Growth is so important as a small business owner, but sometimes we get stuck in maintenance mode so often that we can’t actually grow. Day in and day out, we’re spinning our wheels, just trying to finish our mile-long to-do lists, leaving no time to think about—let alone do—things to grow our businesses.
What you need is a system for growth that gives you both more time and more money. Let’s dive into five ways you can set up your business for growth and scaling.
Workflows are my bread and butter—they’re what I teach, what I breathe, and how I run an efficient and sustainable business. Having workflows in place for your internal work and your client work is absolutely essential. Here’s why:
- It ensures you are giving a consistent and universal client experience to everyone that walks in the door.
- By doing things the same way every time, you’re able to to speed up the process as you do it more and more.
- Writing out your workflow will allow you to see holes in your process, and fill them.
- Once you have a written workflow, you can find additional ways to automate, streamline, and make it more efficient.
A more efficient business means a more scalable business. Period.
You cannot take on more work and grow your business with inefficient systems in place. If your business is not running efficiently, more clients will lead to a greater chance of getting overwhelmed and burning out. Putting efficient systems in place can combat this problem. To do so:
- Write out every step of your client process, from inquiry to delivering your finished product.
- Write out the procedures for each one.
- Set tasks, subtasks, and deadline for each part of the process.
- Write out email templates for everything in your workflow that is repeatable across all clients.
- Put it all into a client management software for small businesses such as HoneyBook.
Putting workflows in place creates so many opportunities for growth—the first being that you have a replicable system in place that others can perform. This means you can. . .
2. Ask for Help
Once your workflows are in place, you can begin scaling your business by asking for help. A smart business owner focuses their time and energy on their strengths, and delegates the rest. And while I know it’s next to impossible for small business owners to build a team and start delegating everything right off the bat (and most of us don’t want to), it’s important to know what tasks make you money, and what tasks simply take up time.
As a photographer, I know that actually taking pictures is what makes me money. Networking, marketing, and giving a client experience worth talking about also makes me money. This is why, in my second year of business, I decided to outsource the bulk of my editing to a private editor. This let me focus on the things that made me money. Editing is not directly connected to profit, but if the time savings I had from outsourcing editing could allow me to take on an extra wedding, or network with other vendors to create a referral network, then that outsourcing effort becomes a return on my investment, and I can begin to scale.
When I began outsourcing my editing, I took on an extra six weddings that year because I knew I had the capacity to handle the work.
I focused my time and energy on the money-making activities vs. the business maintenance activities.
3. Manage Clients Efficiently
I think every business needs to have a small business management platform where they send online contracts, invoices, and payment schedules, and host their workflows, email templates, and task management.
I personally use HoneyBook, and I have my workflows, email templates, questionnaires, and brochures all hosted on the platform. All I need to do is apply the proper workflow to each client, and it will give me a list of tasks for every day. This allows me to easily manage the 72 active projects I have going on right now, and I no longer have to keep everything in my head.
4. Be Proactive vs. Reactive
I polled a few hundred business owners in my community and asked how they operate day to day. 70% of them said they feel like their day is spent jumping from one fire to the next, and never getting anything of great importance done.
I flipped this on its head and decided I had to run my business proactively instead of reactively. This can come in many forms, but it boils down to anticipating any challenges or questions in your business. I do this in the following ways:
- Sending a wedding guide to all my couples, extensively detailing what to expect in their wedding experience.
- Creating a sample timeline within a month of booking, so we don’t run into problems down the road.
- Emailing vendor recommendations right after they book.
- Sending them a link to a blog about what to wear for their engagement session 30 days before their session.
- Getting vendor contact info 120 days before the wedding, so I can send the timeline, blog post, and gallery links to them as needed.
Doing all of this allows me to be in control of the experience, and ensures I give a consistent and great client experience, answering questions and doing tasks before they even come up.
Figure out what challenges or client questions you’re dealing with frequently, and build them into your workflow so you can become more proactive.
5. Work Smarter, Not Harder
You can do this in many different ways, but today I specifically want to talk about your marketing. There are dozens of ways to market your business, and there are so many platforms and blogs out there saying you need to:
- Be on Instagram. . .
- And Facebook. . .
- And Pinterest. . .
- And Snapchat
- Use video
- Write newsletters
- Meet clients for coffee. . .
- And vendors for lunch
- And do 100+ other things
Let me make something clear: you do not have to be on all platforms at all times or do everything everyone else is doing to be successful. I recommend going back to all your bookings and seeing where your clients came from. Then, focus your time, energy, and efforts on the platforms or techniques that brought you the most bookings. For me, Facebook has brought 17 weddings, vs. two on Instagram, so I choose to spend the bulk of my time on Facebook. I also know there are four brides in particular who have brought in the most clients, so I’m going to be sure to continue letting them know that I’m grateful.
You don’t have to be in all places at all times in order to be successful. It can be difficult to cut through the noise and figure out your best path, but I encourage you to work smarter, not harder, in your marketing efforts.
While I could continue on with this list, I want to sum it up with two tips:
- DON’T wait for clients to come in the door, or for bookings to be at capacity before putting your systems, workflows, and processes into place.
- If something isn’t working, fix it, or don’t put all your energy into it. If Instagram isn’t bringing in business, take a class to learn Instagram business strategy, or focus your efforts on a different platform. Success comes in many different forms, and what works for one person won’t always work for another.
These are the keys to building a sustainable, profitable business without the stress and impending burnout. I can’t wait to see how your business grows this year!