You may be a unique snowflake but templates can be a great way to kick-start, well, anything. Because the #realtalk is that one size actually does fit most… as long as you’re using them properly.
While there isn’t necessarily a “wrong” way of using templates, there are some best practices to keep in mind. Especially since not all templates – or types of templates! – are created equally.
Let’s get started with one of my very fave types of templates to use ::
DONE-FOR-YOU SYSTEMS AND PROCESSES
Fun fact :: I got my start in the online world helping creative bosses set up their systems and processes. One of my favorite resources to share – to this very day, actually! – are my free client onboarding workflow templates. Why?
Because one of the greatest superpowers a creative boss can have is the ability to visualize before execution.
The reason most people get hella-overwhelmed with getting organized is because they turn to technology first. For instance, I would often have clients who wanted to set up a client onboarding process but were paralyzed as soon as they logged into their trial account of Dubsado or Honeybook or 17hats.
It isn’t the tool or platform that is the problem; it’s the fact that you didn’t go into it with a plan for what you wanted your process to be.
Creating a map and visualizing your process should ALWAYS be your starting point. Better yet, peek at someone else’s test paper to see how they planned and plotted their system. Having that visual starting point is a great cue for you to figure out what specifically will work for you.
THEN! Take what they have and modify it to whatever your needs may be. Going back to my done-for-you client onboarding workflows, I included 4 “types” of business models :: event planning, creative services, on-going services, and one-on-one work.
The beauty of these is that if you look at one of the processes and think, “I’d rather have that Welcome Email go out before the Contract, not after”? Cool beans, boss, you can switch those out to accommodate your personal needs and preferences… but that requires way less effort than having to re-invent the wheel in your process.
In fact, using someone else’s process as a template SHOULD be about using it to inspire your own customized version of that process.
WHEN TO USE THEM :: Any time you need help visualizing what your strategy will be. (Related :: Never, ever execute a strategy without mapping out the process first!)
WHEN TO SKIP THEM :: When you already have your own process mapped out. Like, visually. On paper.
WHEN TO UPGRADE THEM :: Sometimes all you need is a free template to inspire some creative thinking. However, if you need to understand the strategy behind how or why a certain system works the way it does, you’ll likely want to upgrade to a paid template. For instance, those free client onboarding workflows we talked about earlier are great for visualizing how you want set up your own strategy or process; but if you need support to implement your system, you’ll want to upgrade to training such as the one offered HERE with step-by-step, specialized guidance for the system you’re putting into place.
As much as I take a “go for it” attitude with templates for systems and processes, automations are where I pump the breaks. Automations are tricky because, well, they’re automated! (Thanks, Captain Obvious!)
To be clear, when I refer to automations, I’m referring to any kind of scheduled or sequenced conversation. You would think that because it’s all robots and timed emails, templates belong here. I disagree and it’s for the exact same reason :: when a conversation is automated, it becomes especially important to generate an interaction that doesn’t feel like it’s a generic transcript.
While I endorse the use of templates to help you define the sequence of your email automations, I can’t put enough emphasis on making the contents of those emails as “you” as you possibly can.
Meanwhile, if you’re automating how two tools or platforms interact with each other – void of any human contact or interaction – yeah, template to your heart’s content. In fact, I encourage you to go through Zapier’s suggested list of zaps and see what done-for-you automations can help shorten your own To Do list.
But as soon as human being is on the receiving end of the automation, the “done-for-you” approach won’t cut it. The idea that generic templates will generate real, genuine connections is a touch counter-intuitive.
WHEN TO USE THEM :: Automation templates are great for mapping out email sequences or funnels. They’re also great when it comes to connecting two platforms or tools to interact sans humans.
WHEN TO SKIP THEM :: As soon as a human is on the receiving end of the automation, you’ll want to personalize that interaction rather than using a cookie-cutter template.
WHEN TO UPGRADE THEM :: If you struggle to find the words, find a copywriter who can help you upgrade how you’re interacting with your peeps.
The name of the game as a creative service-based entrepreneur is to foster engagement. The whole point of delivering your messages on auto-pilot is to create the space for open dialogue between you and your ideal customers. Yes, most of your interactions and engagement should be personalized, individual and one-on-one.
Except when they don’t have to be. (Womp! Womp!)
Remember what I said about not re-inventing the wheel when it comes to systems and processes? Yeah, well, there are some interactions that will be “standard”. For instance, there are only as many ways to decline/accept the request to guest-post. Or provide an answer as to which methods of payment you accept or the details about your affiliate program. Or to respond to an inquiry about when your next opening is. These are all the same email.
Instead of writing the same email with the same message over and over again, you have my blessing to use templates. In fact, these types of templates are called :: canned email responses.
WHEN TO USE THEM :: Use and create done-for-you templates to address emails that are of the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) persuasion.
WHEN TO SKIP THEM :: There’s a difference between an interaction and a connection. It’s going to require more than a template from you to connect (obvs!).
WHEN TO UPGRADE THEM :: This one is pretty black-and-white – high-touch human connection is the name of the game; but recognize that sometimes, you’re just repeating the same old answer and you’re better off just having a few commonplace templates in place.