When I first started my design business, I thought the only thing I had to do was design (and be good at it).
Boy was I surprised when I realized everything else I had to do to keep my clients happy and keep myself sane. I couldn't just design- I needed to use a project management tool, streamline my project handoff process, manage my chaotic inbox and more.
There's so much that comes with running an online business! If you're a new designer or freelancer, it can be pretty daunting.
The key to running a profitable & enjoyable business that doesn't take over your life and drive you crazy?
Streamlining your business as much as possible. (In fact, I believe in this so much that I created a course on it!)
There are 10 things designers need to streamline
1. Email marketing
A lot of freelancers ask me if they NEED to start a newsletter, hoping I'll say no, but my answer is always yes. A big, fat YES.
All business owners need a newsletter, regardless of whether they sell products or services.
Here's a real life example of why:
Most of my clients sign up to my newsletter before hiring me. They don't want to commit to paying $4000 for my services straight away so they sign up to my list to learn more about me, and AFTER they've experienced what I know and can offer, they hire me.
Basically, email marketing is a must for service-based biz owners because your potential clients WON'T hire you the first time they land on your website. You need to get them to sign up to your list so they won't forget you.
Email marketing is awesome, but it takes time. Time you could be spending on more important things, like creating products or doing client work.
Email marketing is really easy to automate if you use a system like Convertkit.
With Convertkit, you can easily set up email courses, send freebies and create 'automations' that tell Convertkit to do certain things without you (like tag new clients and stop them from receiving promos about the service they've already purchased.)
Automating my email marketing has been game-changing for my business (and let's face it- my life.)
Using Convertkit to automate and organize your email marketing is something I'll be teaching in my new course, Organize & Automate!
2. File organization
If you're anything like me, you screenshot a TON of stuff and just save them all your desktop thinking you'll be able to find them again one day. Then your desktop gets overloaded with files and your brain gets bamboozled.
I have a system for my files now, but a lot of business owners don't, and that results in them forgetting where certain files are, taking FOREVER to find them, and just feeling all-round disorganized.
Taking time out once a month or week to organize your computer files will help you speed up your workflow big-time.
3. Social media marketing
To book new clients and find more customers, you need to drive lots of traffic to your website.
There's no better way to drive traffic than social media!
If you sell any kind of service or product, you should be promoting them on social.
If you're worried about the amount of time it's going to take you to actively show up on social media, don't be- I have a whole module in Organize & Automate that's dedicated to automating your social media so you set it up once and rarely ever have to touch it again!
4. Project management
When I started out as a freelance graphic designer, I managed all my clients through emails. We'd literally have about 300 emails across dozens of threads by the time their project was done.
It was chaos!
The client and I would BOTH be confused. It was difficult to find something my client said over a week ago and it was incredibly hard to organize their login info. Worst of all, it made me look unprofessional to my clients.
If you're a designer, developer, writer, photographer or any other kind of service-based seller, you need to use a project management tool like Asana to organize your projects, files and communication.
With PM tools, you and your client can store all communication, files, login details, feedback and notes in one place. You can also create tasks for you and your clients to complete and set due dates next for them!
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5. Inbox & client relationship management
Most creatives are leaving thousands on the table.
Because they're forgetting to follow up with their past clients to see if they need more work done. Most of your clients will say yes and hire you again- but ONLY if you remember to follow up!
Remembering on your own is impossible. You have to use a CRM (client relationship management) tool to either remind you or automate the process completely.
I have a couple of inbox add-ons I use that help me never forget to follow up with my clients. It's something I'll walk you through automating in a whole module of my course, Organize & Automate.
6. Invoicing & contracts
Do you send your contract to your client and ask them to print it, sign it, scan it and send it back?
And do you write out each and every line on all the invoices you create for your clients?
Do you know there is certain information you should be including in the footers of all your invoices?
You can automate ALL of this.
If you don’t have a contract set-up already, you need to get one sorted. A contract not only clarifies everything for your client and keeps you on the same page but it keeps your business protected so you aren’t up at night! I recommend looking into a contract from The Contract Shop that you can set-up and send off in 15 minutes. Click here to take a look at their Graphic Designer Template.
7. Client onboarding
There's a lot of stuff involved in client onboarding. When I first became a graphic designer, I just winged it. I didn't follow a process, I didn't use any project management tools and I didn't have a set of documents I sent to my clients to get started.
This unorganized process led to my clients ALWAYS being late with the files I needed from them.
It also resulted in most of my projects going way over their deadline.
Can you relate?
Streamlining your onboarding process is a part of Organize & Automate. You'll get an exact design questionnaire you can send to your clients, you'll get a set of 10 email scripts you can use throughout the inquiry process, and you'll see how you can use Asana to remind your clients to hand in their files on time.
When people are told to outsource or hire an assistant, the 'I can't afford it line' aaaaaalways pops up.
It's something I said when I was told to outsource just one year ago. I didn't think I could afford it so I totally dismissed the idea.
But if you want to scale and grow your business, you HAVE to outsource.
Even if it's just for 5 hours a month, having that extra paid of hands to handle tasks you don't want to do will save you lots of time, energy and money in the long-run.
9. Project wrap-up
Client onboarding is a popular topic in the online world, but no one ever talks about project wrap-up.
If you're a designer like me, you have to save and organize about a million files for your client. If you're manually doing this, it can take hours! I have a system to show you soon that will help you save out design files in 15 minutes with just a couple clicks of a button.
Lastly, I want to talk about batching. All designers should have batch days.
A batch day is a day when you handle ONE task only. For example, I have batch days for blogging, email marketing and creating content for The Shelancers Club. On my shelancer batch day, I only work on The Shelancers Club. No emails, no client calls and no social media. Just TSC.
It's the best way of being productive and getting as much done as possible with the time you have, because batch days allow your mind to focus on one task only instead of flitting from one thing to another and not getting much done- or getting much done to the standard you want.
Now that I have systems and automations in place to help streamline my design process, I get everything done in a fraction of the time it used to take me. In fact, I don't even work 5 days a week anymore but I still get more done than I used to.
Because I'm being productive, not busy. Always remember there's a difference.
If you want to start streamlining your business, start with my free 7-day course 'The Designers Guide To Project Management' and learn how to use Asana to manage your projects!