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The Busy Freelancer’s Guide To Getting Your Time Back (By Building Systems That Scale) | With Rachael Mueller

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Every successful freelancer has hit that wall where you can't say yes to even ONE more project… This is usually the same time you start getting more inquiries than you've ever seen before.
 
In these busy seasons of business, there are a few options you could take…
  1. You could turn down all those extra projects (and say goodbye to that extra $$$).
  2. You could say “yes” to those projects and just hate your life for the next few weeks or months while you scramble to deliver (this is the route most of us take).
  3. You take the responsible, profitable, healthy route of building systems that scale.
If you hate money, you'll probably take option 1 and turn down those extra projects. If you're irresponsible and want to live in a state of overwhelm, you'll take option 2.
 
If you're a responsible, mature business owner, you'll go with option 3 and build systems that help you deliver high-quality work faster, more efficiently, and without dropping the ball or overwhelming yourself.
 
In this week's episode of the 6 Figure Creative Podcast, I interviewed systems expert Rachael Mueller. She's a virtual COO that helps service-based business owners plan, create, and manage systems that scale so you can take on more projects in less time.
 
If you're overwhelmed, working too much, or just feel like you have WAY too many project details floating around in your brain, and you're not sure what to do, this episode is for you.
 
In this episode you’ll discover:
  • Making your business run smoothly
  • Unloading your mind to focus on creativity
  • Flow charts – they're not just for nerds
  • Setting up your systems for success
  • The three key systems any business needs
  • Using templates to cut out wasted time
  • Logging your time to see where it goes
  • Why the major CRMs aren't the best for freelancers
  • Consolidating your tasks for easy reference

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[00:00:00] to the six figure creative podcast. I am your host Brian Hood, and this is your first time joining us on the show.

Thank you so much for giving us a chance the Goldens podcast. At least the way I see it is to answer two of the hardest questions we have to answer as freelancers. First question being. I'm good at what I do now, how do I get clients? Or how do I get more clients? If I don't have enough clients, the second question being I'm good at what I do.

I have enough clients now, what do I do to get my time back? So I'm not spending all day every day doing a bunch of admin tasks I shouldn't be doing, or just working in the business all day, every day, doing the non-creative tasks. How do I get our time back? Well, today's episode is all about getting our time back.

We have a wonderful guest lined up who is a systems. But before I get into that, if you are a returning listener to this show, thank you so much for coming back.

I really appreciate everyone who gives this show a chance. Every single week we are on YouTube, on Spotify, wherever you wanna listen to us, we are here for you. and I never wanna lose perspective of what it means to have your trust in me every week. Like I wanna bring on great guests for you. I wanna make sure we bring the coolest insights into what's working in, in my business and, with my team.[00:01:00]

Quick update for me. I should be in the middle of my adventure in Bali. Right now. I'm recording the center before I leave. Cuz we batched a bunch of episodes, just so we, we were like a month and a half. why I'm on the road because the time zone difference between Bali and the us is just so crazy.

It's like literally 12 hour time zone difference. So trying to schedule interviews, there's no way. if you've been following me on Instagram, just kind of keeping up with stories of what I've been posting. I usually just tag my wife, cuz she's better at keeping track of everything anyways.

And I'm usually just reposting the storage that she posts, cuz she's a way better content creator than I am. I mean, she has like. As the time I record this over 60,000 followers on TikTok, she is a, content creation master And I don't really know why I haven't brought her on the podcast to talk about that. Maybe I will, while I'm in Bali, maybe I'll interview my own wife if anyone wants to hear that.

but back to the topic at hand today, today's guest is what I called earlier as a systems expert. and she goes by something called a virtual COO, a virtual chief operations officer.

I think something like that. Where she helps business owners like us. She works predominantly with service providers in the creative world. So she's, she's a perfect guest for this audience. And a lot of you would probably wanna [00:02:00] hire her by the time we're done with this episode, but she helps service providers like us build out systems in our businesses so that we're not stuck in the weeds all day, every day.

And the whole conversation today is based really around what I consider like a logical way to do this yourself. So if you don't have the means to hire her, or you don't want to hire her, or you just wanna do it all yourself, we talk through what I consider the three major parts to get this done. First, we talked through planning systems out. How do you actually get it out of your head onto somewhere on a paper, onto a mind map, whatever you want to use to get it out of your brain We talked through how to actually create the systems, how to organize the systems. How do we build out the systems? And then the third thing we talk about is what tools do we use to store the systems and use the systems? how do we manage the systems once we've built them?

is a really broad, complex subject when we really dive into this, but the way she breaks it down, like I had so many things in my brain turning far as how I can make my businesses more efficient, cuz I have multiple businesses at this point to make each element of my life more efficient.

And I think the very beginning of this convers. To me [00:03:00] about building your external brain, getting it all out of your brain. So you're not thinking about it. I'm just gonna go ahead and see one of my favorite quotes that she used in this, your brain is for having ideas, not for holding ideas and it's creatives that could not be more relevant to us because the more that's living up in our brains, The more that's clouding our brains with things that we were supposed to be doing, or did I forget that where you're laying in bed can't sleep because you, oh, if you had forgot to get back to that person or forgot to bounce that down or forgot to open that up and redo that, I forgot those revisions.

The longer that's up in your brain. The less efficient we're going to be at actually creating, being creative, creating the stuff, having good ideas that we can then implement and create and put out into the world. So this conversation is really relevant for all of us who create things to get more of the bad stuff out of her head onto paper or into some sort of system somewhere or better yet automated and off our plate completely.

So never have to think about it again so that we can be a better creator. So if that sounds good to. this interview has got a lot of, good takeaways for you. So for without further delay, here's my conversation with Rachael Mueller. Welcome to the six for your creative podcast. Thank you [00:04:00] for

taking your time outta your day in uh, in wonderful Argentina

Brian. I appreciate it. I'm excited to be here and chat with you today. This is awesome.

Yeah, I am too. you're doing the thing that I'm about to do, like all these interviews that I've kind of bashed before I leave for Bali, which our audience is tired of hearing about. even out for like three or four months, like being the digital nomad that I've been wanting to be for a while.

And uh, it's, it's fun to like, when I'm doing the research for the show, I always look at people social, see what they're doing, and you have like a lot of stories and you're don't know what they're called on Instagram, but the little bubbles that have like the story

saved on

The highlights. Yes. Gotcha. Mm-hmm

you. I am on social media. I don't do social media. You have like a whole Argentina thing in there. So that was fun to see for anyone who has ever wanted to go to Argentina, go check out her highlights on her Instagram uh, page, which we'll have links in our show notes as we always do.

But reason I wanna have you on the show is you call yourself a virtual COO and for any of our creatives in the audience who don't know what that means. Can you just explain what a virtual COO is and does? Just so we have a little bit of background on what we're talking about.

Yeah, absolutely. So, yes, I refer myself as a COO and systems expert, and I feel like adding the systems expert in [00:05:00] there really helps out kind of explain where I'm coming from, because I have found that as service providers, when you are working with clients, you're serving clients, you have a very. Forward facing thinking where you are, you have an idea, you have this business, you create things, you serve people, you show up for them.

And then a lot of things fall to the wayside behind you, whether that is your systems or your processes or your organization behind the scenes. And I come in and I help you clean that up, shore that up, put processes in place and help just bring things back so that everything is running on the same level.

I'm sure you're familiar with and have read the book uh, rocket.

Sure. Have yeah. Integrator role.

for anyone who hasn't read that book, that's, something I had read earlier in the year as I kind of transitioned my assistant role to more of a operations role. the reason I bring this up is because there's two different roles in a business, at least stated by this book, there's the visionary.

And that's the person who sees the vision for the business. That's the person who[00:06:00] they can plan all the things out , but really is the same person capable of actually executing that vision. And that's where someone like an integrator comes into play. An integrator is someone who may not be the visionary.

They may not have the big picture at stake, and they may not understand they're not the Steve jobs, right. Steve jobs was the, classic visionary. But they can definitely. Integrate the vision that the, the visionary has, I guess it's the easiest way of saying it. And so your role is basically stepping into, I mean, I guess your niche service based businesses, kinda like the creators, listen to the show you step in as the integrator, the person who is taking the vision of somebody and helping them turn it into a, fully built out system that works for them.

Is that kind of where it's at? Like you're an integrator for people, or

would you define it differently? Or would you say you do something different than being an integrator?

No, that's a great way to put it. I actually used to call myself an integrator until last year. I kind of switched more into the CEO, which is a little bit more higher level. So being able to take like a bird's eye view, look at like a holistic view of how your entire business functions and processes, and then being able to put things in place from there.

But yeah, I'd say in summation, that was pretty much what I.

most people listening right now from [00:07:00] our audience, can tell by the description that you are probably a visionary , may be a little bit of split there. Maybe like 90% visionaries, 10% integrators. If you're an already integrator, you'll have a lot of tips you can pick up from Rachael here.

If you're a visionary and not an integrator hire Rachael to help you with this stuff, cuz that's what she does for a living. But I wanna get into stuff that's like very applicable to our audience right now. Like there's, a bunch of things I have planned out for this discussion today, but I want first get into like planning systems, without a good plan, right.

We can start implementing a bunch of half baked ideas that never come to fruition. we never use them. Like the classic example I give is when people try to set up a CRM and then they never touch it again because they didn't set it up. Right. Because they didn't plan how to use it in the first place.

Like when you're working with your clients? When you are sitting down with a, business owner, how do you plan out systems? if I'm a six figure creative, I'm working in my business constantly, I'm too busy to work

on my business. How do you approach this?

Like how do we start with planning systems?

I love this question. Okay. So the first thing that I do with every single client and that I suggest whether you're working with somebody or if you're DIY in your systems, the way that I always say it is. If unicorns existed [00:08:00] and money was no object, how would you want your business to.

And start at the very top from step a, when somebody, maybe a lead reaches out on your website all the way to when you are no longer working with that person and list every single step in the process. I do this by building out a flow chart with clients where we will go literally step by step by step and make little bubbles and connect the dots.

And it's beautiful. It's color coded and it's sexy. And I love it, but you can do this just pen and paper too. Just jot down every single step in the process. And not just like, I send an email to this client, but also the tasks that you do behind the scenes. If you have a small team or a virtual assistant, what do they do for you?

Do you already have some automations, like a Zapier that trigger something? Or do you want that to trigger something and pinning all these things out? And then from there you have a really good idea to figure out what automations can I set up? What systems can do this? Can this be a project manager? Can this be a client management platform, whatever that looks like and be able to use that roadmap and go from there.

this is another thing you have

a whole highlight reel on your [00:09:00] Instagram of is just flow charts.

I saw that. I was like, that seems boring. I'm gonna click this and just see what she has on there. And then like, I found myself like trying to zoom in to see like what it is that you're actually doing on there.

I'm like trying to like dissect, oh, she's doing this with this client. And I, you I do like mind maps, which are similar to flow charts, but can you explain what a flow chart is? Cuz what you're doing here is like you are creating literally the flow from step a to Z, which can have tons of little branches.

Like if you think through your process, it's like, if the client is this, do that. If the client is that, do this other thing, so it can get kind of complex and your flow charts are complex looking. So like explain what a flow chart

is to our audience and how we can kind of like start using this in our business to start playing things.

Yeah, well, I mean, that was a great summation that you just gave and definition of what it is, but essentially it's also floats responsibility referred to as swim Laness or mind mapping. There's a lot of different names for it, but essentially what you're doing is you're just mapping the steps along the journey.

And it's a lot of if then questions and statements. So starting at the very top, as an example, let's say very first thing. If [00:10:00] a client reaches out on your website, what happens? What do you want to happen? What do you want their funnel, their process to look like, to reach out to you, fill out the contact form.

Okay. Fill out the contact form. Then what happens? Do they get an automated email? Do they get redirected to a different webpage? Like you can get super granual with what you want those steps to look like, but that's essentially the process is just mapping those things out. Step by step.

I like examples like this and I'd rather use real ones than like theoretical ones.

so I have a. mixing studio. It's called 4 56 recordings. It is a mixing service. I'm not hugely active on it, but I will cherry pick a few clients here and there. So step one is they land on the site? Step two, is they click the, get started button step three. Is they fill out just name and email?

I do a two-step form process. And then what are we doing here? We're just mapping out every single one of these steps. And if there's a decision to be made, then we split it off into

like path a and path B. Is that kind of like what a, a flow chart would do?

essentially. And I like to make it a little bit more [00:11:00] concise. You could say. So like the first step I would say is client reaches out on website and fills out form and then the next step would be what happens after they fill out that form. What is the next tangible step? So Okay. So add into CRM.

That would be the next flag. Then what happens after that? Do they get an automated email that you have set up?

they would get an automated response email saying that their

submission has been sent, I think. And then

See, this is why it's good to audit this and to do this.

and then they'll go into qualification, like, is

this somebody I wanna work with or not? That's kind of the decision to be made there.

perfect. So then I would say that next step would look like it's a manual review task. So it would say like Brian reviews and then you would have two flags, right? Good fit. Then they move through the process. If they're not a good fit, then maybe there's an email that you send them an email template that says, Hey, I don't think we're a good fit or we're booked up right now.

Here's some referrals, whatever that looks like. so you keep just

get better.

yeah. Whatever, whatever you [00:12:00] want that to look like, block, email, address, whatever it needs to be to give you peace of mind. But yeah, essentially, that's the process along the way.

Okay. And you basically do this for every single step. Like I see why these, when I'm looking at your Instagram reel for your flow charts, why these get so big is because like every little detail can turn

into kind of a split point where there's different steps that happen there, right?

Absolutely. Well, and if you think about too, like how many different services do you have for clients? A lot of times you don't have just one way to work with somebody, right? You have a couple different ways. And so each one of those branches often has its own journey for what that looks like. And so that's where everything kind of goes in its own path, its own way.

So especially for people offering multiple services, cause I looked at your website, you have three to four different kind of packages or services that you're offering. And I imagine that each one of those has a different process and flow chart kind of branch that comes off of those in your own flow chart for your own business, which I would probably pay to see your own flow chart

for your own business.

okay.

Yeah. it's interesting because I find that a lot of [00:13:00] the. Processes for people services. They kind of have a lot of overlap too, which is very interesting. Like you might think that there are very different services that you're offering, but a lot of times they have a very similar journey. It might just be tweaking a certain email, or maybe the process is a little bit longer, whatever that looks like, but they tend to have the same flow, which is helpful.

All right. So we've got this flow chart created. it's probably gonna take people a while. So if you're doing this step, be patient, make sure you do a good job with this and don't just halfway do it, but I've got the whole thing mapped out. Right. So what do I do

with this process map from there?

Yes. So the next step from there would be auditing and seeing one, what systems are you already using? Or two, what systems do you need to fill the gaps? So there's a handful of different systems that I always recommend for creatives, for service based people to have. And that is a CRM, which stands for a client relationship management tool.

And that's essentially your home base for everything client related. So that's going to house your contracts, your invoicing, you're [00:14:00] scheduling, you're onboarding, anything like that, all going to be in one place. So you're not managing, five different platforms, DocuSign, this straight payments here, et cetera.

It's all in one place, which is really nice. Two. You also then want to have some kind of project management tool. So where you're keeping track of your to-dos, your projects, your tasks, Not keeping those in a hundred different notebooks or Google docs or on your phone and bouncing and ping ponging around.

You have them all in one concise location. And then from there you're able to also pass things off to your team or strategize a little bit more and in a more concise way, which is really nice. And then the third one for tools is going to be some kind of file management specifically really focused on like your SOP. So like this flow chart that you've built when you're done with it could now live in your file management place as a resource to be able to reference later. So those are really the, the top three that I recommend.

And from there, you're able to see, this [00:15:00] task, I do this. So that goes in the project management or, okay. We're sending an email to this client that goes through the CRM and you start to give those places their home and where you want them to live.

this reminds me a lot of Dave Allens, getting things done, where he talks about creating your external brain. And I think I actually heard you say this quote on a podcast I was doing in my research that you said uh, this is, I think it's a

David Allen quote is your brain is for having ideas, not for holding them,

It is one of my favorite quotes of all time, because it's so true. I mean, you think about the amount of mental energy that it takes to. Okay. Don't forget this. Okay. Remember that? Okay. Oh, what about that? And chances are, I mean, you're not gonna remember the things you forgot, right? There are things that are falling behind that you don't even remember.

You've forgotten about. There is so much freedom to being able to have all of those things in one concise location and the mental freedom that your brain has to now think at a higher level at a more creative level is insane. It makes such a difference in your day to day.[00:16:00]

It's so that you could be more creative. Like if you create an external brain to house, all of this, non-creative trash. That's filling it up.

And I wanna use trash from the term of like, it doesn't matter. Cause it absolutely matters like client experience matters, making sure that that an automated message actually goes out when someone fills your form actually matters, but it's not something you need to be thinking about when it comes to being a creative, like we are paid to create not to remember all this stuff.

So when we create this external brain, it helps us have a place where this is stored and then it prompts us to do the thing when it matters. And I think that's, that was the biggest thing I learned when I was setting up my Airbnb business was I don't want to overwhelm people with all this information they're supposed to remember and a big welcome book for guests.

I want to have the information at the place. They need it exactly when they need it just in time information so that they're not overwhelmed so that they actually follow it. So they never contact me as the business owner on how to do something. And the way this translates to our businesses is like, If we have to remember all these things, we'll forget, we'll be stressed out.

We'll be laying in bed stress levels, really high. And our heart beat [00:17:00] increased because we know we're forgetting something, but we can't remember what it is. and we don't know why we're stressed out. So the external brain giving us the information we need when we need it.

Exactly. When we need it this is part of setting that up. you mentioned a few systems, which we need to get into in a minute. But before we get into the systems with like the project management, the CRM and the file management for SOPs, which we'll talk about SOPs later, cuz most people don't know what those are.

wanna talk about like actually creating the systems. Like we have this big thing, like this big flow chart and do we break this down into like smaller things that we can. Actually digest cuz I, imagine some people listening right now, they can fully understand the process of like creating a flow chart in whatever way they do it.

Maybe they don't do it as well as you Rachael, but could do it in some

way. they've got it all fleshed out. Now they've got this big thing. What do we do from here to break this down into more manageable chunks? So we're not

overwhelmed and then just throwing away some big amount of work.

We just did.

start small. That's the first thing start small. It does not all have to happen today. I find that as entrepreneurs, we can very much have this mentality where you need to create all the processes and all the [00:18:00] systems today, or I'll just keep doing things the same way that I've been doing them.

And I won't make any changes. It's kind of this all or nothing, but really starting small makes it so much easier. Start with just. Pulling out all the email templates that you're going to send and make a list of all the emails that you want. And then sit down and spend the time writing those emails, or pull out any forms that you're going to send people or pull out any of the automations you want, like whatever it is, break those things down into big chunks, rather than just looking at the whole flow chart as a whole and putting it on your, to-do list, implement flow chart that is so paralyzing and overwhelming.

It's just gonna keep rolling over and over and over. Versus if you break those things down into those micro tasks, it makes it so much more attainable to achieve.

you mentioned one of the systems that you recommend everybody having of a project management system. It sounds to me like If you started here, it actually built a project management system out of some sort. It would make all this other stuff easier because we talked about the external brain, right, right now we put [00:19:00] all this work into the flow chart and we have all these essential to-do lists sitting

right there of all these things we need to build and do.

even breaking them down into smaller chunks is a to-do item. So where will all these things live? It sounds to me like it lives in project management. That's our external brain for now. So let's talk about project management. what do you recommend we do as especially creatives to set up something that will actually use?

they'll hear me mention, click up. I know you use click up as well, or at

least last I heard and they'll start to implement that, but they don't realize click up is incredibly overwhelming and they don't realize there's easy or simpler things like to doist or Trello that can get the job done for now.

And then as you need more complex stuff you can maybe graduate to click up, but your general go-to advice for, especially your clients when implementing project management systems into their business.

for sure. I mean, it can be a very overwhelming process. And so my number one suggestion is take it a step back actually, and start with a brain. Literally sit down with pen and paper, or if you are a digital person with a, Google doc open and brain dump, everything that you are [00:20:00] keeping in your head at this moment, personal to dos projects, literally everything.

If it's pick up laundry, put it on the list, like whatever it might be, if you were thinking about it and trying to keep it in your head, put it on this list. from there, that is where you wanna start organizing the things. And that's when your project management tool comes into play. And when it comes to choosing a platform, I personally used click up.

I love click up, but I graduated to click up. I used to be a pen and paper person many years ago, and then I graduated to Trello and I used Trello for a couple years and now I use click up and I love it, but I find that what works for you, Brian, what works for me is not going to work for the other person.

Right. And so. When it comes to choosing the right platform, what's the one you're gonna use. What's the one that feels intuitive to you. There's Asana, Trello notion and click up are like the top players right now. It feels like as far as platforms to use, but I think it's a matter of doing a little bit of research, finding what feels good for you and then commit to [00:21:00] using it and start small.

Start by just taking that brain dump or that one project that you wanna focus on, break it down, do those micro tasks, make it super attainable and make just one list of those things and create the habit of every day. Checking that platform, giving yourself due dates, assigning things to yourself and get used to actually using it.

And then once that habit feels comfortable. Okay. Now add some more things in, okay. Now put some more things in and you can always hire people to set these things up for you, right? That's what I do for clients. But if you are on this journey of doing it yourself, Start small and just make it feel easy to start implementing.

Nice. And I love that we got the little horns in the background there because you are again, you're in Argentina where, and we had some mic issues with your original mic before we got in

here.

We are gonna hear horns. You're gonna hear dogs barking. It's a lively city. There's a lot going on

Alright, so I've got some things written down here. We've got project management. We're trying to, to figure out how to implement this, because again, to me, it almost sounds like we need to get this done before we start [00:22:00] tackling all these other things, because. this is a project, right? Building out systems is a project. And to not have project management set up first seems like a mistake. So brain dumping is the first step, and that

is a, to me, anytime I've ever done that, it's like cathartic experience. It

Yeah.

I'm a big bullet pointer where I just make bullet points and sub bullet points. And I just, I can tab around things super quickly when doing that. Everyone's got their own kind of strategy, but getting it all in my head, that's the first step. And then probably categorizing into.

Personal life stuff, and then maybe business stuff and

mm-hmm mm-hmm.

trailer or whatever. For anyone who wants to get started with tr I do have a, a video on this, on YouTube, a link in the show notes over@sixfigurecreative.com slash two 20. That's the show notes page for this episode. And any link in video or resource this mentioned in this episode will be on that page for anyone who wants that.

I have a video just going a super simple way to implement Trello. So that's probably a good place to start for anyone who's not ready quite yet for click up. we both use click up, Rachael, I assume you love it. I freaking absolutely love it. But you said something that was, to me, the, thing that actually is the most important part of project management is [00:23:00] commit to making it work because I had a few false starts with click up over

the years and part of this, because they've just kept adding amazing features

to it.

And they, it finally got to a place where I thought was like, okay, now I'm ready to give it another try, but two. I fully committed. I bought like a thousand dollars year membership thing to join it and like implemented every single thing she taught in this thing was all in 100%.

And that was the thing that pushed me over the edge of finally actually utilizing a project management system. Instead of like throwing it all in there, half-assing it. And then just letting it fall off and never touching it. is this something you, that you see clients struggling with is like actually

using their project management or is this just something that's only me

It's definitely not only you. I mean, it's a very daunting process, right? Because what you're doing is you're changing your habits and ha changing habits takes time implementing a new habit, takes time. I will start by saying that like all the platforms that I mentioned, click up sauna notion all of them, Trello they're free.

So you don't have to like what Brian did jump in and pay for a crazy membership right away. You can definitely gradually increase to that. [00:24:00] But I think there's two reasons why people can have a hard time really dedicating to using these platforms. One is they're not fully invested in it.

And I don't mean financially invested. I mean, habit wise, emotionally, like making this your sacred place where you go making it a habit. Yeah. Before you check your email in the morning, or you go on social, the first thing you're doing is you're going into your project management place. And you're saying, what have I given myself for today?

What is my plan for the day? You're creating that structure for yourself. That's number one. If you're not doing that, if you're just still going by the seat of your pants and just you know, responding to, and handling things as they come, it's not gonna work for you. And two is also, I would say the idea of. Trusting the process and trusting in yourself that this is what you need. I think it can be scary to grow our comfort zones, which in a way is what you're doing by implementing these new things, right. It means that your business is growing.

It means that [00:25:00] things are changing. You can't just be you anymore. You can't do things the same way that they're no longer serving you. And that can also kind of feel like a scary process. It's almost in a way kind of like a little bit of, I don't know, self sabotage that we can do to ourselves sometimes where we're like, not ready.

Like we're scared for that next step, but again, start small, make it super attainable for yourself. Start with the personal to-do list and the, and the business list and just get everything living in one place and then go from.

I can definitely resonate with the self sabotage. I've seen it my own life in different areas over the years. I've definitely seen it in people that, I talk to in our community where it's like, you start to have success. And that little voice in the back of your head says, like, imposter syndrome popping

up

Mm.

like, oh, you're not, you shouldn't be doing this.

Like you're who are you to be doing this? And so you start sabotaging your own success, which is really weird. The, the, thought that there's a thing called fear of success to where people will self sabotage. Um, it it can keep you back from implementing things like this. And that's why like, yeah, believing in yourself, that's a good thing, which is generic advice, [00:26:00] but very prudent in this regard, because if you don't believe in yourself, you're not gonna fully go in to implement a project management system or build out your systems or do the flow chart, you know, you're not gonna do all this work because again, who are you to be doing all this?

You're just a freelancer. You're just somebody working in your parents' basement. You know, like that's how I got my start. And if I would've just kept in that mindset, I wouldn't be where I'm at today. And I won't be where I'm gonna be in 10

years. If I just keep letting myself say this is all you'll ever be.

Absolutely. I mean, I feel like this is like a whole other conversation as far as, you know, like mindset and the idea behind entrepreneurship, because it's not for everyone, it's certainly not. But if you can focus on the path and you can put your blinders on, you know, especially in the online space, it can be very easy to get so caught up in what everyone else is doing.

But if you focus on what your path is and what your why is and what your goals are and your working towards that, it becomes a lot easier to understand what you need to do versus what everyone else is telling you. You should be doing.

One last thing you mentioned about project management before we move on, you talked about assigning dates and I've heard so many people say that if there's no date [00:27:00] on it, it will not get done. And I will admit my op sky listening right now, James, you know, this, I am pretty bad at just letting do date pass, do things, sit in my inbox and click up and not touching them.

But at least I know they're there and if there's no due date on it, I will be even worse about it. So talk about just the importance of signing dates and how you think about dates and overdue things. Like what's your process

around, especially For people like me who are like, ah, I can wait.

Well, there's a couple of things there. So if we take it back to that brain dump that we talked about, where you're putting all of these ideas and these things that you wanna accomplish, something we need to understand is the human brain reads things as 1, 2, 3, too many. So if right away you are deciding that every Monday you're going to knock out 20 of those things that you say put on your list to accomplish.

You're not giving yourself one, the space for things that could come up, it's an ideal situation, but you never just have a whole day to do whatever you want, in certain stages of business. Eventually you can get to that, but chances are, if you're listening to this, [00:28:00] shit's gonna pop up.

That needs your attention, personal or work. And you're gonna have to make time for those. But if you have such a tightly packed schedule of all these things that you wanna do, and let's say you only get three or four things done that day, it's gonna feel so disappointing. Versus if you limit that, if you say only give yourself five to do things and you accomplish all of those in that timeframe that you gave yourself, that is gonna feel so satisfying.

So invigorating, and you actually get dopamine when you accomplish a, to do task, which is really cool. So checking those things off actually gives you more momentum to keep working, which is awesome. But I find that that is such a better way to structure things. and holding yourself accountable to do it too.

Like if you for one thing, I will say everyone should be using a calendar. If you're not using a calendar immediately go sign up for a Google calendar right now. Like pause the podcast and go do it. But if you are not giving yourself due date, so you're not giving yourself that accountability, things will continue to pile up.

So [00:29:00] if you look at your calendar and you see that you have, let's say on Friday, three hours open, but you don't schedule anything for yourself in that time, you will fill that time. Friday will come 2:00 PM. When you have those three hours free will come and you will fill it with busy work or other things or things that you feel like are more important versus if you make it a priority and you say at two o'clock on Friday, I'm gonna do this project.

And I'm gonna do these three small steps because I know those will take about an hour each and I can get them done. You'll knock all those things out and you'll hold yourself accountable to actually accomplish them. And it makes such a difference.

I feel like we haven't done the calendar conversation justice on this podcast you just talking about that, I realize how important my calendar is. And I have like the central source of truth calendar, which is on my phone here. But I actually use both Google and apple and everything syncs both ways between the two, that way, all calendar apps amongst all integrations, talk to each other.

not that complex to set up, but it, I just realized how important it is to me. Because like I do set aside [00:30:00] time, I block out time where I'm like, I don't want someone to book a podcast interview in these hours. I don't want to have to do like X, Y, or Z in these hours. So I'm gonna block it off so I can work on my business or on these things that are important to me.

And without that, like someone else can steal that attention away from me and use it for their own good. also talked about like finding time to work on your business.

Like we have a full episode on this. We did recently me and mark on episode two 16 how to spend less time doing the stuff you hate. we talked about something that I call the easy eights framework, where we talked through, how to just get those things outta your way.

So you have more time to work on your business, which is a very important part to making this entire thing work. If you were constantly working in your business, you'll never have time to, to work on the stuff that Rachael and I are talking about today. So I wanna move on in this conversation and bring people back where we're at. We talked about planning systems. We talked about the whole flow chart thing. We talked about brain dumping and getting everything outta your brain into an external brain. We talked about breaking down these big projects into smaller projects that you can actually get done in a couple hours at a time.

what's next here? Like, we just start picking things at random and like saying, Hey, this is, top of mind. This is most important. This is what I'm gonna [00:31:00] implement. First. Do you have an order of operations for building out systems that you typically approach or some sort of frameworks you use to choose?

Which ones you focus on? Or is it just, you start at the beginning and end it point Z? Like,

do you do it linearly or do you do it based on something else?

Yeah, that's a really good question. I would say it's, there's a couple things there. One audit your time. Where are you spending the most time? If you are spending the most of your time working on client projects, communicating with clients, trying to email back and forth. I mean, there's a million different ways that you might be working with your clients.

Probably a CRM needs your attention first because being able to shore up your client experience, lighten what the onboarding and the off onboarding and the in between looks like eliminate the need for so much email back and forth with questions, making it very clear what that relationship and that project is going to look like will free up more time for you than to do the other things let's say you have a pretty stellar client experience, but it is your bigger goals, [00:32:00] your projects, you have things for your own business, not for others that is falling to the wayside. You don't feel like you're working towards those bigger goals. That's what I feel like the project management and really understanding and breaking down your why, your projects, your goals, and all of those things and making that doable is important.

So it's kind of that one, two auditing. Where does it feel like your time is.

Yeah. So if you listen back on episode uh, two 16, the one I just recommended Which came out on September 6th. if you just have an app that just shows the dates. In that episode, I also talked about an amazing app called rescue time.

It's something I've been using since 2016 and it is wonderful. Keeping you from having to do a time audit where you don't have to track your time individually, it doest automatically for you and then categorizes it for you so that all you have to do is go into the app and say, where have I spent my time in the last month?

Oh, I've spent 10 hours here, 12 hours there. Oh, I see all that time in email. I need to clean that up. Let's start with the CRM. That is a really good use of that sort of app is the time audit thing because no one on earth wants to do a time study. assume you try to get your clients to do that unless you're, [00:33:00] they're already using rescue time or you recommend that.

But do do you see clients struggle to like actually log their time and, and how much they're spending doing these

different things or like I don't wanna do that.

Yeah. I mean, you could make it even simpler too, though, right? Cause the idea of actually logging your time when you're doing things, you have to remember to go in to mark things down, like, okay, I spent an hour doing this or actually hit the record button, whatever that looks like. That's a new habit in it of itself.

Right. That's asking a lot. I feel like, but sit down and think back to the last week, look in your inbox. See how many things have you responded to or think about what client projects you've been working on or think about your own business projects, go through and see what have you checked off?

Where have you actually been spending your time? You can do this in 30 minutes to an hour, just sitting down and really thinking about this. And that will give you a really good idea for where your next step should be.

And that'll be good for anyone who has privacy concerns about an app tracking all your, everything you're doing. I'm the convenience person. I just want the convenience of an app to do this for me. If you're a privacy concerned person, probably not the app [00:34:00] for you. All right.

So let's, bring this back now. We've got you've you've mentioned the CRM thing a couple times, which is client relationship manager or otherwise known as customer

relationship manager. I like the term client. Everyone here works with

Mm-hmm

a better way of using the C in that, what CRM do you use the most or recommend people use?

it all comes down to which one will you use the most or which one you actually use, but like,

you're a systems expert. What is the CRM you recommend?

for sure. So when it comes to service based businesses, so photographers, videographers, people that are listening to this podcast, there are two that have become really popular, really easy to implement and very affordable. And that is honey book and Deb Sodo. And they essentially both do the same thing, but I have found that Deb Sodo is really becoming a great resource for.

service based businesses. There's a lot you can do with automations. It's a very robust platform. They're constantly adding new features to it, but it really is a place to house. All of your invoices, your [00:35:00] contracts, your scheduling, the onboarding, the off onboarding forms, website, contact forms, like whatever you want that to look like, it really helps you put all those things in one place.

we had another guest on the show on episode 2 0 9, which came out July 19th, Micah woods. choosing a niche that attracts your best

clients.

And rappels the worst. At the end we just talked tools, which was like a fun part of the

conversation. And he talked about DDO he made it sound very appealing. And I think he actually hired an expert to help him set that up. So maybe that was you. I don't know. but I would love to know like sell me on it, cuz this is, this is one that I've actually been considering for my own business.

historically I have used Pipedrive for years. I have used clothes.com for years. Love both of them. Neither is perfect. but I wanna know more about dubs Soto because it seems to be targeting the service based businesses, which is what our audience is. And I wanna know more about it.

I wanna try it out myself. I

wanna implement it. And I wanna know from you as someone who You actively use it? Like, what is it about that that allows you to do something that something like Pipedrive can't do? Like, what is it specifically that

we [00:36:00] can get to expect outta something like dev?

So setting it up.

For sure. Well, for starters, I mean something like pike drive. I don't have a ton of hands on experience with I know about it, but it's a very complicated system, right? It's a very complicated system. Something like Pipedrive, something like Salesforce. These are designed for huge companies, right? these are not designed for the smaller starting businesses or people who only have a small team.

because of that dip Odo has created something that feels more intuitive for a more personal experience. And I think that's really, the difference is you are able to create automation. So let's say for example, you have a form on your website contact form that people can fill out. It's a DSO form when they fill that out, they drop into your DS Sodo automatically.

I'm gonna get a little nerdy here. Maybe you have a zap set up that zaps them also to your click up. So you have their project in click up already. Ready to go. You've got 'em in Deb Sodo and then the Deb Sodo automation sends them [00:37:00] a welcome email, letting 'em know, Hey, we got your response. We get back to you within 24 hours, 48 hours, whatever that looks like you then immediately get a, task from Devoto to either approve or decline to schedule a new discovery call with them.

It just makes it so easy to build out. Like we talked about at the beginning of those flow chart steps to build out those steps and have everything in one location, ready to book the project. You can send, 'em a proposal with their invoice and they're contracted. It's beautiful and it's custom and it's branded and you can get really down to like HTML and CSS coding.

If you want to, like, there's a lot that you can do with it to make it really pretty, but it just creates a very seamless experience, a very branded experience, and it allows you to have these things set up. So. You don't have to respond to somebody's email at 11:00 PM at night after they sign their contract and their invoice, it will do that for you.

You don't have to send them an FAQ manually. It does it automatically, [00:38:00] whatever that looks like. It just allows you to free up that space of you having to do all the things by yourself.

Yeah. So for anyone listening that has kind of their, text stack, I guess, is the term

split up? you might have Squarespace or Wix for your website.

Hopefully you don't. If you listen to this podcast, maybe you use easy funnels, you might have you know, whatever third party form builder

they have there, that sends stuff straight to your email.

And then

yes.

read the email and then type up a reply. If you're smart, you have templates saved somewhere. Great. Or if you. Maybe you have a zap, which we, we talk about zap here on this podcast, love zap here. Maybe you have a zap sending it to whatever CRM you're using, which is another step.

And then maybe you're sending your proposals via better proposals. And then you're sending a contract via Panda docs, and you're using ly to book a call like you have all these different tools spread out. So it could be a little bit more complex to set up. It can be a little more difficult to maintain if integrations break.

We've had instances in the past where leads didn't come through zapper because some weird thing happened, a form field was missing and Zappier just [00:39:00] denied it. So we lost the lead. We found that a few times. So it can avoid all these sorts of pains and it's all in one place. question I have about this is can you create templates and then share them?

like, do you have templates available that our audience could use for this? Like, is that a lead magnet you have? Is that a product you sell or can you not

have like plug and play templates for something like dub Soto people can use.

there are totally options for that. I personally, don't, that's not my field, cause I'm not a designer. I wouldn't be able to design something pretty for you. You wouldn't want what I created, but I will say that there are a lot of amazing, talented people out there who are web designers, graphic designers, and also Debs OTO experts.

And they've put those tools together and created some amazing templates that you are able to plug and play like that. If you want something, Debs, Odo also has templates available for you. They have a template library where you can just grab things and drop 'em in for your forms or your proposals or whatever you want that to look like.

found this on your Instagram. I took a screenshot for my notes for this interview. You said so with just a few clicks in five minutes to send a custom branded proposal to the client, have signed and paid. They've immediately received their welcome email to keep the excitement rolling.

[00:40:00] They have booked their welcome call with you. The system has updated the project status. So I guess in click up, it's updated the project as like active, and then you receive notices to begin onboarding or something like that. Like. Basically between DDO and click up and Zappier everything to go from a stranger to a client is like five minutes,

basically,

it becomes a very seamless experience. And a lot of times what I hear from people that kind of stops them or scares them from implementing these, tools, these automations is they don't want the experience to seem cold. They like being able to respond. Cause it feels personable.

Chances are there's a lot that you're doing where essentially you're just sending the same email to every client maybe you change one sentence and then you hit send, so you can have a template for that, or you really wanna make sure that the proposal has one specific thing for this person.

You can customize the template before you hit send. There's a lot that you can do where it doesn't have to be all manual or all automation. You can have a hybrid of both, but there is a way to free up you having to manually do [00:41:00] every single step.

And is there similar, like automations for different steps in the process? Like I know a lot of people listening, they have productized services where you have different, like very well defined stages. You've taken the client through from like pre-production to production, to post-production, to revisions and so on and so forth.

And I'm imagined that there's some automation that can be built to help with a lot of those

SIM different steps as well. Or am I misunderstanding the power of the, of

Absolutely. I mean, you can have an unlimited number of what are called, like the workflows, the automation. So you can have them go through those different phases. You can have them be a new lead to onboarding, to production, to post production, whatever that process looks like. And all you have to do is just click apply, apply, apply.

Once you have created those and it makes it so much easier.

How do you delineate what tasks you keep track of Indo? Cause I know they have some sort of like simple task management versus using something like click up, which is the full on full featured project

management system. Where do you delineate the two? As far as task management?

I would say

99 point 99% of my tasks are in.[00:42:00] I really hate having things in multiple locations. I think that creates a lot of stress on your brain I would say the only thing that I recommend doing in something like devs, Sodo for tasks is like, for example, setting their project dates within devs Sodo.

If you're doing a thing within devs Sodo, it's okay to have the task with NDIP auto cuz you're doing it all in that place. Versus if you are sending something or setting up their Google drive or whatever that looks like, have that be in the project management place, have there be a template that is called client project, whatever that type of client project is.

And you have your different steps, you have your onboarding steps, you have your project steps, you have your offboarding steps, create the template. And then all you have to do is duplicate that template for every client. And now you have all those tasks will sit out that you do every single.

So this is part of just making the entire fulfillment process easier. It's literally like you're taking that flow chart you created at the beginning of this episode, if you paused, which you, no one did no one paused and said, I'm gonna create the flow chart before I finish this episode. pretending you did that, you have [00:43:00] paused now that you're the place you've got this flow chart, you set up click up or Trello, but now you've created a template to put all of the steps involved with working with a client, the things that you do every single time, cuz I know projects can vary from person to person and it can vary slightly.

But for the most part, you're doing a lot of the same damn things. Every single project. Why not turn that into a step by step, click up template or whatever project management you're using. And then whenever you create a new client, you just duplicate that template, put the client's name and now you have every step you're gonna do with that client.

And

exactly.

Yeah. That sounds like a wonderful way of doing things. And I think our audience hopefully is gonna do some stuff like this. Can we talk about SOPs, which stand for standard operating procedures. this is a little more, I guess, advanced and especially if you're trying to build a team out, but I still think it's really important for anyone to just get this outta their brain.

Can you explain what an SOP is? And then I'll talk, we can just talk through the benefits of this and how to create these and things like that. Cause find myself using these so often in our business, even for things that I'm not outsourcing.

Yes.

SOP is

up

an SOP, essentially, it's a guide that you've created, right?

It can be a step by step [00:44:00] process where step one, you do this step two, you do this and it can be something where you train someone to do this thing, your assistant, your team, they take it off your plate and they can do it. It can also be a video that you record yourself doing like, okay, I log into this website and I click this and then I do this, whatever that looks like to guide somebody, how to do it, but it can also just be for yourself.

Like how many things in your business do you do once a month or once a year. And by the time you come back to it, you have to retrain yourself and spend 30 minutes to an hour to do the thing that takes 10 minutes. Versus if you make that guide for yourself, you have that reference and your future self will thank you for having created that.

And it doesn't have to be complicated. It can literally just be a checklist. It can just be a video that you follow, whatever that looks.

like I said earlier, I'm a big bullet point person and I'll give everyone, anyone can create this this one, I'm gonna tell you, this is one that I use every single year without fail. I created this maybe two years ago and I am so thankful for it. Tax prep.

Yes.

taxes at the [00:45:00] end of the year, this is the thing that you never think about.

obviously you're doing things all along the year, like paying your quarterly estimated taxes and things like that. And hopefully putting money into savings for the end of the year tax season. If you've made more money, you're gonna have to owe more in taxes. But every year there's certain things you have to prep, to send to your CPA.

And obviously people in other countries have different things that they do. But this is just something in America. I only handle once a year, by the time it comes around, I don't remember what I'm doing. I don't remember how to do tax prep. And we're recording this in September and in my brain, I'm like, I can't even think right now how to do tax prep, but I have an SOP, a standard operating procedure that I made years ago that walks me through the steps of how to do the thing so that I just have to follow the checklist.

And I don't forget anything.

You don't have to try and keep it in your head. Right. It's there, you know how to do it when you need it, when the time comes it's available for you.

And this is, again, this is just part of the external brain. Like this can live anywhere. It can live in, click up. It can live in Google drive. I have all my, my SOPs are in two places, which is SAC religious to you. I have anything for my team is in process street is what we use

Mm-hmm

SOPs and our [00:46:00] checklists, which is what we went through before this interview.

That's another example of a, SOP I use myself is before every interview, I go through a checklist with a guest so that neither of us forgets things because sometimes you'll get on and you'll have a hum mic. That's like buzzing because you're in Argentina with dirty electricity. And then I'll be like side checked with you, trying to figure out tech stuff, and then I'll forget something.

And that's why we have the checklist. So we never forget anything. That's one example, but then I have my Evernote for my personal. Because again, I'm sick and the head and need them in two places. Cuz I, I wanna make life harder for myself and I do personal things and, and Evernote, but it doesn't really matter what the tool is as long as you use it.

Right.

it works for you, it works right. That's that's ultimately the thing is what works for you? What are you going to do that makes it easy for you? Like I use click up, I love click up, but I also keep post-its and pens in every single room in our apartment. And if I think of something and I've shut my computer down or I'm offline, whatever that looks like, I jot it down.

Now my brain doesn't have to remember it. And then at the beginning of the day, the next day I go around and I gather all [00:47:00] my little post-its and I put 'em where they need to go. But that system works for me. So it's just about finding what is good for you.

Yeah. And again, this goes back to that quote from David Allen. Your brain is for having.

Not for

Mm-hmm

it's a post-it note, whether it's click up, whether it's Trello, whether it's Evernote, which is what my favorite note taking app of all time, I'm using it now for this podcast.

Like, it doesn't really matter as long as it's outta your damn brain and into something else so that you can go back and review it when the time comes the just in time information, not the, like I'm trying to hold onto everything in my brain. in case I ever need to know this, no, it's like, it's in the place.

I can go find it if I need this information, but for now I don't need this. just to wrap this up, is there any best practices for organizing these SOPs you've created so that you actually like, can find them when you need it? Or like, cuz I, I know that a lot of people they'll create SOPs and they'll never look at 'em again because they've horribly labeled and organized.

Like do you just have any quick best practices around organizing? So.

So I'm a fan of Google drive. I think that's just a great platform to be able to use to house all your files. And it's really easy to create a folder, call it. So. And then within that, make your [00:48:00] categories, have an admin, have an ops, have a client's folder, have a marketing folder, have a team folder, whatever that looks like for you, make all those categories.

And then within that, you can create documents. That can be like your master guide. So for example, let's say you have your SOPs, you have your client folder. And then within that you have your Debs auto guide. Cause we were just talking about Debs auto and in your Debs Soto guide, you have just checklists or bullets, whatever you want that to look like, that link to the loom videos that you've created for how to do the things.

Here's how to send a proposal. Here's how to create a reoccurring invoice. Here's how to cetera. And you have all those in one place. And now that's for you to know where they go. Or you can share that guide with someone else to then do the task for.

It's great. I'm looking at the time. This is probably a time we gotta wrap this up, but is there anything that I missed? That's like, Hey creatives, you need to be doing this, or you need to know this, that I did not bring up. That need to be mentioned. Like, you're like, Hey Brian, you're stupid for not asking me this.

just go ahead and, and say, Brian, [00:49:00] you're stupid. You should have asked me this.

I would say the only thing that comes to mind is that a lot of this conversation that we've had, Brian has been a lot of like DIYing it. And I wanna just preface and say that if this is not in your zone of genius, ask for help, don't be afraid to ask for help. There are so many resources and people and things available to support you for these things.

If you are truly a visionary creative person, and the idea of creating a flow chart makes you like sick to your stomach and you can't even process the idea of doing it, don't, don't enforce it. Bring somebody in who can help you do that. Like make it easier on yourself to then focus on your zone of genius and the things that you should actually be doing.

if someone is listening right now and they're like, okay, I like the things we talked about. I am such a creative that I, can't be bothered to be an integrator.

So I want to hire somebody like Rachael to do this. What can they do contact you, to take the next step, to at least to figure out whether you're a good fit for each other to figure out if the pricing is right. All the things matter for this sort.

absolutely. So there's two places that you can go. You can head to my [00:50:00] website. Hey, Rachael, R a C H a E l.com and check out my services and all the good stuff that I have going on there. And also I love Instagram. I hang out on Instagram, I've got a ton of resources and highlights and fun stuff on there that you can find.

And it's just, Hey, dot Rachael on Instagram, either way we can reach out, we can connect. We can see what we be able to do together.

like I said, I fully encourage you to go, check out her website and her Instagram, her Instagram has a lot of fun highlights on there. today I've relearned. What highlights are now that I'm like, you told me earlier what there I'm like, oh yeah, of course. I knew that, dumb social media, Brian, who doesn't really use social media forgot.

But yeah. Thank you so much for coming on Rachael. So there's been a wonderful conversation and I, I highly encourage anyone. Who's been listening to go check out her work, see what she's done. go nerd out on the flow chart stuff, or just go look at it. So you know that you need her help because you can't possibly do the flow charts that she's doing.

So thank you so much, Rachael.

Thank you, Brian. I really appreciate it.

by the way, for anyone who's like. Driving or just needs to get the links that she mentioned. Everything's at six figure creative.com/two 20 all links to her Instagram, to her, website. And anything else we mentioned in this episode will be right [00:51:00] there for you.

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How To Budget When Your Income Is Inconsistent

Ever had a $20k month followed by a $1,200 month? Freelancing can be a wild ride. Even with solid client acquisition, those feast-or-famine cycles can stress anyone out.   In our latest podcast episode, we're...

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