We business owners have as our main focus finding clients, having them pay us then providing the service they paid for. By breaking our focus down to those fundamentals we can ensure that we have the essential systems for our online business, and resist getting distracted by shiny objects.
You may notice that I didn’t talk about your clients having a great experience in those fundamentals. That’s because, for me, the client experience is at the heart of why I have systems. By ensuring that my business is running smoothly I’m ensuring that my clients get my best energy and an experience that delights them.
Before we dive into systems I wanted to take a moment to clarify what I mean by systems and tools, as many business owners use the phases interchangeably.
A system is a set of tasks that you do to complete a specific activity, whereas a tool is something you use to support your system. Let’s look at an example:
You pick up your toothbrush and put toothpaste on it, then add a dash of water. You start on the top left then move to the right then do your bottom teeth in the same order. After rinsing your toothbrush you put it back when it belongs.
That is your system – those small tasks. Your toothbrush and toothpaste are the tools you use to support that task.
For each of the essential systems that I mention below I’ve given you suggested tools that will support that system; a free version to start with and an upgrade for when your businesses reaches that level of need.
Essential Systems For Your Online Business
1. Client Relationship Management (or CRM)
CRM is a standard term that is used to describe both systems and tools that are used to follow up, and take care of, our clients and potential clients.
We want to make sure that we’re following up with potential clients and keeping track of our clients, otherwise we’re missing out on potential opportunities.
Start with: Asana (free version)
Upgrade to: Dubsabo, 17 Hats, Honey Books
2. Client Bookings
To ensure a great client experience we want to have a way for clients to easily book in with us and avoid the email tennis that can happen . . .
“Are you free at 10am on the 15th?” “No, how about 2pm on the 17th?”
And on and on it can go, using up our client’s, and our, precious time.
Consider the steps you want to happen as part of your client bookings then sign up for a calendar scheduling tool.
Start with: Calendly or Acuity (free version)
Upgrade to: Calendly or Acuity (paid version)
3. Calling Clients
If you’re offering services you’re going to need to talk to your clients. To support your client on boarding system (a rather clunky term for welcoming new clients into your business) a tool is essential. I started out using Skype but quickly switched to Zoom.
The reasons why Zoom is my go to tool are:
- Requires less bandwidth than Skype
- Records calls with the touch of a button
- Shares my screen or my clients screen
- Records videos of myself
Start with: Zoom (free version).
Upgrade to: Zoom (paid version – if you only do 1:1 calls you may never need the paid version).
4. Getting Paid
In my business I made the decision that I wanted to be paid before I provide a booking link for my services as I didn’t want to have to chase people up who’d booked in but not paid. My system is set up to reflect this.
The tool I use is Paypal – either by linking the buttons on my website directly to Paypal, emailing clients a link to pay or sending invoices out to clients.
Start with: Paypal and Stripe.
There are fees associated with these services. I used to find that annoying but now I’m perfectly happy paying a small fee if it means I have a simple way for my international clients to pay me.
5. Content Creation
This is an area where it’s essential to have a good system to create, then store, your content as it’s the main areas where I see time wasted by business owners. We need to create less content than we think we do.
In this article I set out three steps to create your own content creation system “How To Create A Simple Content Creation System”.
If you’ve struggled to stay consistent with your social media (and content in general) then this article “How To Solve Your Social Media Consistency Struggle” will help as it takes you through the three stages to solve your consistency struggle.
I’ve also created a free Social Media Editorial Calendar template for you. This freebie includes:
> Social media editorial calendar template (created in excel so you can fill it in)
> Written instructions on how to use the template
> A video walking you through the template
> 30 topic ideas for your social media posts
The tools you use will depend on the platforms that you’re sharing your content on. I use Later for scheduling my Instagram posts as I like that I can see a preview of how the posts will look. Hootsuite is a great tool for scheduling posts to Twitter, Facebook etc.
6. Managing Emails
Emails are a fantastic way to keep in touch and they can also be the source of aggravation for us. I’ve had clients who had thousands and thousands of unread emails and dreaded opening up their inbox.
We tend to be reactive when it comes to our emails and allow far too much junk to creep in.
Take back control of your emails by deleting and unsubscribing from what you don’t need. You can always sign up again later if you decide you still want to hear from that person. I challenged myself to unsubscribe from 80% of the people I follow and what a difference that made! Now I only receive emails that I can’t wait to open. If that sounds too much then start with 20% and start to take back control in small pieces.
Allocate time in your diary to check your emails, I have a daily 30 minute appointment. This stops you starting the day by reacting to emails and allowing those emails to decide what you’ll send time on that day.
For sending out your regular emails here are the tools for you.
Start with: Mailchimp or Mailliter (free versions)
Upgrade to: Aweber or Active Campaign
One of the most important systems you can have is to budget for, then track, your income and expenses. If you don’t manage your finances then how will you know if your business is profitable?
Start with: A simple spreadsheet. By starting with something very simple your focus will be on the management of your finances rather than using a new tool. Get into the habit of setting a budget for the year then regularly check how your expenses and income are tracking against your budget.
Upgrade to: Wave (free and paid). Quickbooks (paid). Zero (paid).