“When is the right time to add automation to your service-based business?” I received this question on LinkedIn and it’s a good one, so I thought I would share my answer with you. In case you were wondering the same thing.

To answer your question, the best time to figure out your work processes and invest in software to automate your business is at the beginning when you aren’t so busy. This way as you grow, you already have the systems in place to support your growing business. However, we often don’t realize that we need help until we are very busy. The tough thing is that it seems impossible to do then.

“Here’s what I know, it’s not going to EVER be a good time to stop and add in systems, automation, and train new team members, but once you make the investment in these things, it will make your role so much easier and your workload so much lighter.” – Amy Gould

When is the right time to add automation in your service based business

Here are a few clues that you might need to consider automation in various aspects of your business.

1. You feel like the ball is being dropped when you are onboarding new clients.

Automation helps to ensure that you follow a consistent process when you are onboarding clients. You can set automations to be triggered by various events in the process so nothing gets forgotten.

If you are finding that things are getting forgotten when you are onboarding or throughout the client journey. It would be wise to spend some time outlining your process and creating automations. This will help you to ensure that balls aren’t dropped.

Here’s a tip: If you build automated workflows in Dubsado (my favorite system to work in), you can easily visualize them and see where you can tweak and improve your processes. More about that later. Another way to visualize your workflow is to create sticky notes with each step in your workflow on it. Stick them up on the wall and rearrange them until they flow the way that you want.

Service Based Business Owner mapping out workflows for automation
Entrepreneur laying out a workflow with Sticky notes

2. You have too many tasks to do and you are working long hours (and weekends)

Automation can take some work off of your plate. This will let you focus on other things (or just get some work-life balance back.) If you find yourself working too many hours, it might be time to look into automation. When you are looking for tasks to automate, it’s a good idea to do a time study. This will show you where you are spending your time. Repetitive tasks are often good candidates for automation.

Tasks that can be automated

  • email marketing. For example, sending a set of emails introducing your business when someone purchases an opt-in, email newsletters can be scheduled to go out on a certain day, etc. These can be handled by most email marketing software.
  • social media posts – There are a myriad of social media scheduling apps out there. Find one that you like and use that to create and schedule your posts ahead of time. It can schedule them to go out every day (or whenever you want) so you don’t have to.
  • Scheduling appointments. You can easily do this through a scheduling app like Acuity or Calendly. However, if you want it included with a more robust set of tools and automations, Dubsado’s scheduler might be perfect for you. This avoids the back-and-forth game to figure out when is a good time to meet.
  • Sending proposals, contracts, and invoices – Many client management tools can do this. When I set up Dubsado for clients, I usually have the proposal trigger an invoice and a contract once the client has approved their selection(s). This is much easier than sending three emails to a client.
  • Sending repetitive emails to clients. If you send the same email to multiple times, it’s a great idea to create email templates. This will allow you to easily send the same email whenever you need to. Many client management tools or CRM tools can do this as well. You can also build this into a workflow or automation to avoid having to be involved at all. Ex. Once a client signs a contract, they receive a welcome email saying how excited you are to work with them. It also includes information that they need to work with you and a questionnaire that they will need to complete before you can start work on their project.
  • Creating to-do list items. For example, creating a task to order a new client gift or co-sign a contract once a client signs their contract.

3. Before you hire someone for your team

If you are wanting to hire a team member, you might want to do a time study and look at automation first. Once you’ve added automation and improved your workflows, you might end up with a very different job description. It could mean fewer paid hours or even hiring someone with a different skillset for your new team member.

Dubsado can take a lot of things off your plate like... invoicing, tracking leads, tracking expenses, sending proposals, sending emails, reminders to do tasks to onboard or offboard a client...

Things that Dubsado can do for you

I’ve already mentioned a few things that Dubsado can do for you. However, I wanted to list it all in one place too. Dubsado is a client relationship management tool. It is perfect for service providers or coaches who work one on one with clients. It’s not great for selling items such as T-shirts or businesses that are more in-person instead of online. Get the full details here.

It doesn’t have the ability to send mass emails so it’s not a good stand-alone tool for course creators or anyone who works with large groups of people. (You could use a course management tool like Thinkific or Kajabi for your course and use Dubsado to manage your one-on-one clients. Then you can link both Dubsado and your course tool to bookkeeping software like Quicken. That would allow you to track all of your income and expenses for your whole business in one place.

Things you can do with Dubsado…

  • Schedule meetings using a scheduling link, you can attach a form to collect information before the appointment too.
  • Track where someone is in their journey from warm lead to client.
  • Track where your leads are coming from and view them in a report.
  • Create forms, questionnaires, contracts, etc. that are all fillable.
  • Track your income and expenses and see them in reports and graphs.
  • Create proposal templates so you can create proposals in minutes using pre-created packages. You can also link an invoice and contract so all of those things are completed at once when a client decides to work with you.
  • Set up payment processors so you can accept payments right from your invoice. (You can also set up recurring invoices and clients can choose to have payments automatically deducted when the invoice is generated.)
  • Automatically update a client’s status.
  • Send canned emails using smart fields so the emails look more customized.
  • Create workflows that automate your processes using any of the above.

In Conclusion

The best time to automate your business is in the beginning so you can take the time to think through your process and set up automations that can grow with you. The second best time is right now. I’m guessing that you are reading this article because you are experiencing overwhelm or you find yourself working way too many hours to create the kind of client experience that you want in your business. Now is the perfect time to look for ways to add automation and simplify your workflows.

If you feel like you are dropping balls or spending too much time onboarding or managing your clients, you might want to consider taking time out for one of my workflow strategy intensives. You and I will sit down and go through your business processes. We’ll find ways to streamline and automate them without making you sound like a robot. We’ll create a custom workflow that will help you to save time and create clients who are raving fans. No more dropped balls or working late nights and weekends to maintain it all.

You’ll walk away with a plan for your workflow and a checklist for all of the pieces that you will need to set it up yourself. This includes software that I recommend for various automations.

Not a DIY kind of person or don’t have the time? I’ll also provide a custom quote to set up your systems for you. I provide 30 days of ongoing support as well as videos that you can use to train your team on how to use everything. Take a look at my workflow strategy session here.