Automate. It’s this fancy word thought to only apply to people with high end fancy businesses. There’s this idea that DIY is King and Queen in the early days and that doing it yourself is always going to be a better option that outsourcing.
That’s not true.
Hiring out is a way to get your product from a C- all the way to an acceptable B+ or A. And there are ways to do it while maintaining your budget. The same is true with automation. You can afford to spend the time to learn and pay for a tool that will cut minutes out of your day and hours out of your work week. Tons of tools have pay as you go plans so you can possibly start with a free option and add on more features as you grow. Or some tools are forever free (like knowledge served via podcasts).
I believe that one day I’d like to live the ideology that ‘if you can’t get your work done between standard work hours of 9 to 5 (or my future 20 hour work week), you’re probably not doing it right’. There’s something about human nature that makes sleeping a necessity – and not forever pulling all nighters. We’re not in college and deserve to shut off at a decent hour. I suggest making the habit of finding ways to automate tasks earlier on in your business. That way, when you are a fully fledged freelance business machine, the idea of not doing all the things manually is already an established process.
Automation is a fancy way of saying schedule-your-ish. There are tasks that are simple to automate, such as social media, and then there are tasks that take more effort to automate such as an opt-in (all the steps). Either way, automated tasks make all the difference in freeing up your time to spend on tasks with higher ROI.
And I’m all about the ROI – return on interest for those who don’t automate their words by speaking in acronyms.
Either way, onward and upward – to the goodies.
Automate your education
If you said I would grow up to listen to the equivalent of modern day books on tape, aka podcasts, I would have told you you were crazy. You see, growing up I went on many, many road trips to venture back to my South Florida. And my Dad would stop at Cracker Barrel and buy books on tape. This was way before mp3s and personal headphones. And before anti-skip protection on portable cd players – so those weren’t completely reliable on the journey. So I was forced to listen to murder mysteries for 9.5 hours. And I couldn’t run far enough from them.
So I resisted to listening to voices blaring from a speaker podcasts for a while (I’m a super visual person). And then I realized I needed something to do sitting in the car for 2-3 hours a day on my commute. So I joined the podcast bandwagon – and fell in love with the knowledge bombs dropped via these channels. I strongly advocate multi-tasking your commute by adding podcast listening to your daily to-dos. Find the podcast style that works for you (interview, dialogue, random murder mystery, etc.) and subscribe for new episodes (some channels release close to 3 episodes per week). Check out these lists for great starting points.
Automate all the things
When it comes to productivity and setting up systems Think Creative Collective is at the top of my reading list. This list of 15 actual tools that they use is fabulous! I also had a listen to their podcast The Strategy Hour and listened to them talk about at which point in their business did they invest in these tools.
Some tools have a price tag of forever free, such as Google Hangouts, while other tools ran up to $40 per month. My favorites on the list – the Adobe Creative Cloud plan. While I love trying out and testing new tools, I still hold onto and frequently use my favorite products in the Adobe product line. Google Analytics and I are BFFs. If you have a website or blog, you must install this goodie on your system. And without the app Later, my Instagramming wouldn’t be nearly as painless.
Cost: FREE to $50/month.
Automate your services
Hopefully you’re taking on clients (or soon to be taking on clients) and have realized that you’re responsible for setting the tone of your working relationship with clients. To make sure you have that great working relationship, test out a few practices with clients and then standardize your client onboarding process. And then automate it. This webinars shares a designer’s take on how to automate client processes.
My client process starts at Honeybook, my client management system and then utilizes a couple of tools mentioned in the webinar. Honeybook holds my contracts, timelines, invoicing, and client questionnaires. It’s super robust and has other functionality but these are the most important to me. It replaced my email checklist of things to send and random emails sent to them from various services for contracts, invoicing, and questionnaires (all previously on different systems). Plus I think it looks more professional and we have one client workspace where all of our things live.
Cost: FREE to $35/month.
Automate your daily tasks
There are always going to be mundane tasks in the world that you hate. So why not automate those out of your daily to-do lists? I’ll share two lists full of tasks to automate in your business. Including asking clients for feedback, FAQ pages, invoice reminders, tracking mileage, and so much more. So take some of your day back by implementing these tasks.
Cost: FREE to $40/month.
Automate your emails
The thing about emails = they are powerful information vehicles. You already spend enough time gathering up and preparing the information to be shared in your emails so spend more time making sure the emails work for you. My favorite way to do this is via a feature in ConvertKit called, wait for it, Automations! ConvertKit makes it really easy to tag and segment your lists so you can in the future send really targeted emails to a small group. I love this spin on automating tasks in ConvertKit.
ConvertKit is a hard pill to swallow for some because it does not have a free option. There’s nothing wrong with starting with a free option (such as Mailchimp or Mailerlite) before leveling up into the big leagues with ConvertKit. I tried to avoid it for a while but I realized delivering goodies (in the form of opt-ins) was going to be exponentially more difficult with my previous email service provider. As a developer, ConvertKit is also easier for me to use because it skips over the drag and drop options. I wish I continued to love the free-ness of Mailchimp but their template builder was not super intuitive to me. Yes, I figured it out – but I felt like it took too many clicks to get places. ConvertKit spoke to me because it put code front and center. All of their templates require HTML and/or CSS to manipulate which is 100% speaking my language. Sure, I don’t have super pretty emails (unless you’re a minimalism freak like I am) but pretty emails don’t always convert. When you’re ready to start investing in things, consider starting here.
Cost: Starting at $29/month
All the things! So, you might not be ready to hire a VA to do your dirty work, or even to invest in a paid product but you can still make your business easier! Tell me below in the comments.