Attn Solopreneurs: If you’re feeling overwhelmed by everything on your plate, pulled in a million directions, and like you never got enough done when 5 or 6 PM rolls around, then this week’s podcast episode is for you.
Because it’s time to talk about setting up systems.
As someone who left a corporate job to freelance full-time partially for the time freedom it included, the idea of setting up systems sounded like some annoying corporate BS, but it’s turned out to be one of my favorite tasks.
Because it makes my workday, my task list, and staying on top of deadlines so much easier. Systems help me know what to do when to do it, and in what order to do things. And helps me take lots of tasks completely off my list.
Which is why this week on The Dare to Grow show I’m sharing 10 systems your business needs to help you ditch the overwhelm and stay on top of your shit!
Links + Resources
Trainings on how to set up systems are in The Essentials: Click here for instant access
Apps and platforms I use for my business systems:
Airtable – planning, tracking, data organization
Asana – project management
Teachable – membership, customer / client payments
(affiliate links – full list in The Essentials!)
Before we dive in, I want to remind you #1, don’t panic if you don’t have a lot of these set up yet. I ran my business for years without some of them in place so your business will be fine, but it will be a lot easier to manage if you do set them up.
#2, this list is in the order you probably need to set these things up. So if you aren’t sure what to do first, start at the top and go from there.
And #3, if you’re like – oh shit, I gotta set all this up and I have no idea how! – you know I’m here to help! I’ve got trainings for almost every one of these inside The Essentials. So don’t let that be an excuse to not get your systems going.
Grab something to take notes with and let’s dive in.
1 – Systems for project planning
First up is a system for planning content and projects. If you are not planning your quarter, or even just your month, in advance this is going to help you so much.
I’m talking about what you’re going to send to your email list, what you’re going to promote, what videos you need to create, what ads you’re running, whose podcast you’re going to be on. You do not want to be falling behind on this stuff. You want to have a plan for the next month or next three months so that you can just sit down and do the work instead of feeling like you have to make lots of decisions and figure things out every day.
For me, this includes two things: number one, in my project management system (which we will talk about) I have recurring tasks set so once a month I sit down and plan all of my content, projects, ads, and promotions. Then I take all of those content ideas and put them into an Airtable base so I have information on everything that I want to create and I can see it in the calendar.
I also have specific days of the week that I create content or do specific tasks. For creating content, I write all of my captions, edit all of my photos, and create all of my reels on Monday. This is how you get in the habit of creating content consistently. You have time set aside each week to focus on content instead of writing captions or taking photos the moment you need to create a post.
When and how will you plan your content and projects for the month or quarter?
2 – Project management systems
Number two is your project management system.
This is what you need so that when you open up your laptop every morning you don’t have to figure out what you’re supposed to do next.
I literally did this today – sat down to work, was trying to figure out where to start, and remembered that I just needed to open up Asana and do the next thing on my task list.
System 1 is for planning and system 2 is how you break those plans into daily tasks. There are lots of options for this. I use Asana, but you could use Trello, Monday, Notion, or even Airtable.
When I go into Asana I have a to-do list on every single day of the month so I’m never guessing and everything gets done on time.
For example, today my to-do list said I had a meeting with my assistant, I needed to fill in my stats tracker, write an email, work on Facebook ads, and do a rough draft of this podcast episode.
Sometimes it’s hard to make decisions in the moment or when you’re tired or not feeling creative or motivated. Using a project management system allows you to not leave things to chance. The task list is already set so all you have to do is sit down and do the work.
3 – Systems for client scheduling + onboarding (customers too)
Next up, you need systems for scheduling clients, for onboarding clients, or for onboarding customers or students.
The more systems you have set up for this the easier it is for people to buy from you or hire you so we want to make the process as easy as possible. You don’t want potential clients guessing how to contact you, how to find information, how to book a discovery call – it should all happen step-by-step without any roadblocks along the way because they (or you) don’t know what to do next.
For booking my private clients, people will respond to an email pitching my coaching or respond to an IG story by DM-ing me. Then, I find out what they want to work on and if it feels like a good match I will send them a link to book a discovery call.
Once we have a call, and we decide to work together, I pretty much have a list that I go through to get them all set up and ready for our first call. I send them a contract, links to join me on Slack, a Google doc for us to work in, and recurring meetings in Zoom for coaching calls. I do the same thing for every single client.
You also want to have something similar set up for customers. What emails do they receive so that they know where to download their product, they know where to log into the course, they know where to join the Facebook group or watch coaching calls.
After someone enrolls in The Essentials they get an email with all of the links and instructions on where to start and how to work through the program. Yes, some people can just login, dive into the course, and figure everything out on their own but people feel cared for if you give them a step-by-step process. They feel like you’re paying attention, you’re listening to them, you give a shit about them getting results and actually going through your stuff.
I just had a great example of this happen to me this week. I booked a spot in a breathwork class and the next day I had a text from the studio welcoming me and letting me know how to contact them if I had any questions. Just that little two-sentence automated text makes a difference when someone hasn’t been to your space or worked with you before.
It opens up the lines of communication so that if your clients or customers do run into an issue they know that they can contact you or how they can contact you for support. And all of this stuff is set up and automated so when people make a purchase they automatically get emails and links and I don’t actually have to do the work every single time.
4 – Systems for invoicing / payments / bookkeeping
Number four – how are you getting paid? There are so many systems and ways to make this easy for you and for your clients or customers. Personally, I use teachable for both membership payment and for setting up monthly payments for my clients so I have one link that goes to every client or one link that goes to every Essentials member and no one has to ask for invoices or receipts because Teachable does all of that.
I also have systems for bookkeeping. I use a platform called XERO for my bookkeeping which automatically pulls in all of my transactions, all my revenue, all my expenses and I also have a spreadsheet that I fill in every month so I know how many people are in which programs, how many affiliate payments came in, how much my expenses were every month. It’s essentially a P&L – a profit and loss statement – but I can see every month for the year in one spot. It includes all of my stats so I can see what I was doing, what promotions I was running, how many emails I sent or how many stories I posted, and where that translated into growth.
And yes there is a template for this in The Essentials!
5 – Systems for email marketing
Next is a system for email marketing and I know there are a whole bunch of you out there with an email list you are not sending emails to. Don’t feel bad if that’s you but also, let’s get it together. If people are on your email list it’s because they want to hear from you so what is your process for sending weekly emails? What is your process for getting people on your email list? What is your process for turning people on your email list into customers or clients?
My system for sending weekly emails is actually part of my whole content process. I plan emails, social media, and podcast content in one Airtable base which makes it easier to make an overall content plan and repurpose things.
I also have three main freebies and then the occasional live workshop or challenge that I use to get people on my email list. From those freebies, people will be moved into email sequences which are set up with discounts or bonuses and countdown timers.
Especially with email you can set up your system once and let it run and then you just check in every quarter or so to see how things are working and make updates.
6 – Systems for content creation
Number six is content creation. This includes written content (like blog posts, emails, Instagram captions), graphics/photos/video, and it also includes storage.
For example, I have graphics that I need to share with my assistant who edits and uploads blog posts, so we have a system for where those graphics go so that whoever needs them can find them. (hint – they go into Airtable)
I also have a system for my podcast where I put the podcast description in a document that my editor has access to. I have a folder where I upload podcast audio so that my editor can access it and then another folder where they put the final version.
Especially when working with employees or contractors, you want to have a system in place so you’re not always hunting for things in email. If you have a system set up, you can track everything in one spot – everyone has access and understands the workflow so you’re not wasting time hunting for things or stressing because you can’t remember where it is or if it’s been sent.
7 – Systems for social media engagement + lead tracking
Number seven is social media engagement and lead tracking. It’s not enough to just show up on Instagram and put content out there. You need to be interacting with people that leave comments, you need to be interacting with people who send DM’s, people who react to your stories. You need to have systems for how people go from commenting on your post, to DMing you, to booking a call, or joining a program. If you are spending a lot of time in your DM’s using that to get clients then you probably need a system for tracking those leads so that no one falls through the cracks.
I don’t know about your Instagram inbox, but I haven’t gone through and emptied mine in years which means there are thousands of messages and after a week I can’t find anything. People can get lost in there, especially if they’re taking a little time to get back to you, so you want to have a system set up to track the people you’re talking to so that you can get back to them and keep the sales conversation going.
If you have a system for following up with leads you will be less likely to feel like you’re annoying someone because you’re following a process. Taking a sales conversation step by step makes it less likely that a potential client or customer will fall through the cracks.
8 – Systems for inbox management
Number eight is inbox management. This is a system that you either need to set up yourself so that you can pass it off to an assistant or hire someone who is already great at inbox management and just hand over your inbox so they can create systems.
Your inbox needs to have folders or some sort of organization so that you can find things easily. It needs to have pre-written templates for all of those questions you get asked on repeat. It needs to have filters for things that are either spam that won’t stop showing up or things that you only look at once a week so it can go from your inbox into a folder or get tagged automatically.
The system should also include time boundaries – when do you check your inbox, when do you answer emails that need immediate attention, when do you answer emails that can wait a little while, how do you note which is which?
This is one of the systems that you should hand off immediately to an assistant because not hanging out in your inbox or not having your inbox open all day is SUCH A RELIEF! Seriously, it feels so good to not even have to think about going through emails and know that it’s all being taken care of.
If you want some tips on hiring, check out the previous episode/post, #72 – we talk all about getting some help.
9 – Systems for collecting data (stats, testimonials, industry info)
Finally, I’ll give you a little pass if you take some time to set these last two systems up. Definitely focus on the first eight, but if you’ve got those up and running add these two to your list.
System number nine is a system for collecting data. This is stats from your Instagram, from your email list, your YouTube channel, podcast. You want to be tracking how many downloads you’re getting, how many links are getting clicked, how many posts are being saved or shared, your best content.
You also want to be collecting things like testimonials, comments, or wins from your clients and customers. Where do those go so that you can actually use them? Do you have a folder set up or a dropbox that you’re putting them into? When do those testimonials get edited and put on your site or turned into social media graphics?
For testimonials, I would create a quarterly task to go through and create new graphics and add them to your website or sales pages. Then weekly you are adding them into a folder so they can be posted in stories or into your Instagram feed or Facebook page.
Along with collecting that kind of data, I also like to collect data on my industry. Small business stats, stats on entrepreneurs, stats on women in business, stats on women and finances. Collecting this info allows me to stay on top of what my industry is doing and what my audience needs in regards to those stats and it also gives me great content to share on social media.
10 – Systems for collecting future ideas + updates
Lastly, you need a system for collecting all of your brilliant ideas so that you can take action on them. I like using a Notes app like Google Keep or Evernote for this and then I organize them in Airtable.
I have one note on my phone calls “Brainstorm” and I’m continuously adding things to it, whether that’s podcast ideas, quotes I want to use for Instagram, or books I want to read. All of it goes into one note so it’s not organized but it’s really fast for me to add stuff.
In my project management system, there is a weekly task for me to transfer the best ideas into Airtable. I have one Airtable base for general ideas, for marketing my business, growing my business, and stuff I want to create. I have a second Airtable base that is just for Essentials ideas and things I want to post in the Facebook group, new trainings, and guest coaches I want to bring in. I organize them by things that I need to do ASAP, things that I want to do soon, things I can do at some point, or things my assistant can do. This way when she has time for more work I don’t have to look for tasks to handoff. She can take over the projects that I’ve been wanting to get done but haven’t had time for yet.
Fun fact – you can hire someone to set up these systems. Lots of virtual assistants out there already know how to set up systems or they have systems they will bring with them. If you’re not quite ready to hire someone, setting up the systems now makes it a lot easier to hand off tasks to someone else.
I just hired a new assistant and I already have all these systems up and running and she had already used a lot of those platforms so the transition from me doing the tasks to her was really smooth. Shout out to Lindsay for being a rockstar.
Hopefully, you’ve got a little list to work on. If you need some help or just want to steal my systems – you can find them inside The Essentials – they’re in The Productive Solopreneur course.
If you’re feeling stressed about all the systems you need to set up, I want you to take a moment and imagine how nice it would be to be done with work at 3 or 4 PM, to have your weekends off, or not have to spend a whole day on admin tasks. That is what happens when you have systems set up. It really gives you a lot of time back and will almost instantly de-stress your day.