The Sneaky Independent – Issue #4: Building Systems

“…It surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the galaxy together.” – Obi-Wan Kenobi

The force is an energy field and like all energy fields, it is everywhere. Or, well, it would be if it were real. You know what else is everywhere that, well, totally is just like the force, but real? (And almost as powerful, though in a subtler way.)


A system has two definitions, according to Google’s dictionary:

  • A set of connected things or parts forming a complex whole.
  • A set of principles or procedures according to which something is done; an organized scheme or method.

In the last issue, we talked a lot about chaos and the knowledge gap, how the less you know about something, the more it feels chaotic. You don’t know or understand all the variables involved, so you cannot predict with accuracy what will happen.

One major feature and advantage of a well-designed system is that will provide feedback and knowledge. It will reduce or eliminate unknown (and unknowable) variables as much as possible, while seeking to work and predict the knowable ones.

And if there is such a thing as a well-designed system, then there exist poorly designed systems. Or even worse, systems that aren’t designed at all. It is possible for a system to exist without any thought put into it at all, and for us humans, those are the worst.

In fact, your entire life is a system, whether you know it or not. From the car you drive, to the job you do, to the habits you have formed…everything is a system. Some of them you have designed or helped designed. Some of them have happened naturally. Some of them are well-designed and others aren’t. This is true for everyone.

The methods and processes you follow in your life are either poorly designed, not at all designed or well-designed and how chaotic your life feels are dependent on how many of these systems are poorly designed. How many fires you are constantly having to put out all has to do with how many poor systems exist in your life.

I’m not judging, by the way. It’s virtually impossible to design perfect systems in every aspect of our lives. Even the most put together person is going to face a clusterfuck at some point, no matter what. While we might have the best designed systems, there are things outside our control that we cannot predict.

But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. Well-designed systems can be built for all aspects of your life and it should be a solid goal of yours to build these and work on them. Doing so will reduce the stress and allow you to be more productive.

What Is a Well-Designed System?

If a system is a method of doing something, in some organized fashion, then a well-designed system is a method of doing something in a well-organized fashion.

But I personally like to expand the definition a bit more. A well-designed system does these things:

  • Achieves a predictable result, within a certain accuracy
  • Provides feedback for improvement
  • Can be automated in some fashion (by using software, a machine, or another human, etc.)

Those are the three basic requirements. A few expanded ones:

  • Should be as simple as possible. A six-year-old should be able to get the gist of it.
  • Has a definite and hard goal attached.
  • Based on a production-result, NOT an income result (when talking about business), though an income result should be predicted with decent accuracy.

What do I mean by a production result? In short – the system should produce something that is tangible and predictable.

I’m writing this newsletter issue, right? The production result of the system used to write this newsletter is the newsletter itself. Now, do I have an income result attached to it? In short, yes…sort of.

The newsletter is not a direct income gaining activity. It’s a branding activity and customer relationship activity, one that will help increase the income-predicting effectiveness of other systems…such as product launches, sales webinars, special deals, and more.

It’s a system that supports the business system, but the goal is not directly tied to sales, it’s directly tied to production: getting a great quality newsletter issue out the door and into your hands!

But what about systems that are tied to income?

First, the goal needs to be about production. If you’re writing a book, the goal should be about producing the book. The system should be designed so that the book is produced:

  • As fast and as affordable possible, without neglecting quality.
  • As organized as possible, so that the top bullet becomes a reality.

Okay, perfect. So that’s the main goal – what is the predictive income goal of the system? Well, mainly to sell books. But…how? And how many?

The system that answers that question is the marketing system behind that book. Where and how are you getting your traffic and what are you saying to that traffic so that you sell copies of the book…that’s the key.

The marketing system does indeed include the book. In fact, the book production system is part of the larger marketing system that drives sales. The marketing system, which includes book production, should be able to give you a complete picture now.

You know that the Fiverr gig you always buy sends out to 4000 people. Based on tracking from the past, about 200 to 500 go to the book page. Of those 200 to 500, about 10 to 20 will buy the book.

So, what happens if 10 or 20 don’t? Let’s look at the two possible scenarios.

Scenario A: more than 20 purchase the book. The question becomes…why?

Options are: better written newsletter to the list, a better targeted book, a better cover or title, a better description, more reviews, or a bigger list.

From this list, we can eliminate. Contact the fiverr gig runner and ask him:

  1. Has your list sized improved?
  2. What did you send to your list that garnered more sales?

You could likely eliminate 2 options. If the words were basically identical to all his other promotions and his list size hasn’t increased, then…guess what? Something about your book has resonated with that audience better.

We are now down to cover, title, description, preview or reviews. If the reviews are the same as before…then it’s a better cover, title description or preview. Start comparing the options.

Once you feel you’ve found the key components, what do you do?  You test.

Change an older book’s on-page marketing materials to match the new book you promoted and run the promotion again for the older book. Watch the results. Keep going, keep doing. The lessons you learn decrease the knowledge gap and make it easier for you to build a predictive business.

Now scenario B is the same as A, just in reverse. Lower sales…you go through the same process.

Notice what I did?

A well-designed system tracks results and can improve upon them. From our income result, we can improve our production result. We can improve our systems to improve the quality of the moving parts being produced and we can do it on a timetable.

Keep It Simple

Okay, I will admit…that was some pretty heavy, brainy shit. Really, thinking of systems is just a way to organize everything you are doing in your business and recognizing the patterns in production and its results.

Let’s keep it simple:

  • Design your systems so they provide feedback.
  • Be conscious of what you are doing when implementing these systems.
  • Find ways to improve the system.
  • Don’t take on more than you need.

A simple publishing system doesn’t need to be massively complex, it just needs a few things:

  • A way to produce a book.
  • A way to get eyeballs to that book.
  • A way to keep track of those eyeballs so it makes it easier/cheaper to get those same eyeballs back to other books.

Making it stupid simple, all you need is a system to produce books, a singular system to get traffic and a system to keep that traffic around.

One system for each.

For example: Facebook marketing might be your traffic system. Perfect! That means you don’t need (at least to start), an SEO system, a video system, an article system…until you’re ready to grow.

Perfect that system until you are ready to add on to it.

Building the System

Okay, before we sign off here, let’s briefly talk about building a system if you’ve never done it before. It’s surprisingly easy and you can do it too.

  1. Isolate one single thing you want to achieve…say writing a book.
  2. But go in depth…and identify the TYPE of book you want (fiction, nonfiction, short book, long book, low-content book, etc.)
  3. Research all that goes into writing that type of book.
  4. With the research in hand, break down the tasks needed to write that book.
  5. Guess the time it would take to complete each task for writing that book.
  6. Set a schedule based on those times.
  7. Work the schedule.
  8. Track your word counts and production results. Improve.
  9. Give book to beta readers and glean feedback for writing improvements.
  10. Repeat the cycle.

Example – writing non-fiction how-to products:

  1. Dog training
  2. Short, how-to guides.
  3. Through my research, I’ve found I need/should include:
    1. Techniques and images demonstrating them
    2. Case studies/funny examples
    3. An overview of what needs to be achieved
    4. An introduction and places to promote my other books
  4. The tasks needed and time taken:
    1. Research new book – 2 hours
    2. Plan book – 1 hour
    3. Gather images – 3 hours
    4. Gather example stories – 1 to 3 hours
    5. Write book – 4 to 6 hours
    6. Edit book – 3 hours
    7. Format and publish – 1 hour
  5. Monday: research and planning
  6. Tuesday: resource gathering
  7. Wednesday: writing
  8. Thursday: Writing
  9. Friday: editing
  10. Week 2: Hand over to beta readers
  11. Week 2: Gather feedback and improve

See how that went? I now have an organized system for a book. You now know exactly what you need to do and how to do it. If there is any part of the process that you aren’t sure about…say finding the source materials, then research and study is needed.

Now, what if you find out that your times are off, it takes longer or shorter on some tasks…if that’s the case, then modify the system! Oh, and congratulations…because you’re tracking your time, you’re improving the system and becoming more predictive about the things you need to do!

The chaos is diminishing. Of course, you had to start with a guess, but you still did it. The guess turned into a more accurate guess and so forth. But you learned, and that learning provides power.

These systems will help support everything you do in life. And in the final issue in this series, we’re going to talk about the final thing that ties all this in together – that will help you be more productive and more successful. Milestones and goals.

When you add those in, you’ll have the motivation and the tools necessary to achieve it all!

Thanks for reading and I’ll see you next time!

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Owner at Sneaky Fox Publishing
Rob has been self publishing books, videos, software and courses for over 8 years. His expertise includes sales, marketing, coding and music.
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