Early on in my career as an online entrepreneur, I learned the value of creating and using templates in your business. I was fortunate enough to work with marketing expert Dr. Jeanette Cates, and she insisted that we create and use templates for everything we intended to do more than once. This advice enabled me to grow my income rapidly and it’s stuck with me to this day.
Where do you use templates in your business? Most of us have a few places we use them, but you probably didn’t realize they can save you time and offer other benefits in every single area of your business. If you’re not using templates in your business now, it’s time to start.
What Are Business Templates?
Business templates are ready-made documents where you change just a few details each time you use them. You save the template on your computer or online and whenever you need to create that type of content, you can use the template rather than creating it from scratch.
Templates can be used for various purposes including:
1. Transaction paperwork like invoices, sales orders, order acknowledgements, and quotations
2. Documents for meetings like invitations, agendas, and reports
3. Email communications or series that you send regularly, both internally and externally
4. Organizational documents like to-do lists, calendars, and time management documentation
5. Material for education such as course outlines, session agendas, and checklists
6. Job descriptions, onboarding and training materials, and employee review paperwork
7. Contracts and agreements
8. Professional bios for social media sites, blogs, and other online content publishing platforms
9. Company newsletters and email newsletters
10. Annual reports, bid proposals, project checklists, and budgeting documents
11. Long-term planning materials such as business plans and marketing plans
You can use one for any type of document that you need to create over and over again. You can even design templates for things like social media images and other software-based content that you create regularly!
What Problems Do Templates Solve?
Content creation takes a great deal of time and effort. Consider all the hours you spend sitting in front of a blank screen, thinking about how to get started.
With templates, you cut out this unnecessary step. Just go to your folder where you have templates and choose the appropriate file. Open it and you’re ready to make whatever changes need to be made.
It takes a little effort to plan and create these templates. But this is time you save later. Once you have them designed and organized where you will easily find them, it’ll reduce your workload, and your team’s, drastically – freeing you up to do other things.
Other Benefits You Can Enjoy Using Templates
Aside from saving you time, templates offer a number of other benefits as well.
Cut Procrastination. Because you have your content already formatted, you’ll spend no more time getting started with a blank slate. You can just open the necessary file and get started right away with no fuss.
Better Consistency by Using Templates in Your Business
Since you design all your content at once, you’ll have better productivity, consistency and efficiency. You can make sure all your materials are standardized.
Reduce Errors. We often make mistakes when we’re in a rush to create a piece of content under time pressure. You might also leave out an important detail. With your templates, you can get it right the first time and focus on improving quality instead.
Branding with Templates
While creating your content, you can choose design elements to help with your branding. This is especially helpful for templates you’re using externally.
Present a More Professional Image. With better consistency and fewer errors, templates will make your business look more professional.
Focus on What’s Important. Most important of all, using templates frees you up to focus your energy and that of your team members where you need it most.
How Templates Work
It’s easy to see how templates work by looking at a few simple examples. Let’s start with invoices. Many businesses do this already with their invoices. On an invoice, your company’s name and business details don’t change. So, your template would have a basic format that includes that information. You just worry about the details that change each time, such as your client’s name and address, invoice items, and prices.
If you use templates for your online course session outlines, you might have regular parts of the session, such as warm up, presentation, discussion, and action steps. You can create outlines with the format and parts that stay the same, and just fill in the new material each time. You can even create standard graphics for announcing each session, where you just change the topic, time, and date.
You might be surprised to see that templates can be used for a high-level project too, like a marketing plan. In this case, your template might have multiple parts to it that could each be pulled out. For example, you might have target audience templates if you target different segments of a market. The same goes for your budget and timeline. With the format and formulas already set out, you can just plug in the information for your next campaign and see costs and dates calculated for you.
How to Get Started with Templates
Are you ready to start saving time using templates? Although you can create these when you feel the need, the best strategy is to approach it in a systematic way and plan.
Start by identifying content you can turn into standard formats. Don’t stop with just routine paperwork. Review the list of ideas above and decide which you can implement. Make a list and prioritize the most commonly used (the ones that would save you the most time in the short-term).
Next, create a workflow for getting the templates done. An easy way to do this is to take content you’ve already created and make adjustments. This keeps you from having to make each from scratch, which saves hours and days.
Before you start creating your templates, create a filing system. This is very important as you’ll want to be able to immediately find them when they’re needed. A good way to file is to create a folder for templates, inside which you have categories for different tasks or areas of your business.
A good way to organize is to name them using keywords so that they’re automatically alphabetical within the files. This also makes them easy to search for. Make sure you delete old versions whenever you update a template, so you don’t use the wrong one.
Keep Creating New Templates
Once your templates are created and organized, keep looking for content you can transform. Go beyond the ideas here and see where else you can create standard templates that will help you save time and trouble so you can focus on more important things.
You can get started by looking at exactly where you’ll benefit from using templates in your business, using our free worksheet – Are You Ready for Templates?
I’m Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling author, an independent publisher, and serial entrepreneur Connie Ragen Green and would love to connect with you. If you’re new to the world of online entrepreneurship please check out my training on how to sell yourself at Sell Yourself and Your Stuff and learn how to gain an unfair advantage when it comes to building a lucrative online business.