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Are you working WAY too many hours and have no idea how to cut your workload without it impacting your business? Or maybe you find yourself constantly repeating the same tasks and it’s draining your efficiency. You may even want to outsource, but have no idea where to even start and worry that you’ll spend even more of your precious time explaining how to do a task to your new recruit that takes even more time out of your business. You, my friend, need a heavy dose of business systemisation.
So, you know you need to start systemising your online business but have no idea where to start? Yep, it can be hugely overwhelming and if it’s not the kind of things that excites you, it can be tedious, overwhelming and just downright unenjoyable.
I haven’t sold it well have I?! Well, you can remind yourself of the massive benefits to establishing systems in your business, or if you still really can’t bring yourself to do it, well, that’s why my business exists.
Yep, I’m that person that LOVES organisation, systemisation and a good bit of tech. Apply here to work with me and we can chat about how I can do it all in the background for you so you can sit at home enjoying a glass of wine while I transform your business operations into a well-oiled machine, ready to help you achieve those big goals you have for it.
If you have decided to implement it yourself though, then I’m still here to help you out! This is the strategy and template framework and that I use on the businesses I work with to take their operations from chaotic to streamlined.
What is Business Systemisation?
Systemisation is the act of implementing (and documenting) defined processes into your business operations, both those performed by people and those that can be automated.
Automation and systemisation are terms that are often used interchangeably, where in fact automation is a type of systemisation.
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How Do I Know if My Business Needs Systemisation?
Trust me, it does. In an ideal world, it would be put in place at the very start, or rather, about 80% of it would be put in place and the remaining 20% built up as you get more into the groove of running your business and have a better understanding of what works for you.
However, the reality is, most businesses put off implementing systemisation, either because they have underestimated (or didn’t know) the importance of having effective systems in place, or because of the reason I gave above; it’s often classed as the less exciting part of running a business and as such, is forever slipping down the to-do list.
Whatever the reason though, what I do know is, with absolute certainty, at some point if you fail to implement business systems, you will either not be able to break through a certain level of income, you will be hugely overworked and/or stressed, or your business may even fail completely.
Basically, if you want a successful and sustainable business while retaining your sanity, you NEED systems.
How to Systemise Your Online Business
Ok, so you’ve decided to bite the bullet and organise your business, so congratulations, this is often the hardest step!
The further along your business journey you are and the fewer systems you have in place already, the more time this is going to take. I have put them in the order below that I would implement them if I was to start my business all over again tomorrow (as even I didn’t get it quite right the first time), but you may need to tweak this based on the kind of business you have.
1. File Storage
Often an overlooked part of systemising your business, but oh such a critical one. While it seems simple, I often see businesses that have a file storage solution that they aren’t properly utilising, which means you’re not seeing all the benefits that you’re paying for.
Google Workspace (formally GSuite) is a very common and popular system (and the one a personally use), but it isn’t as simple as putting all your files in there and ticking the “on-point file storage” off your to-do list.
The most common issues I see is an ineffective way of storing files and no version management, making it very difficult to firstly find the document you’re looking for and then work out which version you should be looking at.
You should be able to tick the following boxes:
- All business-related documentation is stored in one backed-up, cloud-based solution
- EVERYTHING should be in an appropriately named folder (no loose documents flying around!)
- You (and anybody on your team) should be able to locate any business document within 30 seconds
- You have a clear Data Handling Policy & Process in place
Storing and managing your filed properly not only increases your (and your team’s) efficiency but mishandling your business data and documents can be a big liability to your revenue and security. I outline in more detail the many risks along with exactly how to manage, document and implement an organised and robust file storage strategy here.
2. Password Management
Password protection is a really important part of business security; getting hacked is an ever-present concern and can have a really devastating impact (plus there are potential legal implications).
I personally recommend using an encrypted password manager such as LastPass which makes storing log-in links, usernames and passwords really easy. It even generates a unique and strong password for each site so if one password gets hacked, it only gives access to that one system.
Sharing with other LastPass users is really easy as well and you can choose whether or not to reveal the password to someone or not (if you choose not to, the user with which you shared the password can use it to autofill where required, but not actually see it, so there is no risk they could make a note of it or use it after you choose to unshare it with them).
For those that have iCloud Keychain…. it’s ok and certainly better than nothing or using the same password for everything, but not a solution I generally recommend to my clients. You can only use it on Apple devices (and you can’t download a list of your passwords if you ever want to move platform), so you are relying on you and anybody you may hire always having an Apple device. Even then, they are only shareable on Airdrop…not helpful in this virtual world!
Finally, for the absolutely critical systems where it would be particularly horrific if an unauthorised user accessed, I use 2-factor authentication (Google Authenticate is my go-to). It is only minorly tedious and takes an extra 20 seconds or so to look at your phone and type in the second password, but it is worth it for the extra security.
3. Calendar Management
Say goodbye to lots of back and forth emails trying to schedule meetings, save all of your time by setting up a scheduler!
A scheduler is effectively a way of sharing your calendar with someone so they can automatically book in a time and a date to meet with you in your diary. Many also have the capability to automatically add in your preferred video conferencing details and add them to the appointment, saving you time faffing about trying to manually generate Zoom meeting links.
You set up a scheduler by linking it to whatever calendar you use and any existing appointments that have you set as “busy” in your availability will not bee bookable by anyone else (don’t worry, they can’t see what the existing appointment is, the time just won’t be available to book). You can also input your working hours which prevents someone from scheduling an appointment at 1:00 am!
I personally have just moved over to the native scheduler in Dubsado, the CRM systems I use for my business as I am trying to cut down on the number of different systems I use!
4. Project Management
Ok, this one can be one of the most difficult to set up and commit to! Out of all of the ways to systemise your online business, this is probably the one you are going to spend the most time in as it will be your team communication and task assignment hub and will dictate the general day-to-day running of both your business operations and projects.
This is probably the most “game-changing” system though and it is implementing this (along with your CRM system) that I expect you to be able to see the most obvious and tangible change in the way your business operates.
You can set everything up in here, from recurring task management (great for not letting anything slip through the net) to team onboarding and of course, project management.
I currently use ClickUp and I would say out of all the project management systems I have used in the past (I’ve migrated through the now-defunct Wunderlist, Trello and Asana previously), it has the biggest learning curve. There is a good reason for this though, it is the most flexible and collaborative solution I have used so far and I see it as a system that can easily grow as my business does.
There is a bit of personal preference in there as well; you need a system that you like to use and feels intuitive to your needs. Ticking these boxes is more important with this than many of the other systems in this list (except again, your CRM platform) because you will spend more time in this one than any others.
5. Client Management System
Ok, so your CRM system is the external-facing partner of your PM system! I don’t think anyone is going to argue that providing an excellent client experience is a fundamental pillar of a successful business and a good CRM system not only elevates this experience, but it will also drastically cut the time it takes to do it.
A good CRM system will almost completely automate the nurturing of potential clients as well as your onboarding and offboarding processes. I personally aim for about 80% automation and 20% personalisation which allows me to save SO much time, have more consistent processes and still tweak things for each client so it doesn’t sound like a robot is talking to them.
6. Invoice Management
If you are one of those people manually creating your invoices each month and sending them individually to each client, please stop.
While you can actually automate 100% of this process, I personally choose not to as my invoice management process is more complex than I would like it to be at the minute and involves integrating my accountancy software (Wave, which is free) with Dubsado (my CRM platform) and my time tracking software, Toggl.
I integrate these systems using Zapier (more on this application below), however, due to the complexity and therefore increased risk something goes wrong, I have an additional step where I go in and double-check each auto-generated invoice before hitting send.
I am getting to the point where I am looking for an all-in-one solution though, mainly because I charge clients in multiple currencies dependant on their preference and my current system makes supporting this difficult. If you have a recommendation, please let me know!
7. Standard Operating Procedures
Oh, SOPs, the acronym that makes most business owner’s glaze over with boredom! Writing down your processes may sound like a particularly dull task, but they are, however, an essential part of systemisation and there are so many benefits to creating SOPs, both hidden and obvious.
The biggest ones for me is that is makes training team members a BREEZE, reduces the capacity for error, improves efficiency and removes you, the business owner, as a single point of failure. You can find out exactly how to go about implementing SOPs in your business here.
How much time do you spend a day bouncing around your business email account(s), social media DMs, WhatsApp, texts, ClickUp messages etc etc etc every day?
Yep, streamline all of that; pick one platform for your internal business communication (I use Slack, a great way of organising your business communication) and then I also limit client communication to their preferred channel of Voxer, email or Slack.
I give my phone number out to my team which they will only contact me on only in an emergency. This gives me reassurance that they can contact me if they absolutely need to, without me having to actively check our comms channels and (by my own fault because giving myself time away from my business is HARD) getting dragged into a conversation that could have waited until I was back in my virtual office.
9. Social Media Scheduling
This is actually probably the most common business systemisation technique I see implemented, but one I actually think is one of the least important (although to be clear, I do think all business systemisation is important!).
Scheduling your social media allows you to post at optimum times for engagement, giving you more time freedom back, while also making you plan your content out in advance. This reduces the chances of typing something out in some quick fashion that is not that valuable to your audience and probably stressed you out, just because you felt you had to post today.
Plan it all out a week in advance (or even a month) and relax in the knowledge that it will all get pushed out automatically! It is a good idea to set an alarm to remind you to go in and engage with comments and other people on the platform though, social media by its very nature will never be a complete “set it and forget it” task!
I personally use Tailwind for Pinterest (and wouldn’t recommend anything else for Pinterest scheduling personally), Planoly for Instagram (great for creating a cohesive feed) and Buffer or Hootsuite for everything else.
10. Email Marketing
Now, this is something you can 100% automate and just set a reminder in your already set-up project management systems to come back and review and tweak once a yera if you so wish!
After you have implemented this, it will work on auto-pilot for you to bring in new leads and as we all know, is one of the most important elements of digital marketing and critical with our ever-changing social media and Google ranking algorithms, as it is the only thing you can completely control.
Set-up your welcome sequence and create an opt-in freebie and this will warm up your already less-than-cold leads all in the background.
If you want a free platform and have less than 1,000 subscribers, use Mailerlite (I found Mailchimp ridiculously difficult to use and it also doesn’t allow for affiliate links).
If you want more functionality or have a bigger email list, I recommend Flodesk if you are all about the design, ConvertKit if you need sophisticated analytics, Klaviyo for eCommerce and the daddy of them all, ActiveCampaign if you are using your email list as part of your launch marketing strategy (which you should).
That’s a Wrap! How to Systemise Your Online Business
I hope this framework gives you a really great starting point for creating and implementing your business systemisation plan! Ideally, you would do this while your business is in the early stages of starting up as it takes much less time and starts you off on a really solid platform from which to scale sustainably.
However, in reality, most businesses I work with don’t implement killer business systems until they hit a bottleneck or when the CEO is just absolutely exhausted and knows they need to transform their operations in order to continue their growth. Luckily, I love doing this and seeing the epic transformation in their businesses is a big reason why I do what I do!
Bear in mind that it will generally take me anywhere from 1 – 3 months to implement all of this for a client with an established business (plus initial strategy planning, training and handover), so be realistic about the size of this task and break it down into manageable chunks.
I recommend starting with the first three on this list; it should take less than a day, protects you from the bigger risks to your business and provides a solid foundation from which to build the rest of your business systems. Find out how to choose the best systems and automation platforms for your business and my personal favourite systems and tools here!
Let me know if you found this post helpful in the comments and below and shout if you have any questions!
If you would like to have a chat about how I can systemise your business, click here to apply and let’s see how I can help!