In your day-to-day operations as a business owner, have you considered which parts can (and should) be automated?
If you take a closer look at your processes, you’ll soon realize that automation can save you a lot of time and stress.
Morgan Archer, Marketing Manager at Dubsado, advocates workflow automation for several areas of business, including tasks like sending questionnaires, payment reminders, check-in emails, and scheduling calls/appointments, which “can take up half of a workday if not automated,” she says.
“When using an automated workflow, not only do you get that time back, you provide a more consistent experience for clients because you cut out the possibility of forgetting to send important information altogether. Also, you deserve a day off every now and then,” she exclaims.
Ahead, we’ve rounded up 6 types of workflow automation you’ll benefit from regardless of the size or shape of your design firm.
It’s worth diving deeper into your client communications during your onboarding processes.
Do you find there are certain policies or systems you must constantly repeat or explain?
If so, it may help to send prerecorded videos describing these procedures instead.
For example, if you do conduct Discovery Calls, send a quick video explaining some of your expectations and design processes ahead of time to prevent the Discovery Call from going over. And to potentially vet out any “bad eggs” early on.
Considering Discovery Calls are complementary, wouldn’t it be nice not to waste time on potential clients who aren’t a good match to begin with?
Recommended tools: Loom | Screencast-O-Matic
Image: Email automation screenshot of Dubsado
In addition to saving time on your verbal communication, you can also improve efficiency with your email communication.
Enter canned emails— one of the best innovations of the digital era. Canned emails are templates you can repeatedly use, each email designated for a certain task or follow-up.
Plus, canned emails can save you hours of work per week!
Archer agrees, advising business owners to “create templates for EVERYTHING. You probably write or create close to the same thing for each client once they’ve booked you. Pull what you have and put it in a template,” she says.
So, including a “proposal you send your pricing in? Template. Email you send to confirm a booking? Template. Design questionnaire? You already know— TEMPLATE. If you want to further customize what you’re sending, you can just use the template as a starting place to tweak or add to,” she adds.
Although canned emails can appear robotic or impersonal, there are ways to prevent this. Simply updating a few words or addressing individuals by their first names can do the trick.
And if you’re still “afraid of workflows and automation because you believe it’ll sound robotic and disconnected from your clients, know that couldn’t be further from the truth. The opposite is actually true because that belief is robbing you of time you could use to BETTER connect with your clients outside of the logistics of the project,” Archer says, adding, if you “spend some time implementing the areas mentioned earlier, your workload will get lighter in no time!”
Recommended tools: Dubsado | Gmail | Outlook
Image: Team communication and collaboration screenshot of Gather
For times when emails aren’t the best communication tool (especially when collaborating with your design team and vendors), you need interior design project management software.
Gather, for example, allows you to visualize all your projects, organize your team’s resources, and communicate with your suppliers, contractors, and clients under one centralized hub.
You can also create equipment schedules, generate detailed FF&E documents and build product libraries using the chrome extension clipper tool.
Recommended tools: Gather
Scheduling is another part of your workflow you can automate in an instant.
“If you do any sort of consultation, use a scheduler to book your calls or in-person meetings! Manually scheduling every meeting is easy when you have a handful of inquiries or clients, but when you’re juggling more, the emails and times, and dates get jumbled up quickly,” Archer says.
Recommended tools: Dubsado | SavvyCal | Top 22 Here
Especially when working with teams, it can become challenging to be on the same page during projects (unless you use one unified platform). Task management apps help alleviate this concern, add structure to your business, and hold your team accountable.
Recommended tools: Trello | Asana
Combining Types of Workflow Automation
As you look at these different types of workflow automation, don’t be afraid to string tools together to suit your firm’s needs. Creating a holistic system that suits your business goals is essential, as there is no one-size-fits-all approach.
Archer recommends making “your processes unique to your business. It’s okay to draw inspiration and guidance from others, but always be open to changing how you do things to fit your life, business, and clients better.”
Shivani is an expert writer for Gather who covers interior design, decorating, and home improvement. She has worked as a residential interior designer for 4+ years and has extensive training in space planning, 3D renderings, 2D floorplans, whole room furnishing and décor, and color consulting. She is passionate about educating communities on industry topics and has been featured in Better Homes & Gardens, The Spruce, My Domaine, Domino, Martha Stewart, and Atlanta Magazine. Currently, she is also completing her residential interior design certificate from Rhode Island School of Design’s continuing education program.