Automation Made Easy for Small Businesses & Bloggers
When we toy with the idea of starting a blog or running our own business, we can’t even imagine the amount of work we are signing up for. We begin out of the enjoyment of creating something amazing and the possibility of becoming our own boss, but often the shine gets tarnished by the sheer amount of work that needs to be done.
Designing, writing, pitching, photographing, marketing, scheduling, emailing… The list gets longer and longer each day. Even though we are all incredibly talented as well as being efficient multitaskers, we could all use a little help now and then!
One easy way of making the load a little lighter is by using programs and processes that work automatically so that we have more time for important things like creating and growing our blog and business.
So with that in mind, why bother doing the same things over and over again when you can use programs to do it for you? Why not spend more time creating and doing the fun stuff, rather than menial maintenance or marketing tasks? These programs will help automate many of these types of tasks so that you have more time for what’s important!
Automate your email
Answering a ‘few quick emails’ can end up being a huge time suck, especially if you are answering the same thing again and again! Creating ‘canned responses’ and templates are a quick way of answering repeated questions to save yourself time and can be done using most email providers.
You can easily set this up by enabling canned responses in your settings (it’s under ‘Labs’ in Gmail) and saving a reply as a canned response template. Then, if you receive an email that can use a canned response, you can ‘reply’ by simply inserting it using the drop down arrow. Another option that you could use in place of canned responses or in addition to is an autoresponder.
You can set up autoresponders using a variety of third party programs such as Mailchimp so that when people reach out to you they get an email back immediately with your custom message. You can hack this using the ‘Vacation Responder’ - it will reply to any message you receive that isn’t spam or something you’re subscribed to. Autoresponders can also be triggered by activities and you can create a series of auto responses that become an email sequence.
It means if someone buys something from your online shop they can automatically be sent a thank you email, then a discount voucher a day later, alerts of new products they may like - whatever you choose to put into the sequence. You just create the emails in the sequence once, define the order, the trigger and then when to send them. After that, it’s automatic.
Automate your blog systems
Mailchimp or ConvertKit are both fantastic tools for automation - as well as autoresponders and email sequences you can use them to automatically send out your latest blog posts and add new subscribers to your mailing list.
To do this you will need to design a signup form using ConvertKit or Mailchimp and connect it to your blog. People will use this form to sign up to your mailing list, and will be automatically emailed your next blog post or newsletter.
You can do this easily by creating a list in Mailchimp, or clicking on an existing list and then selecting ‘Signup Forms’ and ‘General Forms’. From here you can customise the colors, fonts, and message of the different styles of the forms.
Scheduling your blog posts in advance means your posts will be automatically published on the day and time you specify, rather than having to manually publish them. This is especially helpful for when you are away on holiday! Your blogging platform will give you the option to schedule instead of publish.
Using Leadpages is another fantastic way of automating processes, but there are workarounds using other programs if you can’t justify the expense. Leadpages has automatic pop-ups to collect email addresses and to enable smooth delivery of content upgrades.
For example, if you want people to exchange their email address for a really helpful freebie you designed, the Leadpages system does the whole process easily and quickly by allowing the freebie to be downloaded as soon as the email is submitted.
You can do this using Mailchimp but it doesn’t work quite as effectively. You will have your freebies housed in a password protected page on your website, and they submit their email to access it. Instead of an instant download, they get sent an email containing the password and a link to the page where they can then download the freebie.
You can also only create one pop-up (not page specific ones) and the design isn’t as appealing as the Leadboxes. Mailchimp popups can be created by following the same steps as above, (by going to ‘Lists’ and ‘Signup Forms’) and then clicking on ‘Subscriber Popup’. You then need to access the code on your site, and insert it into the HTML of the pages you want it to appear on.
Automate your social media
Automating your social media will save you hours and hours of time. There are many different programs you can use, but there are a few tried and tested ones that bloggers and biz owners will agree they couldn’t live without.
You can use Buffer or Hootsuite for Facebook and Twitter to send out your posts and content automatically at the time you set. I recommend Buffer because you can predetermine your schedule once rather than entering the time to post every time and it has a Chrome extension that makes pulling content from any web page much quicker than with Hootsuite.
A more expensive but incredible program is Edgar, which is another scheduler but with one major difference - it stores your posts and creates a recycling queue - you don’t have to keep scheduling your archived blog posts as they are always in the queue! It just keeps revolving automatically, showcasing your content to new eyes every single time.
You can use Schedugram to post to your Instagram automatically by simply filling the calendar with your posts and captions and it posts to Instagram automatically without push notifications. The free versions usually require you to open a push notification, which is still handy but is less automatic obviously.
Boardbooster or Tailwind will do the same for your Pinterest - you fill the calendar and they post your pins for you. A big plus for Boardbooster is that as well as pinning for you, it will also automaticallu delete the pin with the least engagement so that you don’t have double ups.
IFTTT (If This Then That) is another wonderful tool for creating automatic processes. You can create ‘recipes’ that are triggered by specific actions to create a response action. For example, you can have your Instagram posts automatically pushed to your Twitter and Facebook too - eliminating the need to schedule posts on those platforms!
All you need to do is create a recipe by choosing your initial platform (Facebook for example) and then choosing a trigger (a new post etc) and whenever that trigger happens, the action you chose will be done. Ta da!
Workflows are one of the most magical aspects of automation, because it essentially means your to-do list is taking care of itself. For example, if you are a service based business, you can create a workflow that incorporates and automatically sends the initial responses and questionnaires to new clients, as well as quotes, contracts and invoices.
Programs like 17hats, Tave and Pixify are all capable of automating these tasks, and the option of adding other options too. You create templates at the beginning, and then set out a workflow that the program will follow for you. They can be triggered by the completion of the previous step too - for example, when a possible client emails you, the program (lets say, 17hats) could autorespond with your initial questionnaire.
When the questionnaire is completed, it could send your quotes. Then your invoice, then a reminder! It’s quite amazing how structured you can make systems like these, so that they are working in your favour, saving you time and making sure nothing gets forgotten! They can all under your control too, so you can choose to check them before you send them, or you can add in tasks in between emails and more.
For example, the next step that pops up after the questionnaire is completed could be ‘Read questionnaire and send feedback’. And once that is ticked, it moves onto the next workflow sequence.
You can also create workflows for your blog using programs like CoSchedule, which integrate a social media scheduler, calendar features as well as creating a to-do list style workflow that can be shared with collaborators and team members. The best thing to do is sign up for the free periods, try the programs and see what gels with you and your purpose.
So where can you automate your blog or business? Which of these programs sound like they could help make your life a little easier?
Jessie is the blogger, designer, and photographer behind The Seekers Space, an online resource and community for curious and creative souls. She is a multi-passionate who is obsessed with the philosophy of lifestyle design and writes helpful posts and guides for people who want to incorporate blogging, photography or traveling into their own imperfectly perfect lifestyle design.