Workflow Automation 101: Saving Time with IFTTT and Zapier

Setting Up Shop

You know what can suck? That as solopreneurs, we don’t have a staff to delegate to.

You’re responsible for everything. You don’t have a rockstar marketer to spend their days writing social content. You don’t have account managers to communicate with clients for you. And you’re not quite at the level of having a personal assistant for all the tedious, repetitive admin tasks.

And how much of our time do those little things take up? That’s time you could’ve spent bringing in money.

Luckily, technology is awesome. With it, we can pretty much build our own personal assistants; our own team to pass work off to. Only it’s a team of apps, integrations, and hacks that work together to GSD for you. And it’s called workflow automation.

I like to think that by using automation, we’re delegating work to robots. The Jetsons had Rosie; we have applications.

What is workflow automation?

Workflow automation is a way to connect apps and websites to each other and automatically perform actions that you would’ve had to set aside time for. It’s kind of like creating your own APIs and integrations (without being a total tech wizard).

Automation can do things like:

  • Add starred emails or emails with a certain label to a “To Reply” list in your task management app.
  • Send confirmation emails to clients or partners the day before a Skype call or meeting.
  • Post a certain message to Facebook at the same time every week (great for weekly features!).

IFTTT and Zapier are the two most popular services for workflow automation. They’re both really great: powerful and easy to use. If you’ve never been introduced, here’s an intro to how they work and what you can do with them. As a bonus, I’ve also included some automated workflows you can use to get started!

IFTTT 101

Price: free
Platforms: web, iOS, Android
Integrations: Over 200 channels (services to connect to).

IFTTT – funny name, huge lifesaver. It stands for “if this, then that,” and is pronounced like “gift” without the “g.” The basis of IFTTT is recipes – sets of steps making up the workflow. They’re made up of triggers and actions. Whenever a trigger event occurs, IFTTT initiates an action.

Here’s are two examples:

gmail_ifttt_recipe

and

ifttt_productivity_recipe

As you can see, IFTTT doesn’t need to be all serious. With channels like BuzzFeed, ESPN, Craigslist, FitBit, and The New York Times, it’s great for personal use, too. Shaving time off both work and personal tasks is a double productivity boost!

IFTTT Recipes for Solopreneurs

Here are a few to get you started:

Even more: 38 IFTTT Recipes for Small Business Owners

Since IFTTT is free, it’s always the first place I go to try to create a workflow. If the integrations or triggers aren’t available to do what I have in mind, I’ll turn to Zapier.

Zapier 101

Price: free for up to 5 zaps and 100 tasks/month, paid plans starting at $15/month
Platforms: web
Integrations: Over 400 apps

zapier_zap

I like to think of Zapier as the professional IFTTT. A lot of work tasks can be automated using IFTTT with apps like email, your to-do list app, social networks etc. But Zapier is much more focused on business apps, so you can connect to things like your accounting software, landing page creator, and your CRM.

However, Zapier’s pricing is based on how many workflows (called zaps) are set up, and how frequently they’re triggered. So I usually turn to IFTTT first to keep myself on a lower pricing plan. Zapier also might cost more depending on what apps you want to connect. There are certain premium apps you can’t connect to on the free plan, and some apps themselves charge you a fee to connect.

But between Zapier’s focus on business apps, its more powerful editor, and the new ability to create multi-step workflows, the cost is completely worth it if you can spare it.

mailchimp_zapier_zap

Zapier Zaps for Solopreneurs

Here are a few to get you started:

Automation just got a whole lot more friendly

When we can’t delegate work to people, we can delegate to apps. Small tasks may not seem like a big time waster, but the 5-minute to-dos tend to be the ones we also end up doing several times per day, and the minutes add up.

Technology is only a distraction when it’s not doing your work for you. By using workflow automation, you’ll free up enough time to scroll down a little further in Feedly during your next break.

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Brittany Berger is a content marketer who likes her media social and her Netflix non-stop. She writes about blogging and productivity at Blog Bolder – download her free guide to productivity tools for solopreneurs.

4 Comments on Workflow Automation 101: Saving Time with IFTTT and Zapier

  1. Danny Schreiber
    August 31, 2015 at 3:49 pm (2 years ago)

    Brittany – Thanks for highlighting Zapier here! 🙂 Especially dig your list for solopreneurs!

    Reply
  2. Katrin
    September 2, 2015 at 6:27 am (2 years ago)

    Hi Brittany,
    that’s a nice introduction into benefits and potential of workflow automations. I use both services you mentioned here, and I am still discovering new potentials.
    The main area I use it for is productivity enhancements, and thus building systems. I found with my clients that this what they are most interested, too. Social Media Automation has its place, too, but I maintain a rather careful approach with it.

    Anyway, great intro from you! 🙂

    Reply
    • Katrin
      September 2, 2015 at 3:23 pm (2 years ago)

      Addition: I just wanted to make you aware that Zapier recently adjusted its pricing plan. So the first paid plan starts at $20/mth.

      Reply
  3. Primavera P6 training
    December 29, 2015 at 4:27 am (2 years ago)

    Really nice information that it would be helpful to me in many ways

    Reply

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