There are lots of ways to save time for your freelancing business. But outsourcing can cost big bucks, and scheduling still puts work on your plate.
So automation is the answer. The tools required cost a lot less than hiring an actual person, it’s easy to set up, and you’re not required to put in work over and over.
But automating the wrong tasks can do more harm than good and cost your business more in the long run. You could perform ineffective processes, miss out on business opportunities, or even damage existing relationships. Think about if you tried automating really sensitive emails – a client wouldn’t love that.
You want to find the tools that are best suited for automation – here’s how you do it.
Ideal tasks to automate
First, you should get familiar with the kind of work that you can generally automate easily.
- Frequent: if you’re doing the work to automate something, it should be worth it. If the automation will only come in handy a few times a year, it’s probably not best for this.
- Time-consuming: again, we’re all about maximizing efficiency here. The more time something takes up, the more time automating it will save.
- Generic: customized tasks that are performed differently each time are more difficult to automate, if it can be done at all. With generic tasks, you can automate them
Some tasks that are easily offloaded include things like finding blog posts and content to share on social media, inbox management (like foldering and labeling items), and creating invoices for clients.
Questions to ask yourself
Once you have a better idea of which tasks can be automated, you can think about which ones should be. It will vary from person to person, so help yourself decide with the following questions.
What takes up the most time?
If you were to perform a productivity audit, you’d probably be surprised at which things take up the most time. Frequently, they’re not big project – ones that you spend hours on a time on. Instead, it’s short tasks you perform here and there…and here and there and here several times a day.
What do you hate doing?
A lot of bloggers and freelancers preach “if you don’t like doing something, don’t do it.” Now, it’s not always that simple, some things can’t or shouldn’t be avoided. But the rest of it? Go ahead.
For example, I don’t like Pinterest that much. But for my blog’s niche, the potential was too big not to use it at all. So I automate a lot of it, then simplify and batch the rest.
What’s not worth your time?
Do you know which parts of your day have the lowest ROI? As freelancers, we’re trading dollars for time, so it’s something we need to constantly keep in mind. Especially if you bill by the hour.
Taking things off your to-do list opens up your time for more client work. That’s more time spent making money. Plus, for most of us, our freelance skill is something we love and are great at, so this relates closely to other questions on our list.
What do you have trouble with?
Once again, you need to think a lot about optimizing your time as a freelancer. In any career in general, it’s best to focus on your strengths. Consider the 80/20 rule where 80% of results come from 20% of the effort put in.
If you’re just not good at something, and it can be automated as easily as you can do it yourself, go for it. You’ll save yourself headaches and frustration.
For example, I like graphic design, but it’s not necessarily my thing. So instead of spending a ton of time on a basic graphic each time I publish a new blog post, I spent a ton of time months ago on a few basic graphic templates I can replicate and customize.
What requires timeliness?
With automation, things can happen instantly. That’s an attractive offer.
For some tasks, even a reasonable delay (no one expects you to always reply within 15 minutes) can impact its effectiveness.
If triggering the action immediately holds a huge advantage over performing it manually, it’s just smart business sent to automate. Take client inquiries and pitches. The longer it takes to send or respond to one, the higher chance you have of someone else beating you to the punch.