3 Ways To Automate Your Business On A Budget

Contributed  by Anouska Rood

How often have you felt like throwing in the towel on your business and website? Have you ever thought “I spend so much time fussing with the tech stuff (or marketing, or social media, or ...) , I don’t have time to actually do the work I love!”

I know, because I’ve been there. I mean, over the past three years, while building my business, I moved twice and I still have a day job to pay the bills. We all want more time - but no one has more than 24 hours in a day, so the question is, what do you do with yours? Are you spending it on things you don't enjoy doing? Are you overwhelmed by all the things you need to learn, about something you don't even like? Unfortunately, you may not have the budget yet to pay someone to do it for you. But you can start small. Look at things you do on repeat. Can these be automated to save time? 

1. Social Media

Regularly sharing your offers and blog posts on social media gives a huge boost to grow your website traffic, and hopefully leads to more sales. Consistency is key, but if we're spending as much time as we need to, to actually consistently reach our audience on social media, there'd be no time left for actual work! You can automate part of your social media activities - posting your blog posts or other content you want to recur regularly on your social media accounts.

You may have heard of Edgar, which allows you to set up repeating posts on a schedule, and it'll just go back to the top of the list when it's reached the last of your posts. But, it has a pretty hefty price tag and probably isn't in the budget if you're just getting started. There are two alternatives that are free though!

With IFTTT you can set up recipes involving Google Calendar to set up recurring posts. Tweet posts from recurring calendar events https://ifttt.com/recipes/452500-tweet-posts-from-a-blog-post-automation-calendar, or set up your own recipes to post to your Facebook Page, or add posts to Buffer. 

Another option I recently came across is Recurpost. It is similar to Edgar, in that it allows you to set up a content library and posting schedule, and then just goes to post and never runs out of content. It may not have every option Edgar has, or look quite as good, but it has a free tier!

 


2. How to set up automatic updates for WordPress

You need to update WordPress, as well as your themes and plugins, regularly. Not only so you can use that shiny new feature, but often there are bug fixes and security issues solved. Unfortunately, I see all too often that there are about 20 updates to install when I start working on a new client's site. Did you know you can set up automatic updates for WordPress?

First off, get familiar with using FTP to edit your site's files in a much safer way. It's much easier to fix if you break something using FTP than when you mess around with code in the WordPress code editor. If you break something using the code editor in the backend, you might not be able to fix it without using FTP.

You’ll need a hostname, username and password to login to your site with FTP. The hostname is usually yourdomain.com or ftp.yourdomain.com. The username & password you’ll need to get from your hosting company. Everything you need for FTP, you should have received from your hosting company when you first got your hosting & domain set up, and you can also usually find it in your hosting control panel.

I recommend using FileZilla.

Then, download and open the wp-config file. This file is in the root folder of your site (or the folder WordPress is installed in). Inside the file, make sure it’s after the < ?php code, and outside any comments (which look like /* comment */ ). I usually put it after this part:

 

<?php

/**

* The base configuration for WordPress

*

* The wp-config.php creation script uses this file during the

* installation. You don't have to use the web site, you can

* copy this file to "wp-config.php" and fill in the values.

*

* This file contains the following configurations:

*

** MySQL settings

** Secret keys

** Database table prefix

** ABSPATH

*

* @link https://codex.wordpress.org/Editing_wp-config.php

*

* @package WordPress

*/

 

Just enter a new line below it and paste the code there. These are the codes to enable automatic updates:

 

define( 'WP_AUTO_UPDATE_CORE', true );

 

This enables all updates to WordPress to be installed automatically on your site.

If you prefer to only install the minor updates automatically, and install the major updates yourself, no need to add any code. A little while ago, WordPress was updated to have automatic updates for minor releases out of the box.

If you happen to have code disabling these automatic updates, you'll have to look for and remove this line of code in wp-config.php:

 

define( 'AUTOMATIC_UPDATER_DISABLED', true );

 

I've never come across clients having that line of code, so it's highly unlikely you do, but if you do, removing that line will enable automatic updates again.

 

To set up automatic updates for plugins, you'll need to add this bit of code to your child theme's functions.php:

 

add_filter( 'auto_update_plugin', '__return_true' );

 

To do the same for themes, add this code:

 

add_filter( 'auto_update_theme', '__return_true' );

 


3. Automating your emails

Autoresponders & canned emails

Are you getting a lot of emails that request the same information? Set up an autoresponder answering the most common questions, so you don't have to spend so much time writing the same email over and over again. If you don't want to set up an autoresponder, you might still like to use canned responses. GMail and Google Apps for Business allow you to set up e-mails or text snippets you use regularly, so you just choose the canned response and the text is already all there. 


Set up automated emails for your newsletter

Have you set up a sales funnel yet? If you're running a business, you should be using your newsletter to sell. As you may have heard, people have to encounter an idea/product around 7 times before they buy it. When someone signs up for your email list, you should be sending them regular emails to introduce them to you and your product or services. Don't make it all about selling though - make sure your emails are still valuable enough for them to stay on your list.

All mailing list providers allow for automated emails, but it's usually part of their paid service (if they have a free service). MailerLite offers automated emails even as part of their free plan, and I'm hearing good things about them, but I haven't tried it myself. MailChimp starts at $10/month, ConvertKit starts at $29/month, and there are plenty more services out there. Look for the one that fits your needs and budget best.

 

I hope these help you get started with automating your business! There may be more you could automate – what are you doing on repeat? Automate them to save time. Time you could spend with your family or friends, planning your next trip or you know, making more money!


{About This Contributor}

Anouska is a webdesigner & developer working with clients 1-on-1 to create or improve their websites. Sign up for her free Upgrade Your Site 14-day DIY Challenge here.

You can also connect with her at the following links!: 

http://www.anouskarood.com

https://twitter.com/Anouska

https://www.facebook.com/AnouskaRoodDesign/

https://pinterest.com/anouska/