A couple of weeks ago I wrote about a few ways in which business owners' waste time online. After the article was published, I received countless emails from readers all agreeing that yes, they did waste far too much time in exactly the ways that I had described! Glad it wasn't just me then :-)
So this week I am going to continue on a similar vein and ask you the following question:
'Are you doing everything you can to run your online business efficiently?'
I have been taking a close look at my own businesses recently as it has become more and more apparent that, for someone with a business that is 80% automated, I am working a heck of a lot of hours! Whilst some of this time is being spent developing new products and websites, a lot of it is also spent doing jobs that either don't need doing in the first place or that can be carried out at a very reasonable cost by someone else.
So what have I been doing differently? Please read on to find out and hopefully some of my ideas will save you time with your own online ventures.....
One of the first problems I wanted to try and tackle was that of spam and junk email. For over a year now I have used an excellent piece of software called Mailwasher http://www.thetraderonline.com/mailwasher.html (free trial available) to reduce the amount of emails I have to download and read. Mailwasher is a superb product and it is great at identifying and deleting junk mail without you even seeing it. However it isn't perfect and over the past few months I have noticed more and more junk getting through. Also, I was away from home for a few days recently and I couldn't use my own computer to check my email. This meant accessing my email online without the benefit of Mailwasher to go in and check it first. Result? Hundreds and hundreds of spam emails that had to be deleted before I could even start dealing with the genuine ones.
This coupled with the fact that on one day alone I took a count and realised that I am now receiving over 1000 junk emails a day (!) made me decide to sort this issue out. To resolve the problem, I am gradually ditching all of my current email addresses and replacing them with contact forms on my website pages. Once I have turned off my old email addresses, the problem should (in theory) improve drastically overnight. So far I have already cut out about 40% of the junk just by switching off some old email addresses that I haven't used for months.
Ok, now on with problem two...
I have always liked to do everything in terms of running my businesses, after all, I know my business better than anyone and I have found it hard to put my trust in other people to do a good job. More recently I have pushed myself hard to get away from this mindset and have started to pay other people to do some jobs which I could have done myself but that I didn't really need to. Such things as writing sales copy, designing graphics or basic amendments to software scripts etc.
Although I am no programmer, I have spent many a 'happy' hour trying to work out how to amend a software script to do exactly what I wanted it to. Often with a bit of determination I have been successful but it will have taken me several days! I have recently started to use the services of programmers on sites such as Scriptlance.com more and more. Once you have found a good programmer it is a superb feeling to just fire off an email with details of what you want doing and leaving all the hard work to someone else.
I have also outsourced some copywriting and graphic design work in the past few months - again, nothing I could not have done myself but it is a much better use of my time to pay someone else $50 and let them get on with it while I do something more important.
One of the tasks that I am not comfortable about outsourcing is my customer service. I like to handle all incoming emails personally and the main reason for this is that I genuinely believe that whatever line of business you are in, no one cares as much about your business as you do. Customer service is key and something that I want full control over so that I can ensure that my customers receive top notch support.
As you might expect, I receive countless emails that are all basically asking exactly the same question and I found a superb product a few years ago that allows me to answer these questions with a full reply with just a few keystrokes. I have told my readers about Shortkeys ( http://www.shortkeys.com ) in the past but I thought it was worthy of another mention. I have increased my use of this software considerably in recent months and it really does save me hours of time everyday. Best of all, it is completely free!
Finally, I have been spending a large amount of time ensuring that every possible aspect of my business that can be automated, actually is automated. It is all too easy to get used to doing a particular task manually when there is absolutely no need for it. There was a boring administrative task that I completed every single month and which used to take me about an hour. Ok, so an hour a month is not so bad but after doing this task manually for over two years, I figured I would see if I could get someone to automate it for me. A quick trip to Scriptlance and 48 hours and $30 later and I have a simple script that now completes the task for me. $30 has bought me an extra hour every single month which doesn't sound like much but over the past two years I have wasted a whole day doing something that I didn't need to. How many tasks like that do you do every month? Something to think about....
Copyright 2005 Richard Grady
About The Author
Richard Grady has been helping ordinary people earn online since 1998. He writes a free newsletter which is published every two weeks. To subscribe (and claim your free gifts), visit: http://www.thetraderonline.com/newsletter.html.