ClickUp for agencies and freelancers: How to manage and wow clients

Disclosure: for some links in this article I receive a small commission when you decide to sign up for one of ClickUp’s paid plans.

Your process matters. And the way you communicate it matters even more. 

It’s pretty easy to understand why, still very few copywriters (or agencies and freelancers in general) do it right. 

There’s a big difference between: 

  • sending your client a thousand links to deliverables that end up getting lost and exchanging feedback back and forth in a myriad of emails

and

  • delivering all your work and communicating in a single platform

But I know the pain of starting out as a freelancer, and polishing your process is not a priority.

Finding clients is. 

That said, the sooner you start cleaning up your systems and the way you present your business and deliver to clients, the sooner you’ll start seeing success. 

A few benefits of a well-oiled client management process:

  • Working on your processes and systems not only helps you look like a pro with clients, but it also helps you spot and fix the inefficiencies and holes in your process. A more efficient business means higher growth potential. 
  • When your process is fine tuned, you are able to set clear boundaries and expectations with your clients. This helps establish responsibilities within the project, and makes you look like a partner, not an order taker. 
  • Buyers’ remorse can be strong in the initial stages of a project. Having a tight process from the get go, instills your clients with confidence. It reassures them that you have things under control and shows them you’re already on it. 
  • When your process is clear and streamlined, the whole project moves from start to finish with as little friction as possible. Less friction means fewer objections and revisions. 

It’s not rocket science. 

The rule of thumb? Treat your clients like you’d want to be treated. 

And by the way, guess what this post is helping me do? Improve my process and give potential clients a sneak peek, even before we get started. 😉

What is ClickUp and what can it do?

Honestly when I first heard about it I had some trouble understanding what ClickUp was exactly. And I didn’t really experience the need for something similar before. 

I used to think of my to dos, project management, chat, docs, all as separate compartments. 

Using ClickUp to manage my clients and business changed my perspective.

This is especially important when you are not only dealing with multiple clients, each one requiring their own areas and docs. But also when you are working on multiple projects yourself. 

It can be side hustles or fun projects, or just other areas of your business that don’t correlate directly with client work (like growth activities and content). 

If you’re anything like me, you’ve tried the old Google Drive way first. And after a while, you probably got tired of having to manually create the same documents over and over and having to go through hundreds of clicks to get to the folder you need.

What ClickUp helps me accomplish is to have a single tool where I can manage everything that I call ‘work’. 

Consider it as having Trello, Asana, Notion, Google Drive/Docs, Toggl, and more, all in one. 

Sounds intimidating I know, but the nice thing is that you can customize your own space the way you intend to use it. 

So you only see what you (and your clients) need to see. 

The use cases as you can imagine are a ton. Their website goes through them all. 

Mine is a constantly evolving system, but here’s what I use ClickUp for:

  • Managing all client projects, setting timelines, tasks and sub tasks for each major area (research, writing, testing), including links to deliverables and exchanging feedback directly with clients
  • Sharing only a few areas with clients to give them a private, centralized “portal” while working together
  • Collecting and managing all the leads I get through my website, saving their contact information and updating their stage in the funnel (basically my small CRM)
  • Managing and keeping an eye on all the content I produce for my website and for guest posts
  • Collecting and brainstorming ideas and copy for productized services and other growth initiatives
  • Managing, communicating and collaborating with my virtual assistant
  • Setting growth goals and milestones for my business
  • Tracking time for each task and project area so I can get better at executing on and pricing my services
  • Manage all my other “small bets”, which can be side hustles or fun projects

Keep reading to get a deeper look at each.

Might seem like a lot. Still, I’m probably only using 20% of what ClickUp can do. The thing is, it actually makes it really easy to do all of it. 

Let’s see how it works. 

How ClickUp works

I’m not gonna go through the hundreds of features and functionalities in the platform (new ones coming out every week), but if you’re gonna use it in your service business, there are a few ClickUp basics you should know about before getting started.

Spaces, lists and tasks

ClickUp allows you to manage your projects with different layers of depth and you can decide what works best for you. 

The hierarchy goes like this: Spaces (1) > Folders (2) > Lists (3) > Tasks (4) > Subtasks

I consider Spaces to be the main areas in my work ecosystem. 

Then I use Folders for specific projects (client project, content project etc.), Lists for specific areas inside each project (onboarding, research, writing, testing etc.), and Tasks for the to-dos in each area (sub tasks are for the micro steps inside each task, if needed). 

Work area

There are 3 main sections you’ll mostly look at in ClickUp: the sidebar (1, 2, 3), the favorites at the top (4, 5, 6) and the main view (7)

The sidebar: this section contains all your projects organized by space, folder and lists

The favorites: this is an optional but quite useful section you can fill up based on what you’re working on. I use it to add the lists I’m currently working on (can be research phase for a specific client, or my CRM and the list where I work with my assistant. 

The main view: this is where you interact with the lists and tasks/subtasks.

Work area views

Inside each work area you have different views (1) for the data you’re dealing with and can create additional ones. Views are different formats for viewing and working with data. 

You can also filter (2) every view and even save these filters for future use. This allows you to customize the way you’re looking at your data and really narrow down on what you need to pay attention to. 

Remember when I mentioned all the things you could do with ClickUp and the apps it could replace? This is where you understand how powerful it is. It even allows you to embed files, like Google docs so you can work on those without even leaving ClickUp. 

It;s pretty crazy and can honestly get overwhelming pretty fast, but that’s why you’re reading this guide aren’t you? Let’s move on. 

Other useful sections

Some other cool features that I often refer to in ClickUp but are more secondary, are the widget (1), the dashboards (2) and the home panel (3). 

The widget: here I use the time tracking function, where I can pick a specific task under a project and start tracking time (or manually add a range of time after). There are other great options like recording a screencast, taking notes, creating a new doc or a reminder and more. 

The dashboards: here you can really get creative but what this section allows you to do is to create customized data views of anything you can look at in ClickUp. I use it mostly to analyze the time that I track using the widget. 

The home panel: this is great to get an at glance view of the workspace, like who’s online inside your account and what they’re working on (Pulse) and also to look at and set goals and KPIs. Lastly, it’s where I usually review and resolve all my notifications.

Inviting guests in CickUp

ClickUp makes it super easy to share everything with anyone, for free. You can share documents, tasks, lists and more. But the best feature for agencies and freelancers like us is the ability to invite guests to our projects so we can give our clients or subcontractors a great experience. 

What you can do with guests differs based on the plan you’re on:

For me, working with a maximum of 2 or 3 clients at any given time and being basically a solo team, the Unlimited plan is more than enough. I can invite 5 guests, of which my VA is always one. 

With the free plan you can invite guests, but cannot limit their permissions, a must for inviting clients. 

Still, at $60/year my Unlimited plan sounds like a steal to me.

ClickUp templates (my favorite feature)

When most of your projects involve the same stages it’s likely you’re always going to use template documents for your reports and deliverables. 

I used to do it in Google Drive and it was a pain. Sure, I had my template folder neatly organized and ready. But having to “right click – make a copy – move to the newly created client folder and edit”, was exhausting.

Enter ClickUp’s Template Center. 

Here you can get pre-made templates for anything in ClickUp. You can either use their own templates (I’ve used the CRM one for example) or create your own. 

The nice thing is that you can access and save templates from almost anywhere inside ClickUp.

Just created a new report that you plan on using with your future clients? Click on the 3 dots and Save as Template. Give it a name and boom it’s there to be reused.

This is incredibly useful to me when I’m creating not only one document, but an entire client project. What I’ve done is I’ve created a template project containing all lists and tasks I need, once. 

Any time I’m onboarding a new client , I simply create a new project from that template. Like magic all my lists and tasks are already there. 

Here’s what it looks like for a freshly created client project:

This alone saves me at least 1 hour per project and makes it easy to always be consistent with my process. Consistency = professionalism.

Ok, we’ve seen how the basics of ClickUp work. Now I’ll show you how I use it for my business. Hopefully you can find something you can apply to yours.

My system: How I use ClickUp for copywriting projects (and more)

Client projects

We’ve just learned about the importance of a client management process and how ClickUp can help you streamline it. 

In my case, I group client projects under the “Client services” space. Each client is going to be inside a Folder. I can have two main types of client projects/folders. Custom project or Productized service. 

I approach them the same way, using Folder templates to get started and then customizing them based on the specific client and what I proposed. 

For custom projects the typical List-Task structure is this:

  • Admin: email & feedback + invoices.
  • Onboarding: data collection intake & setup.
  • Research & discovery: a huge list of all the types of research I can potentially do. For each client after I launched this template I cut down to what I’ve included in my proposal.
  • Writing, editing & wireframing: each task is going to be a web page, landing page, or email, based on the project.
  • Testing & validation: same as for the research list except it’s about testing post-launch.
  • Master message map: a collection of pre-made templates I use to collect and summarize all my findings in once place.
  • Offboarding: copy presentation and deliver + project exit feedback collection.
  • Client meetings: not really used but helpful in case I have to schedule many meetings.
  • Client tasks: vital tasks the client has to do to help me move the project forward.

The same way for productized services which are smaller, more standard packages, I have my own structure. 

Here’s some of my templates:

This way I don’t have to remember what to add, where, which template to use etc. every time I work with a new client. It’s already there. And I can always update the templates as I go and optimize. 

A nice feature I use to manage tasks and give clients a good idea of what comes first/next, are Dependencies. 

In ClickUp, Dependencies help you link and prioritize tasks. You can set any task as waiting on, blocking or just tied to another. 

In this example I set the “Install Hotjar tracking on website” as blocking the task “Analyze Hotjar data”. Until the code is not installed, I cannot analyze the data. This is useful to create urgency in the client’s mind and get things done. 

Here’s how this looks in the Gantt view:

And in the writing & wireframing area, you can see the yellow “waiting on” icons near some tasks:

There are a ton more functionalities that I still haven’t explored, but this works great for me so far. 

Client portal

The way I interact with clients is through their own “Client portal” which is nothing more than a few lists or tasks that I invite clients to (as Guests). 

Specifically I usually invite them to the current phase in the project (either research, writing, or testing) and to the Client tasks list. 

This is what a typical client would see when invited:

Notice the red icons next to some of the tasks. These are Dependencies! The client knows that these tasks are blocked by something else. So they can click on each and see what’s expected of them.

Simple, clean and efficient. Nothing extra. 

This way clients have constant access (view only) to the materials I deliver and are aware of what I need from them to move forward. 

What’s even better is that I’m not using email anymore for task related communication. We just chat inside the task! No more email back and forth (I use email only for weekly check ins).

Often it might happen that in one of the client tasks I need to refer to a task under the research area. In that case I simply link to that task inside the Client task. Since both areas are shared with the Guest, they can access freely. 

CRM

My CRM is super simple but it’s probably the most important element under my Operations & Growth Space.

What I do is, for every lead I get that books a 15 min call on my website, they are automatically added to my CRM list as a Lead (I use Zapier for this automation). 

Then I just manually move clients from one stage to the next and update their statuses. Other useful views for this are the Gantt (I use it to see my availability and schedule projects, especially when drafting proposals), the Client & Content wish list (just a document I use to brainstorm) and the Table (useful to get calculations on revenue etc.).

My stages are:

  • Lead
  • Opportunity
  • Won
  • Disqualified
  • Lost
  • Maybe
  • Closed

For each prospect/client I save their initial information when they book the call with me automatically, but I also assign them a status with colored labels to inform me on what’s happening there. My statuses are:

This allows me to get an idea for what my pipeline looks like and if I need to take any action on someone.

Finally it’s useful to assign each contact their estimated value before and after winning them to help with projecting revenue and keep track of goals/KPIs.

Here’s the Gantt view (Months, but can zoom in to Weeks etc.) I look at when drafting proposals and scheduling projects:

At a glance I see exactly when I’m free and when I’m busy. 

The nice part about this CRM is that to create it I’ve simply used one of the ClickUp templates in their library and customized it. 

Planning and managing content

My content calendar is pretty straightforward as well. And haven’t been publishing frequently lately, so this is still a work in progress. 

I basically plan and keep track of my content pieces in a Trello-style board with some custom statuses:

Then I manually move each piece to the next status. That’s it. I usually write content in Google Docs still because the editing capabilities inside ClickUp are still a bit clunky. But it’s great to just be able to either attach a Google Doc to it’s card or link to it. 

This is also an important consideration when working with clients. Consider ClickUp your homebase and Google Drive as your repository that you can link to in CickUp.

Growth ideas

This area of my Operations & Growth space is just a simple collection of documents that I use to draft and brainstorm ideas and copy. 

For example I started working on an idea for a productizes service here and then turned it into one of my products:

I like using this area for this purpose because I know that if I did the same on separate Google Docs, they would eventually end up lost. This is a nice centralized way for collecting them, it makes it super fast to start a new one and removes decision fatigue. 

Managing, communicating and collaborating with a VA

Even the way I collaborate and communicate with my assistant is super easy.

I just set up a board view (1) where I create tasks she’s responsible for, I assign tasks to her (she’s invited as a Guest with edit permissions) and she moves them across the board until completed. 

For task specific communication we use the task’s messaging section. And for general communication, we use a separate Chat view (2).

Goals and KPIs

I still have to really explore this section and so far I’ve just been playing with it. But you can set Goals as higher level milestones and for each different Targets. 

I’ve only added a revenue goal for the end of the year and I’m keeping track of my results here. It’s a nice visual representation. 

It can definitely become more useful when you dig deeper. 

Time tracking

The integrated time tracking functionality is awesome. I’ve replaced Toggl with it so I don’t have to create tasks multiple times or try to understand what is what between two different platforms. 

I can either look for an existing task from a list in the widget (1) or click the “play” button directly inside a task card (2) to start tracking right away. 

Small bets

Not much to say here as this is very personal. Just consider having a separate Space where you can collect side projects and work on them separately the way you want to. 

In my case here I keep my content website and a chrome extension project I’m working on. In most cases I’m using board views and linking to Google Docs if it’s articles. 

ClickUp support

As far as support, my experience so far has been excellent. I’ve simply reached out to their team with the contact function inside my account anytime I had a question and they replied within 24 hours (often 12). 

One of the things I love is the amount of documentation and help provided. Their webinars are super valuable (I’ve created my system based off a webinar I watched) and their tutorials really comprehensive.  

Why ClickUp over Asana or Notion (or other tools)?

Not going to dive into the exact differences in each tool here, but I can definitely say that compared to specialist tools like Asana, ClickUp offers the same functionalities, much cheaper (especially when adding guests) and at the added value of having all the other functionalities. 

Compared to tools like Notion, ClickUp gives you the same functionalities but with a few more constraints. Which is what I need. Notion can get way out of hand in my experience and doesn’t really provide solid guidelines for how to structure your space. To some it may be ideal, but not for me. I like having at least some kind of structure to follow. 

How much is ClickUp? And how to get a discount…

ClickUp starts free and you can do a LOT. That said as I mentioned, if you want to invite clients and follow my system, you might want to at least get the Unlimited plan at $9/ mo or $60 /year. 

Their annual plans are super cheap and for the price I don’t think it would be worth it paying monthly, unless you have a huge team and want to dip your toes in first. 

If you’re interested, click here to get 30% off the Unlimited Plan and 15% off the Business Plan (I get a small commission in exchange).