How to design your workflows in seven simple steps

Even without the automation of your workflows, a CRM (like Dubsado or Honeybook) has the potential to save you so much time. But workflows? That’s where the magic really happens. Taking the time to design the perfect workflows for your business will help you create an incredible experience for your clients every single time, and set your projects up for success and — all the while — avoiding doing the admin work yourself.

So, where do you start?

It may be simple, but the best piece of advice I have for new CRM users is this:

Great workflows start away from the computer.

I know, I know, it sounds counterintuitive. But, I promise this – spending an hour or so with a cup of coffee, a notebook and a clear head will help you design an intentional, thoughtful and streamlined process. And that’s what you want to have before you automate anything!

Whether you do it in a Google Doc, a shiny new notebook or the back of a random piece of paper, this process – workflow design or mapping – is where setting up your new CRM should start.

So without further adieu, this is the process I go through each time I design workflows for my own business, or for my clients.


Step One: Brainstorm everything you’re currently doing with your clients. And yes, I mean everything!

Include the questions you ask clients, the homework you give them, the files they need to send you, the calls you have with them, every email you send them and any pre-work you or they have to do before you get started.


Step Two: Write out everything you’d like to start doing.

When you’re trying to do #allthethings yourself, something is bound to slip through the cracks, and when it comes to client admin the most common one I see is contracts. Most of my clients have a contract template, but aren’t consistently sending it (or getting it signed).

Whether this sounds like you or not, now is the time to have a think about the things you’ve been meaning to do, or the things you wish were part of your processes.

It could be asking for reviews or testimonials, sending your new clients a welcome email as soon as they pay their deposit or giving your clients a reminder about their deadlines before they pass.


Step Three: Bundle all your tasks into logical processes.

Go through the two lists you just made, and start grouping all the different tasks that need to happen into individual processes – for example, at it simplest it could be one for onboarding and one for offboarding. These processes will soon be your workflows!

Now, depending on your business and offers, there are a few different ways you can do this.

  • You can have processes that are defined by time (e.g. onboarding and offboarding), or
  • Defined by which type of project it is (e.g. photography and videography), or
  • A combination of both (e.g. photography onboarding and photography offboarding, and videography onboarding and videography offboarding).

As you go through the lists you made, think about the different types of forms and tasks that need to happen for each of your offerings, and hopefully, it’ll be easy to determine which option suits your business the best.


Step Four: Decide what order you want things to happen in.

Now that we’ve grouped all the tasks together, it’s time to arrange them into the perfect sequence.

Oftentimes you’ll want to change the order around a bit to create a super smooth automation (and we’ll have the chance to do that later on), but for now start by arranging the tasks in the order you’d likely go through them if you were manually going through this process. I always find that this is a great place to start to make sure your automation flows and feels natural for your clients.


Step Five: Check in with your chosen CRM, and align each task to a workflow action.

Okay, now it’s time to finally log into your CRM and familiarise yourself with the workflow actions available to you.

Go through every step of your process, and write next to the task what the action will be in the lingo of your software. For example, here are the workflow actions currently available in Dubsado:


Dubsado workflow actions - it's important to know what options are available as you design workflows

Workflow actions in Dubsado


Most of the actions don’t need any additional explanation from me, but here’s something I want you to think about.

I’m willing to bet that not every item on your list can be completely handled by your CRM – and in my opinion, that’s a good thing! For example, your CRM can’t send your clients a handwritten thank you card, but it can create a to-do reminding you to do that.


Step Six: Remove as many speedbumps as possible.

It’s time to review your processes in full. I know this might seem like overkill, but it could actually save you a lot of time in the future.

We want your workflows to take your clients through your process as smoothly and naturally as possible. We don’t want to send your clients ten thousand emails where we could have sent one, and we also don’t want to leave your clients wondering what’s next.

One of the common problems I see is a workflow that needs to stop and wait for things a human has to do. For example, if you have 5 things that need to get done to onboard your clients and four things are being done by your CRM, the one that you need to do should ideally be last in the workflow. That’ll mean that your CRM can go ahead and do its thing, and you can action whatever you need to action when you next log in.

The second most common thing I find myself recommending to smooth out the client experience is to really utilise the client portal (if you CRM has one). Instead of sending your clients multiple different forms and emails when they sign on with you, maybe you could have the workflow send multiple forms to the portal, and then send the client one single email letting them know what’s in their client portal and how they can log in.


Step Seven: Decide when each workflow action will happen.

Okay, this is our final time going through your processes before we start building! This time, go through line-by-line and put a time next to each action.

Most CRM’s, Dubsado and Honeybook included, work on an ‘if this, then that’ philosophy. That means that each action’s timing should be relative to something else.

So, what is that something else?

Depending on which CRM you’re using, the options vary but the most common ones are:

  • After a workflow has started
  • After the previous actions are complete
  • Before a project start or end date

If you’re using Dubsado, you’ll have quite a few more options, including:

  • After scheduled payment received (great for welcome/thank you emails)
  • After a contract has been signed (again, welcome and thank you emails)
  • After a certain form is completed (handy if you need a To-Do to remind you to action pre-work)
  • After a form is not completed (because realising you don’t have everything you need just before you get started isn’t fun)


Dubsado workflow timing - options available when you design workflows

Workflow timing options in Dubsado

To recap the seven steps to design workflows:

  1. Brainstorm everything you’re currently doing with your clients
  2. Write out everything you’d like to start doing
  3. Bundle all your tasks into logical processes
  4. Decide what order you want things to happen in
  5. Check in with your chosen CRM, and align each task to a workflow action
  6. Remove as many speedbumps as possible
  7. Decide when each workflow action will happen

That’s all – you’ve now mapped out your workflows and you’re ready to get building!

In a couple weeks I’ll be posting a whole other blog post on the topic of how to quickly build your workflows the right way. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this tidbit:

Go through your workflow maps and write a list of all the content you need. Create or gather the content and input it into your CRM before you start building your workflows. I promise it’ll cut your setup time in half!