Since I was away for International Quilt Market and International Quilt Festival, it was important that my business continued to operate as if I was still in the office. How did I do this? Systems were a big part of the answer.
Have you given any thought to systems in your business? I know many creative arts professionals who have no systems for processes. They, in essence, reinvent the wheel every time they do the same task again. I have heard that any task that is done more than once or twice can be systematized, and this lets you work smarter not harder.
To me, a system is really a written outline of “how we do things around here.”
My favorite resources for understanding systems are any of the E-Myth books by Michael E. Gerber. Gerber often talks about working on your business rather than in your business. His solution is to consider your business as the prototype for a franchise operation and create systems so processes can be done at the lowest level possible. He does not expect you to create a franchise; he wants you to understand how systems help you create and build a successful business.
When you have systems in place, you are better able to use your time for what I like to call your brilliance. For creative people this results in spending more time creating your product or generating new ideas and less on administrative or tasks someone else could be doing.
First, look at the activities you do that are repeated. This can be something done daily or weekly or quarterly. Take the time to write down the actions step-by-step. The second time you need to do the activity, use your written system and refine it. I have spent time creating an operations manual outlining steps for a variety of our activities. It did take me time to put together the systems, and in the end it was definitely worth it. I am able to have others complete many of the tasks now, and in a pinch, I can pitch in and find following the system takes less time.
Here are some ways that quilters, fiber artists and other creative entrepreneurs can use systems:
- Are you an artist who shows your work? Create a written system to contact and follow-up with gallery representatives, a system to ship your work or hang your work in a local gallery, a system for following up with potential buyers. If these are written down, you will have an easier time each time you or someone else completes the task.
- Do you have templates for forms or letters that can be used again and again? This could be the press release for your new pattern release or the gallery show that you customize.
- Do you have a system to gather the names of visitors to your website, possibly offering them an incentive? If not, you are losing the opportunity to contact potential customers.
- Are you a pattern designer? If you look at the processes involved in creating a pattern, you will find areas to systematize. One would be to create a style sheet listing the fonts, spacing, formatting, etc., of your pattern. Another would be your system for order fulfillment.
- Are you a longarm quilter? Do you have an order form with questions you need to ask each new client? Do you have a system for loading the quilts? This could actually be a task that you could teach someone else to do, freeing up time for you.
- Do you spend time online marketing your business with a newsletter, blog, Facebook and Twitter? When I taught a class on Social Media Marketing this summer, I suggested that people set aside 15-20 minutes each day to focus on listening to what is on social media, responding to it and participating in conversations. I also suggested setting aside an hour or so one day a week to create articles for your newsletter or blog posts.
What kinds of systems have you created? How do you do things where you are? Take some time this week to look at where you can create a system, select one and document each step, and share your results on our blog. Once you have created systems, not only do you have the exact steps to follow, the chance of forgetting steps is virtually eliminated.
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Morna McEver is the founder and CEO of the International Association of Creative Arts Professionals where creative arts entrepreneurs craft business success. Her weekly e-zine offers tips, techniques and inspiration to help you craft business success from your creative arts passion. You can sign up for a FREE subscription at http://www.creativeartsprofessional.com.