I posted this question to Instagram and Facebook awhile back out of curiosity. Partly because it's always nice to know that you aren't the only one with your struggles, but also to better help my clients. I noticed a pattern to the answers! The three most repeated answers were:
"There's not enough time in the day to get everything done."
"Being able to juggle work / home life"
"Procrastination / putting things off" (me!)
There were a few who mentioned SEO, gaining followers on social media or their blog, but those three main problems came up over and over! So I started thinking about how I could help! I had a visit with an awesome client of mine recently where I asked them the same thing. And their biggest struggle was also that they didn't have enough time to do everything, were exhausting themselves trying to do it all, and ultimately it was cutting into their personal lives / family time. We discussed some of the ways that those issues could be addressed and they were amazed at the tools that were out there (for free!) that could eliminate or streamline tasks that were currently taking up way too much of their time.
Another client of mine, recently said that taking orders manually/verbally was what she spent the majority of her time doing. We discussed ways she could take orders online and avoid the repetitive process or playing phone tag with her customers. Now her customers can easily fill out a form and pay online while she sleeps! I get it. When it comes to our businesses, we often want to be involved with everything to make sure it's done how we want, we can't afford to outsource tasks or hire extra help but we also want to keep our sanity right? So I put together a few universal things that can save you time and sanity.
1. Canned email responses - This is a big one. If people are constantly emailing you asking the same questions about your pricing, packages or custom orders over and over, create an email template! That way you can just click and send! Better yet, taking advantage of your nifty website and landing pages! If a potential client fills out a form on your "custom cakes page" wanting more info, set that form to auto respond with more info specifically about your custom cakes, pricing, deposits or whatever it is that customers need to know. Gmail, Squarespace and Wordpress make it really easy to do those things! Time and sanity saved!
2. IFTTT - Hands down one of my favorite FREE tools! "IFTTT is a free platform that helps you do more with all your apps and devices". Some of things you can do with it are as simple as "Send me a text if it's going to be raining in the morning". Some are fun like "Get a notification when the International Space Station passes over your house". But there are so many great productivity ones! It's hard to understand the power of this platform without exploring it yourself. But I took a screenshot to show you some of the ones I use:
So obviously the first one about Colin Farrell is funny, but the rest are actions that normally would take up a few minutes of my time every day that now I don't even have to think about doing. I'm not a huge user on Twitter, but these "applets" do it all for me. Every week it retweets an old tweet of mine, every Friday it tweets the same "happy Friday! Have a great weekend! Head over to my blog to see what I was up to this week" with a link to my blog as well as a few relevant hashtags. How great is that?! I also have it set to posts my Instagram photos to a specific Pinterest board, and to Twitter as native Twitter photos (so that they show up looking good, as opposed to the automatic way Instagram normally posts to Twitter). I also have my vintage shop Twitter account automatically set to retweet my personal account, as well as popular posts with the hashtag "#vintage" in them. So much goodness, amiright? This saves me so much time. And I literally log into my Twitter account twice a month maybe. The possibilities are literally endless with this awesome site! It integrates with Alexa, your Google Drive, Dropbox and pretty much any major website or app out there. You can even create your OWN applet very easily if they don't have what you need. Check IFTTT out!
you collect information, take an order, send an invoice, or do something repetitive in your business figure out a way to create a form or document for it!
3. Forms & Documents - This may seem like a no brainer, but I'm surprised that most businesses don't realize how badly they need to utilize forms and documents until their swamped! Anytime you collect information, take an order, send an invoice, or do something repetitive in your business figure out a way to create a form or document for it. Even better if you can turn that into a canned email response ;-) Google docs is a great free option for having your clients fill out forms, surveys or place orders. Squarespace and Wordpress also offer great plugins as well. Freshbooks and 17Hats (not free) allow you to track time, create invoices and get paid all in once place! But, even if it's just a good ol' PDF that you send, it'll save you time in creating something new and keeps your brand and process consistent. They're also searchable so no more looking for lost notes or contact numbers!
4. Social Media - Bulk write, schedule out and automate. It's hard for me to think about what I'll be posting tomorrow on social media, let alone next week. But I do try when I'm not super busy with work. When I have down time between/during projects I'll bulk design graphics, have a photo day alone or with a friend, or brainstorm/plan posts. If you know you'll be somewhere fun or visually interesting, take all the photos and videos you can for future use. You never know when they'll come in handy. You can schedule and automate your posts with Hootsuite, Buffer or CoSchedule for free or on their paid plans. If you're like me and don't like creating a post specifically for each social platform, IFTTT comes in handy here ;-). Keep up with fun holidays and all the major holidays if you can as well to cash in on those hashtags! I always get bummed when I forget to do a design for the cool ones like Pi day or donut day. So I try to keep up with them now.
5. Personal/Virtual Assistants & Accountants - I'm not busy enough or making enough yet to justify hiring either of those yet, but I hear good things for everyone who has! I've noticed lots of social media and blog influencers use virtual assistants for help with their social accounts which definitely makes sense. If there are tasks you loath doing and you can afford to hire out, do it! I'd love to hear your experience if you have!
6. Processes - This has been a big one for me this year! I've gotten busy enough this past year that I've realllllly had to refine my client process from contact - to delivering final design files. I don't have time for endless emails asking clients for things or answering inquiries that didn't lead to sales. I now have canned email responses for several different inquires from my website. I also created "new client" forms and packets, and premade quote, invoice, creative brief and package templates. I also have a timeline checklist for each client as soon as they hire me so that I know where we are in the process and what's next. This usually keeps projects from getting hung up or delayed. Having all these things ready to go saves time and keeps things consistent for me. If you work with others and need a great way to keep your team productive, Asana and Basecamp are my favorite! They're ideal for managing projects, sharing files and keeping everyone on schedule. This also helps keep the project talk out of your inbox, which is a definite plus for me.
Do you have any business struggles or helpful apps / processes? I'd love to hear! I'm always excited to try out new tools and tech stuff!