How to Stack Time and Scale Your Creative Service Business

If you’re obsessed with your creative service business and missing out on free time you might need some new ideas for systems to help balance the load. Think of this as Service Systems 101.

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Remember in Harry Potter, when Hermione takes on a ton of extra work and needs a magical artifact just to stay on top of everything?

Think of time stacking as the muggle version of Hermione’s time-turner.

Consider this Service Systems 101. Magical artifacts not required.

In reality, it’s finding ways to let tech power your processes in ways that work for you so you can scale your creative online service business without sacrificing your time or the quality of your work.

The magic is part planning, part automation, and part heart.

Without it, it’s too easy to fall into the trap of obsessing about your business. Whether it’s tweaking how it runs, how you work, how you sell it, and on and on until your business is an all-consuming monster.

These things tend to show up as:

  • Lack of free time
  • Dropping the ball with clients
  • Low referrals
  • Drowning in emails
  • Disorganized processes

If any of those issues are showing up for you, let me introduce you to the concept of time stacking and service systems 101.

What is time stacking?

Time stacking is making systems and processes that work for you so you can focus on being in your zone of genius.

It’s easy to go overboard with automation, which can make your clients feel cold and distant rather than like you’ve warmly taken care of them every step of the way.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t stack time in your favor without automating the process to death.

What are some practical applications of time stacking?

So let’s talk about some real-life ways to stack time in your business. After all, time stacking is just a fancy way of saying “systems that work together”.

The best system is always the one you actually use, so it’s important to be intentional in deciding what parts of your process you want to stay hands-on with and what you want to take off your plate.

For online service providers, this looks like mapping out your client journey and making decisions based on where your journey can be hands-off, and where you need to focus your expert eyes.

I call this the Constellation of Service. It’s broken down into 5 stages of steps your client takes through working with you. Each time they interact with you or your content is called a touchpoint.

The five stages are Awareness > Consideration > Acquisition > Fulfillment > Loyalty.

Within those five stages, are a handful of steps. For service providers in general, the steps are:

  1. Lead Generation
  2. Appointment Booking
  3. Onboarding
  4. Service Fulfillment & Client Success
  5. Offboarding
  6. Post-Project Support
  7. Referrals

You can find ways in each step to stack time which will allow you to work more efficiently and consistently recreate success for your clients time after time. Here are a few ways I stack time while building systems for creatives.

Lead Generation

This is the start of the Awareness stage when your ideal person enters your orbit and begins to see you as a knowledgeable source. This step is easy to automate, and people expect there to be a level of separation between themselves and the expert. 

You probably already have a lead magnet available for download, something they can sign up for that automatically gets sent over. This is the first email of your welcome sequence.

A welcome sequence for new subscribers is an easy way to establish trust and demonstrate your expertise right from the start. It should also repel the wrong people at the same time, so be sure to infuse your spirit into the education as well.

IMPLEMENT THIS: New Lead Welcome Sequence

Appointment Booking

This step is where Awareness moves to Consideration, and they begin to believe you could have the solution they need. This is where you begin injecting more personalized interactions and direct communication by inviting someone to book a free audit or discovery call with you, for example. 

Once they go to book their meeting with you, take the opportunity to learn more about their business by asking qualifying questions. 

IMPLEMENT THIS: New Lead Intake Form

Onboarding

Once they’ve decided to move forward and begin working with you, they move into the Acquisition phase. As soon as they ask you to send them your link to pay, you should have an automated onboarding process to make the transition from lead to client seamless.

To do this, you need to package your service up in a standard, repeatable way so you don’t have to customize your proposal for each client. Then it’s just a matter of signing the contract, paying the invoice, and preparing for the next step of working with you.

IMPLEMENT THIS: New Client Welcome Sequence

Service Fulfillment & Client Success

Now it’s time for you to shine as the client moved into the Fulfillment phase. For creative service providers like designers and writers, this is where your zone of genius comes in. It might feel like it’s an impossible thing to turn into a system, but that’s why planning out how you want each project to go is important. It gives you a formal task list that you can use to further decide whether to keep, delegate, or delete.

This phase is probably the most important in the Constellation of Service.

At this point, you’ve made a promise to deliver exceptional work balanced with warm, direct connection and now you need to deliver on that promise.

You do this by creating a system for your zone of genius which ensures your projects are always a success.

IMPLEMENT THIS: Signature Service

Offboarding

After the project is complete, you want to tie everything together with a bow. The offboarding step is another easy one to create systems for, as it tends to deal in file hand over and training. Make a list of deliverables, down to each file type or asset and then write the step-by-step instructions for how to use each deliverable. You can even turn this into a client exclusive training that they automatically get access to after you handover their final files.

Another important step in the offboarding phase is to ask your client for a testimonial. Make this even easier by sending them a form with friendly, conversational questions about what different aspects of working with you was like and then compile their responses into a glowing testimony to your ability.

IMPLEMENT THIS: Testimonial Request Form

Post-Project Support

After you’ve completed the project and offboarded your client, you can extend the experience by offering post-project support. For example, I offer my clients 12 total months of website hosting, maintenance, and tech support via Slack or Messenger. My projects only last 4-5 months from start to launch, so my clients get an extra 6+ months of support from me after their project is live and in the wild.

IMPLEMENT THIS: Project Care Plan

Referrals

One of the biggest benefits of elevating your client experience is increased referrals from happy clients. You can sweeten the prospect by offering a reward for referrals. I love sending finder’s fees through my ambassador program because those are clients I wouldn’t have had at all if not for someone else sending them my way. It always feels like the universe conspired to help us all.

IMPLEMENT THIS: Ambassador Program

What should you watch out for when creating new processes in your business?

There are a lot of different ways to elevate your client journey so be careful to go slowly and make sure each new implementation adds value to your business. 

Like I mentioned before, the best system is the one you actually use, so remember to stay agile when introducing new things to your processes. If something doesn’t work, quit doing it or change it so that it does work. 

Your systems should make your life easier, not more complex. 

That being said, new systems do tend to come with a learning curve. It’s often worth it to stick with it, and figure it out. You may need a mentor or someone to help you through it.

But if you never seem to make it past the curve, then reevaluate your toolkit.

Are You Ready to Stack Time and Elevate Your Client Experience? 

I made a super easy worksheet so that you can quickly audit your client journey and see where you can stack more time in your business. 

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