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You know that one business owner who always seems to be on top of things? That popular blogger who pushes out blog content on a regular basis and is always posting great content on social media?
Everyone seems to be running a lucrative freelance business while still staying updated on admin and bookkeeping tasks.
HOW DO THEY DO IT ALL?
Well, the truth is, they’ve learned how create automated business solutions within their freelance business.
They’ve figured out how to spend more time bringing in the moolah and less time on tedious tasks.
After nearly six years of being self-employed I’ve learned some simple, but effective, ways to create automated business solutions.
1. Manage business and personal projects with Asana
The main way I automate business tasks is with Asana. My team and I have talked about this awesome tool before, but I can never say too many good things about it. For one, it’s free for you and up to 14 other team members!
As someone who’s managing multiple blogs and worked with countless startups over the years, I’ve used Basecamp, Trello and several other task management systems, but none of them have been as amazing, full of features or effective for my workflow as Asana.
I use it to manage all my client assignments, blog projects and personal appointments. I even use it to keep my inbox at zero by turning emails into to-dos and completing them as tasks.
I also color-code all my tasks and reminders so I can keep all of my projects balanced (no more taking on too much client work!), and track them daily with the Asana calendar.
2. Automate your client-finding process
The best thing you can do for your freelance business this week is to automate your processing for attracting clients. Instead of wasting hours and hours researching and pitching only to come up with little results, set up a “Hire Me” page on your blog to bring clients to YOU.
Use this “Hire Me” page to display your services, detail your rates and include a contact form so clients can easily find and hire you. Take it a step further by optimizing this page for a specific SEO term so clients can quickly find you in search results.
Setting up this one page has helped me automate my client-finding process and attract more client work than I can handle. Just check out this in-depth case study I did.
3. Book client interview calls with Calendly
One of the biggest time-wasters for freelancers is the constant emailing back-and-forth with potential clients about the best time to set up an introductory phone call. Instead of trying to figure out a time that works best for everyone, use Calendly to allow both potential clients and coaching students to choose the best time that works for them, based on your available calendar slots.
Calendly is free, for up to 1 type of event per month, so you can test it out and see if you like it, or pay $96 per year for unlimited events and bookings. I’ve been a user of Calendly for a year now and have no complaints! It syncs with Google Calendar and as slots fill up, it will only show the remaining times available, which helps ensure you don’t overbook.
You’ll also get a customized appointment link making it easy to give out to potential clients or people who want to “pick your brain” for like 15 minutes. Another popular call-booking tool is TimeTrade, which is also free for up to 5 calls per month and offers many of the same features.
4. Respond to emails with Boomerang
I’m one of those people who likes to randomly reply to emails at odd times of the day (like late at night or on Sunday afternoons), but I don’t want my clients to know this. I set boundaries with clients so they don’t expect me to respond during off-peak hours, or on weekends. But sometimes I get a burst of energy and want to clean out my inbox.
To keep up appearances, but still respond to emails whenever I want, I use a free Chrome Extension tool called Boomerang for Gmail. It allows users to reply to emails and schedule the sends whenever you want them to go out. You can also boomerang emails out of your inbox for them to return at a more efficient time, or to remind you of a certain task.
The basic version is free, which is all I ever use or need, or you can pay for expanded features starting at $4.99/mo.
5. Use FreshBooks for recurring invoices
It’s frustrating to know that a very large amount of any business owner’s time is spent every month on bookkeeping and admin tasks, like sending invoices to freelance clients (and following up with payment reminders). I used to spend 4-5 hours a month on tasks like this, and even outsourced at one point, this to someone for $250 a month.
Now, I spend less than an hour per month and save myself that $250, by automating this entire process. How? I use FreshBooks to send recurring invoices and set up automatic payment reminders.
You can schedule recurring invoices on your terms, whether that’s every week or every month. And the best part is that you don’t have to nag your clients with payment reminders, FreshBooks will do that for you every 15, 30, or 45 days.
If you’re not keen on using FreshBooks, PayPal also offers a recurring invoice option. However, they don’t have that nifty late payment reminder feature.
6. Eliminate the paperwork with SignEasy
A couple weeks ago I was working with a fellow freelancer on a project and we had to sign a contract before finalizing a deal. She mentioned that she would have to send over everything the next day since she had to print off a copy of the contract, sign it and scan it back into the computer.
Uhhh, what? Aren’t we in the 21st century? Lol. Don’t even get me started on the story when my accountant wanted me to fax all of our tax documents over. Laughable!
But seriously, you can eliminate the paperwork and save yourself a ton of time by using an electronic signature tool like SignEasy. I pay for the Pro package, (at $39.99 per year) but you can try it out for free. I use it on my iPad the most because it syncs to my Google Drive and Dropbox accounts, so once I sign a document it will automatically create a backup copy in my SignEasy documents folder.
After just one time, SignEasy saves your signature and initials so applying your signature to a document is done in 2 seconds flat. No more wasting time (and trees!) printing out contracts or filling out forms.
7. Update your freelance portfolio with Tailwind
One of the ways I display my freelance portfolio is by creating a separate board on Pinterest and saving Pins that link to articles I’ve written, podcast interviews I’ve done and mentions in the media. Aside from it being free, using Pinterest to display your work because it showcases your portfolio to potential clients in a visual way.
But it’s important to keep your portfolio updated so clients will be able to see your latest and greatest contributions, and this is where a Pinterest scheduling tool like Tailwind comes in. It costs $15 per month but allows you to bulk schedule your own pins, and any others you find on the web or Pinterest.
I used to have my VA pin posts to my Pinterest portfolio page once-a-month but now I just use the little “schedule” button that comes with the Chrome extension for TailWind. This saves me from having to pay someone to update my portfolio. I also like that it spaces out my portfolio pins so they’re not all being posted at once.
Here’s an example of one of my articles and how I use Tailwind to pin links to my portfolio on Pinterest.
8. Automatically pay your bills
Another way I automate business tasks is by automatically paying all of my bills, for both my business and personal accounts. I use one credit card for personal purchases, eating out and entertainment, and then a business credit card for tools, subscriptions and business expenses.
It takes way too much time and effort to pay all of my business or personal bills one-by-one every month, so I set them all up to be paid from the appropriate credit card account. Then every Monday morning I log into each bank account and send a payment to pay for the past week’s transactions.
No calculating. No check writing. And no paper bills. You also don’t have to worry about mistakenly paying a bill late and getting slammed with a late fee.
9. Use Canva for Work for magic image resizing
At the end of April, I spent an entire weekend giving my website a design refresh. I changed up the colors of my logo and imagery. In order to make everything cohesive I had to redo a lot of the post images on my blog so it would reflect the new design.
In the past, I’ve used Canva for Work for my old blog images, as well as ebook and course covers, so I copied one of my old templates and redid a few things, and POOF! In just a couple seconds I now a new image template that’s pin-worthy and reflects a freshened up blog design.
In other words, I just saved myself hours and hours of time by avoiding photoshop to come up with a new image design from scratch, and instead use a template from Canva.
And since Canva for Work already stores all my photos and business logos, I was able to create new images for all my blog posts (275+) in little over an hour. You can use the free version of Canva but it doesn’t have all the branding features, or magic resizing of images, like Canva for Work does — which costs $12.95 per month (but free to try out for 30 days).
10. Pay quarterly taxes without thinking
My quarterly tax payment is by far the highest bill my business has to pay. With a base tax rate of 15.3% to pay for Self-Employment tax plus Colorado’s 4.85% state tax, I have to set aside at least 20% of my income every time I get paid.
Not to mention the actual Federal income tax bracket that my husband and I have to pay as a married couple (which is usually 10-15%). If you’re doing the math this means I have to set aside $1,800 a month, or 30% (average monthly income $6,000 x 0.30 = $1,800).
Yep, losing that amount of money hurts. A lot. Needless to say, quarterly taxes aren’t fun but, unless you want to pay large penalties and fees, it’s a necessary evil when you’re self-employed.
To avoid a large tax bill at the end of the year (a mistake I made one year and will never do again), I set up automatic transfers from my business checking account into my free Digit account — this is a separate business savings account marked for taxes.
Then when it’s time to pay quarterly taxes I simply withdraw the money from my Digit “tax fund” and make the payment to the IRS. Easy peasy-ish.
Try automated business solutions this week
Alright, now that you have some ideas about how to regain your time by automating your freelance business this week, you’re ready to take things to the next level!
Lucky for you, I’ve created a free checklist to help you get massive amounts of stuff done every week. You’ll get a sneak peek at my daily routine and workflow. Plus, learn all the tools I use to limit at-home distractions and actually reducing your stress.
What’s one tool you use to automate business tasks and freelance work?