Automating tasks to save time
At some point in your business journey, you will reach a point at which you cannot fit in any more work and/or any more time to work. At this point, the single most productive next-step is not to outsource but is usually to look into automating some of the processes that support your business. I’m as guilty as the next business owner of following the same tried and tested method of getting jobs done simply because ‘I’ve always done it that way’. But I’m increasingly interested in ways that technology can free us from our shackles of tradition and comfort, always striving to become more productive and efficient in the business support I provide.
If you carry out any of the following on a manual basis, then you might just be able to save yourself precious time each week by using software and apps to streamline the process. Let’s not get shiny-object syndrome and adopt new ways for the sake of it, if these aren’t going to shave time off recurring tasks then they won’t be worth it, but I can vouch for each of these as I use them regularly in my own business. Some of the links below may attract a small affiliate bonus for me should you sign up.
Getting documents signed
If you require documents signing as part of your processes you probably recognise the endless creating, scanning, emailing, chasing, receiving by email, printing, signing, rescanning and saving process involved.
Using an electronic signature tool such as Hellosign or Eversign cuts out the majority of the process – simply upload your document, add the fields that need completion and your own electronic signature and the email of who you are sending it to. You receive a daily update on outstanding documents and can send a reminder with one click (free plans will have a limit on the number of documents you can send each month). The returned document is saved against your account and can be downloaded if required.
The dreaded email ping pong!
Rather than manually trying to work out times and dates when multiple people are available, why not try a Doodle poll? Doodle enables everyone to highlight availability so that you can see at a glance when the most people are available. It’s super easy to get multiple availability and arrange pretty much anything in much less time. This article offers some similar solutions.
Trying to pin down an appointment time can be difficult, but if you offer appointments of any kind (telephone or physical) then a scheduling programme such as Acuity or Calendly is the answer. Check out both, as both offer free versions with differing functionality. I personally use Calendly as I can integrate with my Google Calendar on the free version and that satisfies my requirements. Whether it’s meetings with colleagues or appointments for clients, it saves so much time letting people select a slot from your availability.
If you’re keen to keep everything manual, this (slightly biased) article from Zoho has some benefits of taking your diary online.
If you produce recurring invoices and/or need to produce estimates and then convert them to invoices, then an accounting software such as Wave, Xero or Quickbooks may save some time.
I actually use Wave for my own accounting and have it linked through to my bank account, but do use it solely to generate estimates and invoices for one of my clients as well.
With several layout options in Wave, the invoice templates are much more professional looking than a Word doc or Excel layout. They are super quick to set up with your services/products and brandable. For me, the speed comes in setting up my monthly recurring invoices. If needed, these can actually be sent automatically, as can overdue reminders.
I also have a dashboard so I can keep track of my income and expenditure each month.
With so many accounting options available for small businesses, this round up of the free options is well worth a read. Bear in mind the Making Tax Digital changes – Wave doesn’t comply (as of January 2019).
Scheduling Social Media
If posting to Social media every day is getting onerous then a scheduling tool could be the answer, particularly if you plan your Social media in advance. A small amount of time set aside to post in bulk will certainly take the pressure off. Interspersed with ad-hoc/topical posts and keep an eye on any comments/responses and your Social Media will be running smoothly. Top scheduling tools include Buffer, Hootsuite and MeetEdgar among others – prices vary depending on the number of users/profiles. Check out this post with the Top 10 recommended.