Time-saving Tips for Managing an Online Business
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When it comes to running a business online, you have a lot more to think about than just your website. Sure, you have to be concerned with ongoing maintenance, including proactive protection like daily backups and site security. But you also have to keep up with client orders and support, invoicing contractors, and keeping paperwork up to date. Your website may be the hub for your business, but there’s more that needs to be done besides keeping it updated. This takes time, and can quickly become overwhelming. We’re going to briefly cover a few things that you can try to save some time while managing your online business.
Batch Tasks for Efficiency
Hopefully, your business has some repeatable processes that are ready to batch. This could be choosing to check email twice per day instead of leaving your inbox open. It could be writing a series of social media posts and scheduling them to send later. Or maybe you have to take lots of calls, but you’re able to schedule them out.
Identify the tasks that you do repeatedly in your business that aren’t so time sensitive that they can’t wait a few hours.
Email is definitely one of those, no matter how much protestation the average person will say about how “always on” they’re expected to be at work. If it’s your own company, you have no excuse not to set a standard that emails are not an emergency. If you work for someone else, suggest that your output for the business will improve with more uninterrupted focus time, then prove it.
Deep work, the kind where you focus on one task, uninterrupted, for multiple hours, is hard to achieve. Find the things that you can set aside specific times for to do when you have a manageable pile, and ignore them at all other times.
Find the Right Tools
You might sell products from an online shop, or offer services to your clients that are a bit more custom than a one-size-fits-all sale. Whatever way that you sell, you’ll need tools to manage sales, collect and process payments, and create invoices, estimates, and receipts. You’ll also need to manage shipping, taxes, contracts, delivery of service, and any other industry-specific requirements. Getting setup can be a job in itself!
I won’t prescribe a specific tool or suite as the way to go, as needs vary across businesses. Instead, I’ll suggest that you spend some time to research and read unbiased reviews.
Try out a small number of tools, but avoid analysis paralysis by limiting to a maximum of two or three providers for the tools that you’ll need to run your business.
You wouldn’t want to dig a well with a trowel, and you don’t want to sell online course memberships by manually typing credit card details into a point of sale terminal. Do your research, choose the right tools for your needs, and move on to managing your business.
To help you start researching and evaluating different tools, check out this list of tools for running a successful service business online.
Automate Where Possible
There are some common tasks across every business. Balancing your account balances on a regular basis? Handling incoming leads? Managing your mailing list? Even better than batching these tasks is to keep them going without any input on your part by automating them. If you have a newsletter (which you should, and if you don’t, check оur Ultimate Newsletter Guide to help you get started), use a form plugin that integrates with your mailing list of choice, or use the form code that your mailing list service provides, and let subscribers sign themselves up and manage their subscription. Most WordPress form plugins have this feature available, and most email services offer their own forms.
Maybe you are following the previous advice to batch your blog writing, but you want to regularly schedule social media updates to share your content. Let a plugin or service like Buffer or Hootsuite choose the best time to reach your audience and push new statuses without you having to be in front of the computer all day.
If you are interested in diving deeper into automations that can make your life easier, watch our video on how to set up website automations for your business.
Automation both lets you free up mental space and time for other tasks, as well as helps avoid letting something routine fall through the cracks.
It also leads into my final tip: don’t repeat yourself.
Don’t Repeat Yourself
This builds off of the batching and automation tips. Let’s say that you regularly respond to requests of a certain type from your customers. They want to know how to use your product, and you explain specific steps in every email. This is a task that can quickly get repetitive.
When it comes to things that I might regularly write, even if it varies slightly, I try to create a text expansion that I can quickly pull up when needed. In my case, I use an app for MacOS called Alfred, which has a snippets feature where I can save text, add a keyword to it, and even add some arguments like using the current date in my response or swapping part of my expansion with whatever’s on my clipboard.
Now when I have to write an email that I have a snippet saved for I can copy the name of the person who I’m emailing, then type the expansion keyword for that snippet. I can then take the text and personalize it a bit for the specific situation that I’m in. After all, if I found some message to be that repetitive, I’d probably be able to write a knowledge base article about it for reference. That is a bit less personal though, and might not address exactly what’s being asked.
You don’t want to sacrifice a human connection for the sake of efficiency.
Saving Time is a State of Mind
You can train yourself into a mindset of saving time. We’re not looking for productivity for productivity’s sake, but for real-time savings that can help you do work faster, meaning you can finish work faster. This could lead you to take on even more work, but I prefer to free up some of my time for other things that I enjoy, and not doing the same thing over and over again.
Keep notes on anything that you routinely do for your business with an eye to form a process of it. Your calendar, customers, and sanity will thank you.
What are your time-saving hacks? Share in the comments below!