Module 14 – Managing Workflow
Okay, in this module I want to talk about managing workflow.
This is I guess to a certain extent, it’s campaign management. But it’s also about managing your time and making sure that you keep everything in check, because once you start getting a number of clients on board, you start moving up to say 15-20 clients, this stuff really matters. Because you can find yourself, if you’re not careful, missing deadlines, falling behind with work. And when that happens, it’s just a big concertina effect because it throws everything out of whack. So making sure that you stay in control of your active campaigns is absolutely vital.
The first thing I wanna touch on is distractions. We live in a world today when there’s text … I might be sitting at my desk and I’m getting text messages, I’m getting emails, I’m getting YouTube notifications, I’m getting messages via Facebook Messenger and all of this. You really need to keep this stuff in check, because if you’re not careful, it can spiral out of control, and before you know it, you spend half a day mocking around on YouTube or Facebook. That’s never a good thing.
I do have to say one thing, my business really took off once I deleted my Facebook account. That might sound unusual, but I was guilty of it. I used to spend quite a bit of time mucking around on Facebook, and once I realised just how much time I was spending there, I closed my account and focused more on my business. And that’s when things really started taking off for me.
So this comes back to your work ethics, how easily you are distracted. Some people are better than others. I’ve certainly gotten better at it. When you’re self-employed, you don’t have a boss to kick you up the arse and be watching over your shoulder and keeping an eye on you. So you really have to be mindful of this, you have to be disciplined. You also still like to check out every now and then, to spend some time on YouTube just to give myself a mental break, watch a bit of Netflix. But you definitely gotta be mindful of distractions, because it can cause all sorts of problems if it gets out of control.
Okay, this next point, and this is one that really comes into play once you start getting busier, and you start getting more clients, especially when you’re up around 10 to 20 sort of clients, if you’re of course freelancing, home-based SEO business, protecting your time is really important because people will just be pulling you in all directions. You’d be getting emails, a perfect example, “John, can you help me with this? John, the website’s down. John, can you help me set up email accounts? John, I just wanted to have a quick chat.” This is pretty common, and it’s what I experience day in, day out.
And the only way you can really keep this in check is through firstly setting expectations. More importantly, educating the client. So when you go through your pre-qualifying and onboarding, you’ve gotta make a very clear look. Is the end of each month, we’re gonna have a dedicated end of month strategy call. Outside of that, yes, I don’t mind answering a quick email occasionally. I can’t be spending 20-30 minutes every two or three days with you on the phone.
One good way that I’ve manage to keep this under control, because occasionally, you will have clients that they think for whatever reason that they’re your only client, and they can call you at any time and have a 45-minute chat about whatever. But one thing that I have started saying to clients is, “Look, you can pay me $200 an hour to do the work, or $200 an hour to talk about it.” And once clients realise that you’re billing them for that additional time, that usually puts a stop to it.
But protecting your time is really important, not just for existing clients, but also for everything else that happens; prospects that call, people inquiring about your SEO services, and all of the other noise that sort of comes into play.
I’m very very particular about protecting my time. I’m not interested in ironing my shirt and driving to the other side of town, taking a two-hour trip and sitting down with someone in a café to talk about maybe doing business together. I’ve made that mistake far too many times. So if someone’s interested in working with me, we can jump on a call and we can cut straight to the chase.
You’ll soon learn as you build a client base, just how important this is, and how you need to protect yourself from people that just wanna chew your time. Because at the end of the day, if you spend all day answering emails and sitting on the phone, you’re not gonna get anything done.
Okay, project managing. And if you replicate the way in which I’ve built my business, this is pretty much the your role will be, you’re not gonna be sitting there writing content, you’re not gonna be building websites. Yes, you’ll still be hands-on to some degree, but your primary role should be project management. And this is where you’re delegating tasks, you’re checking deadlines, you’re following a schedule, you’re making sure that everything is in check so that none of the projects are falling behind.
Okay, coordinating your efforts. Again, I use Asana for this. I have a set process for each campaign that I’m working through. I have my team members in place. I’m looking at work that needs to be mapped out and readied. I usually prepare that work, whether it’s content or something else that needs to be performed by staff.
This is something that I’m constantly looking at. I get that ready for staff, I create the task within Asana. If it’s detailed instructions, I’ll shoot a loom video, post that in Asana and say, “Here are your instructions, follow this.” But I’m constantly working within Asana and making sure that my team members are firstly not sitting around with nothing to do, but secondly insuring that they have plenty of time in order to get the work done. Because don’t forget, clients are on a monthly billing cycle, and this is something that I’ll cover in a upcoming slide. So your time’s limited, you can’t be mocking around because you have 15 campaigns running, in each of them, you have a three-week window before the next invoice fires, you’ve gotta make sure that the work is getting done, and it’s not falling behind. Because once one campaign starts falling behind, that can throw your other campaigns out of whack.
One thing that I’m always very mindful of is ensuring that I’m well ahead of where I need to be. So as soon as the client makes payment, I start mapping out the work that needs to be done for that month, and I give it to my staff in order to get that moving. That way, they’ll have plenty of time, two/three weeks to get the work done. I’m not living it till the last minute and then thinking, “Shit, next invoice is about to fire, I better throw this over to my girl and expect her to bang our 15 hours worth of work in two or three days.”
So co-ordinating your efforts within Asana and making sure that you’re constantly ahead of the game is really really important.
Again, I use Slack to coordinate and interact with my staff members, just to make sure that they’re okay. Often, just having quick chats with staff members and here, okay, this is what’s coming up, here the files, let me know if you need anything, just to check in and make sure that everyone’s okay.
Okay, the campaign or billing cycle. This might seem a little bit confusing and you might be wondering why don’t you just work month to month from the first of the month to the end of the month. There’s a good reason for that. I’ll explain that in an upcoming slide. But for now you have to have a good understanding of how the billing cycle works and why this really matters in terms of project management, insuring that you’re ahead of the game and you’re not gonna fall behind with the work that’s due by a certain deadline.
So if we’d look at the top right, we can see that I’ve got there the 19th. This is essentially where the initial inquiry comes in. So a new prospect, new lead, they’re inquiring about SEO services. They’re pre-qualified, they’re a good fit. You’ve closed the deal and you received payment. Now, the 19th here would represent the actual due date of that invoice. So in other words, the inquiry may have come in on say the 10th, the 9th or the 10th, you sent the invoice the 12th, and then you’ve given them seven days to make payment, which falls on the 19th.
So that would be your starting point. So the invoice fire date would be … Or the date at which the invoice would fire would be the 12th, and it’s due on the 19th.
Now, of course once we’ve received payment, that’s where you move through to the green arrow. And that’s we plan out the work, we assign tasks for staff, and we essentially project-manage. That’s pretty straightforward.
Now, we’ve got a three-week window between when the invoice is due to when the next invoice fires. And that’s why I got here between the green and the blue arrow, we’ve got that three-week window to get that work done. Remember, we give clients seven days to pay so that … Well, that’s just common courtesy, it’s part of business.
So you can see that once we’ve received payment, or they’ve payment by the due date, which falls on the 19th, we’ve now got three weeks to get the work done, and towards the bottom right there, we’ve got that blue section, a blue arrow where we’ve got complete work, complete the work’s summary sheet reporting, send the client reporting, and schedule our end of month strategy call.
Now, I always like to have the work completed. I’ll have the work summary sheet over to the client, along with reporting, and be prompting them for our end of month strategy call before they receive the next invoice. And this is I think why I’ve done so well in keeping clients on board, and it’s certainly made a big difference as part of my pitch, what I’m actually pitching for the job, because I make it very clear, “Listen, you’re gonna get your reporting, end of month work summary sheet, and everything else once a month, so you’re gonna be constantly hearing from me.”
Now, if I’m telling them that there’s gonna be a lot of interaction and they’re gonna get detailed reporting and everything from me, because … and I’ll tell you why I make a point of saying this, most business owners that come to me, they say, “John, we were paying this other company $1,000 a month and we never heard from anyone.” That’s never a good thing. So I play on that big time. I say, “Listen, if you work with me, you’re gonna hear from me once a month, so you know what’s going on.”
Having said that, I don’t want the next invoice to go out to say, “Hey, you own me $2000,” if they haven’t heard from me. So I always make sure that I get the work, I complete the work, I prepare the reporting, I get the work summary sheet done, and I send all of that information over to the client before that next invoice fires. And that’s what you see there on the 12th. You can see the 12th, I’ve got the next invoice fires, it’s due in seven days. So in other words, the billing cycle or the invoice fire date is the 12th, and it’s due then seven days after that on the 19th. So in other words, I’ve got that three-week window in order to get the work completed and get the work summary sheet and the reporting and everything over to the client before the 12th comes around, before they get their next invoice.
Again, it makes a tremendous difference, because they get to look at the reporting, to get to look at the work summary sheet, they can see all of the work that’s done, we can schedule the end of month strategy call, we’ve jumped on a call, “Yes John, great, I’ve got all of your reports, and I actually got the next invoice today, so I’ll sort that out for you as soon as we get of the call.” That’s a real great place to be, and that will help you big time in terms of keeping clients onboard.
If a client’s just getting smashed with invoices and they have absolutely no idea what you’ve done for the month, that’s when I start getting twitchy, and then can lead to them cancelling out or being dissatisfied with the service.
After I’ve sent the reporting and everything else, I usually schedule the end of month strategy call. And the end of month strategy call usually falls somewhere in between when they’ve received the invoice and when the invoice is due. And that’s a great place to have that end of month strategy call, and I’ll get into what that end of month strategy call is all about in an upcoming video.
But that end of month strategy call is an opportunity for you to get together with the client and just make sure that everything’s in check. You can talk about how many conversions they’ve had, the sort of revenue that they’ve made for the month, and cover the work that’s being done, cover the work that’s coming up and also answer any questions.
So that is the campaign or the billing cycle rather, and how I work it month to month with my clients. I don’t work it from the beginning of the month to the end of the month. I stack my campaigns, and I’ll explain to you why it’s important that you do that within an upcoming slide.
Okay, now I wanna talk about something that might seem a little bit unusual, but on my desk I keep flight strips. And these are essentially the same things that they use in air traffic control towers when they’re landing planes. You can buy these things online. They’re actually quite expensive, I think I paid about $350 for about 15 of these things. And they’re just small plastic pieces. They come with about … I think I ordered about 300 of these paper strips. And you can see, there I’ve written the actual name of the campaign along with the invoice, the date at which the invoice fires. And that’s really important.
Now, the whole reason I use these flight strips, I keep these on my desk. For me, I find it really useful, because it’s just like landing planes. I can see who’s next cab off the rank. I know, if you look at what I’ve got on screen here, I can see that Thomas Dows who’s a canvassing client of mine, I can see that he’s invoice is gonna fire on the 27th. So that’s when he’s gonna get the next invoice. I wanna make sure that I’ve got all of the work completed and all the reporting sent to Thomas before he gets that next invoice. So I have these on my desk and I can see at a quick glance when that work’s due. And again, these are just flight strips, you can buy them online.
When I get a new client on board, once I’ve signed them up and I’ve established the billing cycle, I just scribble down the name of the business, the campaign or project name rather, along with the invoice date, the date at which the invoice fires on.
And once I finish work for Thomas Dows, I just pick that flight strip up, I put it to the top and I just go around and around and around. And it just helps me stay … For me, as I said, it helps me stay in control of what’s going on. I’m not bouncing around all over the place. So having to use some piece of software or an app or something like that.
Now, in terms of the red boxes you can see on each end of those strips, those boxes represent as to whether or not the client has actually paid the next invoice, or if there’s something outstanding that needs an attention, it might be the fact that we haven’t yet our end of month strategy call. So these flight strips are handy, you can slide them out and you can write on both sides. So I’ve got Thomas for the bottom on there, you can see Thomas Dows & Co on the 27th. I’ve got that written on both sides with that red box at either end.
So once I finish the work, I send the end of month reporting and everything over to Thomas. I know that I’ve completed the work, so I move that piece to the top. But before moving to the top, I’ll slide that bit of paper out. I’ll turn it over, I’ll put it to the top, just as you can see there with MELB Pack, Pest-Ex, Off Your Wall, and Mortgage World.
So they’re clients that perhaps they have made payment and we haven’t yet had our end of month strategy call, or we’ve had our end of month strategy call, and they haven’t yet made payment.
I do that just because it’s quite easy to forget to check. If I need to log into my bank account or something like that, or if they haven’t gotten back to me about an end of month strategy call, that’s really useful.
And you can see on the left hand side of screen here, I’m using the same principle within Asana. I’ve got the invoice date or the date again at which the invoice fires within Xero next to the actual name of the campaign. So when I log into Xero, I can the same sort of information that I see on my desk.
Now, you can see here, here is a quick screenshot of where of my flight strips are on my desk. Again, I mean you don’t have to spend $300 buying flight strips, you could probably just use snippets of paper. I moved to flight strips because I was using bits and pieces of paper, and it just got really messy. So that’s how I use my flight strips. That’s what they’re there for. And for me, it works really really well.
Of course if you had hundreds and hundreds of clients, you wouldn’t do that. But if you’re freelancing from home like I am and you’ve got 20 clients, really comes in handy and it helps you keep everything under control.
Okay, I wanna finish this module by saying this, “Plan tomorrow today.” Even though I am using Asana to manage all of my campaigns and I have my flight strips and everything else, I still feel that nothing beats a pen and a bit of paper. And this is something that I do each and every night before I finish up for the day, I scribble down my notes for what needs to be done tomorrow. Because there’s nothing worse than siting down at your desk first thing in the morning, you think, “Fuck, what have I got on today? What have I to get done?” And then you start digging through emails, and before you know it, half the day’s gone.
So the difference between knowing what needs to be done at the end of the day as opposed to first thing in the morning, you have so much more clarity at the end of the day, because it’s all in your head. So I scribble down my notes, I know when I sit at my desk the next morning, kinda look through it and go, “Okay, I know exactly what needs to be done,” once I move through that, and then I would just repeat the process. So I get to the end of the day, “Okay, tomorrow morning, I’ve gotta do this, this, and this.”
So get into the habit of planning tomorrow today.