I started using Airtable to manage my clients + moved on to also managing projects, social media + blog content once I realized how valuable this free tool was. If you haven’t heard of Airtable yet, let me be the one to razzle dazzle you!
I like to describe it as a more visually appealing way to use spreadsheets. They describe their own product as part spreadsheet + part database, which is accurate too.
Get started managing your clients with Airtable
To help you get started with this awesome (and free) tool, I’m sharing a copy of my client management base. What’s a base? It’s Airtable lingo for a spreadsheet. I also recorded a video of how I manage my client information with this specific Airtable base. If you don’t have an account yet, sign up for your free Airtable account before we get started.
Are you more into reading along? The video transcription is below, or you can click the CC (closed caption) option within YouTube.
If you’re not familiar with Airtable, let me welcome you to the bases page! This is where all of your workspaces and Airtable bases live. The best way to think about it is that a workspace is like a folder or a way to organize all of your bases — which are short for databases. And think of bases like spreadsheets. You can organize your bases by work + personal, or different projects that you have going on in your business, whatever works best for you.
Today I’m gonna go over how to manage clients with Airtable
I have a sample client Airtable base that you can copy, but I want to show you how you might create something from scratch first.
All over the bases tab you have the ability to add a base to any workspace. And if you set it up in the wrong workspace, you can easily move bases between different workspaces. Simply click the “add a base” button and you can choose to start with a template which are templates that Airtable has for you, import a spreadsheet if you’re using Numbers or Excel, or start from scratch — which is what I typically recommend.
Once you click “start from scratch,” you’ll be able to name your base, pick a color, and set an icon. But again, I already have an example set up. So let’s head over there.
Using columns (aka fields)
When you’re setting up a new base in Airtable for managing clients or otherwise, it’s best to set up the fields that you think you’re gonna need. Think of these as the columns in a spreadsheet. You can always add more fields as you go, but it helps to see the data laid out when you have some of those elements already in place.
You can add fields by clicking the plus sign on the far right. Give the field any name that you want, as long as it hasn’t been taken within this specific bases tab. You then select what type of field it is using all of the available options. The options listed at the top are a little bit more straightforward + as you get down to the bottom of the list you can set things like formula, roll-up, lookup, which are a little bit more complicated and stuff we’ll go into in other videos.
If there’s a column that you don’t want for managing your clients in Airtable, click the down arrow next to it and hit delete field to clear it out. Be warned that Airtable doesn’t give you the option to confirm that you want to delete a field, but if you hit command Z on Mac or ctrl Z on PC, it will come back.
Let’s go over the columns that help me manage clients in Airtable
We’re going to bypass this first field + talk about all the others first. Because of how I organize client data, I like to have a first name field + a last name field. These are both single line text fields, pretty straightforward. If you want to, you can add default text, but since this is a name field that doesn’t really make sense.
Just like those fields, I have a business name field in case a customer or client of mine operates under a business name or whether they operate under their personal name.
Formatted column (field) types
Next to that I have their email, which is formatted to display as an email field. After that I list phone number + URL which are also formatted to be those specific types of information, phone number and a website link.
Then I list services, status, PM system + folder color. All of these fields are single select — think about this like a drop-down menu. Each entry can only have one selected but note that Airtable does give you the option to use a multiple select field for your columns.
From here you can enter in the options that you want and you can even color code them, or you can turn that off if you find it distracting. You can add your options to start or you can add them as you build up your CRM to manage clients in Airtable.
I’m pretending that this is a copywriter’s Airtable, so I for services have ghostwriting, copy editing, web copy and sales emails. I use the following statuses for where clients are in the pipeline — waitlist, active, complete, or the infamous MIA for those clients that seem to stop emailing you.
For PM system, I have listed the different project management systems that my clients like to use — Asana, Basecamp, Trello, Google Drive. You can add other options with a simple return. If you don’t want an option click the X next to it and if you want to rearrange them you click and drag. Finally I have the folder color because that’s something that I like to monitor.
One field that I jumped over was agreement which is an attachment field. This field allows me to better manage my clients in Airtable throughout their project.
Formulas within Airtable
Let’s go back to the client field which is a formula. This is pretty gnarly but that’s ok, we’re gonna break it down. What I have here is I have “if” statements. If the business name is blank then you’re gonna populate this — first name plus last name — otherwise you’re gonna populate the business name with the first name and last name in parentheses. That’s how I handle noting my clients official name.
I have some example data that I want to populate right into this Airtable. I copied and pasted, then it gives me the option to expand or don’t, but I want to expand it. Then it’s gonna fill it in.
Here you can see Brutus and his business name populates over in the client field as Bullmastiff Security (Brutus Callahan.) Pixel Chopsticks, which doesn’t have a business name, populates as Pixel Chopsticks.
Using Airtable views to manage your data
From here it might not look much different than Google sheets or Excel, but where the real magic happens is when you can start to use views to manage your clients in Airtable. Whenever I make a new base, I leave a view like this to see my information laid out like an Excel or Google spreadsheet. Then I start to customize it by creating views that really break the information down into useful + very visual layouts.
Kanban view by client status
A nice thing about Airtable is that they have a bunch of different views that you can use. Let’s head over to this view that I’ve created called client progress. This is a view where content is ordered by “status” — grouping clients by waitlist, active, complete, or MIA. Then I can move them through the process by clicking + dragging. Airtable will automatically update their status from waitlist to active to complete (hopefully never MIA, but shit happens).
I sort by services so I know how many ghostwriting clients I have versus copyediting. If this feels like too many ghostwriting clients, I know that I need to complete one of them. Or any new ghostwriting request must be waitlisted.
You can view as much or as little information on these cards as you want. If you wanted to view emails, URLs, the PM system that you use, simply check all of those items.
Grid view of waitlist clients with filters
If we hop over to client waitlist view, that’s a better use of filters. In this view, I’m using the “status is waitlist” filter. Airtable is showing me only waitlist clients so I can see how many clients that I have + the necessary info.
Another thing to note is that I have hidden fields in this view. Specifically I’ve hidden the first, last, and business name because the client field has all of that information for me. I’ve also hidden the status and the agreement because this view is filtering in waitlist clients only, I don’t need to know the status because they are a waitlist client. I hide the agreement field because it is a tiny tiny little thumbnail that doesn’t really help us.
When I want more information, I can click these arrows to expand the record for Pixel Chopsticks. Then I can expand the hidden fields to see more info. Also, I can click on the agreement to view it a little bit larger or I can download it. I can use the top arrows to go through everyone in this view or I can close it + click on another one.
I’ve set up a similar view for current clients where it’s filtering by active (only active clients are shown.) Then I group by services with the group by field. This allows me to see who I have in ghostwriting and who I haven’t copyediting.
If I pop over to my “client progress” view, I can move Pixel Chopsticks from waitlist to active. When I go to my current clients list I see that sales emails has a client listed in there.
Rearrange your columns (fields)
Another thing you can do within each view is rearrange elements. Plus, it won’t change that order in your other views. In this view it goes email, phone number, URL. When looking at “current clients” it’s phone number, URL, email. If there are folks on your team that manage specific client info, create a view for them.
Let’s say I wanted to create a new current client list for a member of my team. I’m going to say current client and this is for Brutus. I’m going to click these three dots and I’m gonna click copy another view’s configuration. Since I want this to be similar to “current clients,” I’ll copy the field visibility, order, filters, groups and sorts. Now I have a clone of the current client view.
Brutus handles customer service so he’s focused on being able to contact these clients by calling or emailing them. He doesn’t like looking at the folder color because he’s colorblind and he doesn’t pay attention to that. He likes seeing the agreements just to see if their agreements are in placed in Airtable or not. So this view might be exactly how Brutus wants to be things.
Or let’s say he wants to sort by the last name because he’s old-school like that. He can decide to sort from A to Z or Z to A. And he can choose to sort once and leave it or to keep them sorted as new information is added.
You can add fields from within different views. Brutus can add a checkbox field “May email” to track which clients he’s emailed in May. (He’s emailed Velco Doggo, Pixel Chopsticks and Wally Nuggets.) In my view of current clients, we see that new field “May Email” is automatically hidden.
Grab my client CRM
If you want to use this sample base, click this link + copy it. You can change any or all of these columns + start utilizing this CRM to manage your own clients in Airtable. (Remember that Airtable calls columns “fields.”)
We’re going to add some tabs for things like tracking tasks, projects + other information related to clients. For now, fill out services, process statuses, and any info that’s specific to how you manage clients.