Freedom in Structure

Freedom in Structure

Why your creativity needs systems (and a few of my favourite hacks)

 
Freedom in structure claire barton
 

Freedom in Structure. Sounds more like an oxymoron and less like a business philosophy, doesn’t it?

I’m a BIG believer, as you’ve likely worked out, in having some practical, preferably good-looking and useful systems that are easy to implement and use in your business - many of which can translate into making your personal life easier too.. but more on that another day.

You started a business so that you could DO YOUR THANG, ammiright? So you could heal, or help others, and so you could have the lifestyle you desired. You didn’t start it so you could get yourself all tangled up in trying to work out all the complicated, back-end techy stuff and spend more time trying to set up your email marketing than bringing your magic to that gorgeous tribe who love you.

When you have no structure - or the wrong structure - in your business, you just won’t be as productive. Other side-effects include:

  • Procrasti-baking, Procrasti-cleaning, Procrasti-changing... insert your poison
  • You wind up being Distracted #AF… all the time
  • Everything takes aaaaages… even if you’ve done it a few times, you have to constantly think about the next step AND do it AND remember how to do it AND what is the damn password…?
  • Overwhelm… you’ve a To Do list as long as your arm and no clue where to start...
  • Nothing gets finished
  • Nothing gets started
  • You let people down… which sucks, because that’s just not your MO!
  • You work with the wrong people… and say ‘yes’ to all the things…

Whether you’re a Super Efficient Person or a Shiny-Object-Loving Dawdler, you and your business will benefit from putting some basic foundations in place. When you have some simple, workable and supportive systems in place, you will have more time to do YOUR THING, it will be easier to hand over and get supported when you’re ready to take on a VA, and each repetitive task is easier and quicker.

But best of all, you will be creating C-O-N-S-I-S-T-E-N-C-Y for yourself, and, most importantly for your tribe. And as we all know, consistency = trust!

Claire Barton Business Systems

You can split your biz any which way you like, but in the interest of keeping this digestible, and holding myself back from rambling about hacks for the rest of the day, here are some structures I know will make a massive difference in your stress levels and business productivity

 

1. Workflows

I could talk about and create workflows for days (and sometimes I do… it’s my happy place), but I shan’t. A workflow, which goes by many other names, including SOP (Standard Operating Procedure), Process and Work Map, is essentially an easy-to-follow checklist of instructions on how to do something.

Some common things you might want one for are publishing blogs, on-boarding a new client, setting up a lead magnet such as a webinar or downloadable, or running an event, amongst 4000 other things.

Workflows mean that you don’t have to reinvent the process every time you do it, you can show someone else how to do it for you, you don’t forget any steps and you provide a consistent, predictable experience for your audience.

Tools & apps I love to help with these things:

  • Asana for mapping workflows
  • Zapier for integrating apps that don’t usually play nice together
  • Active Campaign* is my email marketing software of choice (I LOVE it an embarrassing large amount) and makes email flow easy, responsive and beautiful
 
Claire Barton Business Coach Organised

2. Time Management & Planning

I’m certainly not all about planning your life down to the millisecond… in fact, I insist that you leave yourself space for contemplation, Netflix and allowing opportunity to come a-knockin’.

However, having a good understanding of how you manage your time is super important as an entrepreneur. If you don’t, you will end up working ridiculous hours, pack your days full of tasks that aren’t actually moving you closer to your goals and burn-the-eff-out. #AintNobodyGotTimeForThat (see what I did there?).

Tools & apps I love to help with these things:

  • Pomodoro Technique for super focused, productive use of your precious time (I use tomato timer on my desktop too)
  • Master Schedule to understand how many hours you’ve (perhaps inadvertently) set your biz up to demand of you
  • Asana to plan your priorities and projects, to delegate and do
  • Acuity* or similar for online bookings without the back-and-forth of finding suitable appointment times
  • You can’t go past a simple, old spreadsheet for almost all planning things (i know, I know… many of us still suffer from #SpreadsheetTrauma from our corporate days, but seriously, Google Sheets is so versatile and easy to use… give it another go
 
 
Claire Barton Content Queen
 

3. Brand Consistency

I’m not a branding guru, or even a graphic designer (although sometimes I wish I was - I love this stuff!).

At a minimum, you need to have some consistency in how people view your brand. This includes your colours, fonts, image/photo style and tone, as these things start to form a picture in the mind of your audience. If you’re all over the shop, there’s no… what’s that word again…? CONSISTENCY. And consistency equals what? TRUST. Yes. Trust.

Tools & apps I love to help with these things:

  • Canva… set up your brand colours (and fonts too, if you’re on the paid version)
  • Store your Style Guide details somewhere like Evernote* or Asana
  • Get your stock images from somewhere that FEELS right for you and your brand or better yet, get a local photographer to take some pics for you, maybe even in your office or fave cafe. I'm a massive fan of Ivory Mix* for authentic, pretty stock photos for every occasion.
 
 
5. Content Strategy.jpg
 

4. Content

#ContentIsEverything. It really is. If you have a business, you already have more content than you thought. It’s your website, your social media accounts, the emails you send. It’s your newsletters, it’s every time you respond to a message. It’s your newsletters, your blogs, every time you introduce yourself or appear on someone’s podcast or summit.

I’ve heard it said that in the land of online business, people need more than 100 impression points before they can decide to buy from you. Scary huh?

So yeah, you need a bit of structure here.

Tools & apps I love to help with these things:

  • Content Plan to make sure your audience understands all the things you do in your business and how they can work with you
  • Social media and launch planner (#HelloSpreadsheet)
 
 
Claire Barton Systems Geek for business
 

5. Finances

Unless this is a very time consuming hobby, you’re going to be making some dosh in your business and the old shoebox filing system just won’t cut it anymore. In a nutshell, you need to be able to invoice people, pay people, move money around and have the correct information for the Tax Man.

Tools & apps I love to help with these things:

  • Wave Apps (it’s the free bookkeeping tool)
  • A spreadsheet will do if that’s easier for you
  • Get yourself a money person to help with this (you won’t be sorry)... I lurve Delaney Van Baalen
  • Somewhere to electronically store your invoices/receipts like Dropbox* is handy and means you can chuck all the paper things (I’m not a finance person, so check with a professional before you go turfing all those dockets you’ve been hoarding)...
  • Also, I implement Mike Michalowicz’s Profit First in my business so I always pay myself, have enough cash to pay tax, keep a handle on my expenses AND have a profitable business. This works in beautiful alignment with Scott Pape’s Barefoot Investor for my and my family’s personal money management.
  • Tools such as Paypal, Paypal.me and Stripe will make it super easy for you to get paid too
  • Income tracking changed my life. Seriously. Tash Corbin has a brilliant tool, 50 Pages of Colour, which I highly recommend. #YouGetWhatYouFocusOn

 

 
2018 Tribe Tracker - Claire Barton.png
 

6. Reporting

From Social Media followers to conversions, from profit to website traffic, having a few mechanisms in place which give you a snapshot of the information you need in order to make a decision is super important, and something most entrepreneurs shy away from.

If you can get a grip on what’s going on in your business, you can easily see what worked, and do more of that; and what didn’t, and do more of that.

What not to do: run reports, print them and then leave them on a shelf to gather dust until the end of eternity.

What to do: understand what decisions you need to make, run reports that will give you information so you can make said decisions, shred that report, drink a glass of wine and pat yourself on the back.

Tools & apps I love to help with these things:

  • My Tribe Tracker to get a monthly snapshot of all my list building activities, social status, income, traffic and goals
  • Spreadsheets (der, you knew that was coming)
  • Social Media insights, Blubrry (for podcast stats) and Google Analytics (this is tooooootally not my genius zone, but my SEO buds seem to like it)

 

 
claire barton communication coach
 

7. Communication

Perhaps this should have been right up the top. After all, communicating with current and potential clients is what it’s all about…

Whether you’re into sending regular emails (and if you’re not, we need to talk), or social media is your jam, you must-must-must have ways of communicating your message, your services and your uniqueness succinctly and in ways that represent you and your brand as you want them to be known.

Tools & apps I love to help with these things:

  • Active Campaign (as I said, a little bit #obsessed)
  • Acuity - the automated reminders and confirmations are fabulous
  • Asana (here we go again)
 

Don’t let this scare you off… I mean it when I say you absolutely do not need to drop everything to develop your back-end. These areas, when planned and managed well, will make your life easier and give you back so much time you’ll hardly know what to do with yourself - although I’m sure you have some ideas… but they don’t happen overnight and they needn’t be perfect!

Pick the low-hanging fruit first and start on the areas that will likely make your life easier, sooner, and just start there!

Please note, links with the '*' afterwards, denotes those which are affiliate links - this means that if you sign up to their paid products, I may get something in return... All I really want is to help you build a SWEET business, so these are all apps and products that I use in my business on the daily, and any kick-backs I may receive are a beautiful bonus!