Shannon O\'Connor – Systems HW

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This topic contains 2 replies, has 2 voices, and was last updated by  Tea Silvestre 3 years, 9 months ago.

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  • #1821

    Tea Silvestre

    NOTE: Most of the formatting was lost when I copied and pasted this here and in the forum, so I recommend viewing it in Google Docs if you care to read it.

    HW: Systems
    Brunch & Learn: Power Your Marketing with Systems (with Lisa Burger)
    Due: 7/24/15
    Link to Google Docs document

    Before I dive into the belly of the beast, I want to give a shout out to the fabulous Ms. Lisa Burger! I continue to reap the benefits from our Jump Start Strategy session last year and was thrilled to see her tackle this month’s DDR topic. Here is just a sampling of the the products I’ve since adopted based on her customized report:
    Google Apps for Business
    Legal images
    Trello (I use it specifically for website copywriting projects)
    Awesome Screenshot (used to take the image above 🙂
    And that’s just a SAMPLING! I can’t recommend her highly enough – #TeamBurger


    For three days, record how you’re actually spending your time in your business. No cheating! If you find you’re on social media for a couple hours (whoops!), write that down. No excuses. Pen and paper work. If you’d prefer a tech way to track, look at or Harvest or Freshbooks (if you’re already using them for invoicing).
    I recently finished a very eye-opening client audit, which I was inspired to perform after reading this blog post by Michelle Nickolaisen, a systems guru I discovered through the Word Carnival. I now have a better sense of where my profit leaks are occurring and one of those areas is prospecting/lead nurturing.
    With that info in hand, identify one area in your business that could benefit from a more efficient/documented/consistent system. Tell us what that is and explain what your current process is so we can help you figure out efficiencies (if applicable).
    Lead Nurturing/Prospecting
    Current Process:
    I meet a lead through a networking event, referral, or inquiry via website or LinkedIn who expresses interest in my services.
    I send a follow-up email (nice to meet you) and connect with them on LinkedIn.
    I try to schedule a meeting or phone call to learn more about their needs and determine if we’re a good fit. Before we meet or talk, I usually send them a letter that includes links to my website, writing samples, and master fee schedule.
    We meet or talk.
    I create a customized proposal for the projects they expressed interest in using Bidsketch. A typical proposal contains the following sections:
    Recap of what was discussed in meeting
    Links to my website, writing samples, and LinkedIn profile.
    Outline of proposal (table of contents).
    Overview – Client’s Needs & Content Marketing Goals
    Recommendations – Specific services or packages
    Fees – Estimate of costs
    Master Fee Schedule – This document provides an overview of my most popular services with accompanying fee ranges. At this point, I’ve usually already given this to them, but I include it in the proposal for their reference.
    The Process: How We Work Together (10 Steps)
    Next Steps – (Call-to-Action) – What they must do in order to take advantage of the services outlined in proposal:
    Select the packages or services you’d like to move forward with.
    Discuss any desired changes.
    Finalize and sign the new proposal and letter of agreement (customized to the services/packages you selected).
    Submit 25% retainer fee via PayPal or check.
    I send the proposal and a follow-up email that references the proposal (in case it didn’t go through for some reason) with a recap of what we discussed during the meeting.
    If they respond and want to move forward:
    I create a letter of agreement based on the proposal that outlines the terms and conditions of the project and send it to them.
    They sign it electronically.
    I invoice them for the retainer fee (usually 25% of the total project cost).
    Once I receive the signed letter of agreement and deposit, the lead has officially been converted into a client. I then contact them to gather any materials/information required to begin work.
    If they don’t respond:
    I send a follow-up email within one week (the template I’ve created references the proposal and includes next steps).
    If I still don’t receive a response, I’ll reach out at least one more time (usually two to four weeks after I sent the first follow-up email).
    Lead Nurturing System – Inefficiencies Identified
    Issue: Client Communication
    Actions Taken:
    Templated Responses. Crafting emails at each stage of the prospecting process used to take forever. I finally began creating templates for this type of correspondence.

    Organize the templates. Although I’ve created the templates, I still need to organize them so they’re easily retrievable. Right now I have templates in my Contactually library, others just in my canned Gmail responses, and still others in LinkedIn. I recently went through and copied and pasted most of them into a master document in Google Docs, but I still need to organize them and then reorganize my canned responses in Gmail.
    Add my templates to each stage of the lead nurturing process. This assignment compelled me to outline my process, so now I can add my templated responses to each stage.
    Issue: Proposals
    Actions Taken:
    Templated Proposals. Even though I’ve been using Bidsketch to create my proposals for a while now, I would still start each proposal from scratch and copy and paste sections from past proposals as needed. I realized that was a huge time-suck, so I finally created a master proposal with all the sections I outlined in my process. Now I just start by making a copy of my master proposal and the sections as needed. (Here’s the link in case you want to check it out!
    Create templated proposals for popular services. Now that I have a master proposal, I could probably save myself even more time by creating templates for specific types of proposals I’m commonly asked for.
    Issue: Estimates
    Pricing my services has been one of my biggest challenges since I began working for myself. I include estimates in my proposals, but it’s really a separate issue from the proposals.
    Actions Taken:
    Create a master fee schedule of services. Ed Gandia and Steve Slaunwhite (two of the co-authors of The Wealthy Freelancer), are both big proponents of creating a master fee schedule or rate sheet with ranges for your products and services. It took me forever to finally complete this, but I am so glad I finally did. It’s saved me a great deal of time during the prospecting process and it makes the discussion a little easier to handle.
    It doesn’t always work out this way, but I now try to send prospects my master fee schedule BEFORE we meet or have an in-depth phone consultation. I started doing this after a lengthy meeting with a prospect concluded with him telling me that my prices were much higher than what he was used to paying. Although the price ranges in my master fee schedule are rather broad, it helps qualify prospects who may have totally different price expectations. If they see that my minimum fee range for a service is way above their budget, my hope is that they’ll say so and we skip that meeting and avoid wasting time time.
    Packages. In an effort to cut down on agonizing over estimates, I created some packages for my most popular services. To date, I have packages for website copywriting, professional biographies, blogging, and newsletters. I think I may need to go back and make some adjustments based on the results of the client audit, but I’m glad that I finally put these together.
    Issue: Lack of Focus/Ideal Client
    I started seriously analyzing my systems over the winter and recently had a revelation that affects all of them. In a nutshell, I’ve deduced that the majority of my inefficiencies (and general professional angst) can be traced back to my lack of clarity when it comes to my ideal client. Because I’m still operating as a generalist and have never identified my writing niche(s), EVERYTHING I do is more difficult and time-consuming. For example, I haven’t created an opt-in even though I have a million ideas. Same goes for a blog, newsletter, and marketing content. Why? I don’t know which direction to go in because I don’t really know who the intended recipient is.
    This lack of focus has a detrimental impact on everything from prospecting to my actual writing process. Because I’m continually taking on new types of projects with different kinds of clients, I’m compelled to expend time researching everything from going rates to best practices.
    When I analyzed my writing process and timed different tasks, I discovered that I was losing money by spending way too much time researching. Although I price most of my services per project or per page, I created those prices with a minimum hourly rate in mind. Therefore, if I charge X for a blog post and exceed the anticipated amount of time, my hourly rate decreases.
    In my experience, it’s difficult to write about anything with authority unless you’ve taken the time to really understand your subject, which of course requires research. Since I do a lot of ghostwriting, I’m often writing through the eyes of an industry insider, so I think on some level I feel obligated to actually become one! When you cover so many different industries and topics (to say nothing of the different content mediums) and continuously add new ones to the list, this becomes extremely time-consuming, stressful, and exhausting.
    If I could identify my niche(s) and get super clear on my ideal client, I think I cut down on the inefficiencies that are costing me time and money. I can’t believe it’s taken this long to identify the root of most of my problems because the first question I ask when I begin any writing assignment is “Who is the target audience?” Why would I approach my own business any differently? How dopey can I be? As it stands now, my target audience is anyone who needs the services I offer and can afford to pay my rates. Wow, that really narrows it down! Creating a marketing strategy based on that criteria is basically impossible. No wonder everything I do is such a struggle.
    Actions Taken:
    Started completing the worksheets in the Pick-a-Niche Kit I purchased (Ilise Benun from
    #080: How to Pick the Best, Smartest Niche for Your Freelance Business:
    Started reviewing Tea’s “Your Brand: How to Create an Enticingly Delicious Marketing Message” and revisiting the nine steps.
    Started reviewing my results from several of the branding assessments mentioned here:
    Identify niche(s) & new target markets
    Revisit DDR Market Research learning modules
    Revise website to reflect specialties
    Create an opt-in offering
    Create a marketing plan
    Devise a content strategy
    There’s a million more steps, but I’ll stop here for now. However, I’d welcome any advice or insight!
    CRM – I don’t want to delve too deeply into this because this post is already far too long, but another issue I’d like to tackle is my CRM. I currently use Contactually and would like to incorporate it into my lead nurturing system, but I’m unsure of the best way to go about it. I’m paying for the subscription (and have been for quite a while), so I need to figure out how to utilize it or get rid of it altogether.
    If there are any other Contactually users who would like chime in, I’d love to hear how you’re using it.

    Post your answers to the Systems Forum no later than Noon PST, Friday, July 24th. Everyone who meets the deadline will be entered to win a free 30-min coaching session with Tea on the topic of your choice.
    EXTRA CREDIT: Create your list of success criteria. Research your options. Be creative! Solutions may include a combination of analog methods, delegation, and modern apps and services. Share all this in the forum for a dash of free perspective from me and other DDR members. (If you do the extra credit, you get an extra opportunity to win the coaching session.) Remember: Use our Facebook group to get as much feedback and brainstorming help as you can. For additional review, download the slides: B&L – Salt – Marketing Systems


    Task Management
    Blog post where Michelle explains how she uses Flow:

    Invoicing & Time Tracking
    Harvest – Invoicing, time tracking. I switched from Freshbooks to Harvest because it integrated with Flow and at $12/month was less expensive than Freshbooks ($20/month), which I was using previously.
    When I went to do my client audit, I realized that Harvest was lacking in terms of reporting capabilities. Unlike Freshbooks, Harvest doesn’t hook up with my bank account, so the reporting is less robust. Otherwise, I’m happy with it, so I hope they add this at some point.
    Rock the Systems (E-book) – Michelle Nickolaisen
    Client Audit:
    Podcast with Michelle Nickolaisen:
    Podcast: Systemizing Your Business for Success with Val Geisler : (Love this podcast – The Stacey Harris!)
    Process Street – Create checklists for your systems:
    Bidsketch – Proposals
    Screencast-omatic – Allows you to record your desktop (with audio). Record yourself going through your daily routine or going through the process of fulfilling a particular service.
    Podcast + Notes: How to Price Your Writing Projects – A Practical System (High-Income Business Writing with Ed Gandia)
    Streak for Gmail:
    I think Lisa mentioned Streak in the Brunch and Learn. I’ve had it installed for a while, but was initially unsure how to use it. I’m still figuring it out, but two great uses I’ve found include the ability to “snooze” an email and the tracking feature (so you can see if your email has been viewed). I started using the snooze in my prospecting system so that I wouldn’t forget to follow up on proposals and inquiries. Now when I send a proposal to a prospective client, I’ll also email it to myself and snooze that email so it appears in my inbox a week later. This reminds me to follow up with that person if I haven’t received a response. I’ll also snooze emails about upcoming events so they reappear the week of the event. I use Google calendar to keep track of most events, but this is an easy way prevent things from falling through the cracks while also cutting down on inbox clutter.
    Michelle recently wrote a post on using Streak in your workflow. I haven’t really taken advantage of its CRM features, so that’s on my to-do list.

  • #1982

    Tea Silvestre

    Wow Shannon! Thank you for sharing this. I’m a web designer so the way we do business overlaps a bit, so this is very helpful.

    Thanks again.

  • #1983

    Tea Silvestre

    I’m so glad you found it helpful, Susan! Feel free to hit me up if you ever feel like talking shop!

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