Creating Procedures & Processes for Freelancers

Episode 1 with Corey Dodd

In this episode, I chat with Christine Thatcher about how to turn the processes we already have into well-defined procedures. We discuss what procedures we've both utilised into our design studios and where might be the best place to start for your business.

Having Standard operating procedures can be a lifeline when trying to grow your freelance business.

Not only will S.O.P's save you time but allow you to scale a team or contract work without putting extra energy in each time or reducing the quality of the outcomes. Defining procedures will also allow you to find areas that could be perfect for automation.

Corey:
Hey, Guy this is Corey and Christine. Welcome and thanks for tuning in to be on freelance. Today we're gonna have a quick chat about processes and procedures.

That's been one of the most popular questions we found. Before we get started, I just wanted to sort of point out, I think these conversations are probably gonna to touch on this, but there's a real difference between what a process and a procedure and it's down to the like documention which is the difference. A good example of a process is if we all know how to make a sandwich, and we might choose to make our own, but once your subway and you're a business and you start to record that you would have a standard operating procedure, you can call it what you want, but it's where it starts to become documented and you start to record that so you can kind of reuse that. And start putting that into your business as an actual tool. So that was my sort of initial thoughts on the difference between roughly having a process and a documented process. So yeah, I thought I would throw something over. You were saying and let's have a quick chat about what processes you have and what sort of stuff you've set up. And that difference between a loose process, and the documented one.

Christine:
Well, I think that for me that I've always sort of winged it as a designer until probably seven years ago, because there's always sort of a lone wolf and it didn't really matter, it was in my head, and that was always enough and then as projects got more complex, and I was rasing my prices and people were paying more, I think that my clients started getting lost. They didn't understand what was coming next, and even though I had that process in my head, I began to see the need for helping them understand what was coming next, because the whole... Like the "trust me, I've got your back" was is only good to a certain point after a certain dollar amount. It's kind of like, Okay well I need to know what's coming next. And so that's when I started recognizing that I needed to right stuff down on... And I also realizing that I... So there was, if you formulate an email to somebody, if you get that formulated just right, and then you save it the next time you go to formulate it, even though it may be only saves you 15 minutes, it's saving you 15 minutes x how ever many times you have to do that. And that's when I started really recognizing that I needed to be writing stuff, creating a documented process for my...

Corey:
Yeah, totally. You know you said only can only save you 15 minutes. I think the other thing that's really big with that is it's not just 5 minute sometimes it's that mental energy of are running through it, it's the time

Christine: 
Yeah, am I going to keep that client from freaking out.

Corey:
Yes, and if you do it once and you get it right, and you get a good response, you're like, "This is the one", or you spend extra time if you're just pumping that stuff out and you're doing it on the fly, you're gonna lessen less time, if you're like. Okay, Let's perfect this.

I spend half an hour and do it properly. And to read through it and make sure it's crafted, and then save it the name, then you know I can reuse this as a response in these situations, but something that you talked about but I think you touched on implied there is the end and stuff like your saying. There's probably processes that in specific areas, that you started to document or realize early was that end-to-end process so that the client and or the prospect knows where they're at in that process, from the start of the project, to the finish.

Christine:
You can talk about in layman's terms, in a proposal or on a call. This is my typical my typical project process looks like. And so that they know, and then I just repeat that. And so then that gets into sales, but that just makes the sale a little bit easier to when they can kinda put themselves into the process and understand it and see the end, even though they may not be able to visualize the end they can see getting to the end with me. And I think I primarily do a web design and development, so my process was broken out into or became broken out into onboarding research design development, launch. I and then that kind of refined inside each of those.

Corey:
Yeah, that's exactly it. I initially it's working out what that broad process is, and so I can... It's like you said, sales and I think once you go through that if you're in that pre-sales call and you're talking through your process and this is something that you need to understand people come to people like us because of an in a result and if we can explain that there's a process, it looks really safe and secure. Like if we do these things, we will get that result for you. And that's why I'm able to consistently produce this stuff because I go ABCEFG End

Christine:
Yes, it's completely subjective. What we're gonna come up with and there's different variables or beginning variables for every single client, but I know my process will get me to the end, I'm 100% confident that it will get me to the end. And so then I can... No matter what, no matter because of the way I research or whatever, I know that I'm always gonna have a positive result on the end. And so, that decrease confidence at the beginning.

Corey:
Yeah, and then also the... You sort of talked about, breaking down once you've got those things that at a dig in deeper into West of stage. And I think probably the benefit that that is it helps people know where they are at that stage and what normal and it gives them some works on a reassures around different things. So one of the questions that the way that this question was framed is like, "what are the most effective processes that we've set up? And so obviously there's that broad end-to-end and I think that your key... You've gotta get that first and now it doesn't matter. We can all have a very similar process. Or you can have a different process you...

Christine:
Yeah it's got a personalized...

Corey:
Yeah, yeah, yeah, and actually think that some of the things where you can break them down, so they are personal in that sales call, if you can say something that it's not the normal thing, that everyone says and you're like, "This is really important to me. That means that if they see value in that process, and anyone who doesn't have that part of their process, they will question that. So I wanna talk about me for example, and the way that I work is that it's really important for me to create the brief to create that actual project, go to. This is my process. But I say to that to people and I explain that for me. This is about information exchange. I know about my services. I don't know about your market or your business. If I make you go fill out a form or you provide me with the brief and I'm not bagging those things, it's just my process. If you do that, then we're making a presumption that I understand you, if you tell me and our document is and I give it back to you, then you can just sit there with a cup of coffee and review my ability to hear what you're saying.

And so, we get on the same page very quickly.

When I say that is a part of my process, people are go "Oh, anyone that doesn't do that, I've got a question that..." So I think that's a important part. Not every customer's gonna go, My god. That sounds like extra work or I don't wanna wanna pay someone to do that stuff, and so that helps me align with clients. I think that's an important one.

So what's a process for you that's been really valuable and really successful? Or maybe you've got a contradicting when you might say, "Well I make people go to fill out stuff, and it's streamline this or...

Christine:
I think it depends on the client, because I think if you're in a niche and you understand service-based Women Entrepreneurs, I tended to work with them and I kind of knew what they needed, I just needed to understand what they were selling, and a lot of them were creative already. And so, some clients, I would actually collaborate with on the creative side of it and they really liked that about me, but the projects I'm working on now is I don't collaborate on the creative side, I have to... That's all me, and it's up to me to understand what's going on so that I can then create what's needed in order to make the marketing effect of or whatever. And so I think for me it's a little different when I was working in that in it, that was a selling point to be able to collaborate on the creative side. But as far as that doesn't really answer your process.

But there I had a process in place for helping them understand what I needed from them in order to create a collaborative brand. but step-by-step.

Corey:
I think you sort of already touched on this, and it's really important that those processes are individualized and it's going to come down to... You said Look, the type of customer and there's also the type of service. So for example, if you're doing website a simple process might be to have a pre-launch or post-launch, website checklist, that's a standard thing you know how to do, that's a personal process, but that will save you time or it has to thing that you give to a staff member and they just follow the process and you know.

Christine:
Actually the launching it is the first thing I delegated.

Corey:
Yeah, that's right, and that's the thing. If you can sort of document that process really allows someone else or to take over that and you know that it's going to be done the same way that you would do it if you're doing it yourself.

Christine:
I think probably my most effective or biggest time saver has been honing the conversations inside each step, so that, yeah, I have to go and probably tweak them all a little bit, depending on the client, but I'm even finding that the ones that work for the creative women entrepreneurs are working for this industrial stuff that I'm working on. Yeah, because everybody is... I found that clients tend to... I try to keep clients from prompting or jumping ahead. And so it was a matter of honing those conversations so that they understood exactly what they were supposed to focus on exactly what they were supposed to do in this one moment, this step without jumping ahead or...

'cause when they start jumping ahead, and they start micro-managing and stuff gets off track and it's like kind of a... It's like I see this whole... I have a vision for this whole thing. Each step is outlined here's what we're gonna focus on in this one particular step. And so getting those conversations one 'cause it was like, you go though the process, and then you'd zip, somebody off a note or you send something too soon, 'cause you were excited and then it created this firestorm of trauma or whatever and it's like, Okay, oops, Don't do that next time. Honing those conversations so that people did exactly what I wanted them to at exactly when I wanted them to. I think that's probably one of my biggest time savers right now, just being able to draw on those conversations every step, every task.

Corey:
Yep, and that something that's gonna come from experience, but once you sort of define those sort of stages and those process steps that you have you can start to hear those repeat in conversations or in emails and allows you to start to document that stuff. I think that's... And I think the key benefit them getting from that too, is that it gives you the ability to say to be really professional and say to people like hang on a tick you know how we get end-result by doing this, like you're jumping to the two steps ahead, we will get to that. It's okay we will get to that. We're not a design yet. Let's not talk about that or we're not development. Let's not talk about functional at whatever it is. or however, your process is broken down, it just means that you can sort of control the conversation and they get that trust from you, that... No, no, no, we will do those things.

Christine:
I think that one of the things that I have taught a lot in the past is the difference between a worker be in a strategic partner and so somebody who has their process is established come into that relationship as a strategic partner, whether you're collaborating, design or you're being a strategic partner in that, you're understanding the way you do it, understanding what having them feed you the information, and you giving it back to them in a way that you interpret it and the way that you see it's gonna work for their business. Having that mindset of a strategic partner of allows you to keep clients from spinning out of control, or going off track and you can feel the shift when you become a worker bee in the relationship, it's like, yeah, what happened here, all of a sudden, they're either micromanage, micromanaging you or dictating or whatever. So having that stuff documented so that you can follow it for me has helped me maintain that. Like strategic partner status.

Yeah, and you should you get a project from going out of "contre "Xtra vision cycles all the stuff that takes us out of scope.

Corey:
Yeah, and I think you said you can feel it when you go into that work or be more... What's really important, is when maybe a freelancer sort of the situation you can really feel what it goes the other way when you start to be coming. That's a strategic like "partnership" on with the business rather than being told what to do. You can see when that first starts to happen and how powerful that is. So I think that's really, really important to point out. That's the flip side of... That's the positive side of it.

Christine:
Yeah, I think my processes were born out of too many work, would be situations where you're body. I've had clients who got micro-managing, because it's like something was misunderstood, because the process wasn't in place and then you're like Thanksgiving week is ruined or whatever, it's those big mistakes have been at. I made were all because of a misunderstanding because of a lack of process.

Corey:
Yeah, that's huge. I think before we finish this off, I think one of the key things that's not in this question here, but I think one of the key things that would come up that people we wanna know about is, what tools... So maybe you've got see these lose ideas in your head. What's the steps, what are the tools? Do you have any tips on getting started with that? If I wanna start documenting what you know, what should I do, where should I start.

Christine:
There was this tool that I used and it was a process tool, as an app. It was years ago, I can't remember what it was, but honestly, Google docs would work to outline something in Google Docs, it was something in it was really a basic tool I remember before there was a lot of these project management tools I used that really simple tool, I would equate it really literally to a Google Doc, where I started documenting everything, and I'm in the middle of a project right now, where we have to create a new process and I find that if you try to jump into a new tool, with a new process, you're gonna fumbl. It's almost better to take it to something that you're really really familiar with and just outline it and test it and then then you can take it to whatever tool I've switched back and forth between different project management tools and I think that that we were talking about this before. I think it's really a personal choice. There are people who love notion. I can't figure it out, I can't make it work, I'm on the receiving end of it, and I don't love it. There are people who make it work for everything they're doing.

For me, Asana has been a really great tool especially to board you because I can create visual sections, you have onboarding I just have my big sections of my process, and then I have the tasks dropping down. They're very visual. You can see the wire frames in there you can see all the pieces in there. So, that one works for me. But again, I think it's really... What kind... Clients are you working with, how intuitive are they? I'm working with corporate people right now. So, Asana is great. I think it's a personal choice, but I think you have to hone that process and then test it in the tool, rather than trying to do both at the same time.

Corey:
Yeah I, if I was gonna say something, it would be exactly that. I totally agree. I actually did a workshop and it was... They were talking about processes in this workshop, it was a live of thing. I went to the course, and I sitting there and now going over process, and I basically said, that You know what I did, I pulled out my phone will is there, and I just started documenting in the note thing, I just... dot pointed I went head did a heading for the things that I do, and then some of it not pointing them and it really is that simple, it's like, you can just start really broad and then if you break down these sections then inside that you just start dot pointing them and then you can find the tools where they work. So a really good example. Again, I'll go back to a post-launch pre-launch and post-launch or changes or websites I just do documented do in Google Docs. And it was literally creating the heading and bullet point, bullet point, bullet point below one and then I use Asana as well, I've actually I've moved to ClickUp because it has some more flexibility, but it's very similar.

But the idea was that with those I created those as templates and then we check, we stack to them and some can take them off and it gets handed over, and when something's being launched, it's a... Someone else can tick those things off. But they started off as a text document, like in Google Docs, just actually documenting it. And if you start with the broad thing, you can actually work out the things that are going to start with the things that you can implement, and they are going to be easy or the things that will save your time and they have gotta be individual. We've used a couple of examples, but I agree that it doesn't matter about the tool so much, and I think that's a great point that if you try and learn in you, too, and I try to document process, at the same time you're asking for double amount of work.

Christine:
I think, too, one other thing that I... 'cause right now, I'm also I'm working on, we've talked about this, I'm in a corporate setting now, and we're working on video creating video in a kinda complex technical environment. And the first video, the process was really broken and so we made all our mistakes. And so, what I've done over the years with my web design process and now as I'm creating these new processes in a new environment, is looking at Where are the breaks happening? So, when you create, when you go through the process with a client, and you go to like my last three clients really stuffed up in this one spot, or they got confused, they went off track or they expressed you know that this is where shifted to worker be or whatever. If you go back and you kind of really like assess where people are getting stuck or where you're repeating work and any of those sticking points and then figure out how am I gonna improve that on that for the next time I find that self-assessment, feedback on your own process is worth the time and the effort because it's gonna improve your process, which is gonna save you money making more profitable, save you time, whatever the next time. And so I just literally went through that and created a whole new video production process, for what I'm working on. Because there it was like, It's kind of guessing at it, in the first time and I was like, "It's okay" we're really getting stuck too many revision cycles. Why.

Corey:
Yeah that's almost like learning the act to be aware of where the processes should be like that, that's huge. I don't know if you've got anything else to add, but I think that's probably a pretty good place to end it unless you wanna check anything else in there. But I think, I think, I... That covers it for processes in... Yeah, yeah, that's a great introduction to...

Christine:
Yeah, anything that you find yourself repeating write it down, write down your processes, but particularly, right there on those steps that repeat because those are the ones that you're going to save time on next time.

Corey:
That it beautiful right. Well, thank you very much Christian, thank you everyone for for tuning we'll chat again.

Corey Dodd

Corey Dodd is a Designer and Brand Strategist with 20 years experience in the industry. Curreltny residing in Geelong, just outside or Melbourne, Australia. He runs a small branding and design studio in Geelong. He can be found at: www.coreydodd.com
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