Easy DIY automations for freelancers

by Fiona Campbell
01 October 2021

My two biggest addictions are collecting new house plants … and finding new things to automate in my business. You can set’n’forget business automations and, unlike my house plants, the more you have, the more time and ROI you get back. My automation building hobby is also far kinder on my wallet too.

There are potentially hundreds of automations for freelancers out there, and implementing automations in my own business has helped me to win over new clients and build raving fans who refer even more clients my way.

When I’m talking business automation, I’m talking about using software to eliminate repetitive, manual tasks and provide a consistently rave-worthy journey for my clients and more time for me.

In short, automation = more time.

You don’t need to be a nerd like me to start implementing some easy automations that make your life easier, but you can definitely blame me once you get addicted to winning back hours in your week.

I’ve spent the weekend (remember, this is my hobby) trawling through all the automations I’ve implemented, so I can share the easiest and quickest you can implement now.

Just like a recipe, you can substitute the ingredients I’ve used, with what you already have in your software cupboard.

Some of the links I’ve included below are affiliate links, though I do use and love all of them for my own business.

1. Snooze your emails

WHY:

Because your aiming for inbox zero being efficient can sometimes mean NOT adding every. little. thing. to your task manager.

INGREDIENTS:

  • Google Workspace  – ‘Business Starter’ plan is sufficient for this one … and/OR your free Gmail account

METHOD:

Meet the snooze button. It looks like this:

Snooze button in your email automations for freelancers

… and you can click it after selecting one or more emails from your inbox, or when you have an email open.

It takes the email out of your inbox and returns it to your inbox at the date and time you choose. You’ll find it has preset options (e.g. tomorrow at 8am, this weekend, next Monday at 8am etc.) and the ability to choose a custom date and time.

Now, after you send an email asking for anything, use the Send button (not Send & Archive) then snooze the email to a date you want to follow up if the recipient hasn’t replied. The email pops back in on the date you choose, ready to forward and check the status of your request.

Besides snoozing emails to follow people up on deadlines, other use cases include snoozing:

  • Personal emails until later in the day, or the weekend
  • Flight tickets to the day before your flight
  • Invitations with dress codes to the weekend prior if you need a reminder to organise an outfit
  • Agendas or any other reading material to the day/s prior to a meeting.

2. Book appointments while you sleep

WHY:

Because going back and forth in emails to find a time is tedious, and waking up to find out you have a call with a potential client booked in without any effort on your part is magical.

This automation will allow others to book appointments directly in your calendar without seeing the details of your schedule, add it to both your calendars and send reminder emails!

You can set parameters for each appointment type too – e.g., you may want to only allow new leads to book time between 10 am and 3 pm on Fridays.

INGREDIENTS:

  • Calendlyan appointment booking app we recommend
  • Google calendarto integrate with the above and reduce your availability options

METHOD:

  1. Set up an account
  2. Connect your calendar
  3. Create a booking link using the easy set up wizard
  4. Share your booking link in emails, text messages and socials (e.g. in LinkedIn conversations, or on the CTA button on your Facebook page)
  5. Remember to block time in the calendar you’ve integrated with to remove that time as available through the link.

3. Add new leads and clients to your phone

WHY:

If you let unknown callers go to voicemail, you could be missing opportunities to win new clients or talk to that subject matter expert you’ve been waiting on.

If you saw “Laura Williams NEW LEAD” on your caller ID, you could answer the call and address Laura by name – Winning!

INGREDIENTS I  USED:

  • Keap Promy CRM which captures and stores new contacts, adds opportunities to pipelines, automates emails, hosts booking links and much more
  • Zapiersuper easy integration tool which lets apps share data – free plan sufficient for this one
  • Google Workspace  – ‘Business Starter’ plan is sufficient for this one

METHOD:

  1. Use Zapier to set up a ‘zap’ using their easy wizard to trigger whenever a contact is added or updated in your CRM
  2. Make the next step in this zap “Update or Create” the contact record in your Google Contacts
  3. Make sure you have your Google account set up on your phone with syncing turned ON for your Google Contacts.

4. Use text expanders to eliminate the need to type repetitive emails and other bits of text over and over

WHY:

If you’re scratching your head wondering ‘what the heck is a text expander and how could it help me save time’, keep reading: this is one of the best automations for freelancers you could use.

Text expanders are a massive time-saver if you find yourself typing the same thing over and over, particularly in emails. You simply use a text expander program to create a shortcode for those emails, and when you need to send one, you write the shortcode into the body of the email instead and it populates it with your ‘canned’ response or snippet.

It can be really useful if, say, you want to reply quickly to a job ad with a canned response detailing your skills and experience and links to your work (and you could potentially have 4-5 snippets ready to go for different niches you operate in – like #businessjob #financejob #lifestylejob).

You could also use text expanders to reply to clients who aren’t a good fit for you (#notagoodfit, or to let clients know that you’re booked up until a certain date (#bookedup).

You can even create text expanders for groups of hashtags you use constantly, or info you populate into online forms. The options are endless.

INGREDIENTS:

  • Common emails or pieces of text you type over and over
  • A tool like TypeIt4Me (free trial $28/year, Mac users)
  • Or a tool like TextExpander (Windows and Mac, subscription)
  • Or text replacement in Office for Mac

METHOD:

  1. Open your text expander tool (whichever one you’re using)
  2. Start creating your ‘snippets’ by copying the text you want into the main box then saving it with a snippet name or shortcode you can type every time you want that text to pop up (in an email for example). You might find this is an ongoing process as you start to get more used to using shortcodes.
  3. Start using your shortcodes for all those annoying repetitive emails and tasks you’ve been wasting time typing out, over and over.
  4. Enjoy the hours and hours you’ll save!

5. Respond to new enquiries and set tasks to keep on top of new leads

Two of the easiest ways to lose a potential client are by not responding promptly to their initial enquiries and relying on your memory to follow up. And the easiest fixes here are to set up an automated email response and have a task added to your task management software to call them.

I recently had a call with a new lead (who is now a client!) and one of the things they said on our first Zoom together was, ‘Thank you so much for responding so quickly – it means a lot to find someone who is so responsive – I know I reach out late in the day!’

Little did they know, that I had no idea they existed until the morning after they had completed the Quote Request form on my website, by which time they had already received an email from ‘me’ and booked a Zoom meeting to discuss their needs further.

INGREDIENTS:

  • Your website, with a form embedded (e.g. Gravity Forms, Squarespace native forms or an embedded form from your CRM)
  • Zapier – allows you to integrate apps and offers easy wizards 
  • Asanathe free Asana plan is sufficient for this one

METHOD:

  1. Add a contact form and/or a quote request form to your website
  2. Use your website’s form settings, or Zapier to send a confirmation email  to acknowledge their request – this is where I say that I will read through the information submitted and come back to them as soon as possible… and in the meantime, it would be a good idea to book a call with me to discuss their needs further (then I use my appointment booking link in this email to allow them to book a quick Zoom call!)
  3. Use Zapier to automatically assign a task for you in Asana (or other task management software) to follow up your new lead … this task will remind you to follow up if they don’t book a call with you AND if they do book a call with you then you can just defer the due date of this task and use it to follow up a few days/weeks later.

If any (or all!) these made you curious or hungry for more, explore my free cheat sheet Inside Outsourcing, which covers even more ideas on automations for freelancers and introduces you to the time-saving world of virtual assistants for those things that still require a human touch.

What is something repetitive you do for your business that you would gladly see the back of?

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