The life of an entrepreneur can be tough.
The life of a solopreneur, i.e. someone with a one-person business, can be even tougher.
I know what that’s like. I was a solopreneur myself long before I started Jotform.
Doing everything by yourself can be extremely stressful and mentally exhausting. And it often leaves you short on time for the things that really matter in life.
I’d be willing to bet that the time investment involved is a big reason why would-be solopreneurs haven’t taken the leap yet. But here’s the good news. In recent years, the entire solopreneurship landscape has changed, with more and more people willing to embark — or at least toy with the idea of embarking — on this one-person hero’s journey.
According to one report, the number of independent freelancers in the US who are considering solopreneurship doubled from 38.2 million in 2020 to 64.6 million in 2022.
In another recent study of the economies of 32 countries, 19 had an uptick in one-person businesses between 2019 and 2022.
How is all this happening? I’ll go out on a limb and say that a lot of it comes down to one word: automation.
Because of automation, solopreneurs can now leverage the power of technology to handle numerous routine and mundane tasks that would otherwise be done by — you guessed it — them.
Solopreneurs are now able to embody what I call a “hunter mentality” and focus their efforts on tasks that directly impact their growth.
The era of busywork is over. And everyday people like you and me now feel more confident about starting, running, and growing their own businesses while flying solo.
It would be fair to say that I know a thing or two about automation — I mean, I wrote the book, Automate Your Busywork, on it. Literally.
So let’s explore how it can help you in your business.
Benefits of automating your business
Automation allows you to do less, achieve more, and save your brain for the big stuff. But let’s dig a little deeper. Here are a few big benefits to which I can personally attest.
1. It saves you time
As a solopreneur, every minute counts.
If you saved just 15 minutes a day, you would save yourself two weeks of work over the course of a year. Two weeks! Imagine what you could do with that time — coming up with new products and strategies, executing growth strategies, writing meaningful content… heck, you could recharge your batteries on a beach somewhere.
And I’d be willing to bet that you can save yourself a lot more than 15 minutes per day.
2. It increases your productivity
According to a 2021 Zapier study done on automation in small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), 67% of employees said that automation made them more productive at work. And sure, that’s employees of SMBs, not solopreneurs, but the point stands.
By automating routine and repetitive tasks, these employees were able to spend less time on minutiae and more time on high-impact, high-value tasks. And if that doesn’t make you more productive, I don’t know what will.
3. It eliminates human errors
We’re all human.
No matter how good we are, we’re prone to error — at least every once in a while.
And if you’re a solopreneur trying to put out fires while juggling 101 make-or-break tasks, well, you see where I’m going. You’re going to make mistakes. It’s a “when”; not an “if”.
Automation takes human error — that’s you — out of the equation. Assuming you set it up right, that is. More on that later.
4. It ensures compliance with industry rules and regulations
Here’s one that you might not have considered. Every business must be compliant with various industry rules and regs — and automation can help.
Let’s take the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) as an example.
This regulation says that you can only keep customer info as long as you actually need it. So if you’re not using someone’s personal data anymore, you need to remove it completely.
Manually tracking every single consumer and their info is prohibitively time-consuming. But with the help of automation, you can set up a workflow that will automatically remove a customer’s info after a certain period of time of disuse. And just like that, you’re GDPR compliant.
5. It allows your business to work even when you aren’t working
Successful solopreneur, Justin Welsh, put it well:
“Solopreneurs can’t rely on work ethic… Motivation eventually falters. Systems rarely do.”
Automate your systems. That way they’ll keep going even when you take much-needed time off.
There’s something beautiful about your systems working while you sleep.
6. It reduces the chances of burnout
I’ll wrap up the benefits with my favorite: It reduces your chance of burnout.
Solopreneurship can very, very easily lead to burnout. And that’s something you don’t want.
Thankfully, with automation, it doesn’t have to go down like that. After all, if you’ve got more time and you’re being more effective, that means you’ve got more time for some R&R, right? And if you’ve read my stuff before, you know I’m a big fan of doing nothing.
I could go on, but I think you get it: Automation is good news. So with that, let’s get to the good stuff.
What steps can you take right now to start automating your business?
How to set up automation in your business
1. Decide which tasks need to be automated
The very first step is to decide which specific tasks need to be automated. Sounds simple enough, right?
It might not be quite so straightforward.
There are lots of tasks that you can automate, but there are fewer that you should automate.
This means that you need to identify which tasks fall into the category of “busywork” versus the category of “meaningful work”.
So what sort of tasks should you automate?
Email marketing and management:
- Replies to “Contact Us” requests on your website
- Welcome emails to new leads captured on your email lists
- Welcome emails to new buyers who just purchased your product
- Follow-up email sequences to nurture leads and new users
- Specific email campaigns to promote specific products, events, etc.
Social media scheduling and monitoring:
- Scheduling of daily social media posts
- Scheduling of special promotional posts for new upcoming products, events, etc.
- Monitoring relevant social media mentions
- Booking of prospects for discovery calls
- Booking of prospects for a free consultation/coaching sessions
Invoicing and payment processing:
- Creating and sending invoices to customers
- Processing of payments from customers
Customer service (via chatbots):
- Responding to simple customer inquiries, requests, or complaints
- Pointing customers to resources (e.g. FAQs, documentation, etc.) that can help them.
- Analyzing and consolidating data across websites, paid ads, etc
As I said, though, not all tasks should be automated. Here are a few examples:
- Personalized customer interactions: While chatbots can be helpful for handling simple inquiries or requests, it’s really important to maintain a personalized human touch and build relationships with leads and customers. There’s a maxim among solopreneurs: “Do things that don’t scale.” Responding to emails and support tickets personally is one of those things that can be worth your time in the beginning.
- Strategic planning and higher-level decision-making: While data analysis tools can be helpful for generating reports, it’s still important that you take a hands-on approach when it comes to strategic planning and decision-making.
- Branding and messaging: While automated tools can be used for tasks like social media scheduling and email marketing, it’s important that you maintain control over your brand messaging and ensure that it aligns with your business strategy and values. I’d be cautious of using AI to speak for your business too much… at least for now.
Developing an automation-first mindset may be a helpful endeavor here. When something is taking up your time, ask yourself these three questions:
What can I automate?
What should I spend my time on?
What shouldn’t I spend my time on?
Then map out the workflow for the tasks that you’d like to automate: What are the steps? What are the requirements for those steps? And which of those steps can be automated while meeting the requirements?
2. Define your automation goals
Next, figure out your goals for each automation. If you’re automating your email marketing, what’s your goal? Are you trying to bring leads to the top of your funnel? Or are you trying to convert them into paid users? If you’re automating your customer service, are you trying to improve retention? Nurture leads? You get the idea.
Whatever your goals are, you need to ensure that they’re specific, measurable, and aligned with your overall business strategy and objectives.
As part of the process, you’ll also need to set up key performance indicators (KPIs) and the appropriate metrics, to track the success of your automation efforts over time.
For example, if you’re automating your social media postings, you might track metrics like engagement rates or click-through rates. Whereas if you’re automating your email marketing, you might track metrics like open rates, click-through rates, and conversion rates
3. Choose the right automation tool
The next step is to choose the right automation tool for the job.
With so many tools out there on the market, it can be really difficult to know which one is right for your business, but I’ve got you covered.
Let’s start with what to look out for when choosing your automation tool:
- Compatibility: Make sure the tool you choose is compatible with the specific tools you’re using in your business.
- Features: Look for a tool that has the specific features needed to automate your specific task. If you’re not sure whether the tool will suit your needs, speak with their sales or support team.
- Cost: Automation tools range from free all the way to prohibitively expensive. You need to determine what your budget is and look for tools that fit within that budget.
- Support: Finally, look for tools that have great customer support, especially on the technical side. Review sites like G2 and TrustPilot can help with this.
A SWOT analysis may be helpful when deciding, as it compares strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats involved in each option.
Below are some popular automation tools that you can check out.
Workflow automation between common apps and tools:
Email marketing and management:
Social media scheduling:
Invoicing and payment processing:
Pro tip: Some products that you’re already using have automation opportunities baked in. Don’t go looking for a new tool when your existing tool can handle it!
4. Set up the automation and track its success over time
Now it’s time to set up the automation itself.
Setup really depends on the automation tools that you choose, but Zapier’s Getting Started Guide is a good starting point.
Once you set it up, test it and make sure it works as desired. Then continue to monitor it for problems. If you find that the initial setup is not achieving your goals, optimize it. For example, if your automated email marketing campaigns are not seeing the desired open or click-through rates, you might need to adjust the content or timing of your emails.
5. Evaluate the impact of your automation efforts
Once your automation has been running for some time, evaluate its impact on your overall business.
Look back at your initial goals for automation and determine whether or not you managed to achieve them. And if you didn’t achieve those goals, take the time to identify the reasons why.
Identify areas where you can make improvements to your automation efforts and make the changes accordingly.
Remember, ongoing optimization is key here. Your automation should get more sophisticated with time.
6. Design a life without busywork
Once you’ve automated your business, you can automate your life too! I’m talking about your memory, peace of mind, communication, creativity, growth, and even your happiness.
This is out of the scope of this article, but I dive deep into it in the last chapter of my book. Suffice it to say that you can and should identify areas of your life that include busywork. Then build and automate systems to remedy them.
Kick back and enjoy some well-earned free time. Or focus on those high-impact tasks you’ve been waiting to sink your teeth into.
When it comes to automation, it’s easier than you think, trust me. And a little bit of time up-front goes a long way.
Of course, automation isn’t a silver bullet that will solve all your problems. And there will still be tasks that you wish you didn’t have to do. But there’s no better way to empower yourself and uplevel your business.
I might even go as far as to say that it is a necessity for anyone trying to compete with larger, more established businesses.
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