When I started my first business, I remember the thrill of thinking “this is all MINE. My terms, my work, MINE OK?”
There was tons of freedom in that, knowing that the wins (and, let's be real, the losses) were due to my hard work and some middle manager couldn't take credit for (but YOU KNOW, I ain't one to gossip). Life was pretty great.
Until my business picked up…then I began to do the stress scramble. I was the one making, packaging, filling, and shipping orders. I handled the customer service, the cold calls from salespeople, the bill paying, the social media. Ugh, even typing this out makes me feel like I need another cup of coffee.
It just wasn't an efficient way to run a business, because the business lived and died by me. Yes, I was responsible for all of the wins…but I was also responsible for every. little. detail. that was part of a win, or a loss, or just a task that needed to get done. Vacations were always marked with nervous checks to my inbox. Festivities were pre-empted with insane workloads so that I could get out of work an hour earlier.
It just became too much the bigger it got. When I burned out and decided to pivot away from that world into this one, I knew that I wanted to get things started the right way, so that I wasn't always in a state of a scramble. I also knew that it would be ridiculously tough, because I'd have to give up control of some aspects of my business, and that felt the scariest and most stressful part of the entire pivot.
That's when I realized that if I hired, or automated, or whatever other things I could think of to take something off of my plate if they failed it wasn't because of them…it was because of me. So, like I've talked about before, I decided to “front-load” my work: To create extensive onboarding documents that would be living docs that could be edited, updated, etc, and that would take a lot of FAQs out of the equation when bringing on staff…or evaluating apps that would take the workload off of my shoulders.
So what's the big deal? Well, I want you to do the same thing and stop trying to be everything in your business. Why?
You have more important things to do – Seriously. You're highest on the food chain in your business, so you should be doing “highest on the food chain” stuff. Not folding towels, not finding inspirational quotes to send to followers. Focus on the big stuff that moves your business forward in big ways.
There are multitudes of apps that can get things done in less time – I list a few of them below and in the cheat sheet, but if you can automate something, you probably should. For so many years, I used Google Sheets to handle my bookkeeping and it was a hot mess. When I moved over to an app that pulled transactions from my credit cards and bank account and labeled them…OMG, I felt like a genius.
Working more impresses no one – Here's the truth that I learned too late: No one is amazed at how many hours you worked on your Instagram images. They're impressed with results, with money, with recognition. The steps to achieve those? Ain't nobody listenin', babe. Focus on the end game and teach others the steps to make you get there.
The money is there, I promise – This is always the big one “I can't afford to hire someone” or “I can't afford a paid app.” Your time is limited…you've got a fixed amount of it so it should be treated as more precious than money. You can ALWAYS make more money. Write articles for $10/pop. Sell something. Sell plasma, whatever. The “I can't afford it” isn't a viable excuse anymore. And remember, the time you're spending on bigger tasks instead of these things you hate doing anyway IS making you more money…because once again, you're doing “highest on the food chain” stuff. Stuff that creates products and profit.
Okay, how should you automate your business?
Hire out and hire for long term – UpWork or Elance or whatever it's called now. Okay, cool for one-off projects, but I feel like hiring new people over and over and over for gigs is cumbersome and takes more time with onboarding. That's why I usually hire for the long term when I know I need ongoing project work and I feel like (in my experiences) the folks on UpWork aren't as into that…they're looking for more like “as many as possible” instead of “1 company, forever ever” (again, these are my experiences) so I've looked for more permanent solutions. Steve and I have hired two people via OnlineJobs.ph and will probably hire 2 more by the end of the year. The two we have now are full-time and focus on our company solely.
Find apps that will do things you can't – I don't know how to figure out the best time to post on Pinterest for my followers. But Crowdfire does. I can't keep track of which site referred which student to my course and when to pay them. But Gumroad does. My brain is less weighed down because I let go and let apps.
Make a plan (and implement it!) – What can you absolutely NOT let go of? Okay, take that and put it on another shelf. Now all of the rest? Do some konmari method ish on that and make a plan on how you will either automate, eliminate, or delegate then actually DO that. Don't keep it in your brain and think “someday!”
Batch batch…and then batch – This is a teeny trick that always gives me the best results. Instead of making soaps, then wrapping those soaps, then going back and making a new batch, instead what I would do is spend 1 chunk of time making soaps, 1 chunk of time wrapping all of those soaps, etc etc. I do that now, too. 1 day I make ~20 workbooks, cheat sheets, etc. Another day I knock out blog posts and images. It reduces the cognitive load and helps me feel less overwhelmed and I guarantee it'll make you feel the same way, too.
What are some things I've automated?
- Pinterest – Boardbooster and WP Pinterest plugin handle my Pinterest campaigns since it can be such a black hole of time jumping on there
- Social media updates (sorta) – I've used a few automations, like TweetJukebox and Hootsuite to schedule my updates ahead of time though I still make it a point to interact in real-time.
- Course registrations – I use both IFTTT (If This Then That) and Zapier to automate my course sign-ups. They're both free, FYI. GetDPD handles payments and digital deliveries so no one has to wait for me.
- Affiliate payments – GetDPD does all of my affiliate payments so that I don't have to worry that I've forgotten to pay someone
- Email subscriber onboarding – This is an automated email series that helps my subscribers get to know me and I get to know them a little (shout out to all of those who reply to the “What's your struggle?” email!). I set this up on ConvertKit
I know that some of those are fairly specific to my own brand, so I recommend you look at one giant pain in your ass that needs to be taken care of. Me? Social media updating. I love connecting with my fans and others out there, but I need things to update without me so that I can do higher level things besides posting inspirational quotes on Twitter. Those Tiny Tutorials ain't writing themselves, after all! Steve is even worse, as I knew he wouldn't touch any type of platform with a ten-foot pole.
So I knew my first pain point to automate and outsource would be there. So here are ways I specifically used some of the tools above:
- Created an onboarding procedure for Steve's blogs that included: target audience, blog goals, color schemes, fonts, etc.
- Hired a social media manager (for Steve) via OnlineJobs.ph
- Upgraded to Hootsuite Pro so she and I could cover all of our social media platforms
- Signed up for TweetJukebox and have it running quotes on my Twitter feed
- Signed up for Boardbooster to automate our Pinterest outreach (hat tip to Melyssa Griffin for the rec)
- Downloaded the WP Pinterest Automatic plugin to make sure all of my posts here go to Pinterest.
- Signed up for IFTTT to create outreach on platforms I don't focus on, but still want to maintain a presence (Facebook, Tumblr)
Now social media takes me ~2 hours a week instead of multiple hours a day. Now I can spend that time
looking at cat memes getting blog posts written, podcasts recorded, creating new products and I don't have to think about all of those extra tasks.
It looks like a lot of apps for just one aspect of my business, I know. But all of those apps have something even better attached: customer freaking support. Problem? They handle it and I don't have to troubleshoot why my pins aren't showing up. They do it and I don't. LOVE.
Look, it's not easy to figure out where you can give up control in the beginning, but it becomes a total drug once you get in the habit of it. Now I'm like “who can I hire to do something else?!” Hello, job creator!