There’s a great-looking, cool new SaaS for design firms that’s been pushing hard on Facebook for me to check it out. It’s a CRM + billing combo that looks like just what we need.

But diving into the setup is making me cringe.

Their whole process is automated. And it creeps me out. From contact forms to client questionnaires to canned descriptions of our work that can be automatically updated by the client, the whole thing feels robotic.

What we do — and the value in what we do — is grounded in a true, human understanding of the needs of our client. It’s a relationship. It’s not a vending machine.

No pre-packaged design

The reason we don’t have “packages” (as every freakin’ guru on the Internet seems to advise) is that our work isn’t packageable. It’s 100% customized to the real needs of the client. And we’re never going to find out what those needs are until we have an actual, probing give-and-take conversation. 

These robo-response emails might be great sales tool for a predictable canned service or product. I’m sure they are. But they make my skin crawl when they’re applied to FreeAssociates. 

My fear is that automated interactions will result in commoditizing us (and our industry). That’s the opposite of what works, and of what our clients need.


If you as a client can check a few boxes to create a proposal or start a relationship, does it matter which humans are behind all that? Do you care if they’re insightful, emphathetic, experienced consultants — or raw newbies who happen to use some slick automated marketing tools and systems?

Maybe it doesn’t matter to some people. Maybe they just want something acceptable and cheap. 

But maybe, instead, what they would prefer is a real partner. Someone who understands them, who understands their customers, and who can write and design communication tools that can truly connect them. Someone who can help them create a brand that resonates and lasts.

So I’m keeping automation focused where it works. And keeping it out of our relationships.