This is how my days went when I first started my business: Wake up. Answer emails. Make breakfast and get dressed. Traipse over to a local cafe to sip tea and do some work. Wrap up early and go shoot archery.
It had the illusion of routine without any benefits. It was that “do some work” part that got me. Every day, the work was different, the clients were different. I was living in a land where everyone was a unique snowflake, and so I felt the need to adapt timelines and payment structures to each person. There was a general to-do list, but looking back, I had no idea how anything got done. And I cringe thinking about all the time I lost trying to reinvent my process with each new client.
That wasn’t their fault or mine. I frankly knew nothing about running a business, except it meant life outside of the grey cube at coffee shops and museums and such.
Systems? That was something for big ol’ cold corporations that had no soul. If you had heart, I figured, you didn’t need systems or processes. You just had to do.
Fast forward two years and I’ve gone from “systems are evil” to “systems are SO sexy”. Why the change?
Think of a stage in a theater. Generally, all the action of the play you’re watching happens on stage within certain boundaries and limitations. (I know this, having been a theatre major long ago.) Sometimes, action happens off-stage, or in the audience, but with limitations on space, directors and actors and artists can dream up some incredible things.
Systems in my business have the same purpose. I don’t have to think about how to onboard a new client because there’s a system for that. As a result, I get to focus my brainpower on enhancing the experience, strengthening the foundation, and overall just creating some really cool things that I wasn’t able to previously.
I have a handful of crazy talented contractors I work with on websites now and having a system for our work flow lets them know where they can push boundaries or take initiative.
There’s a freedom in the process, a freedom of time and energy.
You can start small with the systems you put in place. If you’re a solo freelancer, it can be as simple as creating some general email templates you can use when potential clients express interest in working with you, so you’re not rewriting emails from scratch each time.