How to Optimize Your Workflow and Crush Your Deadlines | Bloom.io
It wasn’t until I started my first side hustle that I realized how much effort it took to get into my flow state. I had gotten exactly what I ordered with freelance: a break from routine. But that break also broke my groove and made for a rude awakening and a new appreciation for the parameters set by upper management in my days as an employee. Thanks to them I knew exactly what I needed and that was a well-oiled workflow.
Do you find yourself repeating conversations with clients? Mindlessly performing tasks that could be automated? Wishing you had a few more hours in the day?
If so, don’t worry, it’s not you, it’s more likely that you need to optimize your workflow.
Maybe those tasks are the least fun aspects of your job, but they add up over time. And they are certainly costing you money or adding stress to your life.
1. Start With the Right Tools
Estimated time saved: 10–20 hours per month
Your business relies on your choice of software and hardware. You should set yourself up with reliable, secure equipment from the get-go.
Security should be one of your top priorities. After all, it’s crucial to protect the information stored on your devices. If your clients’ data makes it out, it can ruin your reputation.
Organization should be another priority, as it’s the key to meeting deadlines. If you’re always struggling to remember what you stored where, or hopping between platforms to complete tasks, you’re not working efficiently.
A customer relationship management system, or CRM, can save you both time and money.
Look for a CRM that optimizes your workflow by providing:
- Cloud storage for easy access to your documents
- An integrated calendar that clients can use to schedule meetings with you
- A template creation process to help you automate emails and documents
- An automated invoicing system
All of these features should come standard with a good CRM system. Don’t settle for less than what you need to run your business at an optimal level.
2. Streamline Your Client Interactions
Estimated time saved: 40 hours per year (aka 1 full week of your life back!)
There is such a thing as too much customer service. Your client doesn’t always need to talk to a live person, and it can eat up a lot of your time.
If dealing with clients is taking you away from more important things, it’s time to revise your procedures. You don’t have to be included in every aspect of the client/business communication process.
Start by analyzing how you are using your CRM’s features. Which aspects of the client interfacing process could be automated? How can you use your CRM to save a few minutes during the day?
For instance, take a look at your scheduling process. CRMs like Bloom, Acuity, and Calendly enable automated scheduling, which saves you a ton of time. It’ll take a few minutes to set up an automated booking process, but it will save you countless hours down the road.
And once you’re satisfied with it, you can automate your client screening process, too. Through strategic questions that hone in on ideal customers and weed out the rest, you can avoid potential time wasters and focus on getting your work done.
3. Set Up an Automated Email Process
Estimated time saved: 2 hours per day.
If you aren’t already automating your email marketing campaigns, you should be.
But first, you must learn the art of email etiquette. Personalized emails are crucial in this era of phishing and spam.
If your emails show up in someone’s inbox every day, your business is going to look phishy. Either that, or your emails will go directly to their spam folder.
To avoid this, you must earn your prospects’ trust, build relationships with them, and show them that your brand is worth their attention.
Here are some email marketing tips to help you establish yourself as a legitimate business that offers value:
Keep Your Email Layout Consistent
Your emails are a crucial component of your brand identity. No matter what type of email you’re sending, make sure that people know who it’s coming from.
Find Your Brand Voice and Stick to It
Your schedule confirmation emails, reminders, invoices, and greetings should all have the same tone.
Don’t Spam Your Clients, Prospects, or Leads
If it’s an automated newsletter, limit it to once a week or less.
With strong marketing emails being sent out to your clients and prospects, you’ll spend less time chasing down potential customers and more time working for existing ones.
4. Set Goals for Each Aspect of Your Business
Estimated time saved: YMMV
Psychologists say that the first step in meeting goals is to set targets. Targets give you something to focus on when things get hectic. They also give you an incremental way to measure your success.
Breaking those goals down into smaller micro-goals will help you reach them faster.
Ask yourself questions, like what your business needs are and how you will know if they’re met. Start with your financials, such as operating costs and overhead, to set targets for improvement and growth.
As you work through these goal-setting exercises, look for tasks you’re spending too much time on. Are you always struggling to budget each month? Is it becoming a hassle to deal with your clients directly? These are the areas that are costing you time and money.
For example, look at your current operating costs. How can you run your business more effectively to reduce them?
Create a month-by-month plan of micro-goals that will guide you toward your ultimate target, remembering that the end result should save you time and money.
Even your CRM software needs to have targets attached to it so you know it’s working efficiently. A good CRM works alongside you to streamline your processes. When your workflow runs smoother, you have more time to produce deliverables by their deadline dates.
Make a timeline of small, ongoing checkpoints to answer questions like:
Set targeted milestones to learn what you’re paying for. As you become confident with your CRM, it should help your workflow automation goals to meet your deadlines better.
5. Standardize Your Business Processes
Estimated time saved: 10–15 hours per month
Use templates as much as possible, especially for tasks you do regularly. It’ll save you a lot of time and stress.
You can use templates for nearly every aspect of your business, including customer onboarding, invoicing, and more.
You can even use templates to hire and onboard new subcontractors if you need help. From writing job listings to interviewing, training, and paying them, these steps can be part of your optimized workflow.
And here’s a little tip:
Store your pre-made templates on the cloud. That way, they’re easily accessible from wherever you end up in the world. You’ll no longer have to worry about showing up to a client meeting without the right paperwork!
6. Use Social Media Strategically
Estimated time saved: 45 minutes a day
Social media is a double-edged sword. It can either improve your productivity, or it can drag you into its depths and cost you time and money.
At the same time, social media is a great marketing tool, so you may have no choice but to use it for work.
To stay out of the abyss of wasted time in social media land, you must have self-control. Some business owners limit their social media time by scheduling their days in blocks. By sticking to the blocks they scheduled for themselves, they avoid browsing through social feeds for hours on end.
Others hire social media marketing experts to do the job for them, and they stay off the platforms entirely.
As you learn how to juggle the risks and rewards of strategic social media use, it helps to streamline all your accounts together. Reduce the time you spend managing your accounts by using a CRM that combines all your social media communication into one place.
If you use your social media strategically in your workflow processes, it’s a great tool to improve your marketing and client communication. It enhances your digital presence, which is key to earning trust from potential customers.
7. Optimize Internal Communication
Estimated time saved: 3 hours per week
If you work with team members-either employees or subcontractors-you must be able to communicate easily.
Texting works, but it’s not as efficient or secure as an internal platform. It’s also not great for sharing documents. When you’re talking about sensitive information, like clients’ personal needs, you don’t want to take the chance of it being leaked on someone else’s unsecured device.
If you use a CRM with an internal communication feature, like a merged calendar scheduling app, you reduce the chances of this happening. It’s easy to integrate everyone’s calendars together, book meetings, and switch time zones if necessary.
If you’re worried about intruders seeing sensitive data, check the security settings of your CRM when you assign a user. You can change the settings to give different permission levels to each member on the team, depending on which documents are necessary for their job.
You may also enjoy: The Complete Guide to Freelance Project Management
BONUS: Be Open to Change
Estimated time saved: Infinity
Change is inevitable in today’s ever-evolving digital age. To be successful, you must stay flexible and be willing to adopt new technology as it shows up on the scene.
Similarly, all workflow management processes must be adaptive in order to stay efficient. What worked last year, or even last month, might not be relevant anymore. CRMs get regular updates, and so should your procedures.
Your workflow management system should continually be reviewed and tweaked as you see problems occurring. When new technologies come on the scene that could improve efficiency, look into them!
One of the biggest killers to moving forward in business is the sentence, “But we’ve always done it that way!”
With things changing so quickly, that method of thinking is not relevant anymore in business. If you’re not willing to change as the world does, you’ll miss out on a lot of opportunities.
When you notice yourself doing the same repetitive task every day, week, or month, take a step back and find a way to automate it. This might take some time, and you might have to do research to see if there’s a solution you haven’t heard of yet. But, it’ll be worth the effort in the long run.
Be open and willing to adjust for the better of your business!
Feeling more productive already?
If you can optimize your current workflow, you can take your business to the next level. It’ll help you stay organized, save time, and meet deadlines.
These are just a few hacks to help you streamline your workflow and life, but we know there are more out there! Share your favorites in the comments.
Originally published at https://blog.bloom.io on September 2, 2020.