The dream of pursuing your passion is a vivid one. We envision the freedom to work from anywhere, flexible hours, a uniform of yoga pants, and more. While many of those things are true (definitely the yoga pants), sometimes quitting a 9-to-5 job to pursue your entrepreneurial dream means you actually end up working 24/7. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Over my 3 years in business, I've discovered 5 simple ways to streamline your workflow to get your life back. These tips will help you build a business you love so you can get back to working on the business, and not just in the business.
1. Create a System
Many creative entrepreneurs and small business owners cringe when they hear the word “systems.” It’s right up there with “tax season.” However, I believe in systems wholeheartedly, and while they can seem intimidating to create, they provide freedom within a framework and offer an approach that provides clarity and sparks fast action. Build a system for every service or product you offer, write it down, and follow through. Systems aren’t beneficial if you don’t utilize them!
2. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
What happens when your schedule is so full that work overtakes your life? Photographers may outsource to a private editor, communications strategists may hire a virtual assistant, and makers may bring on a team member to package products, among other things. Outsourcing frees up your biggest asset: time. Delegate & ask for help from those you trust. It can streamline your tasks and propel your business forward even faster than you anticipated.
3. E-Mail Templates Are Your Friend
Do you feel like you spend most of your hours chained to your e-mail inbox? You reach that coveted “inbox zero” and within minutes the e-mails are filling faster than you can fill your wine glass. You may find that you write the same kinds of e-mails over and over. That’s where templates come in! One of my number one ways to streamline workflow is by crafting a templated e-mail for every message I send more than once. I have everything from a response template for food photography, to a discovery questionnaire for communications strategy and brand coaching, to a testimonial request. I personalize and tweak existing copy and respond quickly, cutting the time I spend on e-mail down exponentially. Plus, they ensure every client receives consistent and effective communication… leaving less room for error (which eliminates future problems!).
4. Efficiency in Automation Is Everything
Once you have those e-mails drafted, load them into a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system like HoneyBook for easy automation. I use HoneyBook for automated contracts, templated e-mails, invoicing, collaboration, and more. Streamlining my process for clients to move quickly from inquiry to signed contract to execution has given me back hours of time each month. I used to spend time printing & mailing contracts, waiting (impatiently) for the returned signed contract, running to the bank to cash my check, and mailing it back with a countersignature. Now I can go from “we’re ready to book,” to money in the bank before the clock strikes midnight! It ensures that there is limited barrier to entry for my clients, meaning I get paid faster. Plus, it means I can work from anywhere with anyone at any time. Automation makes efficient workflows, and efficient workflows make for a happy creative entrepreneur.
5. Focus on Your “Top 3” Tasks
For accomplishing tasks quicker, write down your top 3 items you must accomplish that day. With a designated “end point” I feel a sense of accomplishment when I check off the to do list of 3, instead of feeling overwhelmed by the endless lines of action items. My favorite app, TeuxDeux, helps me meet and achieve goals quickly. For efficiency, try the Pomodoro Technique: setting a timer for 25 minutes of solid work, followed by a 5-minute break. You can even find an accountability-buddy through your local Rising Tide Society TuesdaysTogether group to help you stay focused on the task, streamline & succeed, and actually shut the computer off at the end of the day.
Regardless of how you work your workflow, know that seasons in business ebb and flow. Find what works for you and execute efficiently. You’ll be amazed to find how these tips and a streamlined business can take you to the next step in your business dreams. I’m cheering you on!
What are your best tips for streamlining your workflow and getting your life back? I’d love to hear in the comments below and connect with you on Instagram at @LaurenLCarnes.