Workflows for Designers
You may have seen from my March-in-Review and Web Process that things are getting organized here at the studio. Over the past few weeks, we’ve welcome Anna (our new project manager), Joel (our new web director), Nikki (our new Squarespace expert), and Sam (our new developer). If you can’t tell, web is going to be a big part of 2019.
With so many new faces, it’s important that I keep client projects organized. I’ve always worked loosely off of a system in my head, but now that we’re working so collaboratively, it’s important that I’m able to track and analyze our workflow to make sure we’re efficient with our time and accurate with our project estimates. The longer I’m in business, the more I value efficiency and automation, because it means I can spend more time being creative rather than chasing down information and putting out fires.
So today, I want to walk you through a client roadmap and show you how I’m using tools to make the process easier on me and my team.
Our clients come from a variety of places. We still primarily get new clients through referrals from old clients (which makes me so happy!) but there are still inquiries through Instagram, Pinterest, and this blog that send amazing new business owners our way.
I use a form I created through Dubsado, and linked it on our contact page. Having this integration automatically sets up a client in our business management app (Dubsado) and allows me to track that lead, making sure that no one gets left behind. It also means I’m able to store important information, like contact info and websites for easy reference down the road.
Once someone fills out the inquiry form, they’re automatically redirected to set up a 15-minute call through a service called Calendly. Calendly takes a quick glance at my Google Calendar and provides a potential new client with windows of availability to schedule a call. This eliminates all the back-and-forth of scheduling, and again makes it easier to move to the next step.
Dubsado has an amazing feature where I can record notes in a Call Log on a client’s profile (which, as you may recall, is automatically created when they fill out an inquiry form.) This Call Log is helpful as I put together a proposal for a new project.
When I send out a proposal to a new client, they first approve the scope, then automatically tab over to my design contract (which is basically a list of terms & policies), and finally tab over to pay the deposit invoice. It’s so simple and streamlined that it’s completely revolutionized our sales process, making it easier for everyone to get started as soon as possible.
Once a client has approved the project proposal and signed the contract, I create a portal for their project. This portal has a unique login, and will store documents and presentations throughout the project. I love how exclusive and customized this feature is on Dubsado, and how easy it is for a client to keep tabs on where they are along the way.
I’ve also created a questionnaire form within Dubsado that I can then send the client to get specific information about their brand and business. Included in the questionnaire are a few personality questions and a prompt to create an inspiration board. Reviewing this questionnaire is always my favorite part of the process, because ideas are swirling and I enjoy getting to know a new client and their personal style.
As soon as I send the project questionnaire, I create an Asana workflow for the project. Dubsado has automated workflows, but I’ve been happier using Asana. I’ve also learned about a new tool called Notion, which is an even better version of Asana, but until they release their open API (making it easier to integrate with Slack and Google Calendars), I’ll primarily be using Asana to track a project’s progress.
In Asana, I select one of the templates I’ve made for the various design packages I’ve created, assign the task to a team member, add a due date, and link any helpful files or notes in the description.
Asana workflows give me a quick view of what I need to accomplish for the day, where my team is on various projects, and a look ahead as we book new projects for the coming months.
Typically, there is a short window between when I onboard a client and when they’re able to begin their project officially. This works out great since the client has adequate time to go through the questionnaire and assemble inspiration. I like to schedule an hour long kick-off call to review the discovery and talk through ideas before I start designing. It’s also a chance to hear if the business has gone through any changes, or if there’s anything else I should know about scheduling or scope before we begin.
Again, I use Calendly to schedule these calls, which makes my life so much easier!
As the project progresses, I keep track of all of my tasks within the Asana workflow. Typically, I assign each task within a project to a particular week. I like being able to create a master list of tasks on Monday, and then have the freedom to chip away at the list throughout the week, since my schedule changes so frequently.
Throughout the project, I keep Anna up-to-date on my progress and communicate with other members of our team who are working on websites. We use a tool called Slack to create project-specific channels and discuss the details of each project. It works similar to a text, or instant messenger, and integrates with Asana and Dubsado using Zapier.
Presentations & Feedback
I’ve recently started presenting designs to clients through Dubsado. I like using their forms, because I can include prompts for feedback and design selection, making the process easier to understand and organize.
I’ve linked a folder on my Dropbox called “Current Projects” and keep all of my working files there, off of my desktop. This helps me to stay organized, and also provides a backup plan should my computer ever crash, or I need another team member to step in during an emergency.
Once I deliver final files, I drag the client folder into a folder called "Archived Projects” that lives online and doesn’t take up space on my actual computer.
One of my recent feedback forms suggested that I start sending out weekly status updates on Monday so that clients can anticipate what they’ll be receiving that week. While timelines and workflows are great, sending out a quick email update is a great way to maintain a line of open communication and collaboration with clients throughout the project.
In Dubsado, I can create new emails that send from my Gmail address, but store within a client profile, making it easy to access project emails and stay out of my inbox during the workday.
And finally, once a final invoice is paid, I put together a final files folder within my client’s Dropbox folder that I share directly with them. Even after I drag the folder over to my archived projects, the client will maintain access, and I can also refer back to those files if we work together in the future!
I am always so behind on creating portfolio case studies, but I’ve been working on adding tasks to each project that prompt me to add graphics to my portfolio and promote my client’s new brand online.
Before I write a case study, I send the client a questionnaire form to prompt a testimonial (plus any feedback to improve our process!) and use quotes from the feedback to sprinkle throughout the case study and provide context for each step.
Once the case study is complete, I’ll send the client Instagram-friendly graphics to promote their brand online, and check in periodically during the first year to see how the brand is growing and thriving.
During my time as a creative entrepreneur, I’ve tried so many workflows, read books on productivity, and tested apps that promise to change my life. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that not every system works for every person, and you have to tweak these processes to become a natural flow that works well for you.
What apps and systems have you found to improve your own client process? I’d love to hear in the comments below!
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