If someone asked just about anyone, “What are the two things that you need more of in your day to day life?” I think pretty consistently, people would say off the cuff time and money. Time and money seem to walk hand in hand when we run our own small business. If I’m spending time doing something, anything, it needs to pay out in one way, shape or form in the long run. Whether that be client work, spending time on social media, or even writing blog posts, time is an extraordinarily valuable resource that we can’t use willy-nilly. (agree? tweet it!) Depending on where you are in your business, you may be working with a contractor or two who help to save you time, but if you aren’t and it comes down to how much you can churn out in the time allotted, time becomes even more valuable because every minute of every day can be directly linked to a successful or a not so successful endeavor. That’s a heck of a lot of pressure.
So let’s get rid of some of that pressure. And the number one way to do that (other than mindset overhaul, which again, takes time) is to set up systems that work in your business for you.
Half the Battle: Automation
I’m sure you’ve heard of some of the software that I’m going to list here. It’s all pretty well known. And the nice thing is that all of it has a free option (with some stipulations.) So let’s talk shop.
These are some of the software that I personally use and kind of can’t get enough of.
Heads up. Anything with an asterisk (*) is an affiliate link. Frankly, though I wouldn’t even suggest it if I didn’t think it would rock your socks as much as it rocks mine.
Mailchimp: They have a forever free plan that is kind of awesome and some pretty wicked integrations like Shopify, Facebook, Freshbooks, Paypal, Etsy, Zendesk, and Twitter. For small business owners who aren’t looking for drip content at this exact moment, the forever free plan from Mailchimp kind of kicks serious booty. It has list segmentation options, multiple list options and great premade (but customizable) forms for signup and pretty much every task you would need.
Need and/or want drip content? It’s going to cost you $10.00 a month. That’s less that I spend in two Starbucks trips. Can we say priorities?
Zapier: Holy bejesus can we say highly effing functional. Zapier is the system maker. You link apps in what are called Zaps into chain reactions that make your life significantly easier. Zapier has a free option that is kind of limited, but if you play your cards right and really set up systems that you need the most help with, those Zaps can werk for you. And yes, it will werk, not work. There are seemingly limitless Zaps to choose from a vast majority of them are not on premium, which is $20.00 a month for over 20 active Zaps. I get goosebumps thinking about what I could do with 20 Zaps.
Google Apps*: Can’t say enough how Google rocks for this. You can have a regular @gmail.com account for free. This includes Drive, Sheets, Docs, Forms, and Slides just to name a few and really can work for you. The nicest part about Drive and using the other Google products with you is that it doesn’t cost you any Drive space to store Docs, Slides, or anything else made on Google apps. Kind of pretty kick ass. But if I’m being real with you, the fact is, you can afford your own @yourbusiness.com custom domain because it’s $5.00 a month per user. That’s it. Gotta love that. Custom domains, more Drive space, and extra features like permissions controls (for those contractors and virtual assistants) really give you more control and a more polished appearance. Totally affordable too.
[Take your pick social media scheduler]: I use Hootsuite because I just needed a scheduler. For right now, the free option works for me because I drop my posts in for Twitter and boom it’s tweeted without me having to lift a finger. There are more available like Buffer, but if you’re just looking for a simple scheduler, really you don’t need to be paying through the nose.
A tricky part is Pinterest (all hail Tailwind) and Instagram (couldn’t live without Later) because they make automation difficult or impossible. But these programs make these tricky platforms way more manageable. With a couple taps or a little forethought, I’m posted. Secret: I very rarely post to my social media of any kind live. All of my engagement is all me, but posts go up automatically so that I don’t have to think about posting ever. Love it!
The Other Half of the Battle: Processes
So above I gave just a glimpse of the software that is made to make your life and business easier to run. But if we as small business owners know anything, it’s that a piece of software really doesn’t make a difference if we aren’t using it to the best of its capacity. The real trick is working it into your process.
What can you automate? Where is it worth it to spend a few dollars to not have to worry about it anymore. I’ve talked about designing your customer experience before, but now I want to talk about designing your experience in your business. Let’s make your life easier.
Have you ever manually entered an email into your Mailchimp? Are you entering all of your signups? WHY? Did you know that Squarespace has direct integration from your website to whatever list you want? Did you know that there are an obscene amount of Zaps for that?
Take a good hard look at your processes and decide what you don’t want to be clicking all the freaking time. (tweet it!)
If you want to be growing in your business, which is a pretty common goal, think ahead when you’re making decisions about systems. How will this scale with your company as you grow? Will you have to change platforms later? How big of a nightmare is that going to be? My advice before setting up systems is to research your tail off. Read reviews, read blog posts, make sure you have a very very clear understanding of the features that are offered. Research will serve you well rather than just taking the “works for now” approach because if your business is growing, your systems need to be able to grow with it.
There are lots of systems that are available for small business owners. There just are. The real trick is deciding what you and your company need. If you need something with all the bells and whistles because those features are important to your business, I would never encourage you to use something that doesn’t really make your life easier.
What systems do you feel like you need? Do you have any software that you swear by? Share in the comments below!
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