Part One: What kind of systems do I need?
Now that we know what systems are, why you need them, and why they don’t suck, we’re going to talk about what kind of systems you need and how to start creating them.
Some questions to ask yourself during this process:
What am I already doing that I haven’t codified?
What do you do on a regular basis that you rely on memory to do over and over again? Do you ever get tripped up or forget a step? This is a great place to start – make a list of these things that you’re doing over and over again, and then outline each process, step by step. Save this in an Evernote notebook or a Google doc so that you can share it with any team members. Or, if you’d rather not write it all down, you can use a tool like Screencast-O-Matic or Jing to record things that you do on the computer step-by-step, and then share that video with team members or your assistant.
What recurring problems am I having?
For example, do you always forget to invoice clients, and then realize three months later that they never paid you the full balance? Once you’ve recognized some recurring problems (other examples could be missing important emails or forgetting a step in a process), you need to figure out how to prevent it, and then codify that prevention process so that it’s repeatable.
Taking it back to the example of forgetting to invoice clients, you would create a list of the tasks you go through when you work with a client, and start getting in the habit of checking it every step of the way (invoicing would obviously be on the list). Or, when you start working with a client, you could create a reminder on your calendar for two weeks from now, telling you to invoice that client. Or you could start using a tool like Harvest that shows you hours you haven’t invoiced yet. Any one of these would be a great step.
What seems clunky or frustrating?
The areas that seem clunky or frustrating to you are often ripe for systems and are also often surprisingly easy to take care of. For example, do you find yourself answering the same questions from clients over and over again? Create some templated answers that are easy to quickly customize and send, instead of typing similar answers over and over again.
Still stuck? Here’s a few ideas for places to start:
I very regularly see clients lacking systems in these areas:
Client follow up
This is a serious money leak – we all know that people who have bought your product or service and are happy with it are far more likely to buy from you in the future, but unfortunately not all of us actually make us of this information. If you don’t already have something in place, I want you to sit down right now and figure out a client follow up system. Where are you going to keep track of previous clients’ contact information? How often are you going to get in touch? Do you have any upsell or follow up offers exclusive to previous clients & not open to the general public? Seriously, yo. Do it now and stick to it. (If you need extra help + step by step instructions for this, check out the Client Follow Up Action Kit in the store.)
I will let this post from Cash & Joy speak for me here, because it is awesome.
Here’s a post all about creating systems for making writing your newsletter easier – but it can just as easily apply to blog posts or any other kind of content marketing you do in your business.
The actual process of work
This is something that a surprising amount of people are lacking – either lacking entirely or they have them but it’s all in their head. If you have a checklist for each client, it is so much easier to stick to a timeline and not get lost in the “Wait, so where are we at? What do they need from me now? What do I need from them?” mid-work brainfog. Confession: I used to be really bad about this – it’s one of those things that you can probably let slide if your business is new or still growing (though I wouldn’t recommend it!) but as you get busier, it is definitely worth the peace of mind to create a checklist and use it for each client. The little bit of up-front effort is very worth not having to dig through mountains of emails to know where you’re at with each client.
What kind of systems are you realizing that you need? Come share your insights on the Facebook page and don’t forget to check your email tomorrow for tips on how to start getting your new systems out of your head, without ripping your hair out in frustration.