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Are you creating systems to help your design business?

Mike, a member of the Resourceful Designer Community, posted in the Community Slack group his frustrations with one of his clients. Mike built, manages and updates an eCommerce website for a client of his. His frustration is that every time his client wants a new product added to the site, he fails to provide Mike with all the necessary information, requiring Mike to contact the client, sometimes more than once, for the rest of the info.

Mike’s situation reminded me of a similar one I had with a client several years ago. And how my frustrations forced me into creating systems to address the issue.

Around 2010 a new client hired me to build an eCommerce website. This site would sell a wide and often unrelated assortment of products – everything from baseball bats, sunglasses, headphones, plastic shelf brackets, night lights and car seat warmers. And it was up to me to add every item to the site.

After I launched the website, I quickly realized the process my client wanted was not going to work. He started calling me at all hours of the day and on weekends with new products to add even though I explicitly told him I work Monday to Friday from 9 am to 5 pm.

And similar to Mike’s situation that I mentioned above, any time my client had a new product for me to list, I would have to fight with him until I had all the content I needed to add it to the site.

I know this sounds like a toxic relationship. The only caveat was that even though I was charging my client by the hour, and you can imagine how the hours would add up, he never questioned my prices, and he paid his invoices on time. I was making good money, but this client was quickly becoming a pain to deal with.

A few weeks after the site launched, I finally put my foot down, and I created some systems to save my sanity.

The first thing I did was alter the way I charged him. Instead of billing for my time, I started charging him $50 for the first product and $30 for each subsequent product he sent me on a given day. This change immediately stopped the random emails and phone calls. To save money, my client started saving up products and submitting them to me in bulk.

The second thing I did was to create an online submission form that contained fields for all the information I needed to add a product to the website. Things like product name, description, selling price, shipping costs, size, colours, attributes, variations, etc.

I made most of the form fields mandatory, so my client couldn’t submit it until he had filled it out.

In some cases, I included YES/NO radio buttons asking questions like, “Does this product come in different colours?” If my client chose YES, he would then have to fill out another field listing the colours.

Finally, there was a way for him to attach product photos to the form.

Putting these two systems in place is what turned a nightmare of a client into someone I enjoyed working with. Plus, once I implemented these systems, my client started taking me more seriously.

Unfortunately, my client was not a very good business person, and his business failed, and we shut down the site after two years. But that project taught me the value of creating systems.

Of course, there are other types of systems. I use all kinds these days.

  • Questionnaires
  • Marketing and sales funnels
  • Social media strategy and calendars
  • Even my daily work process and routine

All of these can be called systems. Not only do they make my job easier, but they drastically speed up my tasks, AND they make it very easy for me to delegate work to others.

Creating systems for delegation.

Systems are a great way to teach others how to do things the way you need them done. I have a system for preparing a new WordPress website before I start designing it. It’s my step-by-step process for configuring the WordPress settings and installing and configuring the theme and plugins. I follow the same procedure on every website design I start.

I also have a system for launching a site to make sure nothing is forgotten. Before a website goes live, I make sure to check off every item on my list.

These two systems are the way I want things done. And because I have them set up as systems, I can easily pass off these duties to a virtual assistant and know that everything will be as I expect.

I have a system for my podcast artwork clients. It’s a questionnaire, but it’s still a system I use to gather the information I require to work on their project. Every time I meet with a new client, I pull out my list of questions and make sure to address each one during our conversation. It makes my job easier, and I never have to contact a client afterwards, saying I forgot to ask them something.

If I ever hire a project manager for my Podcast Branding business, they could use my questionnaire and get the same information I’m currently collecting. Because of the system I have, I know they won’t miss anything.

Creating systems makes you more efficient.

The systems I’ve created make me a more efficient designer and business person. They help streamline what I do and free up my time for other things. And creating systems can do the same thing for you.

I bet if you think hard, you already have systems in place. You’ve probably just never thought of them as systems. But now that you have, maybe you’ll start creating more systems that could help you become a more efficient person.

What systems do you use?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

 

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I want to help you.

Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business, please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at feedback@resourcefuldesigner.com

 

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