Shop Talk: The Quickest Way to Get Something Done

solopreneur

solopreneur

Welcome to Shop Talk! While we love providing you with jam-packed, actionable posts, we also wanted to share quick, thought-provoking snippets here and there — from our brains to yours.

Have you ever had an idea that you were really jazzed about? The drop-everything-and-make-this-happen idea that wakes you up at 3am; makes you (gasp) forget you need coffee; finds you telling your pets about it because you’ve already chewed the ear off anyone else who will listen?

We love those ideas.

A lot of times, those ideas relight the fire and lead to breakthroughs in our businesses. They give us direction and purpose. They turn into the product, the service, or the platform that helps us grow.

But we’re not here to talk about those times. We’re here to talk about what happens when that idea you had just isn’t working out.

You know, the not-so-glamorous side of things. The times when:

  • You’ve put your all into it (time, money, energy), and it just didn’t work…
  • Your idea is made up of a lot of “shoulds” and not a lot of “wants”…
  • The fire’s burnt out and you’re no longer excited…

When you’re a solopreneur with endless ideas, this is bound to happen. And you’re bound to be plagued by the shame and the “shoulds” that keep you holding on.

Today, we’re granting you permission to let it go.

One of our favorite leading ladies, Arianna Huffington, wisely wrote in Thrive: “You can complete a project by dropping it.”

For her, it was about learning to play the violin and speak German. She wasn’t taking action, but, in her words, “Any project that you’ve started in your mind drains energy.”

You might be a lot further in. You might’ve spent hours on plans and outreach. Hundreds (or thousands) of dollars on bringing it to life. Endless amounts of energy truly trying to make it work.

Again: It’s okay to let it go. No amount of time, money, or energy invested is worth carrying on with something that isn’t going to get you closer to where you want to be or how you want to live, solopreneur. It’s oh-so-simple, but we know it’s not easy.

So we remind you of these two things:

1. Nearly everything we do as solopreneurs is a learning opportunity. In working on this idea, you’ve undoubtedly learned something new; met new people; did things you didn’t think you could.

2. Dropping a project now doesn’t mean dropping a project forever. (The “Hold” section of our to-do list is solid.)

And, finally…This is not a case study for taking the easy way out; for walking away from something just because it’s hard. This isn’t about sloughing off and making progress on your Netflix queues. (Okay, well, it’s not just about that.)

Simply put, this isn’t advice for the lazy — they don’t need it. (And we know that’s not you.) This is advice for the overachievers who want to do.it.all, all.the.time.

To you, we ask: What can you cross off your to-do list by dropping it?

(Even if it’s just for now…)

Your days, back in your hands.

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Why Your Solopreneur Business Needs an Operations Manual (And How to Get Started for Free!)

Create an operations manual. It’s probably business advice you’ve heard on more than one occasion. If you’re like most solopreneurs, it’s one of the things you skip — maybe because admin tasks just aren’t what you got into business for, or perhaps because you’re not sure what it is or why you need one.

We’re going to fix that today. Even if you’re just starting out, you can benefit from creating an operations manual! Let’s start at the beginning…

What is an operations manual?

Think back to the last time you started a job. You probably received a company handbook. That handbook laid out the company’s mission, rules, and procedures. They’re a required read to learn about the company’s expectations for you as an employee.

That document was the company’s operations manual. They built it over time as the company grew, likely adding to it as they found information they need to reference and relay to other people. It helps ensure the people they hire know what to expect and do while at work.

Even if you’re a one-woman show today, an operations manual can save you time, money, and headaches down the line.

Why create an operations manual for your solopreneur business?

There are a few reasons an operations manual might be a wise addition to your solo business.

1. Increase productivity. As your business grows, you’ll find your responsibilities do, too. Keeping track of every task you need to do will become impossible if your brain is your only storage system. You’ll inevitably start to miss steps in tasks you do on a regular basis. You’ll spend hours looking for a document because you don’t remember where you saved it. Soon you’ll find you’re spending more time fixing mistakes than moving on to the next task. Creating an operations manual will ensure you never miss a task or a step to complete things, saving you time and unnecessary stress.

2. Get organized. Organization should be a top priority as your business grows. It’s inefficient to have the tools you need to run your business scattered across a variety of platforms, apps, and devices. You end up wasting precious time trying to remember where the thing you need is, then searching for it across all the places you use for storage. By creating an operations manual, you build a central hub where things are all in one place and easily accessible.

Prepare to grow. Your business goals include growth right? While growth comes in many forms, many times it means bringing people on to help you. These people could be employees, freelancers, or collaboration partners. An operations manual will help you bring them up to speed quickly on what your business is about and how you run it, saving time (and money) in the onboarding process.

What to include in your operations manual

Your operations manual can be as simple or as robust as you’d like. There’s no right or wrong answer here. Keep this in mind, though: As your business continues to grow, it is much easier to implement new ideas if there is already a record of how things are currently done.

I know getting started can be hard so I’ve put together a few suggestions to help you out:

  • System or process documents
  • Your brand style guide
  • Logo files
  • Your mission statement + core values
  • Links to your systems
  • Templates for documents you use often (proposals, contracts, social media graphic templates, etc.)
  • Swipe files
  • Website and social media links for easy reference
  • Information for the courses you’ve purchased and any membership sites you’ve joined
  • Testimonials

The options for items to include in your operations manual are endless. Decide what’s important to keep your business running in top form and put it in your manual.

Where to create your operations manual

I recommend creating your operations manual in a system you already use. I like to access my operations manual from anywhere, so I built mine in Trello. You might find Google Drive, Evernote, Asana, or some other system works better for your business. If you prefer to use a non-electronic operations manual, a binder with dividers is easy to update and copy.

Start building yours today

If your business plan includes growth, it’s never too early to start creating an operations manual. Next time you write and upload a blog post, for example? Take note of all the steps you take. It may seem like a lot of work, but an extra hour or two now can save time in the long run — and who doesn’t love saving time?

Your days, back in your hands.

Get instant access to 5 Days to Reclaiming Your Time, a free email course with the mindset shifts + action steps you need to get started in reframing your relationship with time. Sign up below!

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Shop Talk: Build in Bonuses (A Short Guide to Goal Setting)

goal setting

goal setting

Welcome to Shop Talk! While we love providing you with jam-packed, actionable posts, we also wanted to share quick, thought-provoking snippets here and there — from our brains to yours.

We often find that our members and coaching clients are driven, motivated business owners who fall into a trap of feeling guilty for not doing more.

On a recent call, one member mentioned that she’s been setting high goals for herself and her business each month. Although she feels like she’s accomplished plenty by the end of the month, she’s still disappointed that she hasn’t quite reached her lofty goals. The issue isn’t in her productivity — it’s in her goal setting.

Our suggestion? Implement the “bonus” trick.

Here’s how it works: On your to-do list, create your “must-do” section, as well as a “bonus section” of tasks that you would love to do but aren’t absolutely critical to the success of your business. If you get to the tasks on the bonus section? Extra brown points within your biz! If you don’t? No guilt.

A similar trick is using the phrase “at least” when goal setting.

  • Is your goal to pitch guest posts? Set a goal of “at least 2 pitches.”
  • Is your goal to go on daily walks? Make a goal of “at least 3 walks this week.”
  • Is your goal to be in touch with your email list more? Set a goal of “at least 12 times this year.”

It’s the same mental game as the “bonus” trick: You have a minimum goal to reach, but if you go above and beyond, you’ll positively impact your business and your mindset.

Let us know if you implement the “bonus” trick and how it shifts your mindset towards goal setting!

Your days, back in your hands.

Get instant access to 5 Days to Reclaiming Your Time, a free email course with the mindset shifts + action steps you need to get started in reframing your relationship with time. Sign up below!

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Shop Talk: Find the Wiggle Room

find wiggle room

find wiggle room

Welcome to Shop Talk! While we love providing you with jam-packed, actionable posts, we also wanted to share quick, thought-provoking snippets here and there — from our brains to yours.

Often, our coaching clients and community members come to us feeling overwhelmed and like they have no space or time to breathe, let alone create. They’re stuck in firefighting mode and their wheels are turning…but the car ain’t moving. If you’re in this mode often or always, that’s part of a larger problem (a time scarcity mindset, a lack of prioritization, or an inability to say no, perhaps?).

But, inevitably, there will be times over the course of your solo biz when you will feel like you can barely keep the biz going because of a lack of time — self-care seems laughable and focusing on growth? Impossible.

Two common times for these feelings? During the holidays and during a product launch.

During these periods, we urge you to find the wiggle room. What do we mean by that? Find the moments here and there where you can make adjustments — i.e. wiggle free a bit more time.

Does your at-home workout need to be 1 hour or would 30 minutes of HIIT accomplish just as much today?

Do you need to make a gourmet meal or would a Crockpot meal — or even a microwavable meal — suffice just for tonight?

Do you need to walk to your coworking space or would it be okay to pay for an Uber (or tuk tuk, if you’re Cristina) this afternoon?

Do you need to post 25 pins on Pinterest per day or would 15 be enough this week?

Do you need to stick to your 4 times per week blog post schedule or will your readers understand if you cut it back to 3 times per week just this month?

You get the gist. Where can you find a bit of wiggle room today?

P.S. If you find yourself in this mode often, it might be time to reclaim your time. We can help…for free. Grab our free, 5-day email course below.

Your days, back in your hands.

Get instant access to 5 Days to Reclaiming Your Time, a free email course with the mindset shifts + action steps you need to get started in reframing your relationship with time. Sign up below!

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Stop the Overwhelm: How to Get People to Email You Less

When you’re running your own gig, email is a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, it’s rapidly becoming the next voicemail — nobody wants to look at it, it’s clumsy to use, and for God’s sake, why don’t you just text? And in light of the 205 billion+ emails sent every day, it makes sense that Inbox Zero is a thing (that deserves caps).

But on the other hand, you need to be in contact with your clients, prospects, contractors, and anyone else who helps keep your business world spinning.

What most small business owners don’t realize is that you have so much more control over the amount of email you get than you think. In fact, if you’re getting overrun with emails, chances are it’s mostly your own fault.

So how can you get people to email you less, while still being able to keep up with everything you need to keep up with? It’s all about boundaries + clarity.

If you don’t want people to email you, don’t set up situations where they feel invited to do so.

For instance, if you’re routinely asking for responses in the emails you send out, you’re going to get emails back. If you’re really open and casual on your social channels, people are going to feel more comfortable getting in touch out of the blue. If you’re sharing vulnerable stuff in your blog posts, chances are you’re going to get people with that same flavor of vulnerability emailing you and sharing their experiences.

And that can all be good, as long as it’s in line with your branding and your business goals.

But to keep it from becoming overwhelming, you need to have some solid boundaries in place, and you need to give people a way to connect with you without getting all up in your inbox.

The first thing to do is to implicitly and explicitly state your boundaries. Take a look at the way you’re connecting with people. Are you being a little too open? Do you need to dial it back a little bit, become a little less accessible?

Think about ways that you can (nicely) discourage people from sending you emails. For instance, putting something as simple as “We love design. We hate long emails. Keep it short and sweet and we’ll love you, too!” can make a world of difference.

Finally, think ahead about how people are going to want to connect with you, and give them an outlet to do so that doesn’t involve email. This means making sure your social media pages are up and active, your blog’s comments section is working, etc., and directing them to those places with a pre-written email. (More on that in a sec.)

When it comes to clients…

Clients who get email-clingy typically do so because you haven’t shown them that they can trust you to lead this process. The way to avoid this is to set expectations up front, to watch your language, and to make yourself explicitly clear in every single email. (Sensing a theme here?)

When people first start working with you, make it clear what your hours are and your policies for responding to emails. It doesn’t have to come across as rude or standoff-ish — you can easily keep this in line with your branding. For instance, in my client onboarding guide, I have a section about email that says:

“We don’t spend all day watching the inbox because quite frankly, we’ve got better things to do. (Like writing your copy.) So don’t freak out if we don’t get back to you in seconds — you’ll always get a reply within 24 hours on weekdays.”

When you do have email correspondence with clients, keep up that leadership tone by avoiding hesitance, jargon, and uncertainty. Watch out for phrases like “I just…”, “Sorry to bother you…”, or “I think I might…” — all of which imply that you’re uncertain, which makes them feel like they have to lead. If you really struggle with this, here’s a great free app to help you out.

Finally, use the last sentence of your email to explicitly state what you’re going to do, what’s going to happen next, or what you want them to do. This way there’s a clear structure, you can easily refer back to it if they still manage to get confused, and they’re not left wondering whether they need to check in with you.

When it comes to contractors + coworkers…

The same thing applies in terms of setting expectations and watching your language, but the issue of clarity becomes even more important. Nobody wants to get caught up in a long email chain, so clarify your expectations up front — everything from expected response times to CC etiquette to what to do in an emergency — and then stick with it.

When you do sit down to write an email, pause for just a second before you start typing and make sure you’re clear on why you’re actually sending the email. Do you need information, and if so, what specifically? Are you looking for a decision, and if so, does the person on the other end have all the info they need to give it to you? Does this actually need a response at all? You’d be surprised at how many emails you can adequately respond to with a simple “Got it — thanks! EOM” in the subject line.

Finally, you can avoid loads of back and forth with some simple, pre-written emails.

To avoid getting sucked into endless email chains, have a think about the types of questions prospects, clients, and contractors tend to email you about repeatedly. Then, pre-write emails in response to them, leaving blanks for the name and the specifics, and save them in drafts or load them into a tool like Gmail’s Canned Responses.

This includes things like answers to common questions about what you do, “I’ll get back to you with a quote in 24 hours” emails, emails with your scheduling link, emails encouraging people to share on your social media or comments sections instead of via email, and responses both accepting and declining guest posting/product reviews/speaking opportunities. Then, when you do get inquiries, just mad-lib your way through your templates and you’re good to go.

Remember: boundaries + clarity = happier clients + contractors + way fewer emails for you. (And that means way more time to actually run your business.) Win, win, and win.

Streamline more. Stress less.

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The Best Planners for Solopreneurs, Bloggers and All Around Busy Women

The Best Planners for Solopreneurs, Bloggers, and All-Around Busy Women

The Best Planners for Solopreneurs, Bloggers, and All-Around Busy Women

No matter how much our digitally-savvy hearts love online organizational tools like Google Calendar, Evernote, Asana, and more, there’s one thing a lot of one woman shops can agree going analog on: planners.

There’s something so incredibly satisfying about setting your planner up for the week, the month, and the year. Something to be said for seeing everything you want to see in one place. Something to be said for being able to physically cross something off a list.

So when it comes to tracking time, to-dos, ta-das, and much more, we love getting a glimpse at the best planners for solopreneurs.

Without further ado — and in no particular order — we give you the best planners for solopreneurs!

The Simplified Planner from Emily Ley*

The Simplified Planner from Emily Ley

”Grace, not perfection” is Emily Ley’s motto, and The Simplified Planner is a fantastic example of how she helps women live that motto out. Coming in both daily and weekly editions, the minimalistic design is perfect for starting every day on a fresh note. We especially love the ample margin space and luxurious paper.

Pros: The Simplified Planner is minimalistic, leaving room for you to make it entirely your own. Daily and weekly editions let you choose how you want to plan.

Cons: Weekend days share one page — not ideal for the freelancer who likes equal opportunity planning for Saturdays and Sundays.

Price: $58


The Happiness Planner*

The Happiness Planner

Focus on what makes you happy. That’s what The Happiness Planner is all about — breaking us from the autopilot of constant productivity and turning our minds toward reflection and self-care. Start by creating your “Happiness Roadmap,” then head into each day with the spotlight on positive thinking and affirmations, mindfulness, gratitude, and self-development.

Pros: With an initial monthly page that gives you room for personal and work goals and daily pages that still leave plenty of space for to-dos, list-loving solopreneurs will still have plenty of room to plan out their days.

Cons: The planner focuses on a daily view, so for those who prefer to see their week at-a-glance, this might not be the planner for you.

Price: $59


Plans & Things from Christie Montague Design*

Plans & Things from Christie Montague Design

Created for solopreneurs, by a solopreneur. Freelance designer Christie Montague knows a few things about juggling a million things on the to do list. She created Plans & Things as a way for her to keep track of everything in her work + life, and you might quickly realize that it’s great for you, too.

Pros: So. much. room! The monthly spread gives you each month at-a-glance, while the weekly layouts include room for writing out weekly goals, scheduling your days, building multiple to-do lists under different categories, and jotting down “notes + brilliant ideas.” Add interchangeable covers, and the versatility of this planner becomes tough to beat.

Cons: The flexible cover, though protected, might be prone to wear.

Price: $36


The Life Planner from Erin Condren

Erin Condren LifePlanner

What doesn’t Erin Condren do right? Created by a woman, for women is what we like to see — and she does it right with her signature LifePlanner™, which seems to somehow keep getting better, year after year.

Pros: Three choices of layouts (horizontal, vertical, or hourly) allow you to see your week how you want. Sturdy binding and laminate (interchangeable) covers make this a durable companion throughout the year, and inspirational covers with quotes like “She designed a life she loved” will remind you how lucky you are to be a solopreneur.

Cons: Bright colors and a 7.25” x 9.25” size make this planner hard to conceal when you’re out and about.

Price: $55+


Get to Work Book from Elise Joy*

Get to Work Book from Elise Joy

Elise says Get to Work; we say get shit done. With this planner, they’re one and the same. The Get to Work Book is a daily planner + goal setting workbook designed to help you break those big goals down and take things one day at a time. In Elise’s words: “While (sadly) it can’t do your work for you, every inch of it was thoughtfully designed to help you get to work.”

Pros: The minimalistic design lets you focus on the important additions you’ll make, and the 12 motivational text prints throughout will give you the push you need to make each month your own. The addition of 14 “project breakdown” pages and 13 “reflect and goal-set” pages make this a true goal-getting planner.

Cons: For those who like color, you’ll have to add it on your own. And at 246 pages, expect some weight for your work.

Price: $55


The Pocket Book Planner from Poppin*

The Pocket Book Planner from Poppin

Poppin’s out to help us all ”Work happy.” This incredibly colorful planner packs a lot of punch in a little space, and is made with a sturdy spiral and protective cover, keeping it travel friendly.

Pros: Easy-to-find, color-coded months as well as weekly spreads leave room for lined notes and white space every day. The addition of a sheet of icon stickers makes our sticker book-loving hearts oh so happy.

Cons: Coming in at just 8.25” x 6”, the planner might be too small for those who like to write a lot…or write big.

Price: $14


The Desire Map Planner from Danielle LaPorte*

The Desire Map Planner from Danielle Laporte

Hardcover. Gold foil. Daily and weekly editions. ”What I will do to feel the way I want to feel” adorning the covers. Yep, Danielle LaPorte’s planners are about as enticing as everything else she creates. (#truthbomb) Naturally, it incorporates “your soul and your to-do list; your gratitude and your goals; your deepest desires with your day-to-day.” Love.

Pros: The daily layouts leave room for your Core Desired Feelings, Soul Prompts, your schedule (with a focus on reframing obligations into choices) and more. If you identify as a heart-centered solopreneur, this is more than just a get-shit-done planner.

Cons: Lots to distract from your daily to-do list (but yep, that’s kinda the point).

Price: $44


The Life List Planner from Clara Paperie*

The Life List Planner

All.of.the.lists. That’s what this planner is about. Each page features one long to-do list, with each day making room for your top five priorities. Weekly goal + gratitude prompts add a layer of reflection, and sections dedicated to goal tracking and note-taking leave room for making it your own. For the Type A’s out there, your heart will never have been happier.

Pros: Despite weighing a hefty 2 lbs, this planner’s 7” wide x 8.5” tall, making it easy to tuck away. A hardcover and strong binding make it portable no matter the conditions.

Cons: If you’re looking for a simple to-do list planner, this one might have more bells + whistles than you need.

Price: $38


The May Book from May Designs*

The May Book from May Designs

With seven different interior agenda choices and non-dated alternatives that offer up more space, May Designs is the ultimate in offering options that let you build planners to fit your style. Choose a cover style and your own personal monogram, and you’ll never mistake this planner for anyone else’s.

Pros: Choose from three sizes: the Mini May Book (aw!), the Classic, or the Large. Totally customizable interior pages let you choose how you want to build your planner, so you can make it work how you want to. Flexible covers make them super easy to stow on the go.

Cons: Extra space isn’t at a luxury here. For people with lots to write and keep track of, this probably isn’t the best option.

Price: $20-$26


Studio C*

Studio C Planners: Raise the Barre

Simple, yet definitely still fun: This medium-size planner includes a pocket for extra papers, colorful monthly tabs, and a convenient elastic closure to keep everything in place. Our favorite part: the colorful, inspirational, coated tabs that mark the start of each month.

Pros: Simple yet durable. Includes a past and future month reference on each monthly spread (something that comes in handy more often that we think it might).

Cons: The layout of the Raise the Barre planner doesn’t leave a ton of room for customization.

Price: $16.99


Commit30 planner*

Commit30 planner

The Commit30 Day Planner is the first product in what its creators are calling the Commit30 movement: a movement to help you accomplish your goals + dreams by taking small steps that lead to big changes, 30 days at a time. The path of least resistance is one we can get behind, which is why we loved the theme of this planner.

Pros: 240 pages of goal-based planning keeps you hyper-focused on breaking big dreams down into small actions, and staying consistent. Also: Despite not being spiral-bound, this planner lays flat when opened. (Thumbs way up.)

Cons: With black, brown, and gold as your cover options, this isn’t the prettiest (read: girliest) of planners.

Price: $34.99


Plum Paper*

Plum Paper planners

Plum Paper is more than just a delightful name — these planners offer endless options to not only make them pretty, but to make them super functional in helping you manage your life and business.

Pros: Customizable calendar views let you organize your days however you want — the super organized can view their days in hourly increments while the more spontaneous solopreneur can plan by morning, afternoon, and evening. Additional add-ons include extra note pages, stickers, and more.

Cons: Honestly? It’s easy to be overwhelmed with the choices! From five vertical/horizontal options and countless cover designs, it’s hard to choose just one.

Price: starting at $32


Passion Planner

Passion Planner

The Passion Planner has a bit of a cult following for a reason: It is truly a one-stop shop for managing your life. It has everything from an appointment book and to-do lists to a journal and gratitude log.

Pros: The flexible cover makes this planner fun to stow anywhere, and the ample space for note-taking makes it easy to transform into a planner, notebook, and journal.

Cons: Black and white is the name of the game here. If you’re searching for a planner that reflects your personality and matches your office, the straightforward design may not be for you.

Price: $24.99-$34.99


Dailygreatness

The Dailygreatness planner

The Dailygreatness journal combines a yearly diary, goal and appointment planner, and daily tools for self-mastery. This is more than just your average get-shit-done planner; the Dailygreatness planner is for anyone looking to truly integrate self-care into their ongoing routine.

Pros: Daily, weekly, quarterly, and yearly check-ins help keep you accountable in creating great habits, from meditation to dream journaling, exercise to even self-awareness question sessions, and more. Full-color pages make it a book you’ll never want to put away.

Cons: At 464 pages, this is no pocket book.

Price: $44.95


Day Designer

Day Designer planner from Whitney English

Whitney English struck a chord with busy moms, bloggers, and entrepreneurs when she created the Day Designer in 2010 — and it’s remained a favorite amongst these groups ever since. Beautifully-laid out daily pages help women to specifically to focus on the important pieces of each and every day.

Pros: Each day includes a Today, To-Do, Dinner, Gratitude, Top 3 To-Do Prompts, and space for notes. For solopreneurs fitting a lot into their day (maybe you know someone like that?), this planner has the space you need.

Cons: All that space comes at a premium! Adding up to over 2 lbs, the Day Designer isn’t great for stowing and going.

Price: $59


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Setting Up a Business: 5 Plans + Systems to Have in Place

We have a problem in the online business community: too much planning and not enough doing.

In an attempt to avoid being another wantrepreneur dreamer with big ideas and little action, many new business owners are diving head first into their work without taking the time to put together some thoughtful strategy.

While the advice to “start before you’re ready” is on point, you can get started in a smart way that allows you to set yourself up for success from the start.

A combination of planning and systems implementation will save you hours of heartache in the long run.

1. Get clear on your business model

The first, big-picture thing you should do, before planning out any systems or tools, is to get clarity on what kind of business you want to have.

Short-term, you may be focusing on 1-on-1 freelance work, and nothing else, which is fine.

But if you’re wanting to evolve quickly from a 1-on-1 model to an agency model or a products and courses model, you need to plan accordingly.

Map out your one-year plan, then set up the following systems with the long-term goal in mind. It will minimize the number of changes you’ll need to make as your business evolves.

2. Map out your project workflows

The next thing you should do is put together a rough outline of what tasks you’ll be doing, and in what order, to complete your work. For example, if you’re a copywriter, you may have the following workflow:

1. New client intake
2. Create first drafts
3. 30-minute client feedback call
4. Create second drafts
5. Final client approval
6. Finalize drafts
7. Copy delivery
8. Client offboarding

Now your initial reaction may be, “but why? I know I have to do that anyway.” And it does seem like something that’s easy to handle…at first. But as you get deeper into projects, it will be easy to forget exactly which stage you are in for each client.

In an interesting research study, a checklist system, inspired by the one pilots use before each flight, was introduced to hospital surgeons. Many surgeons were against the idea of being forced to use a checklist to do something they were experts at. The results, however, surprised them, and the researchers found that being forced to use the checklist brought the hospital consistently better surgery results.

When the 20% of surgeons who remained opposed to using a checklist by the end of the study were asked if they would like a doctor to use a checklist when operating on them, 94% responded yes.

So even if you don’t believe the checklist will help you, outlining your workflow for the client can give them peace of mind that you have a process they can rely on to get their deliverable. It’s a win-win.

(More: Step-by-step instructions for creating an effective workflow.)

3. Make your client management effortless

In addition to delivering a good product in a timely manner, making your client feel taken care of from the minute they apply for a discovery call is a surefire way to ensure a smooth experience that results in testimonials and referrals.

Have you ever started work with someone only to have them forget to send you all the things they said they would — notes from your intake call, a contract, your invoice, information about how to schedule another call…?

It’s both maddening and disconcerting, because you’re not quite sure if this person knows what they’re doing.

Be certain you have processes in place for client onboarding that includes a welcome pack with:

  • A contract
  • An invoice
  • Information about how to schedule calls/office hours/etc.
  • Project timelines and/or deliverables

Once you’ve wrapped up your project, it’s also great to have an offboarding packet that includes:

  • A summary of your work together
  • Any relevant deliverables in one easy-to-find location
  • Maintenance information, if relevant
  • Ways you could continue working together
  • A request for a testimonial if they had a good experience
  • A request for at least one referral to replace the client’s spot

If you’re really wanting to improve the experience, be sure to get their address during the onboarding process so you can send them a gift during the offboarding process!

4. Put social media on autopilot

You don’t need a full sales or marketing funnel when you’re first starting out, but it is great to make yourself more visible every day just by planning your social media in advance.

If you’re willing to invest some money in tools that will do it all for you, Edgar or TweetJukebox are good options that allow you to simply upload content that they will recycle for you.

If you’re wanting to bootstrap at the start, have no fear! Batching your work is wonderful for many aspects of your business, especially social media.

Set aside a few hours in one block at the beginning or end of the month to create and schedule your social media, either natively within the platform (like Facebook) or with the free version of a tool like Hootsuite.

Now, instead of getting bogged down in an endless cycle of daily social media, you take care of it in one day and just check in and respond to messages throughout the month!

If engaging in Facebook groups is on your marketing to-do list, set aside one to three 1-hour long blocks each week to check in and offer advice or feedback to others. Put it on your schedule so that it’s an appointment, not just something to get around to when you’re bored, and you’ll treat it like a real marketing task instead of a time suck.

5. Schedule time away from your business

That’s right, the best system you can implement in your business at the start is one for self-care and balance. The 80-hour weeks can be necessary at times, but time to recharge is always necessary.

Your turn: What do you think you need to make your business successful from the start?

How to Create an Impressive (& Functional) Client Intake Process

The client intake process can be a bore for users and a pain for the service-based business owner to create because there are a lot of moving parts — gathering pertinent client information, handling the legal documentation, collecting payment, and scheduling the actual client calls.

Yet the upfront time spent creating your client intake workflow can set you apart from everyone else, while also being beautifully branded and making the process easy for your clients. Your clients will thank you, and you will love having all client information in one document.

Set the tone from the beginning

Before building your client intake form, make a list of all of the information you need to gather from potential clients. Depending on your type of business, you might need:

  • client’s name and contact information
  • event date, time, and location
  • client’s website URL
  • who referred them to you
  • client’s expectations, struggles, or goals

Be sure to also consider anything that you will need from the client to begin your work with them. For example, you might want to create a contract for your client to sign, you might need to collect payment, and you might have pre-work for your client to do prior to your first meeting.

As soon as a client decides to hire you, be sure your initial email includes all vital information including:

  • link to intake form
  • a one-page FAQ or “what to know” info sheet
  • a link to schedule their initial call/consult

You want to alleviate a long email exchange and get right down to business, but you also want to make it clear to your potential client as to how you run your business.

Can one intake form do all this? Absolutely.

Building a comprehensive client intake form

The goal for your intake form is to gather all pertinent information from your client in one form. But keep in mind that this is the first professional interaction your client will have with your brand, so you want to leave a good impression.

For an all-inclusive and easy-to-use intake process, I recommend Typeform Pro. You may be familiar with Typeform as a way to survey to your readers or create pretty questionnaires, but there is so much more to Typeform.

You can easily create fields to gather basic information like your client’s name, contact information, and URL, but there are other fields within Typeform that will allow you to do more to really flesh out your client intake process. Here are a few examples:

Legal information: Use the “Legal” field to add your contract to the intake form. You can make it “required,” which means your client will have to agree to the contract prior to proceeding with the remainder of the form.

Be sure to include a note that lets them know that by agreeing to the contract in this form, they are essentially signing the contract. You can also include a copy in the “Files” section of Typeform, which we’ll get to in a moment.

Payment: Connect your Typeform account with your Stripe account and easily collect payment on your intake form.

Typeform also has a feature allowing you to set different prices based on your client’s selection of your products or services, calculating the total amount due at the end. Clients will be able to securely enter their credit card information directly in the Typeform and Stripe handles the payment.

File upload: Easily provide your clients with a PDF of your legal information, as well as any pre-work or other important documentation right there in the intake form.

This is also a great opportunity for you to include a copy of your FAQ sheet. As solopreneurs working with clients, we tend to get asked the same questions repeatedly. Encouraging our clients to read the FAQs ahead of time will help alleviate some of these questions, freeing up more of your time to devote to the actual client work.

Thank you page: Typeform’s thank you page allows you to give clients further instructions or notice of what to expect next. You might want to let them know to expect an email that confirms your receipt of their intake form, or provide them with a link to a specific website that allows them to schedule their initial meeting with you.

Respondent notifications: After building and designing your intake form in Typeform, you will need to configure the respondent notifications. Essentially, this is the email each client will receive after completing their intake form. Typeform allows you to add specific responses to this email, which I use to create an email receipt of their payment. It looks something like this:

Hello 1 – [Your name:]

Thank you for your submission! I’ll be in touch with you very shortly with the next steps based on the service package you have selected. If you have any questions or concerns in the meantime, don’t hesitate to hit “reply” on this email. I’m happy to help, and appreciate your business!

For receipt purposes:

You signed up for the following service(s): [name of service package…]
For your records, you paid [price]

Thank you & have a nice day!

Typeform fills in the name, service package, and price based on the responses in the intake form.

You may also want to include links to your FAQ sheet and scheduling tool in this email as well, just in case your client skipped over the thank you page in your Typeform.

Building a helpful FAQ document

As I mentioned earlier, an FAQ sheet is a great resource for your clients and helps you alleviate the back-and-forth email exchange that tends to happen. It’s also a great way for you to set expectations and guidelines for your client interaction. In addition to the questions you frequently get asked, consider including:

  • Your work hours: Let clients know upfront that you will only be available via email/phone during specific office hours. If they contact you outside of these office hours, let them know the average time it takes for you to get back to them.
  • Your email policy: Be very clear about how many emails are included in their service package with you. Advise them to send one comprehensive email each week, rather than a series of short emails throughout the week.
  • How meetings take place: If you meet with clients via Skype, Google Hangouts, or over the phone, let them know this upfront and provide a bit of direction in case they aren’t familiar with the platform you use.
  • Reminder of pre-work: If you provided any pre-work, remind your client that this needs to be done prior to your first meeting.

If the work you are doing for this client is dependent upon the client completing certain tasks, be sure to mention that, as well. For example, if you are designing a website and need images from the client of their products, be sure to let them know that you can only complete your work on time if they follow through with specific tasks based on the timeline of your project.

Streamlining your scheduling

If your client work involves working 1:1 with the client in a meeting, whether that’s online, over the phone, or in person, you will need to provide a way for your client to schedule their time with you.

Calendly is a simple scheduling tool that syncs with your Google, Office 365, or Outlook calendar. Create one type of event for each of your service plans and allow clients to book based on your availability. They can select which date and time works best for them, and the event is added to your calendar. You will be notified of this event when the client schedules with you.

Acuity Scheduling is another powerful scheduling tool that operates in a similar way as Calendly, allowing you to sync your calendar and create multiple types of events. Acuity, however, also allows you to accept payment from clients. This might come in handy if you accept a deposit via Typeform, and need to collect payments each time your client books another event with you.

Acuity also integrates with email service providers like ConvertKit and MailChimp, dropping your clients into your email list automatically, and allows you to schedule group events like webinars or workshops. If you use Quickbooks or Freshbooks for business accounting, payments received through Acuity can be automatically added to your ledger.

What a streamlined client intake process gives you

Eliminate the back and forth, so you have less headaches. Streamline the intake process, so your client knows exactly what to expect. Despite it taking more time to set up, it’s a win-win that you won’t believe you lived without before, service-based biz owner.

Now that your client intake process is streamlined, you have more time to actually work with clients, helping your business continue to grow.

We are affiliates for a few of the services mentioned above. As always, we only promote products and services we truly believe can benefit your business.

8 Best IFTTT Recipes for Solopreneurs

It’s every solopreneur’s dream to do less mundane work so you can focus on the passion projects you truly love. Workflow automation processes like IFTTT recipes make it possible to do just that.

Apps like IFTTT (short for “If This, Then That”) allow you to set up recipes that automatically connect one app to another. You can set recurring tasks to be taken care of automatically, or with the simple push of a button. Think of it as outsourcing your least favorite tasks to robots (and then feel like a genius).

Whether you’re a veteran IFTTT user or you just hopped on board, you might be overwhelmed by the vast number of recipes available. You need your automation workflow to save you time, not distract you while you search for the best recipes!

Try these 8 best IFTTT recipes for solopreneurs to get you started.

IFTTT recipes for social media

1. Add articles saved in Pocket to Buffer

Imagine being able to share quality content with your followers with just the click of a button. That’s exactly what this recipe does for you. Now when you come across an actionable article you know your tribe would love, all you have to do is add it to Pocket, and IFTTT will automatically add it to your Buffer schedule.

Don’t use Buffer? You can also connect Pocket to Asana, Evernote, or Google Drive to quickly gather all those shareworthy articles in one location. Then you or your VA can easily batch your social media sharing for the week in one sitting!

2. Track mentions of a specific hashtag in Google Sheets

Hashtags are a great way to categorize information, but they don’t do you any good if you don’t have an easy way to refer back to them. This IFTTT recipe fixes all that by automatically adding any usage of a specific hashtag on Twitter directly to a Google Spreadsheet.

These are just some of the Twitter hashtags you might want to hang onto for later use:

  • Your brand or product’s custom hashtag (like #OneWomanShopLife!)
  • A Twitter chat that always shares helpful insights or resources
  • A Twitter chat you run yourself
  • A hashtag your dream clients use repeatedly
  • Hashtags prospective clients use to post job listings in your industry

All you have to do is check your spreadsheet to keep up with your favorite hashtags — and they’ll be saved there forever, so there’s no fear that you’ll lose them in your fast-moving Twitter feed.

3. Share your latest post on LinkedIn

Let’s be honest: LinkedIn is very few people’s favorite social site. But regularly sharing your posts there can go a long way toward landing new clients! Having an active LinkedIn profile shows that you’re invested in your career, and your latest posts will immediately display your skills and expertise to anyone who stumbles upon your profile.

This recipe is the easy way to keep your LinkedIn profile current and your connections up to date on your recent work without your having to lift a finger.

IFTTT recipes for goal tracking

4. Track work hours in Google Drive

Ever wonder how many hours you really put into your solo biz? Most of us are bad at estimating how many hours we work in a week, which is a problem when you need to calculate an accurate hourly rate to base your project fees on.

Logging your time manually can be tedious, but this IFTTT recipe makes it a snap to track your work hours. This recipe doesn’t track the specific task you’re working on, but it can help you notice important patterns in your work day. Most importantly, it will tell you without a doubt how long you spent on the clock on any given day. (Goodbye, 16-hour days! Maybe…)

5. Keep a tally on anything

All solopreneurs have goals both within and outside of their business. This IFTTT recipe lets you keep a tally of anything you choose and store it in Google Drive with the single click of a button. This is a great way to aim for more self-care activities or fewer distractions in your day.

This recipe can help you track almost any goal or activity, but these are some of my favorites:

  • Finishing a glass of water
  • Getting up from your desk to stretch and move around
  • “Quickly checking” social media
  • Switching from one task to another, even if it’s just for a moment
  • Connecting with someone, whether online, in person, or over social media

IFTTT recipes for productivity

6. Add starred emails to Evernote

Evernote is a big player in many solopreneurs’ day-to-day organization. Now you can use it even more efficiently thanks to this IFTTT recipe. Starring emails and then archiving them is the easy way to get your to-do list out of your inbox and into your actual to-do list in Evernote. Inbox zero, here we come!

7. Receive an email for new Craigslist posts that match your criteria

Solopreneurs can use Craigslist to find everything from a great deal on office equipment to supplies to be used in their products. You can even find the occasional client on the Craigslist job board!

Scouring through Craigslist can be time consuming. This recipe takes care of the work for you by emailing you when a new Craigslist post matches your search criteria. So the next time you’re in the market for a used printer, you can wait for the perfect match to find you instead of the other way around!

8. Automatically schedule recurring Trello cards

If you’re regularly using Trello to organize your solo biz, you’ll love this recipe. Most of us have recurring tasks that happen on a daily or weekly basis. Save yourself the time it takes to manually create those Trello cards each week and let IFTTT automatically do the job for you! Any recurring cards will be ready and waiting in your Trello board with no extra work on your plate.

Which IFTTT recipes keep your solo biz up and running?

Did we miss any IFTTT recipes for solopreneurs that you can’t live without? Tell us about your favorites in the comments!

Tools We Love: Gmail’s Canned Responses

Tools We Love: Gmail's Canned Responses

Tools We Love: Gmail's Canned Responses

Welcome to Tools We Love, where we highlight some of the tools that make us more efficient, productive, and effective in our businesses. Have a tool that you want to share with the community? Email us! Today’s tool we love: Gmail’s Canned Responses!

We did a quick search on One Woman Shop and were shocked to find out that we’ve only mentioned one of our favorite tools — Gmail’s Canned Responses — exactly once in the past several years. (Hey, with 46 pages of blog content, we can’t remember every single thing we write.)

So, this post is a long time coming, though we do talk about Canned Responses in The Solopreneur Sanity Handbook. File this topic under “things that are second nature to us but new to many other people.” (We bet you have plenty of those things too, even if you’re not aware of them.)

A quick overview: Canned Responses are a Gmail Labs feature (Labs = “a testing ground for experimental features that aren’t quite ready for primetime”) that allow you to save templates for the emails that you send often. Think: answers to FAQs, your client onboarding process, or step-by-step instructions.

Hands-down, the biggest benefit of enabling Canned Responses is saving yourself time. But we’ve recently uncovered another big benefit: Using Canned Responses can help you remove some of the emotion when you need to deliver negative news, like an application rejection or sponsorship request.

Here’s how to get started:

  1. Go to the Settings wheel on the top right of your Gmail account
  2. Select Settings
  3. Go to Labs
  4. Enable Canned Responses
  5. Hit Save and your inbox will refresh
  6. Next time you compose an email, hit the bottom right-hand arrow in the new message to see (or save) a Canned Response

Here’s what it looks like:

Tools We Love: Gmail's Canned Responses

Voila — the next time someone asks about your contributor guidelines or how your pricing works, you can reply with just a few clicks! Of course, we highly recommend adding a personal touch to every email — but this gives you a solid base from which to work.

Here’s your challenge from One Woman Shop: Every time you send an email over the course of the next week, ask yourself “Will I likely send this same email again?” If so, save that shit as a Canned Response right away. (Pardon our French — we get amped up when it comes to saving time.)

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