You've probably heard it from every corner of the internet by now - if you're a business owner, side hustler, entrepreneur, infopreneur, solopreneur, etc, you need systems. Which is true! But what does that actually mean? Why are systems so important? And aren't those for huge businesses, anyways?
First off, let's define what a system is: a system is a set of repeated steps you go through to accomplish something.
It doesn't matter if there are five steps or fifty steps - if you repeat them to accomplish an end goal, then you have a system in place.
Even if you feel like you're still small potatoes, having streamlined systems set up now will allow you to run your business without a lot of the stress, burnout, and overwhelm that seem to be the hallmarks of our online business world. (Click To Tweet)
You're probably saying, "Okay, Indigo. That's great. But what does that actually mean for me and my business?" I'm glad you asked! Let's take a minute to look at two examples - one business that has taken the time to set up their systems thoughtfully, and one that hasn't.
Business A was started without much thought at all, and the business owner never thought about whether everything she was doing was smart for her business. She made decisions that were easier (instead of asking herself if they were the smart decisions), did whatever the latest online guru was telling her, and never took the time to think about how all of her systems worked together.
If you wanted to hire her, the communication would be sporadic at best. Major pieces of the project are forgotten until months after she was supposed to have them to you. Her platform for hosting your project changes at least three times while you're working with her. You always feel stressed out about your project and never know how much has been done.
Business B was grown from a side hustle, and the business owner took the time to think through how running a business full-time would work. She made smart decisions and made sure everything she set up worked for her, her business, and her clients. Every new system is fully integrated with everything else, and she streamlines when she sees an opportunity.
If you wanted to hire her, you'd feel taken care of the entire time. Communication would be consistent - you'd actually get more information than you anticipated. Deliverables are in your inbox before the deadlines, she educates you while she's working, and you feel confident handing more projects to her after the first one wraps up.
Now, I've been both Business A and Business B - my business was started on accident, and I never had any formal business training when I started out in 2014. My business training was watching my mom start her own business, and occasionally watching Shark Tank.
But the transition from 2014 to early 2016 to become Business B has meant happier clients, more nights (and days!) away for Geeks Who Drink trivia, family road trips, and in-person coffee dates. It's allowed me to scale my business and know that I can step away without everything falling apart, or my clients, team, or community feeling like they aren't taken care of.
Still not sure why systems matter to your business? Here are five specific reasons they matter (so you can be more like Business B!):
Systems create a stable foundation for your business
Think about your business like it's a house - if the foundation isn't stable, the house will eventually fall down.
Your systems are the foundation your business is built on. (Click To Tweet) If your systems are a mess, and you don't know how to even start articulating them, your business is built for failure. But if your systems are organized, streamlined, and documented, you're setting your business up for success.
Having a stable foundation can look like:
- Not having to worry when you're doing something and having all of your tasks listed out in your project management software.
- Knowing exactly where your clients are in the booking process and what your internal deadlines are.
- Having every step of creating content for your audience documented + templated.
Being able to see what your business finances look like and exactly where your revenue is coming from.
Take Action: Answer this question honestly - if someone wanted to hire you RIGHT NOW, would you be able to onboard them smoothly? Or would it be a rushed, scrambled process? This can give you insights into whether your foundation is set up well, or if it's haphazardly put together.
Systems work when you don't
No matter where in the world you are, and what your situation is, we all have the same 24 hours in a day. And I'm willing to bet that you don't want to work (and you physically can't work) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
You want time off - planned or spontaneous. You have days where you only get in 30 minutes of work, and days where you put 14 hours in. But the bottom line is that you can't always be on.
So how does your business keep working when you aren't? Systems!
One example of this is email marketing (a key system for your creative online business!) People can find your website any time of the day or night. And hopefully you have at least one place for them to opt in for your list on your site.
Now, do you want that person to be waiting until you're awake, showered, at your computer, and ready to send them an email welcoming them to your list? Or do you want that welcome email to be sent right after they sign up, no matter what time it is?
I'm guessing the latter ;)
When you use tools like ConvertKit in your business, you're creating systems that can work when you're not. By setting up a simple welcome sequence in ConvertKit (or your email service provider of choice) you're automating a task that makes your new subscriber feel personally welcomed and taken care of, and allows you to spend your time on other tasks that aren't as tedious.
Take Action: Look at how your business is set up right now. Do you have to do every single task manually, no matter how large or small? Look for ways that you can start automating tedious tasks, like in the example above. If you're not sure what systems can be matched up with powerful software like ConvertKit, grab this free PDF I've put together just for you!
Systems allow things to get accomplished consistently
When you look at your favorite creative online business owners, they're probably putting out new content on a consistent basis. Weekly newsletters, monthly webinars, daily tweets, etc. They're able to do this because they put systems in place that make sure the small pieces of getting that content ready is done a little bit every day, so they can share on a regular basis with you.
By breaking out all of your big business tasks (like writing a new blog post, designing a website for a client, or creating an information product) into small, bite-sized tasks you're able to create a workflow that lets you accomplish everything consistently - without the overwhelm or stress.
When you don't have to think about when you're doing something, and it just pops into your to-do list (especially if you use a project management tool like Asana!) every day/week/month, there are no questions or worries about having to make time to get things done.
Take Action: Write down everything you need to do on a consistent basis for your business. Then break down those into the individual steps to accomplish them. Try and get so detailed as to start with "Open Google Drive" and "Click Save" - that way you are literally documenting every single step of your systems!
Systems give you time freedom
We've already touched on this a little bit, but having streamlined systems allow you to take time for yourself. After all, you don't want to force your life to fit your business - you want your business to be built around your life.
Time freedom means that you can take 4 vacations a year, only work 3 days a week, go to that mid-day brunch with your friends. It also means that you aren't chained to your computer every hour of the day! You can take time to nourish yourself, to build relationships, to attend conferences. You don't have to just work in your business. (If you want to learn more about working in vs working on your business, definitely check out The E-Myth Revisited!)
Getting out of the 8-hour-workday grind also means that you have more creative space (or space in general) in your brain to think of revenue-generating ideas, develop new products, and find the right people to grow your team.
Action Step: Use a tool like Toggl to track your time for a week - even non-business related activities! Track every single thing that you do. See how much time you're actually spending on your business or business-related tasks, and line that up against how much time you want to have to yourself each day/week.
Systems save you tens of hours each week
This is probably a no-brainer after the last four points, but it's worth stating on its own - having streamlined, empowering systems set up from the get-go means that you're spending less time IN your business.
That means more time for high-level projects, for weekend getaways, for creating new products instead of struggling to manage the ones you already have. What would you do with an extra 10 hours a week? Would you be able to take on more clients? Hire another team member? Write a blog post ahead of schedule?
Getting your time back as a creative online business owner is one of the best things systems can give you - because that time means less stress, less overwhelm, and more revenue coming in. You're not having to scramble trying to remember every step of a process, and you aren't pulling all-nighters to get everything done anymore.
Action Step: Look at your time tracking from the last action step - how much of that time would you like to get back? How many hours are being spent on tasks that can be automated, delegated, or eliminated?
If you're ready to take the next step and fully audit your current business systems, you're in luck! I've created a FREE week-long challenge just for you. I'll walk you through ways to audit your systems, give you specific action steps, and provide you with resources to make immediate improvements.
Now I'd love to hear from you! Let me know in the comments which action steps you're taking, and what your biggest takeaway from this post was.