From water wheels and windmills to the assembly line and ATMs, automating processes has revolutionized industries for centuries. As technology becomes more advanced, especially in the realm of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, automation continues to impact how we run our businesses.
Whether you’re a freelancer building your own empire or an employed person looking to streamline your day, a technology novice or an IT professional, there are things small and large you can automate to make your life easier.
Benefits of Automation in your Business
Business automation simply refers to using technology applications to perform repetitive tasks or streamline operations. These automations lead to increased productivity and efficiency, reduced costs, improved client satisfaction, and business growth with the ability to scale. It takes a little upfront time to set up, but the rewards are well worth the investment.
Automation speeds up transactional tasks. Let’s say it takes you 15-20 minutes everyday to open all your social media apps, plus your idea document and graphics software, and manually post your content. With automation, such as a social media scheduler, you can set this up in advance in half the time. If you typically post daily, you’ve now freed up almost an hour each week to tackle other tasks. Or maybe even take some time for self-care!
Manually inputting information from one source into another source leaves room for error. You could copy-and-paste the wrong information, or put it into the wrong field, or leave a typo. Then, you’re creating extra work for yourself when you realize the mistake. Use automation to export, sort, or share information, and you can feel more confident that the content is accurate.
Adds data value and insight
Automation allows you to input data into one source and receive multiple outputs in real-time. An example of this would be a prospective client filling out a form on your website. The data is sent to your email marketing platform for future communication and your CRM software to add a new deal to your pipeline. It also triggers an alert to your sales team in Slack. Yes, this saves you time, but it also adds a layer of accessibility. When you can conveniently utilize data, you can make more informed decisions and revamp processes.
Frees up brain space for higher value work
Some automation does replace human labor. But that’s not something to fear. It takes over easy, mundane tasks and allows you to better use your human resources. When you eliminate busy work and repetitive tasks, you create space for the brain to focus on higher value work. For example, instead of focusing your time and mental energy on sorting through your inbox, you can instead analyze current workflows and find ways to improve your client experience.
How We Use Automation at Unco
Like most companies, Uncompany started with very basic automation and added more over time. As we continue to think through our processes, we find ways to eliminate repetitive tasks and simplify our operations — for ourselves, our clients, and our freelancers.
“You have to think like a robot,” John Pelphrey, Unco’s Director of Operations, says. “Nothing will happen unless you tell the programs exactly what to do. It takes organization and process thinking, but the results are well worth it.”
We’ve upgraded simple things like manually inputting information from Google Sheets into multiple databases to using a Typeform and letting Zapier do that. We’ve also created huge things like building our own proprietary software that allows us to build custom pools of freelancers, our clients to manage their pool easily and transparently, and our freelancers to accept projects, track time, and bill — all in one spot.
Pelphrey says, “Implementing automation redefined what “work” is for me. Now that I’ve freed up my time and energy from easy tasks, I can think about bigger business concepts.”
For Unco, it also allows us to attend to the right things, which is our people.
“We value relationships with freelancers and clients. We want to know our freelancers and help our clients solve problems, so we don’t want to focus only on the transaction. We build software and automate processes so we can get the transactions out of the way and get back to talking with people. I think it’s what makes Uncompany unique; it’s what people like about us,” he adds.
How You Can Use Automation in your Business
Intro to Automation: Basic Automations
- Email labels and filters: Set up rules or filters in your email to automatically sort incoming emails into specific folders or labels based on sender, subject, or keywords. This helps to efficiently prioritize and organize emails.
- Appointment scheduler: Even the free version of Calendly lets you create and share a link with anyone to schedule a meeting with you around your other commitments. This avoids the back and forth emails trying to find a mutually available time.
- Password manager: Utilize a password manager tool to securely store and autofill your login credentials across different websites and applications. This eliminates the hassle of remembering and manually entering passwords, saving time and improving security. We love LastPass because we can share passwords, which are all encrypted, with coworkers, and easily update them without having to notify anyone. It also allows you to instantly revoke access if necessary.
Automation 201: Next-level Automations
- Task / project management: These tools help you stay organized and ensure nothing falls through the cracks. You can assign due dates, set up recurring tasks, turn on reminders and notifications, and track progress. With platforms like Asana and Monday, you can share projects with teammates, keeping everyone up to date without spending the time to notify everyone individually.
- AI tools: No, ChatGPT can’t take over all your writing, but it can create some great templates to work from. Use AI to consolidate research time, generate ideas, and produce drafts of contracts and SOWs. It saves a ton of time and still allows you to tailor things to best fit your goals.
- Social media scheduling: Use a social media scheduling tool to schedule and post your content on platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, or Instagram. Batching this work saves time and eliminates the need to carve out time everyday to post manually. You could try SproutSocial or Hootsuite to organize and automate your social presence and marketing efforts.
Automation Seminar: Workflow and Process Automations
- Workflows: Our go-to automation tool for workflows is Zapier. It allows you to simplify and automate various tasks across different platforms. With thousands of apps to choose from, you can connect all your apps. For example, you can set up a Zap to send you an email notification when someone fills out a Typeform and transfer that data to a Google Sheet.
- Marketing: Using comprehensive platforms like ActiveCampaign or HubSpot empowers you to not only schedule email campaigns but also access useful data related to open and click rates. Armed with this information, you can tweak your subject lines or email frequency, set up a follow-up automation, or even create a separate email list based on user activity or interest.
Pro Tip: Get More Out of your Business with Automation
If you’re ready to start automating tasks or streamlining your processes, check out our free download. We’ve curated a list of software and platforms to up your automation game.