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How and When to Automate Your Business

How and When to Automate Your Business

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When running a business certain time-consuming administrative tasks always seem to get in the way. Whether it’s accounting, managing your time and projects, or some other time sucker, these little necessary evils take up precious time when you could be making products or thinking up a new marketing campaign.

In today’s technology crazy world, though, there is bound to be a program or app to help you with almost every task in your business. For example, you most likely don’t type a “We’ll get back to you within 24 hours” email for your customer service email account. You’ve set it up where it automatically sends an email letting the customer know they can expect a response very soon. It just saves a ton of time.

Is there such a thing as too soon, though? When should you start automating various processes you find tedious? One word: plan. You want to free up your time, but taking too much responsibility away too quickly may cause problems down the road.

Let’s say you fully automate your accounting right from day one. The program you choose works wonderfully and you don’t have any problems…until one day the site goes down. And it doesn’t come back up. Worse, you have a huge order waiting to be finished and taxes are due. You haven’t done any accounting before because it was all automated. What do you do?

This is why it’s important to have a plan that slowly implements automated processes into your business. This way you get an idea how the inner workings of your company move before you step away from them to concentrate on bigger and better things.

1. Accounting

Easily one of the most tedious things about owning your own business is doing your own accounting and financial recordkeeping. Unless you hire an expensive accountant you’re left doing it on your own, which is time consuming and sometimes confusing.

That is – unless you sign up for a service that does it all for you! There are several good services out there that can take care of all your accounting while you just worry about making money. Startups like Outright and Freshbooks specialize in online small business accounting while Quickbooks is more expensive software that handles the more complicated aspects of your finances. All of them link with your small business bank accounts and save you plenty of time on tedious data entry.

2. Social Networking

Social media is extremely important in this day and age, especially for a small business trying to interact with a customer base. If you’re not posting on at least one of the big services like Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn, you may find it difficult to thrive and connect with your audience.

That being said, you don’t want to sit in front of the computer all day and not actually do any business work. Like any good marketer, you know spreading out your social media posts throughout the day is just good practice. But who wants to stare at their monitor all day? Or take time out of a busy meeting with a new client because it’s optimal Tweeting time?

Instead, sign up for a service like Hootsuite, SocialEngage or Tweetdeck. Each come with their own pros and cons and some even cost money. But all of them work roughly the same: schedule posts through the day so you can get your social networking out of the way in the morning and save time later on.

3. Project Management

Do you have a long to-do list or just get overwhelmed when trying to organize your day? Instead of wasting tiny little pieces of paper or filling your wall with sticky notes, try using an online project management service.

The great thing about websites like Insightly and Basecamp is that you can share tasks and reassign duties. So the next time you’re worried about that big monthly report you have to write, you can send it over to your coworker or out to a contractor instead!

What aspects of your business have you automated? What would you most like to automate but haven’t yet? 

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About Jennifer Dunn

Jennifer Dunn owns Social Street Media, where she writes about freelancing and small business for various online publications. She is the community manager at GoDaddy Online Bookkeeping, and her long-standing life goal is to learn something new every day.
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3 Comments on How and When to Automate Your Business

  1. Great post Jennifer! There are many tasks that can be automated and/or outsourced so you can work on your next big marketing campaign but I think you hit it right on by bringing up the fact that you need to know the basics first just in case there is a breakdown and you need to take action yourself.

  2. Thanks, Steve! I only say that out of experience. I think if I hadn’t, for example, laboriously wrote out invoices or did my accounting in a spreadsheet, I wouldn’t be as savvy as I am now. On the other hand, once I got busier, who had the time? I hope this post is a help to new freelancers who may be getting in a little over their heads time-wise and are looking for a break!

    • Learning the old fashion way is sometimes the best way! Thanks again for the tips!

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