Working from home isn’t a foreign concept to me, but working from home during a global crisis is. With the weight of the pandemic and a world on the verge of a new way of living, I’ve found it increasingly hard to stay focused and motivated. From what I’ve seen online, I’m also not the only one.
I’ve worked with so many different project management systems over the years – Asana, Trello, Monday, Basecamp, you name it. If there’s an app that promises to categorize all my scattered thoughts into a well organized plan for the future, I’m all in.
And inevitably I’ll start strong and excited about all the possibilities of organization and productivity, but at the first sign of a flaw or overwhelm, I’ll quit. I’ve found it’s usually because these tools either offer too much or too little, and often with a painfully bad design.
Last year, one of my web contractors suggested I try out a new app called Notion. The really cool thing about the app is that you basically build the management system you need. And the idea of catering to both my minimalism and creativity was definitely appealing.
I’ve been using this app personally for a year, and during the fall I merged all of my independent contractors and team members onto the platform as well. It’s customizable, pretty, collaborative, and simple. Just my kind of plan!
I wanted to walk you through how it’s impacting my business in case you’re like me, wanting a simple solution that’s powerful enough to take you places.
Leads + Proposals
The first (and probably most groundbreaking) way I’ve used Notion is to track leads and funnel a potential client through our sales process. In one glance I can see exactly who’s reached out, the details about their project, who’s communicated last and how long ago, where we are in the sales process, and then look back and see why someone did or didn’t book with us. This helps me evaluate the strength of our services, come up with new product ideas, and improve our communication when I see holes in the system.
As I listen to the stories of potential clients who reach out, I have a dashboard that lets me quickly jot down and link to product ideas that sound cool. Instead of racing to produce something the minute I have the idea for it, this lets me marinate for awhile, do a bit of research, see if it’s a repeating request, and chat with my team. Then, I can funnel a product through a process that makes sure I’m using my time wisely, checking for quality, and prepping for launch. I plan to really dive into this system more this year as I create and launch new products for our design library!
I’m sure you can tell that I’ve worked hard to streamline our processes so that we’re giving every client and customer the star treatment. As the studio goes through busy and slow seasons, the best thing we’ve created are tools and resources that help us use time efficiently even when we have less of it than we’d like. Creating a home base for tutorials, studio assets, templates, swipe files, and FAQs is a great way to feel prepared, empower your team, and treat every client with thoughtful consideration.
If you’ve been following along for awhile, you know that a few years back I decided to really focus on brand styling, art direction, and logo development and began building a team of contractors for web, copywriting, photography, and packaging. I love getting to collaborate with other artists and designers, but it can get confusing as teams build, client lists grow, and my own list of tasks stretch a mile long. Having a team folder with individual dashboards helps me to keep each contractor organized, make sure I have the right files for taxes, stay on top of invoices, and be a better leader.
I use to hate inquiries, but only because proposals felt like such a headache. From custom pricing to timelines and availability, I always felt like I was over or under booking, and I’d procrastinate the dreaded process of scheduling a project. Now, I plan out an “ideal capacity” year with slots for clients. This helps me quickly see the timeline and which projects may overlap, my overall booking goals, and helps me set up dates and deadlines ahead of time so that when a last minute project comes on the table at just the right time, I can jump on the opportunity without missing a beat. This also helps me plan for certain seasons throughout the year when I could potential travel or go on a vacation.
Course Notes, Links, + Resources
I’m a course junkie. I love being a student, learning something new, and building my business. But after seven years of being an entrepreneur, there are courses, downloads, and workshops that have gone unused and forgotten. I decided to start a student dashboard where I can store the helpful resources I’ve opted into, blog posts that really resonated, and courses I’ve decided to purchase so that those tools can be a true resource in my business.
Editorial Calendar + Workflow
Editorial calendars have always been a struggle for me, because writing a blog post always feels like a much bigger deal than it really is. I’ll sit down to write a few helpful thoughts, but then the idea of illustrating graphics, promoting the post, sending out an email, and making sure I can respond to comments feels overwhelming. Having an editorial calendar that feels simple and doable is crucial to helping me overcome the mental obstacle of content creation and see how the year can unfold in a beautiful editorial storyline (not to mention, it makes batching a breeze.)
It’s no surprise that courses are a great way to scale your online business and provide added value to your ICA. If I’ve learned anything from Amy Porter, it’s that a good course requires lots of thoughtful planning, researching, and storytelling. Whenever I have a course idea (and I currently have two in development!), I start a course page that allows me to brainstorm thoughts, record insights from conversations, link to inspiring sales pages and resources, and make the whole process so much easier and more enjoyable.
Coaching + Mastermind Notes
Last year, I started working with a personal business coach as I also participated in a mastermind. Having all of that support and insight into my business has been so helpful, but sometimes I can feel like a fire hydrant is on full blast heading straight my way. Instead of feeling the need process every bit of information and advice in real time, I keep a dashboard of notes and only add dates to things that are truly urgent. This has helped me prioritize ideas, implement action items, and prioritize my energy and resources to best serve my business.
Ever sat in at your desk looking at your inbox with total dread? Or thought about sending an email to your whole list but suddenly realized that they haven’t heard from you in a million years? That was always my problem. I’d write swipe files but then lose them. I’d have ideas for email newsletters and then forget them, or I’d know I needed an email sales funnel but I wouldn’t know where to start or how to carve out the time to make one. The email dashboard is my go-to place for digital communication, whether it’s one-on-one with a client or a mass blast to our list. I’ve stopped feeling the dread of the send button and started looking forward to receiving messages I know I have the response to.
It’s true, the cobbler’s children rarely have shoes. I spend all of my time launching my client’s brands and websites and usually realize once a year how painfully out-of-date my own site and portfolio are. Instead of panic updating my site every January, I just keep a list of things I know need to be updated so that when I have a free Friday afternoon, I can tackle some to-dos one step at a time. It’s also a great way to link to project graphics and keep tabs on which ones I want to add to the site.
And finally, it’s great to have a few pages of dedicated and organized creative brainstorming. A few days ago during the Quarantine Organization Era, I started going through my studio supplies to purge what I didn’t need and came across at least 20 full notebooks of ideas I’ve had over the past seven years – thoughts on campaigns, products, ways of talking about my studio, financial goals, places I wanted to see. And you know what? I never used those journals to act on any of those ideas. Now that I have a digital way to record those passing thoughts as I listen to a podcast or read a book or have a breakthrough on mile three of a trail run, I have a digital place to store them and can easily migrate the good ideas over to my quarterly goals or to-do list.
My favorite thing about Notion is how easily it’s integrated into my life and business. I keep just about every thought and task on there, and it’s even on my phone so that I can access what I need anywhere I go.
Because I’m a visual learner and often need a step-by-step guide, I’ve created a mini course to show exactly how I’ve set up each section and some tips for getting the most out of Notion if you are interested in using it for your own business! Plus you’ll see a lot more behind-the-scenes of my systems and templates.