that I wanted to a tool that allowed me to store important emails from clients as well as track projects and work I was chasing with prospective clients. Highrise has great email integration that allows you to forward emails from clients to Highrise and it will store them for you. It also allows you to track deals which in my case represented prospective work with clients and creating proposals to win work.

I should mention that while Highrise is a great product, my decision to cancel my account with it isn't anything to do with the performance and features of Highrise. It is a great product and under the right circumstances it is worth looking at if you need a CRM for your small business.

My main reason for moving away from Highrise was more to do with how I wasn't using it to it's full potential.

In the time that I've had to use Highrise, I've used the deals section rarely. It's nothing to do with Highrise, it's just that in the time that I have been freelancing, most correspondence takes place over email and I've rarely had to pitch for work. Most prospective clients like to discuss the work that they would like me to do and discuss my background and experience. After a few emails, most of these prospective clients then decide to exchange contracts to begin the work. I've rarely had to pitch for work and so the deals feature of Highrise has been left untouched.

The email integration with Highrise on the other hand though was used on a daily basis. Client emails went straight to Highrise as well as my replies to them. Although I used this feature daily, there were only a handful of different clients to deal with at anyone time so while the archiving of these emails in Highrise was nice to have, most of the emails involved discussions before work began. My email provider already offers a large amount of space to store emails and they're filed away in a folder. I was starting to wonder if I needed Highrise to manage the storage of emails.

Finally there was the managing of contacts. Yes I do have all my clients contact details, but I rarely have to refer to them. I speak with clients daily when working with them, I use email to send weekly updates and invoices and for all other daily correspondence with clients I recommend Slack. All my clients details are saved on the appropriate devices I need to have them on and aside from that there's no other special requirement to managing this data.

It was starting to look like I didn't need Highrise at all.

After deliberating for a few days I finally decided to export all my data from Highrise and delete my account. Without a CRM though I needed something else. All my client details are already stored in my address book but I needed something else that acted as a more detailed version of their details and allowed me to find and filter contacts based on information I have recorded against each of them.

The answer lay in a document type that I rarely use. The spreadsheet.

After getting the contact columns in the spreadsheet in the right order, I imported the contact details in and started adding the necessary changes I need so that I could filter those contacts.

Right, so the spreadsheet doesn't have all the bells and whistles of Highrise, but for the moment it will do. I've got all my contacts in one place. I can filter them based on the next date with which I need to contact them for a catch up and there's enough flexibility in Numbers in that I can add more information if I need for each client.

If my client base was to increase over the next 12 months and work started to change on a monthly basis then I would definitely consider Highrise again. It is a great product, but I couldn't justify it's use as a simple address book and email archive.

For the moment though, the spreadsheet is enough for me.