Picture the scene: It's lunchtime, I've taken a break from running my two IT businesses, and I'm having lunch with my kids around the kitchen table. My youngest child is 7, and we're discussing how people work nowadays (compared to 20 years ago when we didn't all have computers in our homes), and the difference between earning money and making money.
You wouldn't be reading the Zapier blog if you didn't already appreciate that time is precious and expensive. But as a business owner or general profit-seeker, you can choose to use your time to either earn money or make money.
These are two very distinct activities: Earning money is where a person's time, expertise, and effort is directly exchanged for money, such as a salaried or hourly job. Making money is when you invest time and effort to create an item, system, or process which you or your customers need. As a business owner you should focus on the latter.
By creating systems that work for you, you'll be able to run your business more efficiently and get time back that you can use to earn money or focus on other activities.
Offloading as many things as possible to non-human hands will give you more time and space to do the things you need to do (which, right now, may or may not include teaching your child long-division).
How I use automation in my business to make money
I started my first business out of necessity: My employer went bust, so I serviced some customers directly. That failed, and I started my second business in 2012. I merged with someone running a similar business. We parted ways in 2018, and my business was going very well until one of my major customers went into administration and left me with virtually no revenue.
I needed to set up a new business and not spend a fortune in doing so. I was trying to attract big clients and charge big prices, so to give the impression of looking like a big business, I outsourced and automated as much as I could.
Website development and social promotion
I found highly skilled, affordable freelancers on sites like PeoplePerHour.com. They were able to build my website quickly and efficiently. If you're learning the craft from scratch while building your site, I recommend outsourcing this part of the process.
Social media sites aren't enough. Learn why every small business should own a domain name.
Once your site is live, use Zapier to connect your website (e.g., WordPress) to your social media channels, to automatically copy anything you write on your site to your social media streams. Remember: Your website is your business's online home. Write content on your website, and use it on the other channels—not the other way around.
Automate social posts
Make your company look like it has a dedicated social media marketing team by using Zapier to set up regular postings to social media on your favorite topics. You can also send quizzes, engagement-worthy memes, and other bits of information (remember not to make your social media feeds all about selling your wares).
One of my favorite things to see is people interacting with a tweet that my Zap automatically posted for me each morning. This one's a bit advanced, but you can use a Zapier schedule to trigger it to run daily, then use a Python Code step to randomly choose from a list of pictures and text snippets to send to your social media platforms each day.
However, to get started, set up a daily schedule to randomly choose something cheery and motivational to post to your followers each morning. This is a simple Zap that is both a great way to start building your social media presence, and complement any existing one.
If daily is too often, try this weekly version:
Virtual receptionists are worth their weight in gold when it comes to acquiring, and keeping, customers. If you can pay someone a small amount each month to keep your telephone messages coming in with real human interaction, it's worth it. A good virtual receptionist should warm up new leads and cool down any irate customers.
Try to find one that uses a template when they send you a telephone message: you can then feed this email into a Zap to extract the person's name and number to automatically enter it into your CRM for you, or create a task to do on your favorite task tracker. I created a Zap that sends information from the Zapier email parser to ConnectWise Manage.
Create or update Hubspot contacts from new parsed incoming emails
Create Trello cards from new Zapier Email Parser emails
Set up systems to help you make money
All of the above are examples of how to set your business up to make money. You don't want to spend your time entering details into your CRM—if someone has already gone through the effort of typing the person's name and phone number out for you, why not harvest that effort?
Investing your time and money into something which saves you time later on is usually a good investment, but do the calculations—investing four hours now to save 80 over the year is a good bet, but investing 10 to save 12 may not be.