Streamline Your Systems + Set Up Processes with Stress Less & Impress (Review)

Stress Less Impress ecourse review

When I first started Jess Creatives, I was naive about freelancing. I didn't think that people my age were actually quitting their jobs and making a living as full-time freelancers, and I was learning the ropes as my business slowly grew. This resulted in major chaos within my business – forgetting to send contracts and invoices, a disorganized inbox, and a complete lack of project workflow.

Luckily, in my second year of business, Stress Less & Impress came into my life. It was the first big (and it wasn't even that big) investment I made as a solopreneur.

What Stress Less & Impress is all about

In Stress Less & Impress, creator Leah Kalamakis covers the entire client workflow for service-based entrepreneurs. She goes in-depth on what she uses and how she handles clients while working with them. Even if you don't want to use all the same tools that Leah does, you will learn the strategy and the "why" behind her practices, and be able to apply those principles to your own business.

After implementing what I learned from Stress Less & Impress, my whole business was changed around. (Seriously.) Streamlining the systems in my business helped me be less overwhelmed, but also greatly improved the experience for my clients. I've recommended Stress Less and Impress to dozens of people because it's had a huge impact on my business.

How Stress Less & Impress specifically helped my business:

Fewer emails:  Like all people, I had a contact form on my website. But, the problem with most contact forms is that they don't collect much information. I typically got emails with a name, email address, and a vague message that said something along the lines of, "I need a brochure. Maybe a business card."

In SL&I, one of the very first things Leah teaches you to implement is a "Hire Me" form, where you can collect more details about the potential client and project. In one email, I know the client's name and business, what services they need, budget and timeline, and some other miscellaneous details about the project. No more back and forth as I remember questions I need answered.

Client process: Before SL&I, I fumbled through projects with clients. After a dozen back-and-forth emails, we would finally agree to start the project. I didn't have much in place in terms of a contract, there were no set expectations that were communicated, and the project workflow itself was chaotic.

In SL&I, Leah walks you through choosing a project management system, setting up client boundaries, and creating a welcome and goodbye package to send your clients. Everyone has a different process, but this helped me set up a solid foundation for my client workflow. Once I put my system in place, the questions from clients on “what’s next?” were few and far between. Having a system in place for my workflow helped me to really wow clients and improve the overall client experience.

These aren’t the only two things that are covered in Stress Less & Impress. Leah also goes over:

  • Scheduling consult calls
  • Contracts and invoicing
  • Client questionnaires
  • Getting feedback from clients
  • Streamlining your website
  • Processes for blogging and social media

Each module has a video that walks through what Leah is talking about, as well as downloadable PDFs for reference. This was the first ever business course that I signed up for, and the course’s format made it incredibly easy to implement the strategies that Leah taught us.

And because I did, I’ve gained a better grasp on how to communicate with clients before and during projects, and how to handle a project from inquiry to launch.

Is this a good fit for me?

This course is great for those who are new to solopreneurship, and are looking for a streamlined process to incorporate into their business. One caveat: you will have to actually take time to implement the forms and workflows into your business – setting up new accounts, possibly buying software, and more. Plan on setting aside 1-2 hours each week to watch the videos, and take action on the tasks Leah outlines in each module. Of course, you can always sit and do the entire course at once, but I’ve found that implementing new systems is easier to adjust to when done one piece at a time.

This course could also be helpful to those who have been in business for a few years, but haven’t officially implemented any sound systems yet. As solopreneurs, our businesses evolve, and while maybe we didn’t need systems at the beginning – now we do. When I took Stress Less & Impress, my business was still young, but things were starting to build up. Having the systems in place that Leah taught us really helped me stay on track and scale sustainably.

Who isn’t this course for? This course probably isn’t great for those who have been in business for many years and have a few systems in place. Because of its foundational nature, SL&I most likely isn’t going to help you refine existing systems, unless you want to start from scratch. Also, as I mentioned: if you’re not willing to (or don’t have the time to) set aside a few hours to implement new practices into your business, this is not the course for you.

It’s all in the name

Stress Less & Impress is an investment in your business at the start leads to smoother sailing down the line -- streamlining your systems for better client relationships and workflow. The more you are able to showcase your professionalism through your workflow, the faster you’ll turn clients into raving fans (which, appropriately, is the tagline of Stress Less & Impress)!

Solopreneurs Need Vacation, Too! Here’s How to Prepare

Setting Up Shop

I don’t know about you, but when I took the leap to full-time freelance, one thing I was most looking forward to was having a flexible schedule and unlimited vacation. No more needing to count my vacation days or compromise my time off to “save” some more of those days for later in the year.

(In fact, even now, I’m cringing just thinking about all of that…)

Now, as a full-time solopreneur, I have the freedom to be a digital nomad and work from wherever I am. That said, it’s both a blessing and a curse when all you need is a laptop and reliable wifi to work. Because sometimes, even when we love our work, we still want to disconnect and take an honest vacation.

The key to being able to fully disconnect when you’re a one woman shop? Preparation. In this post, I’m going to share the steps I took to prepare my business for my absence as I embarked upon my first vacation as a full-time freelancer this summer.

1. Clients & Projects

I had many ongoing projects on deck, and communicated with each of my clients about my vacation and the fact that I would be entirely unreachable. I started doing this about two weeks ahead of time, but especially the week before. I told them we could finish beforehand if they didn’t want to wait, but many opted to just pause the project while I was gone. This worked better for both of us, because it didn’t cause us to rush their project.

On one larger project that started a month before, I made sure to tell them in our initial conversation that we would need to wrap up by a certain date.

I have just a few clients that I do monthly projects for -- blog post images, social media scheduling, etc. Knowing that they usually send me content during the time of the month that I would be on vacation, I contacted them ahead of time and informed them. Where I could, I worked ahead.

Pro tip: I use Wave for invoicing, which allows for recurring invoices. I don’t have to remember to send those monthly clients an invoice, which saved me a task before vacation!

2. Don’t Go Completely Dark

Although you will be disconnected, you don’t have to go dark online. Set up a simple auto responder in your inbox, so that those who email you won’t think you’re just ignoring them. If you plan to check in while you’re away, note the terms of that. (Ex: If you’re available for emergency situations, tell clients to put “Urgent” in the subject line.) For leads that might not visit your inbox and will only see your website, consider editing your contact page with a note that you’re out of town.

Your social channels don’t need to be neglected, either. Schedule out some social media posts, even if it’s less often than usual. Of course, a big part of social media is actually being social, and interacting with your audience. So, how do you handle that, if you’re disconnected? Well, that leads to me to Step 3…  

Pro tip: I use Edgar to schedule most of my social media posts, so it constantly recycles evergreen content. Saved me another task before vacation, because it’s always running!

3. Work with a VA

When I think about virtual assistants, I think about long-term projects, like scheduling social media every week. But, just like people can hire me (a designer) for one-off projects, you can hire a VA to monitor your inbox while you’re away. That’s exactly what I did. I prepped a VA (in my case, Jordan of Practically Magic VA) to “watch” my inbox for any critical emails.

You could also have your VA watch your social media channels. I didn’t do that this time around, but I most certainly will next time. I had scheduled social media posts for the few days I was going to be gone. What I didn’t realize is that one link I tweeted was broken (the person’s site was 100% down), and someone replied to my tweet to tell me it wasn’t going anywhere. The tweet went unanswered for two days -- not good!

Pro tip: I didn’t just tell my VA to copy and paste my auto responder message to any new contact form submissions. I drafted a more detailed response, and sent her my welcome package that she could send along with it to new inquiries.

Now… take that vacation!

It takes a little prep work, and a lot of communication with your clients, to get your biz in a good place while the CEO takes some vacation -- but when you can fully disconnect without worrying about what’s going on in your biz, it’s entirely worth it.

Tell me, One Woman Shops, what else do you do to prepare for vacation?