Very few people, if any, start their entrepreneurial journey because they enjoy all the menial, tedious tasks that come with running a business.
I know I didn’t.
It’s much more likely that you started because you had a gift to offer the world, a valuable craft that you’re passionate about, and you wanted to build a life doing it.
But there comes a time when your business has far outgrown what you can handle on your lonesome. After all, we only have 24 hours in a day (no, really!).
That’s where business automation comes in. When you start automating your business processes, you can be more efficient, more productive and grow faster.
In today’s interview, I spoke with Jacquie Ramsay, a business automation specialist who’s helped many a service provider and entrepreneur automate their business by creating, streamlining and automating their backend systems. Which, by the way, aren’t entirely tech-related, if that’s what you’re thinking.
So without further ado, here are her best insights into automating your business for increased productivity and sustainable growth:
Let’s break it down: what exactly is business automation and why is it so important?
On a recent poll, 86% of clients said they would prefer scheduling through a system that works anytime, as a majority of them book or schedule calls after hours. So not having the ability for a client to book you when you’re not available can lose you considerable business. For example, if that’s 86% of your prospects, and if you have five people trying to contact you at a time, you’ve just lost four of them.
It all comes down to how much your time is worth. Business automation frees you up to pursue the things that actually increase revenue and it increases productivity.
And automating your processes doesn’t mean you need to start investing in expensive tools and software, either.
Jacquie says that this is a huge myth. In fact, she starts almost all of her clients with free software or services that allow them to automate while they’re still small and set up their processes and procedures before they get too busy to start managing it all.
Out of all the tools she uses, these are some of her favourites:
- Dubsado, a client management system. In Dubsado, you can set up just about everything you need in your business. You can automate your contracts, your forms, your client intake, your client onboarding and more. It even does your invoicing for you. It’s fairly inexpensive and very customizable.
- ClickUp, which helps with task management. For Jacquie, it covers the project management side of her business, but she also says that you can do the same thing with Google Sheets and Google Docs. You have the ability to set up forms with Google as well and automate that way if you’re not ready to invest into a particular software.
- Trello is another great tool as well to help you set up all your tasks and ideas in one organized space and have all your jumbled thoughts mapped out.
And for those of you who aren’t particularly tech-savvy, there are ways of reducing the amount of time you spend working in your business without needing to use these kinds of software:
- Stop multitasking. Your productivity really suffers when you multitask. It’s better to take one task, focus on it, finish it and move on to the next. You’ll do it much quicker. You’ll do it without as many errors or breaks in your workflow.
- Stop pushing yourself to the point of exhaustion. Jacquie remarks that she’s guilty of this too, because she gets caught up in her work and she doesn’t watch the clock. She’ll work five, six hours straight. But the work she does at the end of that stretch is nowhere near as good as the work she does at the beginning. You need breaks. You need to get up and move around, eat and drink.
When it comes to automating your business, the sooner the better.
It typically takes a week to get the core backend systems set up. Then as your systems do your work for you, things get pulled off your plate a little bit at a time and it frees you up to go do more of the things that generate revenue.
And that’s really important because once you’re in the thick of it, you don’t have time to stop to put systems in place. It’s much easier to do all of that at the beginning of your business than it is when you’ve got 20 clients knocking on your door.
Jacquie points out that a lot of her clients are not at the point where they’re ready to invest in hiring others to cover their increased workload. By automating some of the more tedious processes, they can actually delay having to bring somebody in and paying them. So, it really does save you money in the long-run.
As with many things in your business, it always goes back to investing time and money. Depending on how you choose to approach it, you can try and automate for free, but as you grow, you’re going to find that you need to scale that along with your business.
You need to be able to answer the big question: are you willing to invest a portion of your time and money now in order to grow later down the line?
And for each business, when that’s going to happen will be entirely different.
The Do’s and Don’t’s of Business Automation
“Do what you love and know you can do 200%, then delegate, outsource or automate everything else.”
Jacquie says that outsourcing is very much a part of automating your business.
Say you’re a copywriter like yours truly, and you enjoy copywriting. If you’re stuck doing bookkeeping, that’s going to take you five times as long to do as it would for somebody else who’s more capable.
It likely won’t be done as well, either. If you charge 50 bucks an hour, you just cost yourself $250. And then you have to get a professional to go back and redo it, which will end up costing you even more.
So wasting your time doing something you’re not good at or cannot do, does it make good business sense?
And that doesn’t mean that outsourcing is a one-and-done quick fix, either. One of the biggest mistakes Jacquie’s seen when people try to outsource is that they don’t know what they want done, or they want the golden unicorn that’s going to do everything for them.
Always go in with a plan in mind. You have to know what you want and how you want it to work. This is where your systems and processes come in. Because if you don’t have a process, if it’s not written down, how do others know what to do?
Even when you’re automating, you should make your clients feel like they’re the only one you’re working for. Clients want the connection. They don’t care what you know, or how much you know, until you show them how much you care.
As for the don’t’s, Jacquie remarks that automation is great, but like everything else, only in moderation. Don’t automate to the point where you have close to zero contact with your clients. For example, chatbots are all the rage now, and for good reason, but don’t use them all the time. After all, usiness is about building relationships, and bots aren’t exactly the most genuine way to make a connection.
How much automation is too much?
One of the first clues you’ll see if you’re automating too much is that you’ll start losing clients. As mentioned before, you should be building client relationships. And you can’t be automating to the point where that’s no longer a part of your business.
One of the things about automating your business is that you need to be clear on your vision. You need to know exactly what you want your business to look like. There’s a strategy that has to go hand in hand with automating your processes.
You wouldn’t go on a road trip without a map, would you?
You’re going to make plans. You’re going to make sure you have the money. You’re going to make sure what exactly is going to happen. It’s the same thing with your business. Plan for success, always.
Time is a precious resource. As an entrepreneur you can’t get more time. We only ever have what we have, and how we choose to focus our time, and how we spend our time, is crucial.
It’s always going to be a trade-off with either your time or your money. It’s all about balancing each of them.
Jacquie is a business automation specialist and runs an online business management company for female digital service providers and consultants.