Originally published at beafreelanceblogger.com on December 28, 2018.
There’s more to being a freelance blogger than just writing helpful content.
As a freelancer, you’re running your very own business of one, which means that everything from marketing and branding to sales and accounting is on your shoulders.
(And if you haven’t made the leap yet from side hustle to full-time freelancer, you’re probably juggling all of the above and a full-time job.)
But if you’re not careful, all of the administrative and marketing tasks that go into running a business can encroach on your client writing time, and when they do, you’re left scrambling to get back on schedule.
You need a way to get more done in a day without compromising on priorities or the quality of your work.
That’s where automation comes in. The key to getting more done as a freelance blogger is realizing that you shouldn’t do everything yourself. Automating repeatable tasks gives you more time to focus on creating content and finding new blogging clients.
If you’ve never used automation before or aren’t sure where to start, here are 6 tasks that every freelance blogger should automate.
1: Market Yourself on Social Media
You’ve probably already heard how important it is to maintain an active social media presence as a freelance blogger. The average internet user spends about 3 times as many hours on social media as on email, so if you want to grab future clients’ attention, social media is the place to do it.
But social media posting and engagement is time-consuming. If you want your posts to be seen, experts recommend posting at least 5 (and some recommend as many as 15) times per day on Twitter and 1–2 times per day on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.
That’s about an hour or so every day spent posting to social media … and then you still need to engage with your followers’ content.
I don’t know about you, but I rarely have that sort of time to spare. That’s why I use social media automation tools like Hootsuite and RecurPost to keep my greatest hits circulating so I can focus on client work.
Hootsuite is my daily social media automation platform. I typically use it to share things that need to post that day, like industry influencer content, promotions, or questions for other freelance bloggers. I simply write out my post, then choose the “AutoSchedule” option, which pushes my post out at the best time of day for it to get the most views and engagement.
RecurPost runs in the background and supplements the daily content I share through Hootsuite with evergreen content that I need to keep sharing, like posts from my own blog, my best client clips, and case studies or other marketing materials.
I simply upload my content, set my posting schedule … and forget about it for weeks on end:
2: Respond to Leads and Inquiries
Email is one of the biggest time sucks of most people’s day, with the average employee spending about 13 hours per work week in their inbox. For us freelance bloggers, who have to manage administrative and marketing tasks on top of our regular client workload, it’s all too easy to spend the better part of a day just fielding emails.
But the real problem is that between revision requests, following up on pending pitches, and responding to incoming inquiries, most of the emails we send are essentially duplicates of each other. Writing every response from scratch each time an inquiry comes in is inefficient at best and exhausting at worst, especially if it means constantly shifting from a client’s brand voice to your own.
While some of this is unavoidable, you can do away with most of the repetition by implementing Gmail’s canned response function (or Microsoft Outlook’s Quick Parts tool). These let you save commonly sent emails as templates for future use:
If you want to automate a step further, use an email automation software like Mailchimp to manage your leads and inquiries. First, you’ll need to create and name your list — for instance, “Blogging Inquiries.” Then you’ll be prompted to build a signup form, which you’ll embed on your website.
When someone wants to inquire about your blogging services, they’ll fill out that form to contact you. When they do, Mailchimp automatically sends a confirmation email to let them know you got their submission. You can customize this message to tell them when to expect a response from you, or if you want to save more time, include a link to a booking tool like Calendly and encourage people to book a slot on your calendar themselves.
3: Create Quotes
Anyone who’s been a freelance blogger for a while knows how time-consuming it can be to put together a custom quote for each inquiry that comes through. That’s why I’ve stopped creating custom quotes almost entirely, opting instead to sell tiered service packages tailored to the requests I most commonly receive.
Now, when someone inquires about my services I send them a neat little PDF that showcases each service package, what it includes, and how much they’ll need to pay for it each month. I currently offer packages for:
- A single blog post
- Bi-weekly blogging
- Weekly blogging
Depending on the type of freelance blogging you do, you may want to offer more or fewer tiers or include options for interview-based or long-form blog posts. Think carefully about the types of blog posts you are asked for most or want to write most often, and tailor your pricing packages around those.
Not only will it be easy much faster and easier for you to send out quotes, but your potential blogging clients will also be impressed with how quickly you were able to respond to their requests.
4: Onboard Clients
Once a blogging client accepts your quote and signs your contract, you need to have a system in place for obtaining brand information from them and ensuring they have a great customer experience with you.
I use Zapier, an integration tool, to connect my Mailchimp account to my bookkeeping software. When a new blogging client pays for their first month, Zapier tells Mailchimp, which then automatically sends my client a “Welcome Aboard!” email.
This email contains a PDF of all the information they’ll need for the typical day of working with me, from contact info and business hours to how to leave feedback on a blog post draft. I also include a client intake form, which prompts them to share information like content management system logins, blog post topic ideas, brand and style guides, and more.
Together, these tools have saved me countless hours of back-and-forth with clients and have enabled me to get their blog posts up and running much more quickly than I could before.
But onboarding a new blogging client also requires some back-end setup in your own systems. I store and share all of my client projects in Google Drive, so I created a template of every folder and document that I need for my typical blogging client. Once a new client signs my contract, all I have to do is make a copy of the template folder and rename it with my client’s information.
It might only take a minute or two to create from scratch each time, but those minutes eventually add up. Having a repeatable, templated process in place ensures that I’m not wasting time manually doing something that I could automate instead.
5: Manage Client Projects
Once your blogging clients are all signed on and set up, you need a way to manage your tasks for them.
Let me tell you right now that keeping everything in your head simply won’t cut it. You will forget things, and your reputation as a freelance blogger will suffer for it.
If you haven’t already, find a digital project management tool that works for you. I’m a diehard Asana fan, but Trello, Todoist, Monday.com, and others have loyal followings as well.
Just like with my Google Drive, I created templates in my Asana for everything I’ll need when I sign a new blogging client. There’s a templated task for all of my onboarding checklist items, as well as one for each type of blog post I offer. When I’m onboarding a client, all I have to do is copy the templates into a new project and assign a due date.
Unlike some other project management tools, Asana lets you create recurring tasks and choose the frequency with which they regenerate. This is especially handy for any repeating deadlines, like weekly blogging assignments, monthly invoicing, and quarterly taxes.
You can also add your clients to your task management tool to streamline the draft approval process. They can see where you are in the process without needing to ask you for an update, and you can assign them feedback on a draft without having to email them 4 times for a response (hopefully):
6: Balance the Books
If you dread the bookkeeping aspect of being a freelance blogger, then you’ll want to pay special attention to this last tip:
Find a bookkeeping tool that makes your finances easy to manage.
Ideally, this tool should integrate with your time-tracking or project management tool so that you won’t waste precious time copying and pasting information between programs, and bonus points if it automatically generates invoices for you each billing period.
Quickbooks, Freshbooks, and most other bookkeeping software have some if not all of these functions. But I use AND CO, and I recommend it to every freelancer I know. It’s incredibly user-friendly and has the best customer support team I’ve ever dealt with.
Here’s how I use it to automate my bookkeeping:
First, I use it to create all of my freelance blogging contracts. AND CO partnered with The Freelancers’ Union to build a completely customizable, attorney-approved freelance contract template:
Users can create, sign, and send these contracts digitally so I won’t waste time begging my ancient printer to work.
Once my client signs the contract, AND CO automatically creates a project for that client based on the terms of the contract. There’s a built-in time tracker for hourly projects or you can charge a flat fee. You can even set up recurring payments if your clients always order the same number of blogs per month.
At the end of the billing cycle, AND CO generates an invoice based on the hours logged or the number of deliverables completed. It takes me all of 5 minutes each month to invoice my entire client list. And if your clients are the slow-to-respond type, AND CO will also send them a reminder before their payment is due.
What works for my business may not work for yours, so I encourage you to test a few different tools to find one that helps you save time and effort on admin tasks. And no matter what bookkeeping tool you choose, find a way to make it work for you, not the other way around.
Running your own freelance blogging business requires a lot more work than just churning out blog posts. Use automation to become more efficient at the business side of things so that you can get back to work for your clients.
Originally published at beafreelanceblogger.com on December 28, 2018.