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The Freelancer’s Guide To Automating Your Business | Part 1

Episode art
You know those tedious, terrible tasks you keep putting off? Yeah, we all have those. 🙄
Imagine if they could get done without you lifting a finger.
Sounds magical, right?
Well, in our latest episode, I dive deep into the magic world of automation. 🪄
No, it's not as scary as it sounds. In fact, many of us are doing it without even realizing it!
  • Ever wondered what automation actually is? I've broken it down into three simple steps: a trigger, an action, and a result. 🔄
  • Curious about how automation can help you make more money? I chat about how it aids in attracting more clients and maximizing their value. 💰
  • And if you're thinking, “Brian, where do I even begin with all this?”, don't fret! My goal for this episode is to open your eyes to the possibilities. Not to overwhelm you with too many details. We're keeping it big picture, friend! 🖼️
Sometimes, simply knowing what's possible is the key, so I can't wait for you to listen and see what ideas you have!
In this episode you’ll discover:
  • Using automation in your business to eliminate tasks you don't want to do
  • Understanding what's possible when using automation
  • Setting yourself up for automation success
  • The tools you can use to automate your business
  • Using fulfillment automation to provide better service to your clients

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[00:00:00] Brian: Hello and welcome to the six Figure Creative Podcast.

[00:00:02] Brian: I'm your host, Brian Hood. If this is your first time listening to the show or watching the show on YouTube, first of all, welcome, so glad to have you this podcast is for creative freelancers who offer services and you want to earn more money from your creative skills without selling your soul.

[00:00:14] Brian: That's the gist of this show. Every episode is devoted to something that will help you earn more from your creative skills. All while hopefully not selling your soul in the process. That sounds like you, you're in the right spot. You're a returning listener. So glad to have you back. This podcast is covering a topic we really haven't talked about much in a while.

[00:00:29] Brian: I think the last time we talked about this might have been way back at episode two 16 where we talked about how to spend less time doing the stuff you hate, the Easy Eights framework.

[00:00:37] Brian: That'll be in the show notes if you wanna go check that episode out. But this episode, we're gonna be just dedicating an entire episode to getting started with automation as a freelancer. And this topic is highly relevant to any freelancer out there that wants to get more done in less time and avoid the stuff that you hate. It's a really good, easy pitch for most people.

[00:00:52] Brian: Because these are things that you're probably avoiding anyways, so why not start to automate these things?

[00:00:57] Brian: I think a lot of freelancers avoid the topic of automation [00:01:00] simply because they're overwhelmed. They're intimidated by it, or they just don't know what they don't know. and this leads to the mistake of having to do everything in your business manually. Now, a lot of freelancers, whether they realize it or not, they're probably automating a few things on accident that they didn't really know was automation technically. 'cause automation isn't really that scary.

[00:01:17] Brian: We'll talk about definition of it and how we can implement it in our businesses in a minute. But because you're doing everything manually,

[00:01:22] Brian: All the things you're doing in your business take more time than it should. You end up avoiding those things because they take forever. You don't like doing them in the first place. So you just put them off until later, and then later never comes. then because later never comes, you just forget to do the things at all.

[00:01:36] Brian: So those things never get done. But automation fixes all of these things because if something is done automatically, then You don't have to avoid it, you won't forget about it because it gets done and it does it faster because it's automatic.

[00:01:47] Brian: So to me, automation is one of those big win win-wins where your clients are happier because things are done faster. You're happier because things are done that you don't have to think about, And then your bank account is happy because at the end of the day, this helps you earn more.

[00:01:58] Brian: Real quick, let's talk about what [00:02:00] is actually automation.

[00:02:01] Brian: It's pretty basic. I think most people fundamentally understand this, but I'm just gonna put a definition out there. It's when hardware or software does something automatically that you would otherwise have to do manually,

[00:02:11] Brian: And I break automation down into three kind of main steps or three main parts. There's a trigger, there's an action, and there's a result. actually, if you listen to a few episodes back at episode 267, the title is Turn your Hours into More Dollars by fixing all five Parts of Your Freelance Machine.

[00:02:26] Brian: That episode talked a lot about inputs and outputs and automation is very much the same way. There is an input, a k, a, the trigger. There is a action that happens and then there's an output, a k a, the result.

[00:02:36] Brian: And to put this into context, so you have an example of this, A trigger might be someone fills out a form on your website. That's the trigger. The action. The thing that's automatically done is that information is sent into your C R M, your customer relationship management system. The result is now a new deal is created in your C R M.

[00:02:54] Brian: There's other examples, like someone downloads a lead magnet on your website. They fill out the form there, and then the action is an [00:03:00] email's automatically sent to them to deliver the lead magnet, and then the result is they get access to their lead magnet. Those are kind of the easy three steps to break this all down into.

[00:03:07] Brian: And when you fundamentally understand this stuff and you start using it in your business, this solves the two things to help you make more money in your business.

[00:03:15] Brian: The only two things, the first thing is getting more clients, and the second thing is making each client worth more. A lot of automation is built around marketing. and I'm gonna talk a lot about that in this episode. It's actually might be. Split up into two episodes because there's so much to cover here, and I have a little bit of time to do this today, but the first part is marketing automation that helps you get more clients, and that's the first part of making more money as a creative.

[00:03:34] Brian: And then the second part is making each client worth more. And this is another place that automation shines because if you spend less time fulfilling on your work, you end up making more per client on a pure dollar for hour basis. And this is really important, especially for those of you who charge flat rate pricing.

[00:03:50] Brian: If you get paid per hour, this doesn't really help you earn more from each client. But if you're paid on a flat package pricing or value-based pricing, then obviously you earn more. Whenever you [00:04:00] spend less time fulfilling on a project, allowing you to take on more projects, which increases your business's income.

[00:04:05] Brian: So my goal with this episode is to just give you a lot of ideas about which areas of your business that you should look to, to start automating things. I don't want you to get overwhelmed by things. I don't want you to try to do all the things in this episode. This is more big picture, and I'm not gonna talk about the tactical, nitty gritty, tiny little specifics about what to do to automate every little thing.

[00:04:22] Brian: But I'm trying to show you what's possible when it comes to automation so that you can start using this as a tool in your business to both get more clients and make each client worth more.

[00:04:30] Brian: I am telling you right now a lot of the specifics here, they can be Googled. You can find plenty of videos on YouTube or on Google on how to do the specifics of what I'm gonna talk about today. but the biggest reason that I think people don't automate things in the business is because they simply don't know what's possible.

[00:04:43] Brian: And that's my goal for this episode, is just to show you what's possible so you can start to put these pieces into place, especially the areas that's take up a lot of time, or the things that you typically avoid in your business. This is the two areas to really start to pay attention to here. If you want me to make tactical specific videos on how to automate a specific thing, You can always [00:05:00] gimme feedback. Just go to six figure creative.com. That's the number six, figure creative.com/better, B E T T E R, and there is like a questionnaire there. You can fill out as much or as little of that as you want. There's only like one required answer in that entire thing.

[00:05:13] Brian: go there and say, Hey, Brian, you stupid idiot. Make the video about x I had no idea what you're talking about, but it sounds cool. I won't promise anything, but I will try if it makes sense, and especially if I get enough people asking me about this.

[00:05:24] Brian: so now that you have my goal for this episode, I wanna pause here and make a very important point. The point is this, When should you automate something?

[00:05:30] Brian: If you hear something cool from me today and you're like, oh, I really wanna automate that, ask yourself this question. I. am I proficient at this thing? If you aren't proficient at something, it can be very difficult to start automating because you don't have a good, well thought out process that you're trying to automate.

[00:05:45] Brian: Nothing's worse than trying to automate. A task or a process that is inefficient is bad, isn't well thought out, because what you're gonna do is you're gonna waste a bunch of time trying to automate something that you're still trying to figure out in the first place. So that's the first thing. Am I proficient in this task?

[00:05:58] Brian: You don't have to be a master of it.[00:06:00] You just need to be proficient at it enough to where you understand the entire process of what you're trying to automate. If you cannot do it manually, there's no way you can automate the task. The second part is have you done it manually, at least a handful of times.

[00:06:13] Brian: Preferably, this is something that you have likely done a bunch of times manually, and now you're just automating it. The best thing to do is look at the tasks of all the things I talk about today that you spend the most time manually doing, or that you do the most times, or that you do regularly, but forget to do.

[00:06:28] Brian: Those are the great areas to start looking to. You don't wanna just hear things that sound cool because, hey, this would maybe fix a part of my business that isn't actually broken or isn't a task that I actually do. And then start to try to automate those tasks. That's a waste of time. And I see this time and time and time again from my, engineer brains out there, the people that love automation that actually are really drawn towards it, they start over automating their business and they just use that as a distraction from the things that they actually should be doing, which is usually getting more clients or something that will get them more clients. Now, automation can get you more clients if you do things right, but I just don't want you to use this as an [00:07:00] excuse to go off and do the technical things that don't make you get outside of your comfort zone, your little bubble that you love to be in.

[00:07:05] Brian: so many people are drawn to that dark cave that they can sit in and type away and they never get outside to see the sun, to touch grass, to have another interaction with a human. So again, for my, cave dwellers out there. I don't want this to be yet.

[00:07:15] Brian: Another thing that, you lock yourself in a room and spend a week automating something that you've never even done one time. So now that I got the disclaimer outta the way, let's talk about the tools of the trade. There are certain tools that freelancers can use that are universally known to be great automation tools.

[00:07:30] Brian: Some are a little known that I love to use. I'm gonna share those with you today. I'm gonna share the tools first because I need have these for contacts so that when I start talking about automating certain tasks, and I'm telling you what tools to use for that task, you've at least been introduced to these tools before because so many of you don't even know about the most basic automation tools that are out there.

[00:07:47] Brian: The first one in, probably the most popular and one of the most respected softwares out there for automation is called Zapier, Z A P I E R. People pronounce it Zapier or Zapier. I say Zapier because the things that they have in there, [00:08:00] they call their automations, they call them Zaps zap, zap, zap. and what Zapier does is you can think of it as the central hub. The translator amongst all software that exists out there that don't talk to each other. think about it this way.

[00:08:12] Brian: Your website probably doesn't speak to your C R M or your cell phone or your project management app. Those things don't talk to each other. They don't know how to communicate with each other because they don't speak the same language. Zapier is like the Rosetta Stone for software. It can take anything from one piece of software and send it to another piece of software, and this is one of the biggest keys to getting data and files and things moved around the internet.

[00:08:34] Brian: When they don't have native integrations with each other, Zapier integrates with most software worth its weight, and if it doesn't, it's probably because you're using a piece of software that is not very popular or not really well run.

[00:08:45] Brian: Both my companies integrate with Zapier, and that means that the companies that I run, the software that I have, can talk to pretty much any tool that's out there that's worth a damn. so that's the first tool. It's called Zapier. There are plenty of tutorials online about how to use it. They have a great learning center. If you just go to [00:09:00] learn.zapier.com, links to this will be in the show notes, so you don't have to take notes now or go do this now.

[00:09:04] Brian: But that is one of the tools of the trade. the second, and this is one that's, Known in some circles, but not really in the freelance circles. And that's a piece of hardware and it's got a software component, obviously called the stream deck. I have one on my desk right now. And what the Stream deck allows is for you to have at oppressive a button, certain tasks or certain things to happen.

[00:09:22] Brian: a really easy example that I'll use is whenever I do this podcast, I hit one button on my stream deck and it opens up all the windows and all the tools that I need to use in order to do this podcast. I can tie it to all my lights. I can tie it to software and tabs and chrome browser tabs that need to be pulled up.

[00:09:38] Brian: I can tie it to shifting my computer to dark mode. There's a bunch of that. I can do that. One button press from the stream deck allows me to do that. And again, it's not cheap. I'm not saying to get this, I'm just saying this is one of the tools of the trade that allow you to do some of the things I'm gonna talk about in this episode.

[00:09:51] Brian: The third tool is one called Alfred. This is, again, known in some circles, I think the developer circle loves this tool, and I've been using it since I think 2017. [00:10:00] And as a matter of fact, they have a, usage tab on your computer.

[00:10:03] Brian: And it goes back all the way to 2017 when I think I first started using this, or at least the time that they started tracking usage. And it says that I've been using it an average of 30 times per day Alfred is a free tool, but they have something called a power pack. It's just like a one time fee that you can use. To help enhance the tool itself. And I recommend using it. If you wanna learn, this is a little more complex of a tool and you need to understand use cases of how you would use these tools.

[00:10:25] Brian: I'm just trying to give you the tools of the trade first and then we'll talk about how to use these. But the power pack is like 50, 75 bucks one time purchase it unlocks a few features in the tool that you would likely want to use if you're gonna do some of the stuff I talk about in this episode.

[00:10:37] Brian: At the very least, Alfred is awesome at just saving. In bookmarking websites that you open regularly. I use it all the time to open up software, to open up websites, to open up a series of tabs of websites doing data entry or Again, we'll talk about the use cases specifically of this in a minute, but Alfred is an amazing tool.

[00:10:52] Brian: The third one is Easy Funnels. Then this my own software, but this is basically easy funnels or side note, any sort of marketing [00:11:00] automation software. Easy Funnels has a lot of things. One of those things is marketing automation, and that's basically what you'll see from things like Active Campaign or ConvertKit.

[00:11:08] Brian: And a few tools like that that allow you to take a lead or a contact and put them through a series of steps automatically, it looks like, kind of like a decision tree. If you look at some of those automation maps, I'll recommend Easy Funnels here and that'll be what I use in the examples for this episode.

[00:11:21] Brian: But it is, again, not the only marketing automation tool that's out there.

[00:11:24] Brian: in the last tool, and there might be some other tools by the way that I bring up. Throughout the episode that are outside of this list, but this is what I had on my list today is any c r m with automation abilities. So there is Pipedrive that has some automation built into it.

[00:11:36] Brian: Sato is a big one. And there's a few others. We actually use our own now and we're gonna maybe have something out in the future about what that looks like. But any sort of c r m that has automation capabilities built in, we'll talk about what that can look like and what that should do, depending on, again, what your needs are.

[00:11:49] Brian: So those are a big chunk of the tools of the trade. And there's lots of software out there that'll even allow you to do things within your actual digital workstation.

[00:11:57] Brian: So for those of you in Photoshop or Adobe Illustrator, [00:12:00] or in my background, pro tools or any of the digital audio workstations that are out there to move files in and out, to do things within your actual workstation to automate certain repetitive tasks I'm not gonna get into all of those because every niche is a little bit different and would have specific tools tied to those. But I encourage you as I get into that section, to start thinking of all the possibilities and start looking for solutions for those. So we've talked about the goal for this episode. We've talked about the tools of the trade. Let's talk about where to start looking for automation opportunities.

[00:12:26] Brian: Again, this is the entire point of this episode, is to give you ideas, and the best place to do that is to start looking for those opportunities in your own business. I.

[00:12:33] Brian: Now there's two places we're gonna look, and this is probably where we'll have the split in episode where we'll go to part two in next week's episode. But the first place we're gonna look is in your fulfillment of your services, because this is where you spend most of your time as a freelancer, is fulfilling on the services that you're paid to do.

[00:12:47] Brian: So when you are spending a bunch of time doing something, those are the places we're gonna look to first for saving time and automating things. And getting those repetitive bullshit tasks off of your plate. The second area we're gonna look to is your entire [00:13:00] customer journey or client journey from top to bottom.

[00:13:02] Brian: When someone first hears about you for the first time, all the way until they hand over their hard earned dollars, we're gonna talk about automating all those tasks within that entire journey. And we'll talk about it from top to bottom 'cause it just makes more sense for people to think about automation when it's in a logical timeline journey like that.

[00:13:17] Brian: So first we're gonna talk about fulfillment. Someone's paid you to do something, they're now your client. What are you going to do with them? Now, again, I love doing things in the logical order of steps from like, Step one to step 10.

[00:13:29] Brian: I'm gonna try my best to do that in this episode, but I'm not always gonna do that. But the first thing you do when someone becomes a client is you start what? You start the onboarding process. And if you have listened to past episodes or you've gotten my, ultimate Guide to Client Onboarding or whatever that guide's called, which you can get to by going to six figure creative.com/onboarding.

[00:13:46] Brian: That guide covers the five steps to onboarding a client. now everyone's onboarding process is gonna be slightly different, but that onboarding process is what? transitions from, I've paid you money to now we're gonna start the project. There's usually a list of things that need to happen in order to get the [00:14:00] project up and running correctly from the start, so we don't have to go back and get files and get information and ask our clients a bunch of things and bother things and forget things while we're doing the project.

[00:14:08] Brian: So onboarding is a wonderful opportunity to start the automation process.

[00:14:12] Brian: one of those areas of onboarding is usually some sort of onboarding form. not everyone uses this, but a lot of people, they need a lot of information from their clients so that they can fulfill on the services that they've been paid to do. So a great place to automate things is when a payment comes in, that's the trigger.

[00:14:26] Brian: The action is that onboarding form gets automatically sent to the client. And you can do this through a number of ways. You can use something like Zapier, you can use a marketing automation software like Easy Funnels to send that email off automatically. Or sometimes you need a combination of those things to happen.

[00:14:41] Brian: But the result is the client receives the onboarding form and can fill that onboarding form out to give you all the information you need. And you didn't have to remember to do it. the client didn't have to wait for you to wake up and send it to them or for you to remember to send it to them.

[00:14:53] Brian: It just gets automatically sent as soon as the payment is received.

[00:14:56] Brian: And again, broken up into three different steps. You got trigger. [00:15:00] Action result. Your trigger can be different if you get paid after the project's done, then maybe the trigger for sending that onboarding form is in your C R M, your customer relationship management system.

[00:15:10] Brian: You have an opportunity that's in there. Again, we'll talk about sales later on, but usually you have what's called a pipeline, and the pipeline has multiple stages in it. A opportunity or a deal lives in a stage of that pipeline, kinda like a Trello board. If you've ever used Trello, where you might have new opportunity,

[00:15:25] Brian: Sales call performed offer made, offer accepted or proposal sent, So for you, it could be that whenever you mark that opportunity as one inside your C R m, that's the trigger. again, this is something that Zapier can help you with or some CRMs have email capabilities where when a opportunity is marked as done, you can create an automation to send something to your client. A k a, the link to that onboarding form.

[00:15:46] Brian: Maybe you use proposals. Again, this is another area to look when it comes to fulfillment and onboarding. Whenever you send a proposal to client, that's closer to sales, but when that handoff happens, they've accepted their proposal, that's when the action happens. The email is sent, the [00:16:00] onboarding form is sent to your client.

[00:16:01] Brian: I.

[00:16:01] Brian: There are tons of these little opportunities to just automate those little tiny tasks that all add up to a lot of things. anytime you have to send an email to a client or you have to manually enter data into something, that is a wonderful opportunity for automation.

[00:16:13] Brian: for example, if they fill that client onboarding form out, all of that data's in there, you can then use that to trigger the next step in onboarding. So maybe they fill out the form, maybe there's some files they need to upload, maybe there's some information you need to gather from them.

[00:16:26] Brian: that's the trigger. The submitting of that onboarding form is sent. you can actually do multiple actions. This is where things get fun and slightly complicated. the action can be action A, the files get sent somewhere, whether they're your Dropbox folder or they're in a collaboration software, or if you're really tech savvy, you can get it sent directly to whatever digital workstation you use.

[00:16:47] Brian: And then the rest of the information gets sent to your project management software. So for those of you who don't use project management software, you're at a disadvantage here. But for those of you who do use project management software, a lot of project management is getting the right information to the right place so [00:17:00] that you can track the stages of the project and so on and so forth.

[00:17:03] Brian: But once you get your client through all of those onboarding steps, whatever your specific onboarding process is and you've looked through all of those opportunities to automate all the little micro and macro steps so that you are as hands-off as you need to be. Again, sometimes hands-on is great, but you don't need to be hands-on for every single thing.

[00:17:19] Brian: So find those little steps that you don't need to be hands-on with, and that can be automated to keep the process moving along smoothly. But once you get through the onboarding process, now you're in the actual fulfillment process, and that's where you can do a lot with your project management software.

[00:17:31] Brian: If you're using project management, which I use, click up. And there's other ones out there. There's Trello, there's click up, there's teamwork. whatever you choose. Every single one of those has some sort of built in automation. You can use to automate certain micro steps. think about it in those three steps for automation, trigger action, result, whenever you move a project from point A to point B.

[00:17:51] Brian: Something happens. What needs to happen? What file needs to go where? What email needs to go out to your client to let them know that the project's been updated. Think about this from just pure client [00:18:00] communication, if the client doesn't get updates on what's happening in the project, through each stage, they feel like they're in the dark, even though you're working on it every day and trying to do your best for the client.

[00:18:09] Brian: If they don't get updates, then they're gonna start getting antsy. They're gonna start being like, where's all my money gone? What is this freelancer doing with all my stuff? You can automate just certain. Texts, emails, any kind of like dms in social media to update your client through each and every stage so that they're always on top of things and they never feel like they're in the dark again.

[00:18:25] Brian: These are just basic small things that you can do. You set it up one time and you never have to do it again if you set it up correctly. just look for all of these little things that you can do to improve the entire experience for yourself, for your clients. And maybe even for your team, if you have a team.

[00:18:39] Brian: One example of how this looks is from a master engineer that I know his name's Mike Kian, Mike has set up an incredible Trello board where he worked with his team so that every single day files are sent in. His team gets everything set and prepped and ready to go, and then when something gets put into a certain board or a certain column in the Trello board, [00:19:00] it's added to his plate. He gets notified and he knows what he should be doing and in order based on deadlines and et cetera, et cetera. Very similar to what Mike Cervantes has set up in his business, except I don't know if he has a team that's helping him with this. Maybe he does, but Mike Collagian had his setup with his team so that they only saw the projects that are assigned to them.

[00:19:16] Brian: When they're done, it gets put into his board, he gets notified and it's assigned to him, when he does the work, he can just drag the board over and then the client gets notified. Again, these are simple things that you can set up one time to collaborate with your team, to automate notifications, to know who's in charge of what and when and when the due dates are, and to prioritize things based on when things are due.

[00:19:33] Brian: Again, this stuff gets really fun because you start to see the power of how can I make my entire process run more smoothly without me so that I don't have to think about things? So when it comes to notifying my client of an update, When it comes to following up for that file that they never submitted, when it comes to moving files and information around for the project fulfillment, all of these things can be automated and taken off of your plate.

[00:19:54] Brian: So I wanna know from you, what is the thing that you are going to automate fulfillment right now [00:20:00] to make the process run more smoothly? And again, To go back to what I said before, those two requirements for what should I automate are this, one? Am I proficient at the task? Do I understand the process of what I'm going to do before I start automating?

[00:20:12] Brian: And number two is, is this something that I actually have done multiple times? So it's worth automating. If you can answer yes to both of those questions, then this is likely a task worth putting the time, effort, energy, and learning how to automate. Like I said before, this will be split up into two parts, so next week I'll cover all of the customer lifecycle automation. So when it comes to marketing automation for client acquisition, we'll talk about that next week.

[00:20:32] Brian: but I'd love to hear from you if you're watching on YouTube in the comments, what you plan to automate when it comes to fulfillment and what tools you're maybe more interested in seeing more about. You can always get to our YouTube channel by going to six figure creative.com/youtube.

[00:20:42] Brian: and I read every single comment that's on there, and this is probably the closest I can get to getting realtime feedback from people like you so that I know. What tool do you wanna see more of, is it Zapier? Is it maybe a c r m? Is it.

[00:20:53] Brian: Project management software, something that's gonna help you automate within fulfillment. What things do you want to actually automate? And then next week we'll talk about all the [00:21:00] fun, juicy marketing stuff on what we can automate. So thank you so much for giving this episode a chance. I know a lot of this automation stuff can feel intimidating, maybe feel a little overwhelming.

[00:21:07] Brian: This stuff is worth doing if you're doing anything repetitively that you avoid doing or forget to do or just don't like doing. So that's it for this week. Thank you so much for listening to the six Figure Creative Podcast. Come back next week for the part two of this.

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