Prior to stepping out on my own as an entrepreneur, I worked for a large and well-known hospitality company. Starting with my first interview, their emphasis on process was drilled into my brain. I heard the word no less than five times a day, and it was constantly discussed. Although it was sometimes tiresome, all that process talk did teach me a valuable lesson. Process is necessary to get things done on schedule and keep everything moving smoothly. Whether you’re at a huge corporation or your business is a party of one, having a client process is crucial.
Mark Sanborn once said, "Better to be consistently good than occasionally great.” While I get Mr. Sanborn’s point, I think developing a process for your business can make you more than consistently good – it can make you consistently great! Let’s chat about why the road to greatness is paved with process.
What is a process?
According to business dictionary, a process is a “sequence of interdependent and linked procedures which, at every stage, consume one or more resources to convert inputs into outputs. These outputs then serve as inputs for the next stage until a known goal or end result is reached.”
Simply put, a process is what happens from the time you first interact with a client to the time you wrap things up with them. It’s a defined set of tasks and steps that must be executed to successfully complete a project.
Process also establishes who is responsible for each step, and the amount of time allocated to each task. If you’re an entrepreneur with no employees then, lucky you, you’ll be executing every step of the process yourself. Process helps everything run smoothly and breeds consistency in both your business and your brand.
Why you need a process
So you get what a process is, but do you really need one? As a solopreneur, you might be thinking that process is something only larger companies need. I mean, you’re doing everything yourself, so would a process really help you?
In a word, yes! Having a client process makes you more efficient and effective, which is especially crucial when it’s up to you (and only you) to get everything done. Three areas where process can really help improve your business are setting client expectations, gaining a competitive advantage, and determining your pricing.
Setting Client Expectations
Your process lets your clients know up front what it will be like to work with you. There are no surprises when you have a process in place, and clients know what to expect. They know when they’ll receive deliverables from you, how long each step will take, and when a project will be finished. By setting client expectations from the start using your process, you’ll avoid unrealistic project timelines and ensure that everyone is on the same page.
On her site, abstract artist Britt Bass Turner outlines her process for commissions.
I’m willing to bet that not everyone is familiar with commissioning artwork, but Britt educates her potential clients and sets their expectations by describing her process.
Gaining Competitive Advantage
Having a streamlined process gives you a leg up on your competition for quite a few reasons. It keeps your business (and brand!) consistent. Customers will be getting the same great experience each and every time they work with you. Why do you think Starbucks is so successful? They deliver a consistent guest experience, and you know exactly what to expect each time you walk into one of their locations. That’s a competitive advantage.
Lindsay from White Oak Creative does a great job of explaining her client process on her website.
Before a client begins working with her, they are aware of the five steps in her process, and the timing of each one. I’m willing to bet each of her clients has a consistent (and great!) experience with her.
Implementing a client process also takes the guesswork out of things. Instead of reinventing the wheel every time you start a project, you already know what steps you’ll follow and in what order. Eventually, your process will become a habit, which will allow you to focus your energy on other things like client projects, brainstorming new products, or content creation. Instead of the details of the daily grind sapping all of your energy and focus, they’ll be on autopilot. That’s the power of process!
Determining Your Pricing
Figuring out how much to charge is something that many creative entrepreneurs struggle with. Price your services too high, and you won’t book any clients (or so you think). Price them too low, and you’ll burn yourself out, only be making pennies, and end up living in a box (or so you think).
Instead of randomly pricing your services, use your process as a guide. Once you have an established process, you’ll have a good estimate of how many hours each project will consume. Multiply those hours by your desired hourly rate, and boom! You have your pricing. Elle and Company has a great post that delves even further into pricing, so definitely check that out too!
How to establish your process
Establishing your business’s process can be time consuming and tedious, but it’s so worth it! I promise that putting in the work up front will make your life a million times easier for every single project down the line. Complete the following steps, and your process will come together in no time.
Write it Down
Sit down and write out every single thing that needs to happen between when a client first inquires about working with you to when you send that final thank you note (if a thank you note is part of your process, that is). And I do mean everything. If typing up an email to your client is something that needs to happen, write it down. Once you have all of your steps written out, estimate how much time it will take to complete to each of them.
Combine and Streamline
Now that you have every single step written out, start looking for tasks that can be combined. Can you send out client homework in the same email as your initial welcome message? Look for things that make sense to do or send together, and condense them. This leads to less communication clutter, which makes both you and your customers’ lives simpler.
While you’re combining steps, you should also focus on streamlining your process. Are there any tools you can use to make your life easier? I personally love using templates in Gmail for my client communications at each step of my process.
I don’t have to think about what to say each time – I just select the correct template, and everything is already written. Not only does this help simplify my process, it also ensures that I don’t leave out any necessary information.
Think of places in your process where you can insert things to make your business unique or delight your customers. Can you add a step where you send a welcome package or hand-written note? Every step in your process that you interact with your client is an opportunity for you to reinforce your brand, and make your business stand out. By including these “above and beyond” steps in your process, you’re making them par for the course. The customer is happy, and those things become habit for you, requiring no additional thought. It’s a win-win!
As with all things in this crazy entrepreneurial journey, prepare to be flexible and for life to happen. You won’t be getting any slaps on the hand from me for not following your process to a tee with each and every project. Sometimes a rush order comes up, and you have to shorten your typical timelines. Sometimes you take on a project that’s so different it just won’t fit into your existing process. That’s okay!
Your process should grow and evolve with your business. It’s meant to work for you and make things easier, not be a hindrance. If your process starts to feel like more of a burden than an asset, it might be time to reconsider and revise it.
Every business is different, and there isn’t a one size fits all client process that leads to success. I hope this post at least makes you consider taking a stab at creating a signature process for your business.I truly believe that it will lead to better work, happier clients, and ultimately, a more successful company.
Do you have a process for your business? If so, do you think it makes your life easier?
About the Author
Jamie is the driving force behind Jamie Rose Design. She has a background in advertising, branding, & business, and thinks everyone can benefit from a pretty brand and a smart strategy. When she’s not writing and designing, you can find her sassing her boyfriend Ryan, snuggling her two ups, or doing CrossFit.