We’re a small business competing in a global market in 2022, so we’re no strangers to finding innovative ways to get an edge over larger competitors. By automating repetitive tasks, we’re able to focus on more important work like updating our product, improving our customer experience, and growing our business. The best automation tools can save time-poor entrepreneurs, business owners and bookkeepers precious time. And as we all know – time is money.
If you’re thinking “we’ve always used spreadsheets, why change?”, we’d recommend looking at another blog we’ve done explaining why automation is better than spreadsheets. Give that a read and come back when you’re ready to switch to more efficient, modern and easier to use tools.
Which automation tools are the best?
There are plenty of automation tools out there, and they all claim to be exactly what you need. We’ve put together a short list of some of our favourite automation software (both free and paid) that we’re using in 2022 to supercharge our productivity. Take a look and see which of these could be worth a try in your business!
1. Trello (for automating project-management)
Trello is our top pick for automating your team’s workflow and project management- especially if some or all of your team is working remotely. Their organisation boards let you track projects across departments, assign tasks to colleagues, and manage upcoming deadlines. Like many businesses, we operate a hybrid working model across remote and in person. The Trello dashboard shows us where each project is at, and what our next steps are. As a result, we’ve saved countless hours in meetings and emails. Trello is great for improving communication and collaboration across your team. Passing a document on for review is as easy as tagging the reviewer on the task. You can break larger projects down into smaller ‘to-do’s, and it’s a piece of cake to assign deadlines and managers to each of those tasks to make sure nothing slips through the cracks.
If you’re already familiar with Trello or you’re looking for ways to speed up your processes even more, try their built-in automation assistant, ‘Butler’. It allows you to write commands in plain language (no coding needed!). You can use it to move cards between lists, bring upcoming deadlines to the team’s attention, and schedule teammate assignments – you guessed it, automatically!
Trello’s free membership option offers plenty of utility for most SMEs. It’s a great place to start for businesses wondering how to save time by automating their workflow.
2. Zapier (for automating tasks across apps)
Zapier is a software automation solution that teaches all of your different apps to speak to each other and share information. You can create connections (Zapier calls them Zaps), between over 4000 apps you use every day like Gmail, Dropbox, Slack, and Zoom. You just connect the apps that you use the most, choose a ‘trigger’ to start the automation and an action you want to happen when Zapier receives that trigger, and then sit back and use the time you’ve just saved to get yourself a cup of coffee.
If you want to get fancy and save yourself even more time, you can just as easily create multi-step automations. Now, a trigger like receiving a meeting request in Calendly can automatically generate a Zoom link, send it to your meeting guests via Gmail, create a reminder for you in Slack, and create a Google doc titled ‘Meeting notes’ with the date and start time of the meeting already entered! To learn a little more about how CreditorWatch Collect uses Zapier, take a look at our integration overview.
The free Zapier plan comes with 100 tasks per month, and allows you to set up to five single-step zaps. This is a great way to start working out which automations will save your business the most time. The ‘Starter’ plan allows for more zaps, including multi-step zaps, and also lets you run 750 tasks per month for $48.90 NZD at the time of writing.
3. Calendly (for automating meetings)
It makes sense that one of the best apps for saving your business time is calendar automation. But Calendly is so much more than that. You can save minutes every day in back-and-forth emails trying to work out the best time for a meeting. Simply include your personal Calendly link and the recipient will be able to pencil in a time that works with your schedule. Calendly also allows you to set ‘buffers’ and ‘daily limits’ to protect your time and keep you on track when it comes to crunch time.
We love that Calendly lets you set pre-meeting questions for your guests. Request all the information you need to hit the ground running once you open up Zoom. Did we mention Calendly automatically integrates with your preferred virtual meeting apps? Pretty cool!
4. MeetEdgar (for marketing automation)
Social media marketing is an essential part of doing business in 2022, but it can be extremely time consuming. MeetEdgar finds the best times to post on your social media accounts throughout the week. All you have to do is prepare a library of content, which MeetEdgar will cycle through automatically. To make this even easier, you can connect MeetEdgar to your website’s RSS feed with the click of a button. Your new blog posts will automatically appear in MeetEdgar, ready to join your content rotation.
The biggest strength of MeetEdgar is that it facilitates a smarter workflow. You can create months of social media content in a few hours by repurposing your existing material. You can leave MeetEdgar to run unattended, or you can create posts set to ‘publish now’ for timely announcements. MeetEdgar offers excellent return on time invested, making it the perfect match for time-poor entrepreneurs, bookkeepers, or SMEs.
At $24.91/month or $299/year, it’s a solid investment for small businesses looking to grow their online presence through automation.
5. CreditorWatch Collect (for AR automation)
We couldn’t help but give a shout-out to our own time-saving automation software. We rely on it in our own business and have seen first-hand the impact in time-saving and cashflow it’s had for the bookkeepers, accountants and businesses who use it too. CreditorWatch Collect helps you put your accounts receivables on autopilot. Automating from invoice to paid, CreditorWatch Collect helps speed up the payment process with automated reminder workflows. You can customise these for different customer types, pause if necessary and escalate if the client just isn’t budging. Automating your AR significantly reduces admin time spent on manual tasks, and you can easily track your accounts to ensure you’ve got the best AR practices in place with automated reporting.
You can use the free tools on our website to quickly answer questions like “how much extra cash could I have in my account if I used CreditorWatch Collect?”, and “how much is my current AR system costing me?”.