If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my efforts to be my own boss, it’s this:
Work smart, not hard.
If I can find a tool that will do some work for me so I have more time to play, you know I’m all for it! Blogging can be an incredibly time-consuming job if you let it. But you don’t have to do everything! Some of it can be done for you, by people or by services. By setting up targeted automations, I’ve shaved hours off my workload every day.
The Magic of Automation
You now how when you go on vacation, you can set up an autoresponder email to say “Hey, thanks for emailing me but I’m basking on a beach in the Mediterranean (wishful thinking today) so don’t expect to hear from me for a while.” That’s an example of a very basic automation.
The more you can set up systems and workflows that run themselves, the less you have to do yourself. The less time you have to spend at your desk, the more time you have for shopping, coffee with the girls, mani-pedi day at the spa… You get the idea.
I’m all about building a life you love and that probably doesn’t include being chained to a desk. At least it doesn’t for me. If I can find a service or app to do the work for me, I will use it! And the great thing is, so many of them offer free trials or a free level of service that you can get rolling for very little money and let the tools help increase your productivity and sales.
So are you ready to get started implementing some automation strategies in your business? Here are the tools and resources I use to shave hours off my week and keep my blogging job to a minimum without compromising my income.
Pinterest is the heart of my marketing strategy, so I want my pins going out dozens of times a day. I pin images to promote my blog and pins on topics that my audience can benefit from. But who has time to sit online and pin for hours? You also have to take into account that Pinterest likes it when you pin at a variety of times. The more often you pin and the more varied the boards and subjects, the more love Pinterest gives you. But if I sit down to pin, I’m going to pin a huge chunk at once, then not at all until a day or two later. So how do I get Pinterest to like me more? Enter the scheduler.
I usually spend about 20 minutes a day pinning manually, but the rest of my pins, I schedule with a pin scheduler called Tailwind. This super awesome app allows me to capture pins from anywhere on the web with a handy browser extension. When I find amazing content, I just click a button and a draft of that pin is saved in my Tailwind account. When I’m ready to sit down and schedule pins for the week, they are in my drafts folder ready to go.
If I want to pin something to more than one board, I can do that in one shot without having to go back to the pin and re-pin it over and over like I would if I were pinning from Pinterest. I’ve re-pinned the hard way. It’s not that fun.
Tailwind also has a handy “interval” tool that allows me request that Tailwind wait a set amount of time between pins when I am pinning the same pin to multiple boards.
Tailwind makes my pinning more effective by analyzing my Pinterest activity and suggesting the most effective time slots for my pins. If my audience is online between 6:30 and 10:30 pm, Tailwind automatically schedules my pins to those slots. I can request that pins go out at a specific time, and add as many pins to my queue as I want. It’s all adjustable based on my needs and my marketing strategy.
Have you ever tried joining forces with a group to do marketing together? The Tailwind Tribes feature is an awesome way to connect with people who are trying to reach the same audience as you. By banding together, you can help one another promote blog posts. By working together everyone benefits. It also makes it fast and easy to find relevant, targeted content for your boards. You can search the Tailwind Tribes for groups that post on your blogging or business topic. Some boards you can join immediately. Some you have to send a request. Once you’re accepted, there’s a queue full of great pins to choose from, and you can add yours to the mix and others will pin your content.
Since I started using Tailwind, my sales and affiliate income has increase dramatically, so I can highly recommend it! If you haven’t explored Tailwind’s features, I encourage you to sign up for the FREE trial. You can set up an account, pin for 30 days and up to 100 pins for free, which is plenty of time to try out their amazing features. You can also join 5 tribes and explore that feature. And currently, they’re offering a $15.00 discount on your subscription, should you choose to use their service after your trial ends.
Oh, and did I mention, Tailwind works with Instagram too! Why not test it out? It’s FREE!
Tailwind has Pinterest covered really well, but what about the other social media outlets? For those I turn to Hootsuite. I have used Hootsuite for years and love it. When I have a blog post that’s scheduled to come out on a certain date, I can hop to my Hootsuite account and set up posts and tweets to go to all my social media outlets right on schedule. I can do all my marketing from one location at one time, which is super convenient.
The app works on Facebook (group boards too), Twitter, G+, LinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube. (Disclaimer, I’ve only used it for FB, Twitter, and Instagram, so I haven’t checked out the efficiency of the other three options.)
This app has a handy bulk upload feature (available to the paid plans) that allows you to upload a database of tweets or posts. They will automatically be posted on the schedule you set. That was handy for Twitter, which is a feed that moves so fast you almost have to have constant content coming out to reach your followers. I built a database of links and would upload it every few weeks.
Hootsuite has a FREE plan with limited services that’s great for taking a test drive. Once you see how handy it is, you have the option to upgrade or downgrade at any time.
The foundation of any successful online business is its mailing list. Many years ago, if you started a mailing list, you had to keep track of your subscribers in a group in your Outlook program. You had to send emails in batches to avoid overloading email servers, and you had to deal with bounces and unsubscribes manually.
Nowadays, emailing your fans and followers is sooooooo much easier. Services like Mailchimp will manage your list for you, collecting your subscribers’ emails, adding them to the appropriate list, and unsubscribing them upon request. The program offers beautiful mail templates and the ability to customize your emails with images, links, and formatting, making them nice to look at.
Automated Email Sequences
Probably the most beneficial aspect of using an email service is the automation tools. Have you ever subscribed to a free email course? You found a blog article discussing some topic you’ve been wanting to learn more about. You signed up for the email course being offered and then got emails for the next 5 to 7 days, teaching you more about that particular topic. Those emails were most likely set up through an automation sequence in a mail service provider like Mailchimp.
As a blogger or business person, you don’t have time to send emails to hundreds of subscribers yourself! But staying in contact with your followers is so critical to the long-term success of your business. By writing up a series of emails in advance, then programming your mailing list service to send them on a schedule, you can maintain contact with your subscribers and deliver great content on a regular basis. But you only had to do the work once!
You can also write your weekly or monthly email to your subscribers and schedule it to go out on a specific day. So if you want to wish your subscribers a Merry Christmas or Happy New Year, but you know you’ll be in Hawaii laying on a beach that day, you can write the email in advance and schedule it to go out while you sunbathe. Dare to dream!
Multiple Lists and Opt-ins
You can set up numerous email lists that each deal with one particular topic. If you blog about several subjects, or if you have more than one blog, you can divide your lists according to content.
FREE Up to 2,000 Subscribers
Mailchimp offers their service for free until your subscriber numbers reach 2,000, or until you send more than 12,000 emails a month. That gives you time to lay your foundations and start earning before you have to pay for the service.
If you have a digital product to offer and need a delivery service, Sendowl has a very easy-to-use interface that your customers will appreciate. Better yet, if you want to set up an affiliate program so your customers can help you market the product and earn a commission, Sendowl is one of the best and most affordable affiliate programs out there.
Unlike some affiliate marketing interfaces, Sendowl has an easy-to-use dashboard that is simple and clean. You will love it and your affiliates will love it too! Each of your affiliates receives a link that is specifically theirs. When they refer a customer to you or your program, Sendowl gives them credit for the sale. At the end of the month, you log in and send out payments to your affiliates for their share of the commission. I originally started using Sendowl because I signed up to be an affiliate to other people’s programs. When I developed a digital product to sell, I set up an affiliate program of my own. I’m incredibly happy with the services this company offers and highly recommend them.
As an author I love offering a free book or book sample to my readers as an opt-in incentive for signing up for my mailing list, or as a bonus for being loyal subscribers. BookFunnel offers an incredibly efficient way to distribute your book to readers on a variety of platforms. You can offer numerous versions, including a Kindle friendly version, iBook files, Nook, and PDF which is computer friendly.
The BookFunnel system automatically senses the type of device the person is using to log into the BookFunnel system and works to give them the version that is most compatible with their device. This has eliminated so many customer service problems dealing with compatibility issues. In addition, BookFunnel has an amazing customer support team that’s available to help people who are having technical difficulties, taking all the pressure off the author.
I don’t know how BookFunnel can offer their services at such affordable prices, but they’re almost unbelievably inexpensive. If you’ve priced WordPress plugins or other paid ebook delivery services, you’ll know that it can cost upwards of $99 a month…and these are for books you are giving away free. BookFunnel plans start at $20.00 for a full year.
This company also recently implemented a new sales delivery system. You can sell books on your site and BookFunnel will serve as the delivery system, helping you create another revenue stream. They work with about half a dozen different payment systems, making this a really versatile service for the price!!
Want to check them out? Here’s a sample of my novel “Holding On.”
Okay, so Swagbucks is not an automation tool, but it’s a tool that I use every day to do research for my blogs and my life. I automatically earn money using it, so I consider it a money-making business tool.
Each time you search using the Swagbucks search engine, you’re eligible to earn Swagbucks. You literally get paid to search which is something you do anyway, so why not make some money doing it? You can also earn Swagbucks for doing surveys, watching videos, or performing various tasks online. I earn between $3.00 and $10.00 a month in gift cards, depending on how much research I am doing.
When you’ve accumulated 300 or more points, you can redeem your Swagbucks for gift cards from a variety of popular restaurants and stores. I use mine to get Amazon gift cards, because there’s always something I can’t live without on Amazon. It’s the easiest way in the world to earn money so I love telling people about it!
Once you get your systems set up and in place, your blog almost manages itself. You just have to write your posts and visit your schedulers once a week. Everything else gets taken care of for you. Not only that, the automations are often more reliable and on schedule than I am. They can be there 24/7 to do their job, which is something I don’t even want to try. When I started my blog, I did it because I wanted more personal freedom. Now I have it thanks to the services and systems that help me do my job the easy way.
Do you have an automation tool that makes your job easier? Leave us a tip in the comments so we can all benefit!