Before I started my current venture as a business and writing coach, I was heavily involved in running the non-fiction line of a small press. I recognized that I couldn't effectively run the non-fiction line and start up a coaching business unless I could find a way to automate what I did for the press, so that I could free up my time for my new venture. Fast forward to the present, where I'm currently in the process of automating the last portion of my significant duties for the press, while still retaining overall control of the nonfiction line AND having lots more time to devote toward my life coaching business (which I'm also in the process of starting to automate).
The process of automating or semi-automating a business can take a little bit of time to put into place, but can save a lot of time down the line, when you want to be able to focus on other priorities such as expanding your business in new directions or taking a moment to relax and enjoy some of the finer qualities of life unrelated to business. The entire purpose of automating or semi-automating your business is to remove you from doing a lot of the administrative work which can quickly bog you down in lots of details, which while important to deal with can manage to keep you from focusing on the equally important task of growing your business.
One of the frequent comments I hear from business owners or someone who is part of a service oriented industry is a feeling of being stuck at a plateau or stuck in a rut with their businesses. They get caught up in the daily details of running the business and don't feel like they have time to spend on growing that business in new directions. When I hear someone tell me that they can't put five minutes toward learning something that could help them get more clients or business, it can usually be solved by learning to automate the handling of whatever is eating up so much time. So how does automation work?
There are two ways I have automated my businesses. For the press, I have automated my tasks as the managing editor by delegating the majority of the work to other people. This approach is employed in a lot of businesses. It can be done by hiring a virtual assistant or finding people who provide specific services you need. If you're hiring a virtual assistant, the automation occurs by telling that person you want them to do and then letting them do it for you. Hiring a person to provide a specific type of service will automate your business in terms of getting that specific service done.
The downside to hiring someone to do work for you is that until they've done the work, you have no guarantee that they will perform as expected. In fact, if someone you hire does a good job, there's still a chance that a feeling of "I could've done it better" could still influence your thoughts on continuing to work with that person. If you find yourself entertaining such a feeling, weigh it against how much time is freed up for you to get to those tasks you've been putting off. Chances are if you examine that feeling from a time issue, it will help you realize that you hired the person to free up your time from the tasks they are doing.
The other way to automate your business involves using technology to cut down on the amount of work you are doing. Sites such as Aweber offer auto-responder programs where you can have emails and newsletters sent off automatically to the database of people you have using your services. However automating technology doesn't have to be that expensive, and it can be in your favor to look into alternatives that offer similar services without the expense added in.
For example, instead of writing my newsletters and having them sent off by email, I use wordpress and blogger to create my newsletter blogs. I add in RSS feeds as well as allowing readers to subscribe to my blog posts via email (and I can check the stats and even have a database for the people subscribed to my blogs). Additionally because I can tag my posts with search phrases I increase the chance that people will find my newsletter, so instead of operating with a set database, I connect to many more people who otherwise might never read my posts. Finally, if I'm willing to spend a few minutes I can socially bookmark my blogs, and even ask some of my readers to bookmark the posts if they find the posts relevant to them. This provides another way for people to find my newsletter and direct more business to me. Additionally, people can read any of my posts at any time. All that said, auto-responders are another form of automated technology that can be useful. I just received a fourteen day e-course through an auto-responder. Everytime someone signs up for that course, they'll get the emails for it, without the person who wrote them having to lift a finger.
The downside to technology is that if it breaks down and you don't know how to repair it or even determine the problem, it can become costly and cost you time and resources. Additionally, there is always some learning curve involved, which can take up an initial investment of time and effort. However, the payoff is usually worth the initial investment.
If you find yourself bogged down in details, with your business not growing, perhaps its time to look into how you can automate the details and free up some of that time. If nothing else, knowing that you have some more time can be very uplifting, both for your business and your personal life.