Freelancers and other creative business owners only have so many hours in the day, yet we expect ourselves to complete so many tasks.
Have you ever felt frustrated because you haven't crossed off every task on your to-do list?
Have you felt hopelessly unproductive because you only completed half of the things you needed to do?
Do small tasks suddenly turn into long, hard tasks that take hours? That's hours of time that could be spent finding new clients or creating passive income streams!
It's difficult NOT to be hard on ourselves. A lot of pressure comes with running a one-person creative business. But we don't have to do All The Things. If we can automate some of the small tasks that pile up, we can save ourselves time and bucket-loads of stress!
What is automating?
Automation is your new best friend. It's when you use an app or software to complete a task for you. It eliminates the need for you to be involved with the task at all, freeing up your time so it can be spent on more important things, like...
- Filling your client docket.
- Spending more time with your husband and kids!
- Creating and selling a digital product so you don't just make money from your services anymore.
- Setting up a sales funnel that turns more website visitors into paying clients. *ka-chinggg*
Sounds like bliss, right? Think of all the TIME you'll have to grow your freelance business and live a fuller life. All you have to do is invest a little time right now in automating your business.
Here are 21 ways you can do that...
21 Ways To Automate Your
1. Set up an email autoresponder
You can create an autoresponder from most, if not all, email accounts. An autoresponder is an email that automatically sends to everyone who emails you. You can use it to tell people when they can expect to hear back from you, when they WON'T hear from you, when your soonest availability is and more.
This is the easiest way to cut down on the number of follow-up emails you get from people who expected to hear back from you straight away. It's also the simplest way to set clear boundaries and expectations in your business!
There's a lesson on creating the perfect autoresponder in Organize & Automate, plus a copy & paste script you can use!
2. Use the same schedule with every client
I recommend creating a reusable project schedule you can use with every client.
A project schedule like the one above outlines the timeline of the project. It shows the days and weeks in calendar format and the tasks you're going to complete on each day. It also includes the days your clients feedback is due.
To put this kind of schedule in place, just commit to starting each project on the same day (eg. Monday's.) Then follow the schedule for every project you have!
With a project schedule in place, you'll always know when to expect your projects to end. And with that level of organization, most projects will actually end earlier than expected. (Can I get a high five? 😉)
3. Automatically send feedback reminders to your clients
My clients never used to provide feedback on time. Ever. It would usually result in their project going weeks over its deadline, and I'd be pulling my hair out with stress.
I use a free project management tool called Asana to manage my projects instead of emailing my clients back and forth. Inside Asana, you can have conversations, share files, feedback, calendars and more with your clients! The best thing about it? Everything is organized on one page.
Asana also allows you to set a 'due date' for every task you create. This means you can create a task, call it 'Feedback Is Due', assign it to your client and set a due date. Then, a day before their feedback is due, Asana sends them a reminder. Awesome, right?!
If you're not sure what Asana is or how to use it, I have a FREE course that will teach you how to use it with your clients. Sign up below!
4. Automatically send follow up emails to past clients
Some freelancers never speak to their clients again after they're done working with them. They just... hand the files over and stop communicating.
Does this sound like you?
If so, I hate to break it to you but you're leaving thousands of dollars on the table.
If these clients are happy with the work you did, they will most likely want to work with you again! But if you don't keep in touch, they'll probably forget about you.
If you use an app like Dubsado* to manage your business, it's really easy to keep in touch with past clients automatically. Simply use Dubsado's 'Workflow' feature to automatically send follow up emails to your clients after their project is complete. (If you're interested in learning exactly how to do this, I teach it in my course, Dubsado In A Day!)
In my course, we add these emails to the sequence:
1. The 3 week follow up. In this email, you check in and see if they are happy with the work you provided, need any more work or have any questions.
2. The 6 month follow up. Check in and keep it more general- talk about how well they are doing and mention great things you've seen them do over the last six months. Then remind them you're there if they need to hire you again!
3. The 1 year follow up. You keep this email really short and simple. Just check in, wish them a happy year and ask if they'd like to work together again.
5. Automatically add clients to your mailing list
Stay in touch with your clients by automatically adding them to your mailing list so they can hear about future deals or new services you launch.
Just remember to get the client's permission first. (You can do this by adding a checkbox to your contact form, asking them to agree to being added to your mailing list!)
To automatically add a client to your mailing list, you'll need to sign up for a free Zapier account. Zapier allows you to connect apps and trigger automations.
You can create this zap or something similar:
1. Trigger: A client completes their payment via the invoice you send them.
2. Action: Zapier adds the client to your mailing list!
6. Use email scripts
Do you send the same emails over and over again? If so, create copy & paste email scripts to use for milestones within your projects!
I have an entire lesson on email scripts in my course, Organize & Automate. There's even a workbook of 11 copy and paste scripts you can start using straight away!
7. Create an FAQ Page
Create an FAQ page where you answer common questions that your clients ask. I link to my FAQ page on my contact page so inquirers can see if their question is answered before contacting me. It saves the inquirer time writing a message and it saves me time answering it.
I also link to my FAQ page in my email autoresponder, reminding people to head there if they haven't already to get a quick answer to their question.
8. Set up invoice reminders
Emailing clients to remind them their payment is due is one heck of an awkward task!
Most invoicing systems (like Dubsado* and Freshbooks*, two of my favorites), allow you to set up invoice reminders so you don't have to feel uncomfortable asking for overdue money anymore. The app does it for you!
9. Automatically provide guidelines & policies to your clients
Do you find yourself giving your clients the same instructions and guidelines all the time?
- How to provide you with helpful feedback.
- How important timelines and deadlines are.
- How your payment policy works.
- What files they need to give you before the project starts.
I was always sending my clients PDFs that included these instructions or manually writing it out for each new client, so I added these instructions as tasks inside the Asana project my client and I share! (You can learn more about this in my free Project Management For Freelancers course.)
10. Create a client portal
Do your clients email you lots of questions after you've finished working with them? I'm sure you're happy to help them, but it takes up a lot of time. To stop receiving so many questions, create a client portal (or page) on your website.
Your client portal could include all the common questions clients ask you, plus tutorials and videos.
Since I created my client portal, I've received a LOT less questions from my clients, saving me a lot of time.
11. Create a reusable project template in Asana
As I mentioned earlier, I use Asana to manage my projects. Within Asana you can create a project page for each client. Instead of creating a new page from scratch every time you book a new client, create a project template and duplicate it for every client you take on!
Join my free course, Project Management For Designers, to learn how to create a project template!
12. Use a bookkeeping tool
If you still do your bookkeeping in spreadsheets then maybe it's time to switch to using a system like Freshbooks* or Wave. These apps automatically import your sales and expenses. All you'll need to do is categorize them!
13. Organize your business receipts
It's time to stop pulling your hair out as you try and organize a year's worth of expenses from a shoebox of receipts. If you use Wave (it's free!) as your bookkeeping tool, it comes with a free app for your phone called Wave Receipts. Every time you buy something for your business, use the app to take a photo of the receipt and it will store it in Wave!
Obviously, logging our receipts can't be entirely automated but this is as close as it gets!
14. Allow your clients to schedule calls with one click
Do you and your clients send dozens of emails back and forth, discussing the best time for you to call each other? It's hard - especially if you live in different timezones!
15. Set up automatic appointment reminders
16. Automatically follow-up with potential clients who ghosted on you
If you're a Dubsado user, you can use their Workflows feature to automatically follow up with potential clients who ghosted on you. (Dubsado's Workflows are the ultimate form of automation for freelancers. Learn more about them in my course, Dubsado In A Day!)
17. Automatically train your clients to use your project management tool
Scared your clients won't want to use your project management tool to communicate about their project? They will if you train them how to use it! To do this, create a two minute tutorial about why you're using a PM tool and how to use it. No need to train your clients one on one. You can send the same tutorial to them all!
Want to learn more about using a project management tool with your clients? Sign up for my free course below!
18. Automatically pay your bills and team members
To make sure you never forget to pay a business expense, set up a standing order in your bank account. A standing order is an instruction to your bank account to make regular fixed payments to a particular person or company. Set these up and forget about your bills! You have better things to spend your time on.
19. Send your contracts electronically
Stop making your clients print, sign, scan and send your contract.
I use Hellosign to automate this process. Hellosign let's you upload your contract and create editable fields for the client's name, address, payment schedule and other details.
Each time you need to send a contract to your clients, just fill in the editable sections of your contract inside Hellosign and it will send the contract to your client for their electronic signature!
20. Automate your file-saving process
If you use Illustrator CC, there's a really quick and easy way to export all your assets into multiple file types with just a few clicks. It's called the Asset Export window! Learn how to use it inside my course, Organize & Automate.
21. Create moodboard / style guide templates
Here's another one for the freelance designers reading this! Stop manually creating moodboards, style guides and website wireframes for every project. If you spend a little time creating templates for these things once, you'll be able to reuse them for years!
Do you and your clients communicate through hundreds of emails in dozens of threads?
Are your clients constantly late providing files, feedback and payment?
Do they want to add more work to the project - without paying more? *Sigh*
YOU need to start using a project management tool with your clients.
Using a (free!) project management tool to communicate with clients, share files, create to do lists and set up automatic reminders can eliminate these problems.
Not sure which PM tool to use and how to use it? Sign up for my FREE project management course below to learn how to use my favourite tool (Asana) with your clients.