I talk a lot about the benefits of automating your service business. I’ve touched on the subject of outsourcing, too. But what if we made the two just get along? How would that look?
As the security guard at the fountain said about my choice of location to swim (what? it was hot!), there is a time + place for everything. The same holds true for outsourcing versus automating.
This post serves to discuss outsourcing versus automating :: when + how to maximize the use of each.
Automating is a bit like a charm bracelet :: you’ll add new ones with every phase or change your business goes through. You’ll find a use for a new charm or automation to stand in for each of those shifts you make.
You add new software. There’s a new offer to sell. You modify a specific way to operate.
Any of these changes will require a new set of procedures in your day-to-day operations. Chances are, you’ll be transferring information from one platform to another, or copying + pasting content across media. These are surefire candidates for activities you need to automate. In fact, anything that is repetitive + is always done in the same way becomes an action that is perfect for automation.
For instance, the blog posts you write in a Google Doc to be imported into WordPress? Automate that process with Wordable. This save yourself the hassle of transferring not only your copy but you’re also able to keep your formatting in check. Yeah, boss! You don’t have to waste hours trying to get the header text in the right place (twice!) or inserting that link where it belongs (again!). You write + format the document once, then automatically import it.
Another example of something begging to be automated are the set of steps that turns a lead turns into a client. Let’s say one of those steps is to create a client folder in DropBox for every new lead. You can use a service like Zapier to automatically create that folder FOR YOU every single time a new lead signs up.
These tasks represents one less thing you have to think about or do manually. It doesn’t seem like much when you look at one task until you add up all the little things that go into your daily operations. You soon discover that automating 3 or 4 little tasks frees up a whole hour. Automate a few more + suddenly, you’ve given yourself Fridays off.
It’s no federal secret that your client on-boarding process is my personal favorite automation. When you’re selling services, your single most significant source of time-suckage comes from all the little things you have to do to on-board a client.
For the sake of being conservative, let’s create a stupid-simple example (in no particular order) of what goes into taking on a new client ::
- send a proposal;
- email a contract;
- send an invoice;
- set up a call;
- send a thank you/offboarding package
Again for the sake of simplicity, let’s say each of these takes 10-15 minutes to complete. By automating the way you on-board clients, you are saving yourself at least one hour per client. And this isn’t counting all the in-between stuff, like payment reminders + client questionnaires + testimonial requests + god-help-us-all if an appointment needs to be rescheduled.
And the first step to automating your service-based business?
It all starts with a workflow :: establishing the sequence of activities that goes into seeing each + every project or client through.
You know the feeling you get when you get home + dinner is just MADE for you already? Yeah, automations deliver that feeling – every day, multiple times per day! – to shorten the mile-long to do list. It gives you back a huge chunk of your precious time + energy so, you know, you can actually do more of the work that gets you PAID!
Which brings us to…
Now, just because you can’t automate it doesn’t mean YOU need to be the person to do the task. Likewise, just because it’s something you can do doesn’t mean you SHOULD be doing it.
P.S. I’m not about to tell you to outsource everything. Some will swear up + down that you need to outsource everything that isn’t in your field of genius. That’s not exactly realistic, especially when you’re in the early stages of growing your business. Plus, I strongly believe in knowing how + why your business works the way it does before letting someone else take over.
Furthermore, you shouldn’t go into outsourcing thinking you’ll do it all everything overnight. It is more of an incremental, snowball-type of process where you outsource this one thing, which leads to another, and that leads to another.
This begs the question :: what is the most important thing to start outsourcing?
Easy! Whatever will have the biggest impact to your bottom line is the most important thing to start outsourcing. In other words, what would have the biggest return-on-investment?
If you own a landscaping company, hiring a web designer to create an online portfolio of your work would create a return.
When you’re opening a new restaurant, perhaps a Facebook ads expert would help spread the word for your grand opening.
If you’re moderating a membership group, you will serve more members with a virtual assistant to field questions.
When you – literally! – cannot afford to not achieve a specific result, this is a great area to start outsourcing.
OUTSOURCING YOUR AUTOMATIONS (#metaAF)
By the way, monetary investments + returns are important. However, money isn’t the only value you should be measuring :: your time is equally as valuable, followed by your energy + your focus. You can MAKE MORE MONEY but you CAN’T MAKE MORE TIME, which arguably makes it your most valuable resource.
This means that anything you can outsource that will have an ROI on your time is a huge deal.
The best return you can get on your time is to outsource the creation of your automations. When you do this, you have a pro who knows everything that you don’t as it relates to a specific field. They are able to have the done-for-you set-up with everything you need in a fraction of the time it would take you to scratch the surface of getting started.
This is the investment that pays dividends because while outsourcing is often an ongoing cost, when you outsource the creation of your automations, you skip the learning curve while also skipping out on having to pay anyone on an ongoing basis.
For instance, a social media strategist can come into your business + quickly identify the gaps in your online presence. They know all the software + can direct you towards tools that will meet your goals + needs. They’ll set up automations + templates that you can quickly + easily re-use.
And yet it would have taken you months (or years!) of trial + error to figure out what they can – BOOM! – tell you in a one-hour consultation.
Does the price tag seem steep at first sight? Maybe. But what you’re paying for is the months (or years!) it would take you to acquire this knowledge, instead of, you know, running + growing your profitable business.