By Jenn Zeller
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the day-to-day of your business… if it takes 1000 days to onboard a new client… if you just can’t stay on top of your business tasks, you need to streamline and automate your business workflow. You may know what you need to do and when for a client or project, but if you’re replicating each step from scratch for every client or project, you’re wasting your valuable time!
Let’s dive into part three of our 3-part series on how to take what you’re doing right now in your business and turn it into an efficient system that will SAVE you time instead of wasting it. We’ll talk about how to audit your current business system, how to restructure your workflow, and then how to automate your business workflow with tools like Dubsado!
Execute an automated business process
Okay, this is where the rubber meets the road. We’re going to talk about the nitty-gritty of creating your new and improved (aka automated!) business system. We’ll take it piece by piece so it doesn’t get too overwhelming and I have a fill-in-the-blank worksheet to help you lay out your own system. Let’s dig in!
How can you automate your new system?
All right, let’s talk about the different areas of your business that you can automate. You may be surprised at how many things you can do with automation!
This is where it all begins. A potential client comes to your website, likes what they see, and decides to get in touch. You, being the smart business owner that you are, embedded a lead capture form from your CRM onto your website. The potential client fills it out and voila! Their information is automatically entered into Dubsado or whatever CRM you use. No data entry for you!
Okay, so now that potential client is in your CRM and you have the information you need to send them a proposal. Depending on your current system, that could be both exciting AND stir up feelings of dread. Adding options to a proposal isn’t necessarily everyone’s favorite thing to do, after all. Luckily, you can automate that!
If you get a CRM like Dubsado, you can set up proposal templates which can automatically send based on a selection on the lead capture form, or it can automatically generate a proposal and then you just have to make tweaks and send it on its way. Having templates and automation for tasks like this can save you gobs of time.
Okay, so maybe you aren’t able to standardize your offerings and you need to talk to a lead before sending a proposal. You can automate that too!
All you need is a program like Calendly or Acuity or you can find a CRM that includes that feature. (I’ll be up-front: if you hadn’t noticed, Dubsado’s my jam and they’re releasing a built-in scheduling tool that’s making me drool.) Using a scheduling tool will eliminate the back-and-forth “I’m free this day and time; no, that day and time don’t actually work; well, someone actually just booked that time slot!” emails. The scheduling tool will sync with your calendar and automatically offer a set of days and times based on the criteria you set. Easy for you and easy for the client!
We all hate the legal mumbo-jumbo of contracts. Creating a new one for each project is a drag. You can speed this task up by using a tool that will automatically fill in the client’s name, project cost, create signature fields, and a number of other things. The best way that I’ve found to do this is to use a CRM that has contract features built-in so that it can pull the invoice amount and all the other information directly from the project.
You love getting paid, but you may not love telling someone to pay you. I get it; it’s not a great feeling to ask for money, even if you’ve earned it! If you automate your invoices, though, it’ll be your system requesting to be paid rather than you (or at least, that’s how it’ll hopefully feel for you). Using a good CRM like Dubsado, you can even set up auto-generated invoices based on an accepted proposal! Automating your invoicing will make your life SO much easier.
We talked at the beginning about finding the types of emails that you send over and over again. These are the perfect candidates for canning! No, you’re not going to be stuffing emails into jars. Instead, you’ll be creating templates that can either be sent automatically (e.g. emails notifying a client of a contract or invoice) or which only need minor tweaks for common situations (e.g. a project timeline email). By using these canned emails in your inbox and/or your CRM, your inbox will be tidier and you won’t be typing up the same email from scratch every time!
Service Packages (aka invoice line items)
Most of us freelancers have a relatively standard set of services that we offer. Even if they aren’t exactly the same every time, they’re probably similar enough that you type the same thing for a lot of invoices and proposals. Instead of wasting time on that, you can speed up the process – and even automate it – by creating service packages within your CRM
These service packages can be used in proposals, contracts, and invoices so that you can simply insert the appropriate package(s) and tweak as needed, or even have the system automatically insert them into an invoice based on the proposal. (Dubsado’s CRM system is set up to allow this, as are many other CRMs.) Once you have those packages set up, you’ll significantly cut down the time you spend on the related tasks!
Project Tasks and Project Management
There are a lot of ways to automate your project management. You’ve got Asana, Trello, a CRM like Dubsado, ClickUp (Yvi’s favorite!), or any myriad of other options. You can set project tasks to automatically generate based on other project actions (e.g. a client signs a contract and Dubsado is set to create a task for you to counter-sign the contract) or you could set up project templates in Asana, Trello, ClickUp or whatever other project management system you use. If you have certain tasks that need to happen in every project, get them automated!
This is one of my favorites. If you have clients who are constantly ‘losing’ emails, invoices, contracts, and everything else you send them, client portals are a fantastic solution. By creating a client portal, your clients have a personalized, central place to find all of their project emails and documents.
If a client says they can’t find something, you can just point them towards the portal login (you can even make a universal portal login on your own site if you’re using a CRM like Dubsado!) and they can find what they’re missing there.
Overall Business Workflow
The best part of automation is when you can string it all together and make a cohesive system! That’s what workflows do for you. All the things we talked about can be pulled into a workflow and build off of each other. So that lead capture form generates a proposal which generates a contract, which generates an invoice and so on.
If you set up a workflow properly, you’ll only have to touch the project at the points where you’re actually doing the work… but the client never needs to know that. To them, you look like a well-oiled machine who never leaves them hanging.
Ready to get started? Go ahead and grab my FREE worksheet so you can lay out your business workflow and get things moving! Have any questions or share your awesome new business system? Just shoot me an email. I can’t wait to hear how your new and improved business workflow turns out!
Jenn translates left-brain business for right-brain creatives over at The Creative Entrepreneurs L.A.B. As a serial entrepreneur (starting at age 11), she’s passionate about making the world a better place by helping more people actually enjoy their job. Jenn’s mission is to empower artists, photographers, designers, and makers so they can run successful businesses and make a living doing what they love!