How Automation Software Can Help You Focus on What’s Important

Nine ways you can use automation software to save time, so you can focus on high-value work.

Automation software can help you streamline jobs like tracking your income and expenses in spreadsheets. Writing social media posts that you manually post to your profiles. Creating an invoice using Excel or Word. Or sending email after email to follow up on a late payment.

Do any of these examples sound familiar? These tasks are consuming your precious time, removing you from more important, high-value work.

Think of what you could get done if you were able to free up the hours spent on these kinds of tasks every week. Enter automation software.

But what exactly is automation software? Should you even care?

Read on for the answers to these questions. Plus, an overview of nine business tasks you can automate with several automation software tools.

Automation Software: What It Is

Automation software is software that (you guessed it!) automates specific processes that would otherwise require manual input. Common examples include:

  • Email marketing software to send emails to a large list instead of typing each email individually
  • Cloud accounting software to track income and expenses, create invoices and send late payment reminders
  • Social media software to schedule posts in advance that are automatically published to your profiles

Automation Software: How It Helps Your Business

There are many benefits to using automation software, including:

  1. Time: It removes you from time-consuming tasks, so you have more time to concentrate on high-impact work. For example, instead of sending follow-up emails you could find new ways to boost productivity (e.g., 50-minute focus method) so you can get more done in less time.
  2. Cost-savings: It can help you save money. You can get more done without having to hire staff. It also lowers operational costs by helping you uncover redundant processes.
  3. Improved process: It helps you standardize processes, so you achieve consistent results over time and make fewer mistakes. For example, you can reduce common invoicing mistakes (more on that later).

9 Tasks You Can Automate with Automation Software

Here are nine tasks you can automate and the software that will help you along the way:

1. INVOICING

If you still use Word and Excel to create invoices, you know just how tedious this process can be. Creating invoices takes time and is prone to error. Just think back to the time you forgot to include the purchase order (PO) number, addressed the invoice to the wrong person or failed to specify payment terms.

Some of these mistakes may not seem like a big deal, but they can be costly. For example, not specifying payment terms can lead to an invoice that is weeks overdue. Or failing to include a PO number when working with a large company can lead to back-and-forth emails and unwanted delays.

Even more, any errors you need to fix will require making adjustments before going through the lengthy process of saving the document as a PDF, attaching it to an email, typing a message and hitting send.

Then, there’s also the issue of sending late payment reminders via email, which leads to awkward money talk. These conversations can be a huge mental drain when you’re already anxious about getting paid.

AUTOMATION SOFTWARE FOR INVOICING

Luckily, the right cloud accounting software automates your invoicing process by letting you:

  • Create an invoice in no time with ready-to-go invoice templates and fields that are pre-populated. For example, you won’t have to worry about calculating the total invoice value or even inputting the date. Plus, you’ll have access to a “Duplicate” invoice feature so you can simply copy an existing invoice and start editing without having to create a new one from scratch.
  • Set up recurring invoices that go out on a monthly schedule without lifting a finger.
  • Create and send automatic late payment reminders, so you don’t have to worry about following up.

FreshBooks is one such cloud accounting provider. Besides invoicing, you have access to income and expenses tracking, project management tools and time tracking.

2. TAX FILING

If you’re a freelancer, you won’t have to worry about payroll taxes, but you will have to pay self-employment taxes. Self-employment taxes are filed quarterly, and it’s up to you to set aside cash to pay them.

Unfortunately, it’s easy to fall into the trap of not tracking your income and expenses (or waiting to the last minute). Failing to track your finances properly when you do track them and not setting aside enough money for taxes are other common pitfalls.

The result?

You’re left scrambling during tax season as you wade through bank statements, look for receipts and try to find the cash to pay Uncle Sam. That’s not a position you want to be in. But it’s one you can avoid by using the right software. – Read more

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How Small Business Owners Can Prepare for a Recession

My Post (13)A recession guide to help you be prepared, not panicked…

You’ve heard this before, but it’s true: small businesses are the backbone of our economy. Though small businesses are small, they are mighty. They generate 44% of economic activity in the U.S. And small businesses are extremely vulnerable to economic recession and disaster — 25% don’t have enough cash to make it through a two week downturn.

If your business feels unprepared for the events that have occurred over the last few weeks, know that you’re not alone. Even the most robust business planning likely doesn’t include planning for a global pandemic.

Whether your business is struggling because it’s been forced to close or your regular flow of customers has vanished, cash flow is most certainly top of mind. How can you stay afloat until we get a clearer picture of what the full impact of what COVID-19 will be? This guide will help you prepare for a recession, hopefully without panicking.

Focus on Your Cash Flow

Cash flow is king, but especially during a recession. During good times, cash flow may not have been your priority. With enough money coming in (and no global pandemic in sight), you probably didn’t have to watch your books too closely to ensure you didn’t run out of money.

A lack of focus on your cash flow can make tough times scary. According to a survey conducted by JP Morgan Chase, the average small business holds 27 cash buffer days in reserve. That means that an average business can continue to meet all of its cash outflows (rent, labor, utilities, etc) without earning any money for 27 days. But of course, not every business falls within this average.

Because cash is so important to keeping a business afloat during tough times, including recession, it’s time to do your best to make whatever cash reserves you have last as long as possible. Some key things to do now include:

  1. Collect your receivables: When times are good it’s easy to let your receivables stretch a little longer than they should. Maybe your net 30 somehow slid to net 45 or even net 60. That’s not going to fly anymore. Follow up on any that are past due and collect your receivables now. Consider adding late payment fees to further incentivize prompt payments.
  2. Double check your payables: This is another one that is easy to not do when times are good and you are busy. Look at all of the payables you have outstanding and when they’re due. Double check all totals to ensure they’re accurate. And if necessary, stretch out the payment to the due date.
  3. Review your books: If you haven’t been running your business with a strict budget, now is the time to start. Start by looking at your current expenses. Cut any unused subscriptions or services: trade publications, a stock photo subscription. Challenge yourself to find creative ways to cut an expense, without impacting your business. Don’t ruthlessly cut everything, but it’s time to trim the excess.
  4. Contact your lenders: If you know that you’re going to struggle making your loan payments during a recession, get ahead of this now. Contact your lenders to see what leeway they may be able to offer you. Ultimately, they’d rather work with you on your payments that see you default.
  5. Negotiate with vendors: What are your current terms for paying your vendors? If you pay upon receipt, it might be worth asking if you can pay net 30 or even net 60 to get you through the next month or so. Your vendors may not say yes (after all, they’re probably dealing with their own cash issues), but you won’t know until you ask.

Get Creative to Weather a Recession

While your primary business may be suffering, is there an opportunity to expand to serve customers in a different way? Breweries in Oregon, left without the ability to serve customers onsite for the foreseeable future, have turned to starting home delivery services. Their loyal fans get craft brews that they can’t find in the grocery stores. – Read more

The Case for Business Networking: Expand Your Reach and Generate Leads

My Post - 2020-03-03T160745.453.pngYou know networking. Maybe it’s activating your network for upcoming jobs or building out your list of industry contacts. But business networking is more than just growing your LinkedIn list or swapping business cards at an event. Done right, it will bring in new leads and customers.

According to a recent study, 85% of people say in-person meetings and conferences let them build more meaningful business relationships. Building relationships is an important function that can help you expand your business.

Here, you’ll learn not only how networking generates leads, but also how building relationships can expedite your business’ growth.

The Business Case for Networking

Before you jump in, it’s important to know what your business networking goals are. Your network should be built around those goals, so you can see a reward on your investment of time and energy. The best networking is both fulfilling and brings in results.

The three common ways you can network to meet business goals include:

  • Increase visibility in your industry: Attending and speaking at networking events creates awareness of your business. building relationships in your own industry positions you as an involved leader who’s in the know. Ultimately, this boosts your visibility and establishes you as a subject matter expert.
  • Lead generation for new customers or clients: As your visibility increases, so does your reputation. And as your reputation improves, prospective clients become more eager to engage you.
  • Finding potential new employees: If you’re keen to build your brand as an employer, networking in-person or online provides a number of opportunities. According to recent data, 85% of open jobs are filled via networking. Many professionals attend networking events to source new job opportunities. Find high-achievers in your networks to increase the likelihood that you’ll find other high-performers.

How to Identify Business Networking Opportunities

When it comes to diving into networking opportunities, you can go online, offline, or both. To help you decide, here’s how to find the best opportunities in both areas.

ONLINE NETWORKING OPPORTUNITIES

  • Facebook Events: Use the world’s largest social network to find relevant business events near you.
  • Meetup.com: Use this platform to join existing local business events or create one of your own.
  • LinkedIn groups: The social network for professionals offers private groups that cater to a variety of industries, holders of professional designations (i.e., CPAs) and other groups for business leaders.
  • Private Facebook groups: Admittedly, Facebook’s variety of professional groups doesn’t hold a candle to LinkedIn. But with a little poking aroud, you’ll find dozens of groups organized around specific industries as well as more general business topics like entrepreneurship and remote work.
  • Webinars: To connect with other people interested in similar topics or pain points, attend online webinars. You can attend live events and meet with potential contacts and customers. You can also host your own webinar to connect with other pros in your industry as well as prospective customers.

Read more

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