June 12, 2024
(updated June 13, 2024)

Complete Guide to Business for Creatives

Table Of Contents

If you're a creative who loves what you do but you’re overdelivering, undercharging, and struggling with imposter syndrome… it’s time to embody your expertise and expand your business.

A well-planned client fulfillment system can help you scale your creative business by organizing and automating all the different processes that keep a business running.

What is the Heartbeat System?

The Heartbeat System is a framework for building a scalable creative business.

It’s made up of 3 pillars that guide the process of taking your zone of genius and turning it into systems and processes that allow you to bottle the muse and scale your business without spending more time at your desk.

Pillar #1 - Define Your Brand

At this point, you’re probably bringing in clients (even if they’re not always dream clients).

Before you spend a ton of time turning your zone of genius into a squeaky system that you promptly forget and/or ignore, make sure you have your visual identity and messaging nailed down so that you’re speaking directly to the people who have the problem you’re so amazing at solving.

Pillar #2 - Align Your System

The next step is to plan and build out a premium client experience.

This means pulling all your tools, processes, branding, and website together into a seamless client experience so that you can confidently command premium pricing while taking on more dream clients who VALUE YOU and what you do for them.

Pillar #3 - Refine Your Process

Once you’ve got your starter systems in place to aid your creative process, it’s time to dial down into the nitty gritty. Create a signature service offer (and supporting offer suite) and a process bank that gets your zone of genius down on paper.

A signature offer suite and the processes to back it up allow you to replicate success for your clients over and over, which in turn will make you a referral magnet.

Define your brand to position yourself as an expert consistently

A well-defined brand will help you call in the exact right people who need your unique blend of creative magic.

That means nailing down what exactly makes your business unique:

  • Your Key Message: This is a phrase you use to illustrate exactly what you do and how you can help. It ties everything together in a neat little bow.
  • Frameworks: A framework is a method for repeatable success. It’s a valuable ingredient in your special sauce.
  • Brand Style Guide: A living document that includes everything about your brand from visuals to messaging.

How to define your key message

Your messaging should speak directly to the person who is ready for the transformation your services provide. What problem do you solve and what’s the secret to solving it?

Your key message is at it’s core something like this:

{{Overall result}} without {{pain point}} using {{your focus}}.

  1. Identify the Overall Result: This is the main benefit or positive outcome your client will achieve. Think about what success looks like for them. For example, it could be increased market traction, a cohesive brand identity, or a premium customer experience.
    • Think about what your clients want to achieve. What is their ultimate goal? This is your overall result.
  2. Pinpoint the Pain Point: This is the main problem or challenge your client is facing. Consider the obstacles or frustrations they encounter. For example, feeling overshadowed in a saturated market, struggling to convey their value, or dealing with a fragmented brand identity.
    • Consider the main challenges they face. What are they struggling with? This is your pain point.
  3. Highlight Your Focus: This is the unique approach, strategy, or service you offer that addresses the pain point and helps achieve the overall result. It could be your expertise in brand identity, or your strategies for designing better interfaces and experiences.
    • Reflect on what you offer that helps them overcome their challenges. What is your unique solution or approach? This is your focus.


  • Overall Result: Gain significant traction in your market.
  • Pain Point: Without the frustration of being overshadowed by competitors.
  • Your Focus: Using our dynamic branding strategies that adapt and grow with you.

Turn your method for success into your biggest business asset

Frameworks offer a clear, repeatable method for delivering consistent and high-quality results, which is crucial for creative service providers.

But a well-crafted framework for results is more than just a method; it's a powerful tool that communicates your expertise, builds trust, and enhances your unique selling proposition. It shows potential clients that you have a reliable, proven approach to achieving the transformations they seek, making you a standout choice in a crowded market.

Your framework is not static. You’ll continually refine and improve it based on new insights, client feedback, and industry trends. This adaptability ensures your methods remain cutting-edge and effective.

Defining Your Framework

  • Identify Core Stages: Break down your process into distinct stages. For instance, your framework might include stages like Discovery, Strategy, Design, Implementation, and Review.
  • Detail Each Stage: Provide a brief explanation of what happens at each stage. What are the goals, activities, and expected outcomes? This helps potential clients understand the journey they will embark on with you
  • Customization and Flexibility: Highlight how your framework can be tailored to meet the unique needs of each client while maintaining its core structure. This balance of structure and flexibility can be very appealing.
  • Framework Diagrams: Create visual representations of your frameworks. Flowcharts, infographics, and diagrams can make complex processes easier to understand and more engaging.

You can also create smaller, specialized frameworks within your main framework. For example, within the Design stage, you might have a sub-framework for brand identity development that includes Research, Concept Development, Feedback, and Finalization.

Frameworks help guide your client experience

A well-defined client journey within your framework not only sets clear expectations but also enhances the overall client experience.

With a clear framework, you can focus more on delivering value rather than figuring out the process for each new client.

Frameworks are awesome marketing assets

Your unique framework can also be a cornerstone of your USP, demonstrating your commitment to a proven process that yields transformative outcomes.

Showcasing real-life examples or case studies of how your framework has been successfully applied can illustrate its effectiveness and build credibility.

A well-defined framework increases your authority and positions you as an expert who has honed a reliable method for achieving results.

How to create a brand style guide

style guide helps you keep your system aligned to your brand guidelines, which helps build and maintain trust.

  • If you’re a brand designer, this part is easy because I know you already have stellar brand guidelines in place.
  • For web designers, copywriters, and other creatives this means you lay down some hard and fast rules for how your visual identity and messaging is used.

It should include the different variations of your logo, when and how to use them, your color palette, fonts & typography, and the patterns or backgrounds you can use throughout your website and secondary systems. It may also include icons or other elements, or how to speak about your brand.

If you have a lot of colors in your brand, keep your system colors simple so your content, photos, and graphics can show off the rest of the color scheme. Keep accessibility in mind and make sure your system colors are highly contrasted and that text is easy to read at all sizes.

Notion Template
Brand Style Guide

Streamline your client offboarding process and effortlessly inform your clients how to best use their new branding.

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Align your systems to better support you as you take on more clients

If you’re struggling to scale your creative services without sacrificing your time (or your spark), it might be time to align your systems.

Don’t worry, you don’t have to do it all at once.

Getting starter systems in place first allows you to figure out what works best for you and your workflow.

There are a few ways to get started, but first let’s talk about the 3 parts that go into creating a seamless client experience:

  • Client Journey Map: This is a list of all the touchpoints your clients take from new lead to loyal fan so you can anticipate their needs and blow them away.
  • Marketing System: Help your future clients find you and keep your pipeline full so you can finally say goodbye to feast or famine.
  • Fulfillment System: Once your pipeline has filled up, you’ll want to standardize and automate as much of the client fulfillment process as possible so you can stay in your zone of genius.

Mapping your client journey

For online service providers like designers, copywriters, and other creative pros your customer journey (or more specifically your client journey) is the series of interactions (aka touchpoints) that a person takes from lead gen to loyalty.

I call this the Constellation of Service.

Client Journey Toolkit

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It starts with Awareness, which is from the point that they are first introduced to your brand to when they begin to think you might be the solution to their problems.

Then they move into the Consideration phase and book into your schedule for an audit or discovery call.

Next, they move into the Acquisition phase, where they officially sign on as a client and you begin your onboarding process.

Now it’s time for Fulfillment, which is where you actually do the thing they paid you for, and then hand it over.

Lastly, you have the Loyalty phase where you check in regularly and ensure everything is going smoothly with their new assets and deliverables.

These phases make up the marketing arm and the fulfillment arm of your systems.

Market yourself as an expert to call in the right people

Marketing yourself as an expert involves establishing credibility, demonstrating your knowledge, and showcasing your skills.

At this point, you may need to tell your imposter syndrome to hush. You have been cultivating these skills for years, and you ARE an expert.

Lead Generation

Create a website that highlights your expertise, showcases your portfolio, and provides detailed information about your services. Then use organic and paid strategies to drive traffic to it.

Notion Template
Website Planner

Say goodbye to overwhelm and hello to a beautifully executed website that reflects your vision.

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Make sure that your website and social media profiles have clear CTAs that guide potential clients on how to contact you or book a consultation. Have a system in place so you remember to follow up with people who have shown interest but haven't booked yet. Once you know they’re a good fit, book a discovery call to understand the client's needs, goals, and expectations, using this session to establish rapport and build trust.


A good welcome package includes a warm email, an overview of your services, and what clients can expect. Provide a clear and detailed contract outlining the scope of work, timelines, and payment terms, and ensure the payment process is straightforward and secure. Once you receive their signed contract and initial payment, add them to your project management system and begin the fulfillment process.

Create a client experience that makes you a magnet for referrals


Follow a structured process for delivering your services, clearly outlining each phase of the project and keeping the client informed at every step. Provide regular updates on the project's progress using project management tools to keep everything organized and transparent. Implement quality checks at each milestone to catch mistakes before the client does (and be honest and flexible when mistakes happen).

Project Support

Be proactive with client communication. Schedule regular feedback sessions to gather client input and make adjustments. Value their opinions and provide them with resources and tips that can help them maximize the benefits of your service. If the client is willing, conduct a post-project review to discuss the project's success and gather feedback. Be sure to have a system in place to ask for testimonials and referrals.


Offer incentives for clients who refer new business to you, such as discounts on future services or complimentary add-ons. Keep in touch with past clients with periodic check-ins to see how things are going in their biz. Show appreciation to clients who refer others by sending thank-you notes, gifts, or personalized messages, as a little gratitude can go a long way in building lasting relationships.

By mapping out your client journey with a focus on marketing yourself as an expert and creating an exceptional client experience, you can attract more clients and turn them into loyal advocates. This structured approach ensures that every touchpoint adds value, builds trust, and reinforces your reputation as a top-tier creative professional.

Refine your processes so that you can confidently raise your prices

Once you’ve got your starter systems in place to aid your creative process, it’s time to dial down into the nitty gritty. Create a signature service offer (and supporting offer suite) and a process bank that gets your zone of genius down on paper.

A signature offer suite and the processes to back it up allow you to replicate success for your clients over and over, which in turn will make you a referral magnet.

  • Signature Service: This is a set of processes guided by your framework for results. It has a set price and a structured feature list.
  • Process Bank: An organized collection of creative and business processes so that you can quickly replicate success.

Why every creative service provider needs a signature service package

A well-defined signature service package highlights your unique approach and expertise, making it easier for potential clients to choose you over others.

Just like your framework, a signature service package can be a key part of your USP, showcasing what makes your business unique and why clients should choose your services.

By creating a structured package, you ensure that every client goes through the same high-quality process. This includes regular touchpoints and feedback sessions, ensuring ongoing communication and alignment with the client's needs and expectations.

This consistency helps maintain your quality of work as well streamlines your workflow, making your operations more efficient. You (and your team, current or future) know exactly what needs to be done at each stage.

Defining Your Signature Service

  • Identify Your Core Offering: Determine what you do best and where you add the most value. Focus on services that showcase your unique skills and expertise. It’s also important to assess the primary needs and pain points of your target clients. Your signature service should address these effectively.
  • Define the Transformation: Clearly articulate the transformation your clients will experience. What problems are you solving? What benefits do they gain? Develop a compelling value proposition that highlights the outcomes and benefits of your service.
  • Outline Your Process: Identify the key stages of your service delivery. Common stages might include Discovery, Strategy, Design, Implementation, and Review. Detail the activities, deliverables, and goals for each stage. Be specific about what happens and when.
  • Create Supporting Materials: Develop guides, checklists, and templates that outline your process. These materials help ensure consistency and quality. Create diagrams or flowcharts to visually represent your process. This makes it easier for clients to understand the journey.
  • Package the Service: Clearly outline what’s included in your service package. Specify deliverables, timelines, and any additional support offered. Determine a pricing structure that reflects the value of your service. Consider offering tiered packages for different levels of service.
  • Test and Refine: Test your package with a few clients to gather feedback and make improvements. Use client feedback to tweak and enhance your service package. Aim for a balance of efficiency, quality, and client satisfaction.
  • Launch and Market Your Service: Develop a marketing strategy to promote your signature service. Highlight the unique benefits and transformative outcomes. Use testimonials and case studies from pilot clients to build credibility and attract new clients.

Notion Template
Offer Builder
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Also consider creating processes for these tasks

Logo Concepts

Whether it's 1 or 3, create a standard document to present the concept(s) to your client. Watermark it with your branding and if you’re providing more than one, number each concept for easy reference.

Brand Boards

Don’t create a brand new layout for each brand board, instead create a standard layout that you can customize. That doesn’t mean you can’t tweak the style for each client, it just means you’re starting from the same well-thought position every time for every client.

Website Prototypes

Depending on the project, your prototype could be as simple as a static mockup you did in Illustrator or it might be an interactive Figma masterpiece. Either way, make a form with a standard list of questions designed to provoke thoughtful feedback so you can eliminate some back and forth and get to building the thing.

File Handoff

Whether it’s exporting a million versions of a logo or teaching a proud new website owner how to log in you can systemize the handoff process by creating a standard checklist to follow for each deliverable. That way you know you’ve provided everything your client needs, every time.

Testimonial Request

Instead of throwing in an offhanded ask for a testimonial, create a form (bonus points if it automatically outputs to a spreadsheet) and ask questions that prompt valuable feedback that you can use in your marketing. Looking at old testimonials is also an excellent way to combat imposter syndrome.

Business Growth

Measuring and tracking Key Performance Indicators isn’t glamorous but you gotta do it to scale your services. Keep track of your revenue, audience, website visits, and other KPIs in a spreadsheet, and make time to update it weekly or monthly. Make sure to schedule time to do this kind of high-level business work and then create processes for it so you can build consistency in tracking the growth of your business.

What does your tech stack need to include from lead gen to loyalty?

Your tech stack is made up of all the tools you use to power your business.

The most important thing about building out your tech stack is that YOU need to be comfortable with it. Get a feel for each tool before committing, and make sure it’s the right one for your work style and preferences.

There’s no shortage of options here, so let’s first talk about the basic types of tools you need to research so you can find the best fit for the way you work.

Project Management

Project management tools help creative service providers streamline their workflows, manage tasks, and collaborate efficiently.

  • Airtable: The functionality of a database blended with a spreadsheet. Ideal for tracking projects, managing content calendars, and organizing client information. Customizable views and rich field types make it highly versatile.
  • ClickUp: Offers task management, time tracking, goal setting, and document collaboration. Allows users to create custom workflows and integrates with numerous other tools, making it a central hub for project management.
  • Notion: Combines notes, tasks, databases, and calendars. Highly customizable pages allow you to create unique layouts to suit specific project needs, from simple to-do lists to complex project dashboards.
  • Trello: Trello’s boards, lists, and cards enable users to organize tasks, set deadlines, and collaborate with team members. Its simplicity and intuitive drag-and-drop interface make it easy to use.

Content Management System

Content Management Systems (CMS) are essential for creating, managing, and modifying digital content on websites without needing specialized technical knowledge.

  • WordPress: The most popular CMS in the world, known for its flexibility and extensive plugin ecosystem. WordPress is suitable for a wide range of websites, from blogs to complex e-commerce sites, and offers free and premium themes and plugins to enhance functionality.
  • Squarespace: A user-friendly, all-in-one website builder and CMS. Squarespace provides beautifully designed templates and a drag-and-drop interface, making it easy to create professional websites without coding. It also offers built-in e-commerce and SEO tools.

*Squarespace (and it’s competitors like Wix, etc) are not technically content management systems, but they serve similar functions. There’s not much control over categorizing content granularly (which just means it’s not as dynamic as WordPress can be).

Email Service Provider

Email Service Providers (ESPs) help manage email marketing campaigns, automate email sequences, and analyze performance to improve engagement.

  • Mailerlite: A straightforward and affordable email marketing solution with features like drag-and-drop email editing, automation workflows, landing pages, and detailed analytics. It's particularly well-suited for small businesses and startups.
  • ConvertKit: Designed specifically for creators, ConvertKit (soon to rebrand to Kit) offers powerful email automation, customizable forms, and landing pages. It excels at segmenting audiences and creating personalized email sequences to nurture leads and convert them into customers.
  • ActiveCampaign: A robust marketing automation platform that combines email marketing, automation, sales automation, and CRM. ActiveCampaign's advanced features like predictive sending and detailed segmentation are ideal for businesses looking to scale their marketing efforts.

All-in-One Business Management

These tools provide a comprehensive suite of features to manage various aspects of a business, from client management to invoicing and project tracking.

  • HighLevel: A powerful marketing and business automation platform designed for agencies and consultants. HighLevel combines CRM, email marketing, SMS marketing, landing pages, and automated workflows in one platform. It also offers features like pipeline management, appointment scheduling, and reputation management, making it a robust solution for businesses looking to streamline their operations and scale their marketing efforts.
  • Dubsado: A versatile business management solution designed for creatives and service-based businesses. Dubsado offers CRM, project management, invoicing, contract management, and automation, helping streamline business operations from lead generation to project completion.
  • HoneyBook: An all-in-one business management platform that helps creative entrepreneurs manage projects, book clients, send invoices, and get paid. HoneyBook's intuitive interface and client experience features make it easy to manage the entire client journey.
  • 17Hats: A comprehensive business management tool that provides CRM, project management, scheduling, invoicing, and bookkeeping. 17Hats aims to simplify administrative tasks, allowing business owners to focus more on their creative work.


Automation tools help streamline repetitive tasks and integrate various applications to improve efficiency and productivity.

  • WP Fusion: A tool that connects WordPress with various CRMs and marketing automation platforms.
  • Zapier: An integration platform that connects different apps and automates workflows through "Zaps."
  • IFTTT: An automation tool that connects different services and devices through simple conditional statements called "applets."

Calendars & Booking

Manage appointments, bookings, and calendar events so you stay organized while making it easy for people to book.

  • Calendly: Allows clients to book time slots based on your availability, and integrates with various other services.
  • Acuity: Manage appointments, group classes, and client information efficiently. Customize your booking pages, automate your reminders, and process payments.
  • Amelia: A WordPress-based booking plugin with a smooth booking experience. Includes calendar integration, notifications, and payment options.

Chart Your Constellation of Service

If your work is excellent but your client experience sucks you may find yourself struggling to retain clients and earn referrals.

Let’s fix that.

Once you’ve charted your Constellation of Service and defined all the ways you help your clients succeed, it’s easy to see where you can save time and improve their experience with systems and automation.

The Happier Clients Waitlist

I’m launching a new program next month that will help you implement the Heartbeat System for Happier Clients. Sign up for the waitlist to be the first to know…
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