A Simple Guide to the Tools and Recipes You Need to Automate Workflows

Do you want to know how to automate workflows, but not sure how or where to begin? This is a common issue. It can seem daunting at first, with plenty of jargon making it seem difficult. However, there are some very simple automation recipes you can put into place straight away that will make your business life so much easier.

By following these easy-to-understand automation recipes, you can make a host of online tools work for you to overcome common issues, repetitive tasks and tighten up your customer services. These automated workflows can save you time, cut down your expenses and free you and your staff up from tedious admin, allowing you to get on with the tasks that help drive your business forward.

Are you ready to claim back some time? Then take a look at these simple ways to automate workflows and the recipes and tools that can bring them to life.


Sending Invoice Reminder

It is time consuming trying to keep track of which clients have paid their invoices and who has gone overdue. However, getting paid is the most important aspect of running a small business! Once you have worked out who owes you money, you have to spend more time chasing them up and, in all honesty, it can be quite embarrassing to personally challenge a client.

The solution to this is to automate reminder emails. Many pieces of accounting software contain this functionality, including Xero and Invoice Ninja. Here is how to automate invoice reminders through that software on a Pro Plan:

  • Go to Advanced Settings > Templates and Reminders
  • Scroll to Reminder Emails and adjust the settings for up to three reminder email templates. Click ‘Save’.
  • Visit the Invoice/Create page and raise an invoice.
  • Add the date you need the payment by in the Due Date section.
  • Invoice Ninja will send out your reminder email automatically when it becomes overdue.


Scan and Track Receipts

When you run a small business, keeping track of your outgoings is as important as watching your incomings. Unfortunately, if you are on the move, receipts can go missing or become damaged, making it difficult to claim your or your employees’ expenses.

Many pieces of accountancy software provide a receipt scanning service that pulls the relevant information out and stores it securely. Xero’s receipt scanning app allows you to take a picture of the slip on your phone, with the costs added to the relevant job to keep you updated on the costs of a certain project. It means you no longer have to keep all the paper receipts in a shoebox and trawl through them manually at tax return time or when you pay your employees’ expenses.

Here’s how it works for users with a Xero Expenses account:

  • Download the Xero Receipt Scanning app.
  • Photograph the receipt with your camera phone.
  • The app sends the information to your accountancy dashboard.


Automatically Reply to Emails

Yes, you could stick your Out of Office message on if you are too busy to write back, but that seems wholly impersonal when all the senders receive the same generic text whatever their reason for mailing. Automating replies to common queries, however, is a great time-saving tool that still provides them with the answer they want.

Gmail’s Canned Responses feature means you can pre-write replies that answer specific questions, point people to a Calendly link to check out your availability, politely turn down unsolicited pitches or anything else you might find yourself sending on a frequent basis.

Here’s the automation recipe for Canned Responses:

  • Activate the feature by visiting Settings > Advanced > Canned Responses.
  • Write an email that you wish to use as a canned response and save and name it at More > Canned Responses > New Canned Response.
  • Reply to a common email and use a canned response by clicking the appropriate answer in the menu.


Schedule Blog Posts

This is one of the automated workflows that allow you to spend one day knuckling down on a big task, rather than spreading it out over a number of days and breaking your momentum. For example, if you want to release daily blogs, your time is better spent dedicating one big chunk of time to completing the week’s posts in one go and not having to think about this again until the following week. How is this possible, who will send the blogs out daily?

Thankfully, content management systems such as WordPress allow you to schedule your posts with ease. This is how to automate your blog post-publication:

  • Write the post.
  • Under the ‘Publish’ tab, tap ‘Edit’ next to where it says ‘Publish Immediately’.
  • Select the date and time you would like to schedule the post for and press ‘OK’.
  • Hit ‘Schedule’.

There’s more, you can even schedule social media posts to go out on publication of the blog which provides a link to your followers and fans. To do this, you need to use the Publicize function on the Jetpack plugin. These are the steps to automate social media posts:

  • Under Jetpack on your WordPress dashboard, click ‘Settings’.
  • Tap the ‘Sharing’ tab and under Publicize Connections, toggle the bar to ‘on’.
  • Tap ‘Connect your social media accounts’.
  • Hit ‘Connect’ next to the social networks on which you have accounts and fill in the details. Press ‘Save’.
  • When your next blog goes live, it will post updates as required.


Automate Customer Emails with MailChimp

You might want to automate emails to customers for a number of reasons. Whether you want to send out a special offer on their birthday or to nudge them to complete an order, you can do so with tools like Mailchimp.

Having a mailing list is such an important marketing tool, so automating workflows to make it easier to communicate with your customers or fans can only be beneficial to your business. Here’s the automation recipe for Mailchimp:

  • Launch Mailchimp’s Automation Builder.
  • Select the type of email you want to send out.
  • Enter a campaign name and select the list you want to send it to.
  • Edit and design the email.
  • Edit the settings to dictate when the email will send and to whom.
  • Confirm the details are correct and tap ‘Start Sending’.




Eliminate Emails That Get in the Way

Gmail has an automatic promotional email folder; this filters emails automatically allowing your inbox to stay clean and up to date with your most important mail. Alternatively, you can install a free programme called Unroll.me, which can collect emails and send you a weekly report on what was in them, as well as unsubscribe.


Ready to Automate Workflows

Now you are ready to automate workflows thanks to these simple easy-wins. There are more complicated and complex automated workflows available, but it is good to start small and get a feel for the real benefit they can bring to your business. 

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