The life of a solopreneur is a constant juggling act. There’s only one person running the show, so everything falls on you—from creating the product itself, to marketing and advertising it. If you want your business to succeed, you need to jump at every opportunity to grow. But there are only so many hours in a day, and you’re already working long nights. It’s no wonder so many solopreneurs struggle with burnout.
You can’t “work less” or your idea won’t get off the ground. You can’t hire anyone to help, either—at least, not without pushing up major debt early in your venture. It’s easy to feel trapped between burnout and failure, with no way to lighten the load.
Hard work and dedication are what make solopreneurs successful, and there’s nothing more honorable than sweat equity. But there comes a time when you need to work smarter, not harder. If you’ve found yourself bogged down by simple tasks, unable to focus on big picture development, it’s time to consider learning the art of automation.
Why add automation to your skillset?
Technology makes quick work of simple, repetitive tasks, saving your sanity and letting you focus on what matters most. Chances are, you already use at least a few automated tools to help with tasks like marketing or financials. But have you ever thought about leveraging automation into your everyday life? The benefits for solopreneurs are invaluable.
- Time savings. Time is the most valuable resource you have. Shaving 10 minutes of busywork off each hour of a long, 12-hour day means recapturing two full hours of your time every day. That’s time spent in more meaningful ways.
- Reduced stress. Burnout kills ideas and causes stress to build up. Automating monotonous tasks takes that stress out of the equation. You’re under enough pressure as it is! Save your sanity for the bigger challenges that shape your success.
- Saved costs. Time is money—cliché, but true. Every task you automate off your plate is a chance to generate revenue and profit elsewhere. Aside from top-line growth, automation also saves money on the bottom line by eliminating waste.
- Consistency. Beyond saving time and money—automation allows you to create a consistent experience with repeatable results. For things like bookkeeping, inventory management, and processing orders, automation handles the tedious aspects.
Like all things, automation is a skill you need to learn. Thankfully, it’s easier than most people realize. Tools abound for helping you go from experimental dabbler to automation expert.
Start with integrations
Simple automations are all around us, built into the platforms we use every day. For example, what kind of ecommerce software do you use? Chances are, it includes forms of automation: sending confirmation emails after a customer purchase, adding their email to your mailing list, or updating your product inventory in real time. These are automations we take for granted. Think of the wasted hours if you had to do these things manually!
“Many solopreneurs don’t realize how abundant automation tools are and how many of them are built right into the products they use every day,” said Cale Loken, owner and marketing automation specialist at 301 Madison Consulting. “Even simple automation is a huge value-add for digital products. Every platform out there today gives users opportunities to create workflows—whether it’s generating reports or executing multi-step processes.”
Consider all the apps you use and how they’re connected to one another. Take an app like Slack. It comes with over 60 pre-built integrations, tying together software like Twitter, Trello, and MailChimp. Imagine getting one Slack notification for important events like Twitter mentions or MailChimp delivery confirmations. These basic integrations between apps are a form of automation.
Everyday integrations push everything to where it needs to go, saving you the time it would take to switch back and forth between dozens of screens and channels. It’s automation at its simplest.
Progress to workflow automations
Have you ever scheduled a social post or an email, freeing yourself from sitting at your desk at a specific time to hit the “go” button? Maybe you’ve set QuickBooks to automatically generate and send you a weekly report? These are basic examples of workflow automation, triggered by certain events or criteria. They’re an important part of building more complex automations into your everyday life.
To become proficient with workflow automation, solopreneurs need to master cause and effect relationships. To automate the result you want, you need to define the criteria. Consider If This, Then That (ITTT), a popular automation tool that allows you to chain together events. By defining certain actions, ITTT users create simple time-saving triggers that automate workflows. Here’s a basic example of programming an automated workflow step-by-step:
- (IF) Schedule an Instagram post to go live on a certain date
- (THEN) Create a trigger for posting images to Twitter as they go live on Instagram
- (THEN) Automate the image upload to Dropbox for archival purposes
- (THEN) Add a row to a specific Google Sheet with the date posted
From one manually-scheduled social post, you’ve automated an entire workflow that cross-posts, backs up your content, and tracks it for your records. Using ITTT and other automation programs like Zapier and Workato, the benefits are immediately clear. You’ve saved time, created a repeatable standard, and taken this entire workflow off your to-do list.
Embrace the full power of automation
If you can think of a task, chances are there’s a way to do it faster and with minimal effort. As you become more comfortable with automation, experiment with robust triggers and actions.
Go from creating canned Gmail responses and scheduling social posts, to multi-step, multi-app triggers with criteria-based outcomes. Imagine getting an ecommerce order and knowing your product inventory is updated, the customer received a confirmation email, their email address is added to your mailing list, and the order details are added to your monthly sales spreadsheet. The possibilities are endless.
Being a solopreneur means running the show according to your vision, values, and management style… but it comes with a lot of responsibility and stress. When you embrace automation, you’ll set yourself up for success and give yourself extra time to enjoy the fruits of your labor. The beauty of automation is that it’s a one-and-done task that keeps giving back to solopreneurs.