Systems + Onboarding + Workflow : creative entrepreneur strategies | Hope Johnson | Skillshare

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Systems + Onboarding + Workflow : creative entrepreneur strategies

teacher avatar Hope Johnson, surface designer + printmaker + redhead

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.

      Intro | The Preface


    • 2.

      Chapter 01 | Make it Clear


    • 3.

      Chapter 02 | Onboarding + Booking


    • 4.

      Chapter 03 | Your Workflow


    • 5.

      Chapter 04 | Automation + Streamlining


    • 6.

      Chapter 05 | Honeybook


    • 7.

      Chapter 06 | Tools + Resources


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About This Class

Hiya, friends. 

So I'm a far bigger left brain than I realized. I'm generally buried in ink or paper or paint. But the systems I've implemented for myself over the years have:

-allowed me to work LESS and make MORE
-allowed me to have MORE free time to do ...well, all of those things bouncing around in my head (like teach this Skillshare Course)
-and most importantly, I've been able to rest (amen to that)


-a freelancer looking to grow
-a full or part timer looking to level up
-or like most of us, WEARING ALL THE HATS

. . . 


I talk a lot about Honeybook, my client management program. If you're thinking about hopping on board, you TOTALLY should

Here are a few of my favorite things (in my best Julie Andrews voice) about Honeybook:

1. It's got a customizable, yet professional aesthetic. I’ll have the client’s contract, payment schedule, and package laid out in one file! I can fully customize the design, the payment schedule and the layout of the packages. Every part of the process is stamped with my brand.

2. I NEVER miss a beat. When I select one of my clients in HoneyBook, it will bring up every email, file, invoice, and all project details in ONE place. And when I go to create a contract, I can even auto-fill the contract with their info so NO information gets transposed in the process.

3. WORKFLOW. I can automate payment schedules, emails, tasks and more through HoneyBook workflows. This saves me a ton of time ...which is what this course is ALL about in the first place, right? RIGHT!

4. ONBOARDING. I have my website’s contact form connected to HoneyBook, so all of my inquiries pop into my pipeline, no need to dig through my inbox. **Bonus** Multiple contact forms — so I can have a contact form for each of my project types. I also get little friendly reminders from Honeybook to respond to those inquiries ...kind of a big deal.

5. MOBILE FRIENDLY. ...which is so handy because when's the last time your phone wasn't within a 3 foot radius from you? I can see all project stages, contracts, payments, reminders, questionnaires, calendar from anywhere!

I mean ...need I say more?’s been a huge part of my business and working smarter, not harder. No one needs to work harder!

I’m super excited to share 50% off your first year — AND there’s a 7-day free trial so you can try it out for yourself.

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Hope Johnson

surface designer + printmaker + redhead


and I teach about all the things I've discovered along the way (except about being a redhead)

Welcome to the studio. My name is Hope Johnson. I am a Louisiana-based surface designer and printmaker. I am most in my element when I'm playing with patterns and paper. My courses here are a reflection of my love for styling, printmaking, patterns + licensing (more on that coming soon), and all things fine-art stationery.

If you stick around long enough, you might get some ink on your hands.

let's be friends


See full profile

Level: Beginner

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1. Intro | The Preface: Welcome to my system's onboarding and workflow class. I'm Hope and I'm an illustrator and designer and I'm super excited to teach you all the strategies and workflows I've created for my business in a way that's given me more time to do all of the other things that are bouncing around in my head. So no matter what type of creative entrepreneur you are, I hope you can take the principles and strategies from this course and apply it to your creative business. I'm a stationery designer by trade, but regardless of what type of clients you work with, whether that's brides or brands or individuals, by going through the various systems I'm about to teach you, you'll be able to streamline your process and workflow. You'll never miss a beat or a client inquiry, and you'll create more time and less stress for the day-to-day work. I've gone through this process myself and by doing so, I've been able to work on my business, not for it. We're going to walk through ways you can answer potential client questions so they're ready to book by the time they inquire and how to seamlessly onboard and book those clients. Then we're going to shift more inside your business and create a workflow that works for you, how to automate that process, and the program I use to do all of this. I also have some amazing tools and other programs and resources I use every day. For the course project, we're going to itemize out your workflow in a way that'll make your business as lean as it can possibly be. So grab that download or your favorite notebook, some motivation and some coffee, because words like systems, and processes, and strategies never sounded so good. 2. Chapter 01 | Make it Clear: Well, in this lesson we're going to talk about what your potential clients, or customers should know before they even reach out. Educating your clients this way will avoid having to communicate with those who just aren't the right fit, aren't quite in your price point or just aren't your ideal client. Educating those who are your ideal client will have them ready to book before they even reach out. During this course and throughout these lessons, I'm going to refer to stationery design as my example because that's what I do, but for whatever creative business you run, let the same principles guide you in your strategies and workflow for obtaining and on-boarding and all the client-based work that you could do. Whether you're a stationary designer like me or a calligrapher, or a photographer, whatever that is for you, these are the three subjects that I want you to be very, very clear on before we create your workflow. We're going to talk about pricing, language, and your process. First pricing, should you include your pricing on your site? This is a tough question for most creators to answer and I've read 1,000 articles stating why you should and why you shouldn't. But my personal opinion is that before you answer this question for yourself, you want the aim goal for your potential client to reach out and to book you. For me, I want my clients to email me, because once I have them in my inbox and I'm in their inbox, which is a pretty private place to be, it becomes a coding game. Without that information, without that email, and if you give away too much information, you lose that opportunity to communicate with your clients on a more personable level that way. So when I'll be lately state my prices on my site, but I also don't want to spend a lot of time re-explaining my process and my prices over and over again to those who reach out. I would suggest having a starting at point if you're a package-based type of service or designer such as a photographer or better yet what I do is I stated average investment and any potential client know whether or not their own budgets are in your ballpark range, and that avoids that sticker shock and lets them know the jest of you're pricing before they even reach out. Next, you really want to focus on your copy and your language, when you're trying to hook your clients, the way you speak and the copy on your site, even the captions on your Instagram post should all represent your brand. You want to make sure you're both educating your potential client on what to expect, but also why they should invest in you, why you're the best and you want to be personable here. Here's an example of maybe a tagline or a headline that you would see on maybe the home page of a website. We are a wedding stationery design service located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Now, here's a variation of that, but is a whole lot more personable. We design dreamboat stationary for couples with a story to tell and we print it all in-house from our Louisiana studio on a century old letterpress. You want the way you talk about your own work to get any potential client ready to book with very little to question. Your website copy, your Instagram captions, and even those emails, once your client does reach out, should be the happy balance of creating true and authentic connection with that audience, but also be informative on your process so you don't have to constantly repeat that process over and over again. Which brings me to my next point, which is all about the process. People like to know all the possible scenarios of options they have when it comes to selecting their wedding stationary, when it comes to lunch, aside from my full custom work, I have a stationary line that's set up like a made to order product. It's considered my semi-custom collection, and for that process, although it's a product you'll add to cart, it's still customized. It still has variations, of course, since it's wedding stationary and everyone will have different names and dates and for that process, potential customers probably still have a lot of questions. I'm actually just going to hop over to my own website and show you the copy on my shop stationary collection page and how I explain the process to any potential customer that may be thinking about purchasing stationary. Here we're on my shop. I'm going to go to wedding stationary, and before you really get to the products, I wanted to explain the process because although these are setup as products, it's still made to order, it's still pretty custom and a little bit involved. If you look right here, you'll see how to order. First, confirm the quantity needed before placing your order. Second, order the 4-piece suite, which is the invitation and envelope and reply card and envelope. Step three would be to order any extra enclosures, details cards, map cards or both. Once your order is placed, we'll reach out within three to four business days for your language and customizations. In the meantime, please take a moment to view the guide to the collection to familiarize yourself with some of your options and frequently asked questions. This is a great non overwhelming step to my process and ordering. But before you check out if you were the customer or client, maybe digging into a more extensive version of all of the order process, different customizations that are allowed, and material options and things like that, even frequently asked questions would be a great way to educate your clients even on a more product-based setup or your custom work, or your freelance work, whatever that is for you. 3. Chapter 02 | Onboarding + Booking: On this lesson, I'm going to talk about how I communicate with my clients both before, during and after I book them. By doing this, I've created a really collaborative relationship with them that I think has been key to them becoming so connected to the process and they've been my best advertisement. Someone recently asked me if I had any crazy brides and I really don't. I have become friends with all my clients and keep in touch with them over the years. It's been fantastic. I think part of this is the fact that I really know my ideal client like the back of my hand. She's got a name, I know her fiance's name. I have this whole profile about her and I think that is key, I know that's key. If you haven't had a chance to take my first course, The art and business of becoming a wedding stationery designer, that course may be super-helpful here. Whether you're a wedding stationery designer or any creative, this course is all about brand identity and defining your ideal client and pricing your work. If you're not super sharp in these areas, you could apply the same principles to your creative business. In the upcoming chapter, that's exactly what I'm going to talk about. I'm going to talk about the way I communicate with my client showing you the actual emails that I use and you can replicate for your creative business. When a potential custom bride emails me from my site thinking she wants to work with me, here's the first email she gets back from me. "Hey there friend. First things first. Congratulations. What an exciting season you're in. I won't lie and say I'm not going to live vicariously through you and would love to chat pretty paper. A little bit about my custom process. Custom work is for the bride like you looking to tell a story. Those little enlarged details must be intentional and stationery is pretty important to you, right? Couples generally book early on in their engagement to ensure a cohesive look and feel from the save the dates onto those last little details. In order to book a retainer of, whatever your retainer is, required and goes towards the all in total. Most couples invest anywhere from, this range to that range, depending on your ideal pieces and parts needed and those payments are generally broken up into equal payments due over a given time period. Humble beginnings usually start with a detailed questionnaire that acts like a personality quiz for your wedding and if nothing else, it's pretty fun to answer. Would it be okay if I send that your way?" That's the first email that my potential brides get when they reach out directly or through my site. I want to touch on some key emotions on those bold sections of that email. "What an exciting season you are in" For me, I preach on savoring the season of engagement and showing my excitement here gets them excited too. Planning a wedding can be super stressful for most. Nine out of ten times, from my clients, I hear from them after the wedding that the stationery was the most exciting part for them. I'd like to think that my excitement from the very beginning means a lot to them. I also explain custom work in a way that gets the bride thinking, "This is for me" when I say "Brides like you". Notice I don't say "My custom brides are most brides". This puts the thought in her head that she's already a perfect fit, as if a little piece of her already committed just by reaching out. After my initial greeting, a place where I like to show my sincere congrats and comment back on any personal notes they may have given, like their date or their video or anything like that. I immediately get down to the process. I don't like there to be any unknowns after that first email and this eliminates that back and forth by stating how far in advance couples typically book with me. In doing so, I've created that sense of urgency for her to want to do the same. Then, I immediately follow up with the how, to get started with a call to action. "Can I send you my questionnaire?" It's important to note that you don't want to overwhelm your potential client with too much information on that first email. You want to give them just enough to learn about your process, get excited and take that next step, whatever that call to action is for you. I'm actually going to pop over to my client management program to show you the questionnaire. For any service-based business that's similar to mine or if you're stationery designer, this can be super helpful. What I'm sharing now is the inside of my client management program, Honey Book, which I'll actually talk about later on. But, this is the questionnaire that I send brides after that first email. This is the call to action that I just mentioned. This questionnaire is both informative for me and the bride. It helps the bride hone in on what she likes and what she's looking for, but it also ensures for me whether or not we're a right fit. But nine out of ten times if we've made it this far, I'm on the right track. This questionnaire will just ask some pretty simple questions. We talk about the inspiration and design. I gauge the style and the materials I may use based off of the descriptive words that she will select here, and then we'll narrow them down to three right here. I use this practice a lot. I love this question, "On a scale of one to ten, how traditional are you?" This helps me know where I can push the traditional roles, which I like to do sometimes. We talk about color palette, any scriptures or quotes that they might use in their vows or just something they live by. This seems to always find a metaphorical presence in my work. Then, I move on to the actual stationary, the actual tactile pieces and parts that the couple will need. This will help me finalize their quote based on what they need. Again, I talk about the same investment and my process there that I mentioned in that first email. This is my call to action after that first email. This is your next steps. After this, you'll have a very clear call to action. Your bride will either book or she won't book. Consider this next step your second date pinch. After a bride sends back their questionnaire to me, here's the next email that will require her to do one of two things, either she will book or she will not book. I'm actually going to use my real ideal client's name, which is Jane. If you've watched my first course, you know this. Here is the next email that Jane will get after she submits her questionnaire. "Hey there Jane, I'm reading over your wedding details and I'm already smitten and excited to get started. With the vision you gave me I'm already imagining the materials I want to combine. I spy handmade paper and vintage stamps. Here's the real question. Are you ready to book? Because I'm so ready, fancy sketching pens in hand. Give me a thumbs up and I'll officially get you laced up. Let's do it." By this point, she should understand your process as far as pricing and getting started from both a combination of your site, the overview from that first email. For me, there's more information found in the details of my questionnaire. By the end of the second email, there really shouldn't be any lingering questions and the answer will be clear to your potential client. I bet if you've made it this far, you're in good hands. A quick side note, I want to touch on real quick. Primarily, I offer custom work, this is very service-based. But if I'm going through the process of a custom inquiry with a bride and it turns out she's just not the right fit for whatever reason, I also have my semi custom collection that I always direct her to, which is a little bit more accessible. If your creative business offers several routes for your clients, it's something great to keep in mind. On the next lesson though, we're going to go through your actual workflow in order to streamline this process for any potential customer or client of yours. 4. Chapter 03 | Your Workflow: In this lesson, we are finally going to tackle your workflow. We're going to list out every little step it takes to get from point A to point B, whether it's a big step or a small step, or a note or a task or an email, we're going to list them all out here. Whether or not you run a service-based business or a product-based business, like me, I run a combination of both, it's always great to list out every little step. From point A to point B, from obtaining that client or customer, to onboarding them and even offboarding them, which is equally important. I would highly suggest, if you don't already, using a client management program. I've shared a little bit about mine. I use HoneyBook and have for years. I'm actually going to dive into the back end of HoneyBook for you, a little bit later. But HoneyBook has played a pivotal role into my brand, leveling up my professional place in the market, and most importantly, has made my client experience amazing and easy. Regardless of whether you work with clients through a management program or a program like HoneyBook or Trello, QuickBooks or even an Excel spreadsheet, you should know your workflow steps, and I'm going to share the inside of mine to you. I'm going to share with you my custom bride workflow, and again, I'm in my own client management program, HoneyBook, which I'll go into detail a little bit later. But my first workflow is for my custom brides. I typically book my clients early on in their engagement. We do really start talking about a year before their were wedding, which is a lot of talking, a lot of emails and just a lot of back-and-forth communication. Be sure to snatch up the course download where you can list out each one of your steps. But you can also do this from a notebook or just typing it on your iPad as well. But listing out my own workflow, I mean, every little step has been pivotal in my productivity. I'm able to keep a clear timeline on my clients and stay on track with so many different deadlines, both for my client and for me, just how far in advance I need to order certain material or what information I may need from my bride by a certain time. I'm just not constantly in my inbox recreating emails that are variations of the same email over and over again. Which is what we're going to talk about next, all about automation and streamlining. But I do want to make a quick note, that don't forget, and I know for me this is brides, it may be different from you, but the offboarding process is equally as important as your onboarding. I always like to send a farewell and tracking email when I'm actually shipping out the stationery. But I also want, for my brides, the we get their wedding, maybe send them a nice surprise and then follow up with a testimony. If it's a bride for me, a one-year anniversary, just a simple email or a handwritten note goes along way. Don't forget that your clients are your best word of mouth advertising. The offboarding process is equally as important as the onboarding process. Listing out my workflow in detail this way, has been pivotal in the way I stay organized with so many different clients, and so many different deadlines, and so many things to talk about with each client. On the next lesson, we're actually going to talk about how we can even more so streamline this process through automation. 5. Chapter 04 | Automation + Streamlining: (Music).Before you start this chapter, I'm going to assume you've gone through your workflow steps and if you haven't press pause and go do that. If you have, whether you've done it from the course download or a notebook or laptop, go grab it and I want you to go through it and you'll notice the questions on the course download it'll ask you this, but I want you to go through your workflow and ask yourself the question, Is this task an action task, a note or an email? Then also make a note on who is going to execute this task. Is it you is it a vendor or employee? Or is it something you need from your client? So go through each one of your workflow steps and if it's an email and it can be a template. Right out the template email, do it in a Word doc, keep a bank of these templates or put it in your client management program and you'll be so thankful that you've done this because you don't want to type out the same email over and over again and when I say template, you don't want your clients to feel like they're getting a template. I never send out an automatic email based on that next step, I always customize my templates for every client. I spend almost a year with my clients, so I don't want them to feel like they're getting a template, but I don't want to write the same email over and over again. So I create these templates within my workflow and I leave space to put a personable note in the email. Here is an email that I sent every new client, but of course I added it before I've sent it. Hey there Jen, hope this email finds you well, I'm excited to get started on your wedding stationary journey, and I'm all kinds of giddy about your love for vintage stamps. Attached here you'll find a retainer and contract. Once I have these two things back from you, I can officially get you booked. Once we take care of the nitty-gritty, I'll send over some forms for you to fill out your language and details, et cetera. Then the fun part begins. Then right here I'll insert maybe some due dates or something specific to her. Let me know if you have any questions at all. Can't wait to get started. You may want to bold anything in your template that you'll want to change with each client. That would be really embarrassing if you sent over an obvious template email and to make sure this never happens, I opt out of any send automatic feature and a client management program. This can be super helpful for many, but I like to give each email on overview before sending it off, and speaking of my client management program. On the next lesson, I'll be hopping into mind to give you an overview of the benefits of using a client management program. 6. Chapter 05 | Honeybook: Having a client management program has been vital in my organization. I've often lost clients because I've lost e-mails in the bunch. I'll discover an e-mail I forgot to reply to and finally go to reply to the inquiry and that person has since found another stationery designer. HoneyBook is a program I've been using for about three or four years now and it really has been vital to streamlining all the things, both managing my clients, my workflow, invoicing is easier, and the program itself, it's a beautiful program, so it just aligned well with my overall branding and client experience. Once I have clients booked, you still lose track on how long it took to get from point A to point B. I underestimated the time to order materials or I would push the due dates to the last possible date. I needed information back from my clients and going through my workflow has really helped me realize and cushing in enough time with each client in a way that no one is stressing about anything. I'm going to sort of walk through HoneyBook with you real quick and just show you the inside. You can see how I would add a new client and you can go on to customize that banner of what you want your fee to look like when you communicate with your client, you can customize that same banner for invoices and your brochures and anything like that. What I love about HoneyBook is the ability to integrate this workflow that I showed earlier in the course. You can upload or you can customize all your templates and easily with every e-mail and with each workflow step, insert that template, make your customizations to make it a little bit more personable like we talked about and just press send and HoneyBook will automatically let you know what your next workflow step is. Anytime you send an e-mail or send a questionnaire or voice or contract or file with HoneyBook, it lets you know that your client has read the e-mail, so that's great. But it also reminds you in a couple of days and you can customize this as well, if your client hasn't responded to your invoice or has it made that payment by the due date and you could send them a friendly reminder. It's just a really, really beautiful program, it integrates well with website, you can link forms directly from HoneyBook onto your site, so when someone inquires, they will automatically be added to what HoneyBook calls your pipeline and they'll go into an inquiry stage and you'll also get a reminder to follow up with those inquiries so you will not lose them. One of the things that I want to tell you that I'm really excited about is because I love the program so much, I've reached out to them and we're working together to give you guys 50 percent off the whole program for a whole year or months, depending on which route works best for you. I'm super excited about that little bonus because I just love this program and if you're on the fence about it, I'd be glad to hop on a call with you, I can share more about the inside of the program and answer any questions you might have. On this next and final lesson, I'm going to show you couple of the apps and programs I use literally every day to manage social media and all of those things. 7. Chapter 06 | Tools + Resources: In this next and final lesson, I'm going to show you the couple of the apps and programs I use literally every day to manage social media and all of those things. A few questions I get a lot is, "How I get my grid on Instagram to look cohesive?" I use an app called the Planoly, and I plan out my social media for where, usually the upcoming two or three weeks. This has helped me balanced how I want my Instagram to look and feel. Instead of searching for something to post each day, which really decept the fun out of Instagram. No one needs that kind of pressure. Trello is a great program management app that you can manage and organize anything you can think of. Imagine how Pinterest is set up, where you have all your boards. You could have boards with different tasks underneath them. You can share them with others if you have employees. You can create due dates, and just, it's all kinds of, there's so many things you can do with Trello. I can create an entire course on Trello. Tailwind App is another really awesome app you can use to schedule Pinterest and Instagram posts. Tailwind will actually evaluate your own Pinterest account and automatically sort your scheduled pins in a time slot that works for your specific audience. It's really fantastic. When I started using Tailwind, my Pinterest stats went like way up. Squarespace is the platform I use to host my website. Squarespace has a great bank of templates that you can customize and there's no coding experience needed. It's like a website platform for the designer in mind. Lastly, Acuity. Acuity is a great app for scheduling phone calls or meetings with clients and you can integrate Acuity with your calendar and Squarespace and a lot of other apps. I use it to book chats with custom clients. I do not like surprise phone calls. I only do scheduled calls. This is a great app for that. Another great app I used that's not listed here is for Instagram stories. It's called CutStory. This app will allow you upload any video you take with your smartphone and it'll automatically cut it up into those 15-second increments for Insta stories. Over and Unfold are also great apps that have a ton of free and paid templates to really level up your graphics on social media. I know this was a ton of information, but I also know how hard it is to be a creative entrepreneur. I hope with this course or any other course you've watched from me, that this has helped you. I've learned a lot in my five or six years of doing this and I hope this helps you learn what it took me a really long time to learn. If you have a moment to leave or view, or popover on Instagram and tell me, "Hello," I'd love to hear from you, but until next time.