The 3 S’s Your Creative Business Needs: Systems, Software & SOPs

The Systems Series

Welcome to the first blog in our 6-blog series all about systems in your creative business. Each week we’ll dig into a different system and the specific software and SOPs you can implement to bring efficiency and consistency into all aspects of your business. In the next 5 posts, I’ll help you create systems for your finances, marketing, sales, project management, and file and asset management & organization. This is a sister series that goes hand-in-hand with my previous Rhythms Series.

Check it out here. 

When we think about “creativity,” words that come to mind often include free-flowing, unconstrained, and innovative.

In contrast, the word, “system” tends to evoke structure, order, and boundaries.

At first glance, the two don’t seem to go together. So you might be wondering, “do I really need systems in my creative business?”

You’re not alone in thinking this way:

When we first started working together, my client Maria, RESISTED creating systems for her graphic design business.

She understood the value of systems on a practical level but struggled to buy in at first. 

Once we started to unpack her hesitation though, she realized she was avoiding systems because structure felt confining to her. 

Like you, she’s a creative business owner! 

She wants flexibility, spontaneity, and freedom in her life and work. 

The word “systems” caused her to recoil because she thought that in order to have processes and procedures (which she interpreted as “rigidity”), she would have to sacrifice the freedom she valued so much.

This is a common misconception in the creative business world that is SO false. 

When Maria finally committed to systems and the 3 S’s (and trusted me enough to guide her through), she found that the structure systems provided actually offered her MORE of the flexibility she was seeking instead of less!

The same can be true for YOU. 

So, with that in mind, let’s dive into the 3 S’s so you can learn what they are, why your creative business needs them, and how we will build out your unique systems through the next 5 blog posts in this series. 

What are the 3 S’s?

The 3 S’s include Systems, Software, and SOPs. 

Each “S” will serve a unique, impactful role in your creative businesses. However, these terms tend to be used interchangeably and incorrectly

While they are indeed related, systems, software, and SOPs are not synonyms and have very different functions!

What are SYSTEMS?

So what exactly are systems, anyway?

Great question!

Systems are how things are getting done in your business. 

Anything you do more than once in your business needs a system– otherwise, you’re starting from scratch (unnecessarily) every single time! 

You can systematize anything in your business from how you take a project discovery call to how you create your designs or build your products to how you invoice your clients!

Systems help you be more efficient and consistent. 

There are LAYERS to your systems, made up of several pieces including (but not limited to):

  • Software (the tech tools that support your systems)
  • and SOPs (the uber-detailed directions that specify precisely how these processes should be done.)

Your Software and SOPs support your SYSTEMS.

COO Tip: Systems are the first part of the equation when it comes to building your business so it runs like a well-oiled machine. They are held together by rhythms. If you want to learn about the difference between systems and rhythms and how they leverage one another like the bricks and mortar of a house, be sure to read this previous blog.

How Software Can Help You Work Smarter, Not Harder

Once you have your general systems established, you’ll want to put software in place to make your work simpler and more sustainable.

Tech these days makes all kinds of promises to make our lives better and easier. 

While not all of it lives up to the hype, there are definitely some software options out there that are game-changers for running a business because they can help us work smarter, not harder. 

The key is to seek out software that gives us more transparency, elevates our business and our client experience, and frees up our time and mental energy to focus on what we love and what will really impact our bottom line.

Often, people struggle with the term software because it is so frequently interchanged with the word “system”, especially from a tech point of view!

So how exactly do we define software? 

Software includes the pieces that make up the tech stack you use in your business. These are tools used to support your systems and make them run better.

It may involve things like…

  • ticketing software
  • a simple Google Docs spreadsheet
  • inventory management software
  • payroll software
  • project management software like ClickUp
  • scheduling software like Calendly
  • customer relationship management (CRM) software such as Dubsado or Honeybook
  • and more!

Quick Disclosure: Some of the above links I shared are affiliate links, which means when you click the link and make a purchase, it won’t cost you more, but I may receive a commission for sharing this with you. I promise I only ever share what I use and love, though, so I’d be sharing these with you anyway!

Leveraging SOPs To Build Consistency

Lastly, your systems need to be supported by SOPs that include the software you’ve chosen to implement. 

SOPs are Standard Operating Procedures.

They are clear, detailed instructions on how to carry out your systems. Often they are found in the form of a checklist and include: 

  • Who is responsible 
  • What the timeline looks like
  • How exactly is it supposed to be done
  • Where it should be done
  • The tools or software needed to complete each task

To be frank, the acronym SOP doesn’t sound especially exciting. 

I get it.

But what if I told you these three letters could be the difference between feeling overwhelmed and frantic in your day-to-day work OR proactively stepping into your role as CEO with confidence and organization?

Would you be willing to try?

Because SOPs allow you to avoid reinventing the wheel in your work and help you create consistency in your business– the key to achieving the long-lasting results you want.

There are so many benefits to implementing SOPs in your business. 

For example:

  • They serve as a bridge between you and your team (if you have one) and concept and execution.
  • SOPs ensure quality and consistency each and every time. 
  • They ensure a cohesive client experience.
  • Plus, they protect you so you are emergency-ready incase you need to step away unexpectedly!

If you want more info about SOPs I wrote an entire blog on the topic that you can find here. There you can learn more about what SOPs are, why they can significantly improve your work as an entrepreneur, and how you can start outlining them in your business.

The 5 Systems Your Creative Business Needs NOW

So now that you understand what systems are and how software and SOPs support them, it’s important to identify where you’ll need them the most. While each business will rely on different, unique systems, I have found that every creative business needs a system in place for each of these categories. What the actual system looks like will differ, but they are essential nonetheless. 

The 5 systems your business needs include (but aren’t limited to):

  • A financial system to monitor and manage the important finances in your business. 
  • A marketing system for getting the word out about you and your services and attracting your ideal customers.
  • A sales system for selling your products, services, and offers.
  • A project management system to oversee all of your internal and external projects.
  • And a file and asset management and organization system to keep track of all important files and assets for you and your clients. 

For each system in this series you’ll learn…

→ 1: What It Is

→ 2: Why You Need It

→ 3: Where to Start

→ 4: What to Consider as You Grow

→ 5: Software to Support It

I’m thrilled to share this information with you because The 3 S’s can truly be a GAME CHANGER in your creative business.

Don’t Miss A Thing!

FOMO is never fun. 

Make sure you get all the BUSINESS SYSTEMS info each week of this blog series by joining my email list. 

It’s like having your own personal Business Coach in your back pocket guiding you as you create an impactful, passion-led, creative business you can’t wait to dive into day after day, year after year. 

Not only will you be the first to know when a new blog drops to the top of each week, but I also like to shower my email subscribers with additional tips, resources, and encouragement. I strive to add value to your email inbox every single time!

Here are all the business systems we’ve covered so far!





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