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How schedules and systems Gave me even more freedom

I went into business to be free and spontaneous. I never imagined that I’d need schedules and systems to allow me to be free and spontaneous!

 3-minute read

MY STORY

I’m a solopreneur in a service based business.

The fact that I’m able to do this AND run a business still surprises a lot of people. And to be honest, it still surprises me sometimes. Because the thing that has allowed me to do it somewhat successfully, is the very thing that I’ve rebelled against for a long time.

And that thing is structure!

Schedules and systems help my business run wherever I am in the world

I went into business for myself because I wanted to achieve great things. But I also did it so I could be free, spontaneous and creative.

I never imagined that being my own boss would involve making myself do things I often don’t want to do, at times when I often don’t want to do them.

But after a few years running my business in a very fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kinda way, I came to realise that I was never going to achieve great things without some kind of structure.

The battle between structure and creativity

It’s quite funny that during the first part of my career I was a biomedical engineer where everything was about systems and schedules.

Design systems. Manufacturing systems. Quality assurance systems. This was how we made sure things were done on time and to a good standard. At this point in my life I was okay with ‘good’. And there was little I loved more than creating a good system!

But when I became a graphic designer, I started to work with creatives who produced exceptional, mind blowing stuff through wacky, eccentric and completely erratic means.

Their results blew ‘to a good standard’ out of the water.

But you would never use the words ‘reliable’ or ‘on time’ in such an environment. The studio thrived on the rush, rush, rush of adrenalin and coffee. It was intoxicating, and we survived such chaos because there was a team of us there to pick up each other’s slack.

How I came to realise I need structure AND creativity

When I stepped out of the agency world and became a creative solopreneur I spent far too much time attempting to maintain this adrenalin zone… swept up in a fantastic idea and working myself to near exhaustion to create something fabulous.

As projects launched I would feel on top of the world for a few short hours, only to have my business grind to a slow halt days later as I crashed in a heap of exhaustion.

In business you need to be that little bit exceptional. Creating and achieving things that no one else out there is doing. But if no one else to pick up the pieces whilst you crash and recover, you can’t stay in that zone indefinitely and expect your business to survive.

This is where some of those old ‘to a good standard’ systems come in.

It’s about being able to raise something from ‘good’ to ‘amazing’, rather than having to lift it ‘nothing’ to ‘amazing’ every time.

It’s not about replacing the creative and exceptional part of what you do. It’s about recognising exactly where your creative magic is needed the most and then systemising everything else.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

So what things can you systemise or schedule?

First thing is to look for things you find yourself doing – or that you should be doing! – on a regular basis. Marketing is a prime example.

If I had to start from scratch writing blog posts or sending out newsletters every week, I would never get them done. Particularly when I’m in a tropical location and the sun and sand is beckoning!

But because I have a system, it’s not such a huge and overwhelming task.

A peek into my ever-evolving marketing system

The thing I’ve come to realise is that my systems never need to be perfect or final. So my marketing system today doesn’t need to look like it will in a few weeks time. But having the system in place at all, means that any evolution of the system is purposeful and planned.

My marketing system currently comprises:

A content plan
A rough schedule filled with ideas for posts and articles.

Calendar events
To make sure that I dedicate time every week to creating those posts and articles.

Article templates
So that I can ensure that I structure my writing effectively, and capture all the extra bits and pieces an article needs, like images and meta data.

Blog and newsletter templates
So that I can quickly setup and share content, without having to design them from scratch every time.

Graphic templates
So I can quickly whip up title graphics and quotes, to accompany my articles.

An asana project
Detailing all the individual steps that go into this process, so that every week I can go through and tick them off… making sure I don’t accidentally miss anything.

WHAT ABOUT YOU?

What systems or schedules might help your business? And what has stopped you from creating or implementing them so far?

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Cat Townsend

BRAND STRATEGY, DESIGN & CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE

Cat started her professional career as a biomedical engineer before being enticed into the shiny world of branding and design. But after a decade helping global brands connect with their customers (and make even more money), Cat founded the The Good Alliance with one simple objective: to do work that makes a difference. Doesn’t every business really exist to change the world?!

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