As a small business owner, you're probably used to doing alllll the things. You built this business from the ground up, and you created processes that work for you. You probably even have a specific way that you like things done. Sure, it takes you a while, but you know that everything is done, exactly the way that you like - even if you have to stay up until 3am to do it.
The only problem is that we don't have an unlimited amount of time. We have a full life outside our business, and most of us would rather be walking our dog or cheering at our son's baseball game, NOT sending out a calendar invite to someone who just submitted our contact form at 4pm on the Friday before a long weekend.
This is where automations come in. If you're looking to save a ton of time in your business, without sacrificing client experience, keep reading and I'll share my list of 5 things you can automate TODAY!
What Is An Automation and Why Would I Want To Automate My Online Business?
An automation is simply a way execute recurring tasks or processes automatically (like without you having to do them manually, over and over again!) An automation doesn't necessarily have to be a specialized piece of software or tech, it just has to be something that occurs without any hands on work required from you.
Automations save you TONS of time, allowing you to be more productive, and giving you space to step away from your lap top and live your life.
Without automations in your business, tasks can take ten times as long! No seriously. It takes me about 10 minutes to onboard a new client at this point. But at one point, it took me weeks. Almost a month actually.
I realize that sounds ridiculous.
But it's true. One time, it took me 21 days to onboard a client. Here's how it went down: It was just about 2 years ago and I had a discovery call with a potential new client. It went really well, and she was excited and ready to start our work together, as was I! I am located on the East Coast, while this particular client was in a different time zone and actually split her time between the US and Australia.
We finished up the call around 6pm my time on a Friday. (DAY 1) I didn't have a I didn't have Client Management System (like Dubsado), or any automations in place, so I was not only reinventing the wheel every time I started working with someone new, but I had to complete every step of the onboarding process manually.
I did have (and still try to maintain) really strict boundaries in my business, which included not working on client work on the weekends, so I didn't start the process of creating her contract and sending it to her until the following Monday.
Here's what happened next: ➡️ I created a customized contract for her and sent it out Monday morning (DAY 4) ➡️ She signed and returned it Tuesday, but I was already done with work for the day so I didn't see it until Wednesday. (DAY 6) ➡️ Unfortunately, my daughter was home sick that Wednesday and Thursday so I couldn’t get anything done. I finally sent her invoice out on Thursday night (DAY 7) ➡️ She paid the invoice on Friday (DAY 8) ➡️ Again, since we were on different time zones, I was already done working for the day.
➡️ Monday was a federal holiday in the US, so I was off work. (DAY 11) ➡️I didn’t see that she made payment until I checked my bank account Tuesday morning. (DAY 12)
➡️There was a decent amount of information that I needed from her to complete the project that we were working on together. I didn't have an onboarding questionnaire completed, so I spend all day Tuesday, and part of Wednesday figuring out what I wanted to say in the onboarding email and what questions I wanted to ask in the onboarding questionnaire. (DAY 13)
➡️I finally figured out what information I needed, and what information I wanted her to know and sent that questionnaire out on Wednesday. (DAY 14)
➡️She responded to that email on Friday with a question about the hours of my Voxer availability (DAY 16)
➡️ I saw her email reply on Monday morning and answered her questions (DAY 19)
➡️ She completed the questionnaire Tuesday (DAY 20)
➡️ At that point, I realized that I never included a link to book our first call in the onboarding email. In fact, I didn't even have my calendar availability set up for the next month. I had to spend the rest of the morning configuring my calendar, and drafting a new email asking her to book an appointment. Due to the time difference, she finally responded and booked an appointment on Wednesday (DAY 21) So there you have it.
3 weeks to onboard a client.
Talk about exhausting.
My new client's first impression of me was probably that I was inefficient and disorganized, which is a terrible way to start a new working relationship. Not to mention the fact that it was a massive waste of my time and mental energy.
I knew that I never wanted to do that again, and I decided that it was time to automate my online business.
2 years later, I have a TON of automations in place, but here are the five I use most often in my business:
1) My Discovery Call System
Your discovery call is the VERY first impression you have on a potential client. If you're not following up on leads in a consistent way, you could be leaving money on the table. People want to talk to you, and learn about your services, so it's important to put your best foot forward, and show them how organized and efficient you are!
Here's how this automation works for me:
I created an opt in form inside my email management system. I use (and highly recommend!) Convert Kit. This form has fields for name and email address.
I embedded this form on my existing webpage. Embedding means integrating external content (in this case, a contact form) onto your webpage, using a piece of code. No worries if tech isn't your jam - if your email service provider has the functionality to create forms, it will be able to provide all the code for you, so all you'll have to do is copy and paste it!
I create a tag within your email service provider. A tag is simply a way to organize & segment your email list - in this case, I used the tag "Lead". That way, when I search through or sort my email list in the future, I'll be able to quickly find any leads who submitted this particular form.
I created an email. This email will include a generic message (Something like, "Thank you for your interest in xyz program, here's a link [INSERT YOUR SCHEDULING LINK] to book your Discovery Call. I look forward to speaking with you!") You could name this email "Discovery Call Email"
I created an automation inside Convert Kit. This automation will add the "Lead" tag to anyone who completes the embedded contact form, and then send the "Discovery Call Email" with a link to book a call.
Now, any time someone completes the contact form, they'll automatically receive an email, as well as being tagged inside Convert Kit. And I don't have to do a THING!
Setting up automations like this may seem like a ton of work, but they will save you SO much time in the long run.
How good will it feel to book a Discovery Call with a potential client without having to lift a finger!? Ahhh. I breathed a sigh of relief just thinking about it. Want to save yourself a bunch of time? Grab the Client Experience Template Bundle and you'll get immediate access to my Discovery Call checklist, as well as all my Discovery Call follow up emails (plus so much more)!
2) My Client Instructions
Always saying the same things to every new client? Head to Canva and create a Welcome Packet. A Welcome Packet is a document that you can email to your clients when you start working together. It contains information like: the ways to communicate with you, your office hours, the files you need from them before you can begin their project etc.
I send my Welcome Packet as a PDF attachment to my new clients in their onboarding email. This is a great place to set up boundaries with new clients. Here are a few things that I include:
My holiday schedule - I always take 10 days off at Christmas and 10 days off at the end of the summer, and I think it's important that my clients know that ahead of time.
My Voxer availability - I found that I was losing so much time going back and forth with my clients in Voxer all day. I've limited my Voxer availability to Tuesday - Thursday from 9am - 3pm EST.
My email response time - I try to check my email only once per day. I like to let clients know ahead of time that it can take up to 48 hours to receive an email response from me.
My preferred project management system - I like to use Click Up, especially when I'm managing a course or digital product launch, so I include instructions on downloading Click Up as well as a link to an instructional video if they've never used that platform before.
Check out THIS blog post to find out what you should consider including in your Welcome Packet. Remember, if you don't feel like creating your own template, you can use the premade Canva templates inside The Client Experience Bundle. You'll be able to customize those templates with your brand colors and fonts - there are even onboarding email swipe files that you can simply copy & paste.
3) My Testimonial Requests
Social proof is powerful in the online space. Sharing testimonials with your social media audience or publishing them on your website is so important, but it's often one of those things that we forget to ask for.
You can automate your testimonial requests in a few ways. First, create a testimonial form and a reminder to send it out via email on a specific date (ex: two weeks before their contract is up) and you'll never have to remember to ask for a testimonial again!
If you are looking for some guidance around developing an testimonial request system, I highly recommend checking out The Client Experience Bundle, which will not only walk you through exactly how to structure your testimonial requests, but gives you testimonial request email swipe files as well as IG story templates so you can share your testimonials with your audience right away!
4) My Meeting Reminders
People are forgetful. We have so much going on in our lives that it is really easy to forget an appointment. Or, forget where the appointment is being hosted. (Have you ever hopped on Zoom to meet with someone only to realize 10 minutes later that the meeting is being held on the phone?)
I used to manually send my clients an email reminder an hour before our call so they wouldn’t forget, but not anymore! Calendar scheduling programs like Calendly or Acuity include email reminders, so you never have to manually remind your clients of their session with you again! It's just one more thing off my plate.
I use Dubsado for scheduling as well, and I have set up reminders 24 hours prior as well as one hour prior. It has dramatically decreased the number of no shows and forgotten appointments. I also include a link to the Zoom meeting room, so there is never a question on where the meeting is being held!
5) My Freebie Delivery
My Freebies are an important part of my sales funnel. When someone downloads one of my Free Resources, they automatically get an email delivering that download to them. From there, they are automatically added to my freebie delivery sequence. You'll sometimes hear this referred to as an "email nurture sequence."
Essentially, it's a set of emails that goes out automatically at a certain interval to "warm" this previously cold subscriber. My email nurture sequence sends out 7 emails over the course of two weeks. It helps new subscribers get to know me and learn more about my services. But imagine if I had to send those emails out manually?! That would take up so much of my time. So I've created a simple email automation in Convert Kit and I don't even need to think about it!
Now it's your turn - make a list of allll the recurring tasks you do in your business on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis and ask yourself the following questions:
Are the steps that I take to complete this task necessary or should I delete some of them?
Are the tools and software that I'm using the best ones for the task at hand?
Are there any automations that can replace some parts of this task or even an entire step?
Once you've nailed that down, you can start taking the steps you need to create those time saving automations!