If you are starting a business from nothing, it’s not easy, especially if you are going solo – I can relate. No doubt you are performing a wide range of tasks: marketing, content generation, business planning, strategy, creating/providing the service, maintaining clients, the list just goes on and on, doesn’t it! The good news is there’s a good chance many of these tasks can be automated. The great news is that automation can take your business to the next level, and here’s how.
It’s obvious that automating tasks which you are currently performing manually will free up resources – that’s you! The key here is that you can now spend your free time to do things of higher value, such as scaling your business, while those other tasks are being completed automatically (we’ll get into the how later). This promotes, and practically forces growth – unless of course you foolishly do nothing with your new found free time.
Take this very simple yet practical example which illustrates my point, which is based closely on my own experiences, and will be referenced throughout this article:
- A website designer offers his services to local businesses, generating interest posting advertisements online, and spends several hours drafting websites for any leads generated.
- He decides to create just 3 templates, and entice clients with these, populating them with basic client info in an automated fashion. Now creating a draft takes just 5 minutes, and it’s good enough for his drafting purposes.
- Now he spends more time advertising his services. He has the time to delve deeper into the analytics of each advertising platform and experiment, figuring out what works and what doesn’t and spending more on the most successful methods.
- He creates a program which automatically posts ads to the platforms that work well for him – some local classifieds. His tool
also grabs data from his adwords account to show him a daily summary of his marketing efforts.
- He now has a steady stream of new clients, and isn’t spending huge amounts of time drafting the website, or acquiring new clients. He can experiment in ways he would have no chance to in step 1. He creates a referral program for college students to sell his service, and starts talking to local photographers to strike partnership deals. He still spends significant time on his clients specific requests to maximise retention – but has plans to automate further to grow more!
It’s a very basic example, but it’s actually not far from reality. I am personally progressing through a journey similar to this example – I’m somewhere between step 2 and 3, and I hope you can follow my blog and learn from my experiences – and teach me a thing or two as well!
Even though the above process could take several months or even years to achieve, why not try? If you plan on dedicating yourself to your project for the foreseeable future, then approach it with automation in mind so you can see it grow and expand into something huge which you can take great pride and satisfaction in. Of course there are those who are content with their craft and are happy enough to keep ticking away at a stagnant level. I get that, and understand it, but in my case I want to get to higher levels so that I can do greater things – not from a business or materialistic point of view, but from an experiential and personal development standpoint.
Work Becomes Seriously Rewarding
As you can see from the above example, as you automate the mundane repetitive tasks like, in the above example setting up wordpress, install plugins, and a theme for every client draft, you’re free to move on to more interesting and alternative work tasks which can develope you professionally and personally, stretching your comfort zone, and forcing you to learn new things.
These could include tasks like:
- Meeting more clients and business owners for partnerships: Developing your inter-personal skills, confidence, sales pitch, and getting more feedback about your product or service to improve it, leading to more growth.
- Having free time to learn about business and accounting, so you can run your business more efficiently while learning about a new area of business you may not know much about. You could end up doing the accounting yourself, or at least taking over parts of it so that
you don’t have to be paying an expensive accountant if you don’t have to – and of course there could be parts within this you can automate!
- Consider diversifying into a nearby complimentary niche. A web designer may contact his clients, and ask them what else they are interested in. It could be business cards, signage with the website link, a smartphone app for their business, online marketing, or some other thing. The business owner may decide to focus on one of these, and expand into it, complimenting their existing services/products.
As you see, from just this one example there is a huge amount of possibilities depending on what you want to pursue. This means you can start learning and developing yourself according to your desires, while benefiting your business. For me this is a huge motivator to be self employed and truly in control of your own destiny not just financially, but time-wise, and skill wise, to a degree that is otherwise near impossible.
Streamline your Operations.
Before you can automate your processes, you must truly understand and define them. If you’re saying to yourself that it’s impossible to run a business without understanding the processes, that’s not true. You can run a business in such a way – just not efficiently. Once you fully understand the processes, it can become immediately apparent that elements of a process, or even entire processes, can be removed!
This has many real benefits, such as:
- Saving valuable resources
- Focusing efforts
- Simplifying the business, making it easier to hire and train new staff
- Making the messages portrayed to visitors/clients crystal clear
- Once you fully understand the business, it’s easier to automate!
- It’s easier to split test and optimise processes if they are clearly defined
I gained first hand experience with this step, when I was figuring out my own customer interaction processes. Without really thinking about it, I was supporting more channels of communication than I really needed. Skype, email, contact forms, order forms, phone calls, personal interactions, and even text messages. When I literally drew out a diagram of this with a pen and paper, I immediately saw that it wasn’t necessary to have all of these, and within the first 5 seconds decided to remove Skype entirely. It was rarely used, and it was highly unlikely that doing this will result in a loss of clients. It meant I can remove the Skype name from my website, giving visitors clearer contact options, and I could forget about Skype, not having to open it every day to check for new messages. I will write about this step as a case study in a future article.
Those are real motivations, effects, benefits, and possibilities. I have started on this path myself, and I hope to make my way further down it in the coming months. Start thinking about your business processes, what you are spending your time on, and if you didn’t have to do those things anymore, what tasks you’d be doing instead. I will be writing about practical examples and methods of automation, covering business aspects such as CRM, customer service, marketing, and automating with third party applications, or custom built tools. Stay tuned for more!