Running a business on your own gets overwhelming fast. There’s so much that needs to be done to be successful and making it all work is totally up to you.
No pressure, right?
To make matters that much more difficult, there are always “experts” coming up with new things we have to be doing in order to be successful. Add that on top of our existing to do lists and we’ve created a fast path to overwhelm.
Lately, I’ve been embracing the idea of simplicity. After all, with two businesses, a podcast, and a little one at home, there’s no way I could make it all work if I was trying to do it all.
Embracing simplicity has taken such a big weight off my shoulders and I know it will do the same for you. That’s why today we’ll go over 9 pieces to simplify in your design business.
First up is your client onboarding process. Onboarding a new client used to take me a solid 4 hours. Between sending emails back-and-forth, creating custom proposals, figuring out my welcome packet, and dealing with several different pieces of software, it wasn’t an easy task. I remember feeling so overwhelmed each time I went in my inbox and had a new inquiry. And that’s not how it should be!
Take time to consider how your onboarding process can be simplified.
How can you make the communication go more quickly and smoothly?
What can you make templates for?
What piece of software can you begin using that will allow you to stop using several others?
Are you currently completing any unnecessary steps?
Making your onboarding process easy will free up space in your mind to worry about other tasks and make the beginning of each project go more smoothly.
2. Gathering Content
Next comes the process you use to gather content from your clients. Whether you’re trying to get them to create a moodboard and fill out a questionnaire for a branding project or need content for an entirely new website, getting clients to cooperate isn’t always easy.
They’re constantly causing delays, sending less than what you asked for, or sending it in a crazy format that isn’t what you asked for.
I outlined a step-by-step process for making gathering content easier here, so check it out. But if your current process of gathering content makes you want to pull your hair out, just know that it doesn’t have to be that way!
3. Project management
Project management is vital for making any project stay on track and have a positive end-result. But a lot of designers out there don’t even consider how their project is being managed.
For myself, I used to go into each project without any type of plan. I’d just open up the website I was working on and get started. No checklists, no plan of attack, no way to guarantee that I wasn’t missing a step. (Spoiler alert: I missed a lot of steps)
Without a good form of project management, you likely find yourself overwhelmed and stressed during your projects. Constantly thinking of new tasks that you almost forgot and having to worry more and more about the approaching deadline.
To change that, put a project management process in place right away. Even if all you start with is a checklist of tasks that need to be completed for each project, it will be much better than nothing.
4. Collecting testimonials
Collecting testimonials at the end of projects can feel like an awkward step that you’d just rather skip. I mean, who wants to ask someone for compliments?
But testimonials are so important for growing your design business. Newer business owners might not care as much if you don’t have any to show off, but people who are passing off thousands of dollars to have you create something great will want some proof that you know what you’re doing.
But the process of gathering testimonials can feel natural and even be completely automated! Consider what email and questionnaire templates you can add to the end of your process to start pulling in testimonials for each project.
5. Service offerings
A big one that I see a lot of designers needing to simplify is their service offerings or packages. The two biggest issues I see are:
- Not having any packages in the first place and just listing off things you can do
- Having way too many
When someone comes to you for a service, they want you to tell them what they need. They don’t want to pick and choose from a huge variety of services you offer. You’re also going to stand out one heck of a lot more if you offer something specific that’s different from the standard offerings out there.
Simplify your current offerings into 3 packages at different price points. From there, you’ll find that a lot of these other things we’re talking about today will also become easier, as you’ll be able to make templates for each package. No more custom proposals!
6. Keeping a full client schedule
Staying booked as a designer can feel impossible at times. You go weeks without hearing from a potential client, but then suddenly there are 3 who all want their projects done at the same time.
But having a solid marketing process can really help with this issue. Whether you create a system for launching your services a few times per year, stay active in a few communities, are continuously networking, or have a great content strategy, there are a lot of things you can do to keep clients coming through the door on a consistent basis.
No more trying to juggle it all with little impact!
Outsourcing is meant to make your life easier, right? But if you’ve tried it before, you probably know that it’s not as easy as we originally thought.
In late 2016 and early 2017, I experimented with outsourcing some of my development work. In my mind, it was going to let me take on more money-making projects while doing less work and fewer tasks that I wasn’t crazy about.
Boy, was I ever wrong.
Managing people, especially when it comes to client projects, is no easy task. It requires a solid system and plan before you even talk to someone you want to bring in to help.
The same goes for a Virtual Assistant. Writing out your processes and having a clear plan for how tasks will be assigned makes everything much easier.
8. Writing content
I’m firmly in the camp that blogging isn’t dead. In fact, I know that I’d have missed out on thousands of dollars last year if I’d have given up on blogging like everyone was saying you should do at the time.
If only writing content was easy…
It can feel completely overwhelming to sit down at your computer, staring at a blank page, wondering what you should write about to bring in new clients.
Instead of doing that, take some time to brainstorm your process. Maybe every couple of months you come up with topic ideas when you’re not sitting down trying to write. Less pressure that way!
And maybe rather than trying to jump into a blank page, you outline a couple posts one day and write them the next.
Think about what system will work well to give you the biggest impact when you do sit down to write.
9. Your entire to-do list
And last, but maybe the thing you should consider first, is that your entire to-do list needs to be simplified.
For me, two of the big things I took off my to-do list within the past year included:
- Recording weekly YouTube videos (this one probably saved me about 2 hours and $70 per week)
- Worrying about transcripts for the podcast (saved me about 1 hour and $40 per week)
Those are two examples of things that I thought I had to-do, but when it came down to it and I started feeling super overwhelmed, I realized they just weren’t making a big enough impact to be worth it.
Take a look at your to-do list and see what those things are for you. What is taking up time and brain space, but not giving you any return?
Simplifying is a game-changer
Taking the time to simplify or eliminate even one thing in your business per month will start adding up quickly. It can definitely be scary when you’re completely taking something away, but it has always paid off for me.
Then, you have more time to spend on things that you know will make an impact.