This is a guest post by Samantha Mabe.
Creating a process that serves both you and your clients is the key to growing your business in a way that is sustainable and supports your big dreams. But if you’ve never put a formal process in place, it can be overwhelming to think about creating one.
Here’s the good news: if you’ve worked with clients in the past, you already have a lot of the tools you need to create a process that works for you and your clients.
In this post I’m going to share the most important things to consider when creating your process and how you can make it work for a variety of clients.
Outline each step of your process
Your clients most likely have no idea how to get the results they are coming to you for, so they’re depending on you to show them the way.
If you don’t have a process in place already or if you are ready to revamp what you do have, always start by writing down every step you take from your initial communication with a potential client to finishing the project and following up.
These are some areas to consider:
- Initial communication
- During your time together
I recommend actually writing these out on paper or sticky notes so you can easily edit and move them around. Once you know all the steps, you can see what you might be missing and where you can consolidate to make things easier.
Then, do the same for the client’s process, if it’s different. For example, I have very detailed steps I take to design and develop a website, but my client simply has to review the design and give feedback.
Learn how you work best
The most important part of creating a process that works for you is knowing how you work best.
These are some questions to ask yourself:
- How do I prefer to communicate with clients?
- How do I want clients to schedule time with me?
- How do I want to receive feedback?
- When do I work best?
- How long is my ideal project?
- What does my ideal project include?
Once you know the answers to these questions, you can start to take the steps you outlined above and arrange them in a way that allows you to do your best work. You will also learn what types of tools you need to use to streamline your process.
Of course, these answers may change over time as you refine your services or as your life changes, so remember to reevaluate regularly.
Consider your clients
In addition to knowing who you dream client is (you have learned about that, right?), you also need to know how they work best and what you will need to help them with.
- How familiar they are with technology?
- How they like to communicate?
- What you will need to explain?
- What are questions they ask frequently?
These questions will help you know what will and won’t work for your clients. For example, if your client has very little experience with the internet, jumping into Asana or Trello may be overwhelming for them. You can decide whether you want to stick with email for communication or if you can teach them the tools you like to use.
The goal of your process is to let your client know what to expect and what they are required to do. Consider sharing a timeline, assigning due dates, or creating checklists for them that will help them get their work done so you can serve them to the best of your ability.
Automate as much as possible
In order to give your clients the best experience, it’s important to make working with them easy. That means that you have to automate parts of your process so you can focus on the things you have to be hands-on in.
Here are a few ways you can automate your process:
- Create email templates for emails you send frequently. This is especially helpful for quick emails that are checking in on your client or sharing information. Once you have a template created, you can personalize it as needed for each client.
- Create PDFs to explain complicated topics. If you have complicated parts of your process (for me, this is what happens when making a website live), create a PDF with the information your client will need. That way, they have a document to reference when they have questions and you don’t have to type everything out in an email each time.
- Find tools that can consolidate your steps. Instead of using a different program for each part of your process, find a tool that can do multiple things, such as sending a contract, invoicing, and sharing files. This may take some time to set up at the beginning, but it will be much easier down the road when you can direct your client to one place to get everything they need.
By automating parts of your process, you’ll be better able to focus on those things that only you can do and you won’t be bogged down in sending follow-up emails or begging clients to get their homework done (yes, that happens to all of us).
Be flexible with your process
Once you have your process in place, it’s important to remember that your clients won’t be familiar with it, so you will have to teach them how to use your systems and what to expect. This could include an in-person training, a pre-recorded video, or a step-by-step tutorial PDF.
If you find that a part of your process just doesn’t work for a client, you are allowed to break your own rules and find something that does. Just make sure that the extra time you will put it is worth it to work with that client and that you can still get them the results they’re looking for.
As you work with clients, you’ll learn more about what works best for you and for them. Don’t be afraid to refine your process and add or remove steps as needed so that both of you have the best experience possible.
How can you create or improve your process so that you get the best experience for both you and your clients?
Samantha Mabe is the owner and designer at Lemon and the Sea. She loves empowering creative women with a heart to serve to grow their business through brand and website design. Her background is in design and architecture, but she’s been creating since she could hold a pencil. Samantha is a Pittsburgh native now living in Richmond, Virginia where she spends her days designing brands and websites and her evenings watching Netflix with her husband and their dog #gambittheweshi. Check her out at: http://www.lemonandthesea.com/