Four Things You Can Easily Automate For Your Business
Welcome side hustlin’ mamas! If you’ve never been to my blog before, then welcome, and I hope you can find some valuable resources in this space as you start, market, and grow a successful side business! If you’re a regular, than you know I have an addiction… to productivity and efficiency in my business. I consider any time I’m saying “yes” to doing something for my business a sacrifice where I’m saying “no” to a million other things that I could be spending my time on, and I would rather put in the effort at the start to get my business set-up to run efficiently and effectively from the get-go, allowing me more time to spend with my family while still making money.
Today I’m sharing four specific ways that you can work some automation into your small business, no matter what stage you are at in your side hustle journey. There will always be ways to automate or work more efficiently, but as long as you feel productive and that you’re spending your time intentionally, then you are on the right track to a streamlined, successful business.
how do I know what’s taking up too much time?
A while back (well before kids were even on the menu), I actually tracked everything I did during my work day, all the way down to going to the bathroom and heading to the break room with my friend to make hot chocolate. I tracked how long it took down to the second (using an app on my computer… I’m not that much of a freak!) but the result was that I was spending way less time doing productive work that brought in revenue for my employer than he or I thought.
(side note: the whole point of that exercise when I performed it was to prove to my boss that my coworkers and I were each WAY overloaded with clients, and we needed to bring in more staff. It didn’t happen. Instead I left to work for a friend who was building his own empire and valued my proclivity for efficiency haha).
I suggest tracking all of your business tasks for about a week using an online app like Toggl so that you can see how your time is getting eaten up. Using Toggl, you’ll easily be able to see what percentages of time you’re spending on different tasks, and if you’re not spending the majority of your time (or close to it) on actual money-making tasks for your business, then you’re likely wasting your time and missing out on valuable opportunities for more income or more time with your family.
what sort of tasks should you automate?
Here’s the thing: while I’m an efficiency addict, I know that there is a time and a place for me to actually show up in person in my business, and it’s important to me that my clients feel that love. I recommend that you take a while to sort through all the frequent, time-sensitive, identical tasks that you manage on a regular basis and determine which of these could be automated. Do you have it built into your work-flow to follow up with clients or customers at certain intervals? What about social media posts?
I do several logo projects a month, and part of my pricing structure for this project is taking into consideration the fact that I’m extremely streamlined and efficient with this process, including several steps that utilize canned responses. By setting up this automation, I’m able to save time throughout the process without delivering sub-par results. I’m still hands-on, involved in the project and spending the same amount of time designing the logo drafts, but all the short minutes it takes me to write up explanations of the process and what to expect, or how to communicate feedback, all add up to valuable time getting wasted.
suggestion #1: automated emails
As I mentioned, I send a lot of the same types of emails. For me, these aren’t emails I can exactly automate, but I can still save a ton of time by saving them as canned responses in my Gmail account. However, if you’re in a position where you do send follow-up emails after a certain period of time, come up with a simplified follow-up email draft that could apply to every past client, and set that baby up to automatically send after certain lengths of time!
Try using Mailchimp or some other email automation software and adding each client to a segmented list at the end of the project that will automatically send them a follow-up after one month, three months, six months, and a year. BONUS: sending follow-up emails is a fantastic way to stay top-of-mind with past customers and clients, potentially earning you a repeat sale or project without you doing more than adding their email to your list! Their money is as good as any potential “new” client, and you didn’t even have to work for it. Win!
suggestion #2: social media
The automation aspect for me when it comes to social media posting comes from the auto-scheduling tools. Specifically, I use Tailwind to keep my Pinterest running on auto-pilot and Planoly to plan and schedule out my Instagram posts a month at a time, in advance. The benefit of scheduling this out is that I don’t have to stop what I’m doing to post at just the right time for engagement, and I don’t feel any pressure to come up with stellar content on the fly! I actually wrote out a whole post about my process for scheduling a whole month’s worth of Instagram posts in less than an hour if you’d like to read it.
suggestion #3: the things you don’t like to do
While not really “automation”, outsourcing work to software, apps, or virtual assistants is a great way to free up your time and keep you happy, free from overwhelm and from being overloaded with menial business tasks that you hate doing. Do you feel dissatisfied with your level of design skills? Pay someone to create some custom Canva templates for your business that you can easily create graphics from. If it’s not in your wheelhouse, then don’t force it.
Let’s say it takes you two hours a week to do a specific task for your business that you hate doing (like keeping track of your budget) but you could pay $50/month for software that links to your bank account and credit cards and does that bookkeeping for you. What could you do with an extra 8-9 hours a month? If you could bring in more than $50 in revenue for your business with that 8-9 hours (which I’m sure you could…) then why not consider “automating/outsourcing” that work to the software? Sure, it’s an added expense, but you have to leverage what expenses are worth it to save you some time.
suggestion #4: invoices
Since the majority of my projects are one-off payments, I haven’t invested my time into setting up automatic invoices personally, HOWEVER, I utilize them exclusively for other side hustles that I’m a part of, like Unlike Juliet. The minutes you can save through automation in this regard is immeasurable.
Set up your invoices to automatically send when someone officially books, and to send reminders after certain periods of time. There’s even software out there that could automatically tack on late fees if a payment isn’t posted within a certain time, or set-up recurring invoices to automatically send out each month for clients on payment plans. Honestly, if you track your time and realize that a whole bunch of your work day is getting eaten by client communication, why wouldn’t you find ways to outsource and automate that? Client communication isn’t specifically a money-making task, and when you’re a side hustlin’ mama or running a small business on a very short amount of hours each week, you owe it to yourself to prioritize those money-making tasks as much as possible.
I’ve found so much freedom in automating aspects of my business and allowing my time to be filled with only the work I LOVE, or else time with my family. I hope you can find this happy balance, too!
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