I decided around New Years that my "word" for 2016 would be systems. Launching Odds + Ends on top of my wedding photography business means that I'm going to be twice a swamped this year if I'm not too careful. And I don't mean the good kind of swamped. I'm choosing to focus on developing systems of productivity and management to ensure that all of my clients for both businesses are taken care of. I'm also making sure that I can set up automation systems in order to free up some time in my schedule (time is $$, after all).
You - the very driven and very busy entrepreneur - need to be spending your time doing the stuff that brings you the highest ROI. If you don't have the option to delegate some of the more time-consuming tasks, then consider automating as much as possible.
SOCIAL MEDIA SCHEDULING
Schedule all of your updates. Just do it. Because ain't NOBODY got time for hanging around on social media and posting updates as you think of them. Create a strategy in advance, and schedule things that advance that strategy. I use Buffer to schedule posts to Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and LinkedIn for both of my businesses. This was a game changer for me, especially since I have multiple brands to manage. You can manually select a posting schedule for each profile/account, or you can use their Optimal Timing tool to identify which times your audience is most likely to interact with your post/tweet/pin. The Chrome extension for Buffer helps speed up the share process as well. Use your scheduling software to consistently share content from other creatives in your field (it's called a social network for a reason).
For Instagram, I don't believe they yet allow for third-party image posting, but you can upload images from your computer using Latergram.
Automating parts of your social media activity leaves more time for interaction! Just because you schedule, doesn't mean you can forget checking into these sites to connect with real people.
Businesses that deal with both services and products can benefit from collecting their most frequently asked questions in one place. Keep that FAQ linked on your contact page or in multiple pages throughout your website to avoid having to send out repetitive emails. If you end up getting those emails anyways (it happens), then at least you have a pre-written script that you can respond with. No typing out a fresh response every time someone has a common question. Check, check, and check!!
IFTTT (IF THIS, THEN THAT)
There was a time when your direct pushing of an Instagram post to Twitter (from the Insta app) would include the actual photo instead of just a link. Using IFTTT, you can get around this change. Once you set up the "recipe", you can automate various social media actions such as this.
AUTOMATED CLIENT BOOKING
Tavé was originally targeted towards photographers, which is how I first came across it. But it's functionalities can actually apply to any project-based service provider. Create customized quotes for your clients that they can read, sign a contract for, and submit a payment to book for all on their own. This takes the "babysitting" work right out of the booking process. Through Tavé, you can schedule payment reminders based on due dates, create unlimited questionnaires for each client, allow private client portals, track your revenue progress, and create an automated workflow. If you do any project-based client work, definitely check it out.
If you work with clients, you inevitably end up sending the same kinds of emails over and over again. Save frequent responses to speed up your email workflow. Leave room for customization and always be personal. In other words, save enough of the response that you're making your email process more efficient, but do so without compromising your client experience.
EMAIL LIST AUTOMATION
Using an email marketing service such as Mailchimp, ConvertKit (this is what I use), Infusionsoft, etc. set up automated emails to connect with your ideal customer/client. Here are my top 3 ways you can use email automation to build your brand:
- New Subscriber/Customer Emails: Create a series of emails that will be sent out periodically after a person subscribes to your email list, or when they purchase a specific product.
- Automated Email Course: Create a module-based course that you can send out as an automated email series.
- RSS-to-Email Newsletter: Set up a campaign that will send out an automatic email whenever you publish a post.
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Consider services such as FreshDesk, Zendesk, Groove HQ to help you streamline your customer support. These services make it easy to outsource your customer support, crowd source support, or just tackle it without your email going crazy.
Schedule your week by grouping similar tasks together. For example, doing all of your blog graphics on a Tuesday morning, or doing album design/orders on Thursday afternoons. While I wouldn't exactly call this "automation", I think batch processing can be a super efficient system for your business.
There are lots of reliable software options (ie. Freshbooks, Wave, Quickbooks) that will link directly to your bank bank accounts and import transactions. All you have to do is make sure each transaction is labelled properly, and your software will make profit and expense reports for you. This will make your life much easier when it comes around to tax time.
BONUS: WHAT YOU SHOULD NEVER AUTOMATE
- Twitter DM's: The DM is a borderline sacred space. Don't automate spammy follow DM's. Just don't do it. It's super inauthentic and may deter people from connecting with your brand.
- 100% of Your Customer Service: Don't assume that your automated systems will cover everything. The key to great customer service is actually serving your customers. Make sure their needs are covered and there are ways for them to reach out to you or an employee directly.
What automation systems have you put in place for your business? Share them in the comments below!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Thanks for dropping by! I'm Caileigh and I create killer brand identities and offer coaching for creative entrepreneurs with gumption. When I'm not helping people build profitable businesses, I document love stories as a fine art film photographer.