Being an entrepreneur means managing your time. This could mean delegating tasks to employees or reducing your responsibilities. As a startup, employees or contractors may not be a luxury you have or an option you can afford. Automation is one way to cover essential tasks without the cost of staff and the commitment of time. Here are four areas any business can automate to move them forward.
Email – If you are a company that sends emails to customers or clients – typing each email is time-consuming. There are several low-cost and free services that enable you to create email templates for different phases in your customer life cycle. When a client signs up to a service or orders a product, they will automatically get an email from you based on the template you wrote and the action they initiated. These services offer personalization and even analytics on how customers receive your communication. If your company sends out newsletters, you can also preplan that too. One tip is to create a content calendar so you can identify what products, services, or topics you want to highlight and will disseminate.
Social Media – Social media posts take me forever to write then share. At a minimum, a thoughtful post can take 15 minutes to create for each platform. That means that over the course of the month, I have dedicated at least 6 hours to social media. Since social media is not my forte, I would rather use that time on a task that will better use my skills, which may be the same case for you. So to still post on social media without the long hours, I schedule my posts weeks in advance with a free service. There are paid versions that offer additional features but for my business, the free version works fine. These services also post to multiple platforms which saves me time. In addition, they give me analytics so I know what posts are working. Note – that if your company relies heavily on social media as a driver for engagement, you want to consider hiring someone part-time and working collaboratively on scheduled posts and live posts. That way, you still maintain your engagement without losing too much time.
Online Payment Terminals – Accept payment online that takes different financial instruments such as credit cards, checks, wire transfers, and PayPal early in your business. This is necessary because it enables you to 1) get paid quickly and securely, 2) gives your clients and customers options to pay, 3) helps in maintaining good financial records, and finally – it relieves you from having to take payments in person, which is can be time-consuming. Also, having payment options available online these days is smart because most devices have prepopulated financial information, making it easy for consumers to provide billing info thereby reducing the time to reconsider purchase options. The easier it is for them to buy from you, the more likely they will continue to.
Calendar Invites ‒ Last but not least, I am always busy as an entrepreneur. Sometimes being busy means that I am spending my day collaborating with different people. Trying to schedule meetings can be a pain. However, there are free to low-cost digital calendars that you can include in your email that highlight specific blocks of time that people can request to schedule a meeting. I find it useful because I do not have to interrupt my day to schedule someone in since they can do it themselves; and, it helps me maintain a sense of planning that no one will disrupt, which means I remain productive.
A word of caution: automation is great but always remember to check-in with your process and strategy because automation if done improperly, can make the business and its services seem stoic and inauthentic. It can remove the cultural brand or thumbprint that makes your business unique. Remember that automation is to streamline and not replace you so constantly check your process and use your new free time to get to know your customers!