How to Create a Winning Workflow for Your At-Home Business
Chances are you’ve been surrounded by workflows your entire life. Perhaps you noticed it, but maybe not.
At home, dirty laundry goes into the laundry basket, then to the washer, then to the dryer, then ironed, then folded, then back into their closet or dresser until you’re ready to use them again. Dishes go from the table to the sink, washed, rinsed, dried, then put away. These are simply examples of a workflow, and some steps may vary from house to house – but you get the general idea.
A workflow is a systematic process created to dictate how to do something repeatedly. Households have them, businesses have them, yet a lot of people who work from home, especially in the creative businesses, leave out the the important step of establishing a workflow.
Perhaps they think the time and effort spent creating a workflow would be better spent doing the actual work. And let’s face it, when you’re working in a more creative field — such as writing, painting, crocheting, or even fashion design — it’s hard to think of it in terms of a systematic process. Creativity itself almost seems to be the opposite of systematic. Inspiration strikes at random — you can’t necessarily plan for it.
Nonetheless, establishing workflows for your at-home business is essential to keeping you organized and on track. They help you be more efficient with your time and more productive. And once set up, they will increase the quality of your output. So we are going to take some times and set up our workflows.
Establishing workflows for your at-home business is essential to keeping you organized and on track.
Yes, workflows. Plural. You will need more than one. First step, let’s figure out just how many you need. To do that, write out a list of all the processes you use in your business. Here are some examples of workflows that I use:
Payment and Invoicing
Courses and Webinars
Do you see where I’m going with this? As a freelance ghostwriter and editor, even if I can’t establish a workflow for how and when I write, I do need a workflow for how I find new clients, how I set up my contracts, and how I handle payments.
Next step, identifying what needs to happen in each system. Let’s start with our “Blog Posts” systems. What steps need to be included there?
Idea or inspiration
As you can see, each blog post goes through several steps before it even hits the reader. And each step is going to be broken down even further. By breaking this down, you’ll know exactly which tools you need for each step.
So let’s put this into action — you’re going to set up a Blog Post Workflow today 🙂
Idea or Inspiration
Where do you get your ideas from? And what do you do with them once you get them? The possibilities are endless here: write them into a notebook (just make sure the notebook is dedicated to this use, and is not something you use for multiple purposes), save them as a file somewhere on your computer, Pinterest, Evernote, Trello, or any combination of the above.
Personally, I love Trello. I use the free version to store my ideas until I’m ready for them. But I can also track each idea through my workflow:
I’ll talk about all the other things you can do with Trello in a different post (OH! I should add that to my Ideas Board!). But for now, as you can see, I gather my ideas into one list, “Ideas,” and then as I move them through the rest of the workflow, I physically move them from one list to the other. So Trello is listed as a tool for every step of my workflow. Of course, I realize my tools may not work for you — maybe you like a different project management tool than Trello – there are plenty of good ones out there. I use both Asana and Freedcamp as free alternatives to Trello in some of my other workflow systems. Make a list of the tools that work best for you and place them here for this step.
Where do you go to research, and what do you use while you’re researching? I have a hard time with my research because I inevitably get myself distracted in online rabbit holes. So my tools here include the extension Web Timer (so I can track how I spend my time on the Internet) and StayFocused or Website Blocker. That way, I can block myself out of the sites where I waste the most time. I also include my favorite search engines (GoodSearch is awesome and helps raise money for the charity of my choice, and Duck Duck Go provide clean results with less clutter and fewer duplicates), as well as ways to track and store my research (Scrivener is great for this, as is Pinterest). Find the tools that work best for you for and write them down for this step (even if they are repeated — just write them down again).
Ah yes, the draft. Now this is where your blog post really starts to take shape. Sit down and get to writing. This list will include any tools you use for this purpose. My list includes Scrivener, Evernote, Google Docs, and sprints. That’s right, the majority of my blog posts are written as sprints — set a timer and try to write as many words as you can before the bell rings (there are actually a few benefits to this method — which I will also cover in a different blog post). What are some of the tools you use for this step? Write them down and add them to the list.
Once the blog post has been drafted, it needs to be edited. Word flow, spelling, grammar: all of those things need to be checked. My tools for this step include Scrivener, AutoCrit, and Blogger. Choose your favorite editing tools and list them here for this step. It should end with your blog’s platform, whether that be WordPress, Blogger, Bloglovin, etc.
I used to be a minimalist when it came to my blog. Look back a couple years and you will see plenty of entries that contained little to no graphics. I did this because I thought I was helping my content to shine through. What I’ve learned since then is that blog posts need graphics. Need. Not only to help break up the text and provide whitespace on the blog (making it easier to read) but for promotional purposes as well. Whether you plan on sharing your blog posts to Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, or Google, graphics make the difference.
This list should include where you source your graphics, your logos and branding, and where you edit your graphics. When sourcing graphics, you can choose to take photographs or use a service like freeimages.com to find photographs that reflect your blog. You can also create some stunning web-friendly graphics using free services like PicMonkey or Canva.
Do not — I repeat — Do not simply run a search in Google and grab a photograph or graphic from there. That’s a good way to get into a lot of trouble with copyright infringement. Just take your own photographs, source free photographs (check their licensing to see what you’re allowed to do with them), source paid photographs, or create your own graphics.
My list of tools for this step include, you guessed it, freeimages.com, my smartphone, my camera, PicMonkey, Gimp, and Canva. Another part of this step is to determine how many graphics to create and which what sizes). Write down your list of tools you use to create or source images for your blog, as well as the number and sizes you will need.
Finally, we get to the part where we can publish our blog post. In other words, we can unleash our wisdom onto the world and see who wants to listen. My tool for this is, primarily, Blogger, which is where my blog is hosted right now. I also use Blogger’s built in scheduler, which allows me to write a blog post whenever my fancy strikes, but still have it get published during the optimal times (and this also keeps me from pumping out 34 blog posts in a day and then skipping a few weeks before finally getting to write more). Yours will likely include wherever your blog is being hosted, and either some sort of calendar or planning tool telling you when to post them or a scheduler to post them automatically for you.
You might think that publishing your blog post is the last step your blog post needs. But really, sharing your post belongs in this workflow (even though this step is likely to overlap some with your Social Media workflow). Your tools for this list should include any social media channels you plan on using as well as any tools you will use for sharing. Mine includes Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest (although soon I will likely incorporate Instagram and LinkedIn). And as far as tools, I have the share links at the bottom of each post, my smartphone, the “Tweet It” links that I’ve placed into many of the posts, and Cinchshare. Your Social Media workflow will also contain many of the same tools — but where the difference will be is that the Sharing step of your Blog Posts workflow focuses only on sharing your blog posts with your various audiences, while your Social Media workflow will focus on establishing your presence and building your audience within each channel (which will include sharing your blog posts).
There you have it. When all is said and done, you should end up with a Blog Post Workflow Chart that looks something like this:
But don’t worry 🙂 I’ve cleaned it up for you here. You can use this to help design your own:
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