Why You Need Processes in Your Creative Business
One of the best things I’ve done for my business is define ‘processes’ for everything really clearly.
It sounds a bit boring and potentially intimidating to those of you for whom staying organised is not a strong suit, but trust me when I say that having defined processes in your business will not only save you heaps of time, it will save your sanity too!
What do I mean by a ‘process’…
A process is a series of actions taken to achieve a result, and in a business, can take the form of a ‘step by step’ routine that helps you stay on track with certain activities that you perform regularly - either internally or with clients/customers!
It may sound all corporate and fancy, and you may not think this can apply to your small creative business, but I’ll bet ANYTHING that you have certain activities that you do over and over, that could benefit from a clear process to ensure consistency & to save you time…
Examples of processes I have in my business:
On-boarding is when someone sends me a contact enquiry, right up to when I start working on their project, and everything that happens in between! I have a defined, clear process for this that I have written down on a Trello board, so that all my clients receive the same consistent service, and so that I know exactly what I need to do next which saves me time. It looks like this:
Step 1: When a contact enquiry lands in my inbox, reply with ‘Information Pack’ and date/time options to schedule a call.
Step 2: Schedule & conduct initial phone consultation (I also have a list of standard questions to ask prepared in advance).
Step 3: After call, send proposal & contract.
Step 4: Once proposal is approved, send deposit invoice.
Step 5: Once deposit is paid, schedule in project start date and send ‘homework’ email to client (this is an email template so I don’t have to write it out over and over to each client).
brand/website design process:
To make sure my services are consistent for every client, and to help me stay organised, I have a step by step process for my design services too. This is outlined on my process page for my website design, and on my branding page for my brand design clients. I also send this process to my clients in their information pack, so that they also know what to expect and when!
Every month I have a reminder on my phone to do my bookkeeping, and I have turned this into a step by step process as well, to help me remember everything that needs to be done & checked.
Step 1: Open Quickbooks and match all income to invoices (make sure they’ve all been paid!).
Step 2: Check & categorise all expenses in Quickbooks and upload a PDF receipt/invoice to each one.
Step 3: View total income, expenditure & net for the month, and pay out a 5% profit into my ‘profit account’ (this is an accounting concept from the book ‘Profit First’* if you’re interested in why I do this!).
Step 4: Pay 30% into my ‘tax account’.
Step 5: Pay myself my ‘salary’ into my personal account.
Why it’s useful & how to get started
As you can see, part of why having a process laid out like this and written down somewhere is so that I never forget an important step! It means I’m consistently doing the same things and never accidentally forgetting something and missing out a step. In the case of my on-boarding & design processes, I also save time because I have email templates ready to go and information packs to send out with extra details.
1. Brainstorm all your regular activities
Write a list of all the activities you do regularly in your business; perhaps you’re constantly having the same conversations with people, or going through the same steps with multiple customers. Perhaps you’re finding it hard to focus, and would benefit from a ‘content creation process’, or a process for making your products.
2. Break them down into steps
Once you have your list of activities, it’s time to break each one down to figure out the routine that keeps happening. As you write out each step of what you’re currently doing, ask yourself ‘is this step necessary in achieving the overall purpose of the activity’? Any way you can streamline these steps to get these as few and as simple as possible is a good thing for both you and your customer (or accountant!).
3. Streamline with templates!
Once you have just the necessary steps, consider how you can make these as smooth as possible. Try creating email templates if you find yourself saying the same things over and over (you can still personalise a template - it just saves you writing out the bulk of it!). Maybe you could benefit from making an FAQ page on your website if you’re regularly answering the same questions, or create an information pack to stop any email back-and-forths in their tracks!
If you’re talking about admin/marketing processes, are there any templates you can create? I have templates for my proposals, contracts and invoices so I only have to change the name and key details on each. I also have templates for any blog post graphics or social media images too, so I don’t have to start from scratch each time.
4. Test with a ‘user journey’
Put yourself into the shoes of one of your target clients (practice this for all your target customers and services!) and pretend you are going through this process from their end. You could do this exercise with a friend, OR you could test it on live clients as you go along to refine it further.
Each time you go through your process - whether it’s internal or customer-facing - constantly ask yourself if this is as smooth and as simple as it can possibly be, and always be on the lookout for how you could make it easier for everyone involved!
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