How to automate your business and take your time back

Sep 19, 2019

This is a sponsored post from Bench, the online bookkeeping service that pairs you with a dedicated bookkeeping team and elegant software to do your books for you.

Whether it’s putting out small fires in the present or making big plans for the future, there are some tasks only you can tackle for your small business. For everything else, there’s automation.

Running your own business can feel like a 24/7 gig. Automating humdrum tasks like payroll, tax filing, and invoicing frees up time, reduces stress, and lets you focus your unique talents on helping your business succeed.

Here are some of the best choices when it comes to automating your business.

Payroll

Onboarding. Retention. 1099s. Name all the tasks you have to tackle, and the care and feeding of employees starts to sound overwhelming.

Enter Gusto. This payroll and HR platform is super simple to use, and lets you handle all your employee management on one platform. And you get a professional, remote HR team working for you—so, if you have any questions, it’s easy to reach out and get help.

Bookkeeping

Accurate, up-to-date bookkeeping is the key to tracking and planning your business finances. If bookkeeping tasks are keeping you up at night, or debits and credits give you a migraine, Bench is here to help.

With Bench, you get a remote bookkeeping team that tracks and records all your business transactions, and an intuitive app to help you pulse-check your finances on the go. Professionally prepared financial reports make it easy to track business performance. And Bench will even file your taxes for you at the end of the year — one less job ticked off your to-do list.

One major benefit of signing up with Bench: They offer catch-up bookkeeping services. So, if your day-to-day bookkeeping has fallen behind, your team at Bench will bring it up to speed.

Mileage logging

If business often has you on the road, writing mileage off your taxes can save you big bucks. Problem is, you need receipts and comprehensive travel log to back up your claim. That can mean digging for receipts and records come tax season.

MileIQ is a simple app, working in the background on your phone to keep a record of where you’ve driven. Categorizing trips is easy — the app lets you set work hours and favorite locations. MileIQ compiles all your travels into one easy to read record, making it simple to claim mileage when deduction season rolls around.

Invoicing

Filling out templates, chasing down emails, sending reminders. If you collect a major part of your income by invoicing, you can end up working overtime just so you can get paid.

Freshbooks is an easy solution, and quickly becoming the industry standard for freelancers and the rest of the invoice crowd. Freshbooks lets you create invoices on the fly, filling them in with saved client profiles and your most common line items. Track your paid, unpaid, and not-yet-sent invoices, send reminders with a click, and collect payment by credit card.

If you’re on the fence, Freshbooks offers a free trial. Trust us — once you try it, you’ll never want to go back.

Receipt storage

A paperless office is a tidy office. If you’re relying on fragile, easy to lose paper receipts to track your expenses, digitize them to cut back on clutter and make sure you can back up your deductions.

Shoeboxed turns your paper records into pure data. Stuff an envelope, send it in, and you’ll get a reliable, comprehensive expense report in the cloud.

Sales tax

Doing business in multiple states? Keeping track of sales tax can get you lost in a tangle of spreadsheets.

TaxJar sets you free. Easily integrating with your online store, it produces monthly “return-ready” reports. You always know how much tax you’ve collected, and how much you need to file. Once you implement TaxJar, managing sales tax suddenly becomes much less taxing.

Travel plans

Hitting the road? TripIt takes the stress out of planning. The service scans your inbox for events, airline reservations, hotel bookings, and car rentals. Then, it automatically builds an itinerary that you can reference from anywhere. Sharing and collaboration options let partners and team members hop on the ride as well.

Recruiting

When it’s time to fill gaps in your workforce, you want to find employees who are worth the investment. Your best bet is to post job listings as widely as possible.

ZipRecruiter saves you the hassle of making multiple postings on multiple job boards. Submit one listing, and ZipRecruiter automatically submits it to over 50 job sites. Plus, through ZipRecruiter’s interface, you can manage all your job applications in one place.

Employee training

When you run your own business, getting a new employee up to speed can feel like a major time sink. Trainual is an easy to use tool that smooths out the onboarding process. Keep all your company’s info in one online training manual, and create tests for employees to complete. Then, test their knowledge, track their progress, and get back to business.

Email sorting

Perfect posture. Total inner peace. Inbox zero. When you’re inundated with emails—business and otherwise—on a daily basis, a tidy inbox can seem like an impossible ideal.

Sanebox lumps together all your non-urgent mail into a daily or weekly digest. So you can review all your non-essential communications at a glance, and focus your energy on the stuff that really matters.

Design

It takes a lot of work to look good. If you’re thinking of hiring a designer for your business, but hunting down the right one seems overwhelming, Design Pickle is here to help.

For a flat monthly fee, the service lets you submit unlimited design requests. Suddenly, designers are looking for you — and not the other way around.

Social media

If you’re like most people with Facebook or Twitter, social media already eats up precious attention span during your off-hours. Don’t let it take over your work life, as well.

Buffer lets you run multiple social media accounts for your business all from one place. Write and schedule posts in advance, and Buffer makes sure they reach your followers. So you can market your business on the timeline, while saving time for your most valuable one-on-one customer interactions.

Customer relations management (CRM)

Salesforce is the industry standard for managing customer journeys—from first contact, to sale, to repeat business. But because of its high price, Salesforce is a serious investment. Many small business owners opt to use spreadsheets instead—and end up devoting more time and energy to CRM than they ever intended to.

Zoho is a robust alternative to Salesforce, offering much of the same functionality at a fraction of the cost. And it even includes some marketing tools Salesforce doesn’t offer as part of its standard CRM.

Customer chat

Your FAQ can only go so far. Who can a prospective customer talk to if they have questions you haven’t already answered?

Pop-up chat boxes are an increasingly popular solution. Popping up right away on your website’s main page, they encourage users to reach out to you directly, rather than sending an email. That means you can start interacting with a user immediately, cultivating them as a new lead, without cluttering your inbox.

Tawk is a well-rounded, free option. It’s quick and easy to set up, letting you monitor site visitors in real time. You can even set “shortcut” responses to common questions. And if you don’t have the time to monitor your chat dashboard 24/7, Tawk will help you hire live chat agents for $1 an hour.

Shipping

Once you start an ecommerce business, you soon become a familiar face at the local post office. But if you want to skip the line — and save time and money — there are a few easy solutions.

Stamps.com lets you print off postage from the comfort of your own home or office. It takes the guesswork out of shipping prices, too—so you know how much to charge your customers.

Owned by Stamps.com, Shipstation completes the rest of the shipping process. It connects with most off-the-shelf ecommerce platforms, letting you track order fulfillment, print shipping and return labels—plus packing slips—en mass. And you can set up shipping profiles to track customer preferences and fulfill future orders faster.

Automating the tasks that eat up your hours can help your business run more smoothly. And no matter what type of business you have, one of the best ways to save time and energy is to switch to a paperless office.

Bryce Warnes

Bryce Warnes is a writer for Bench, the online bookkeeping service that pairs you with a team of professional bookkeepers who do your bookkeeping, so you don’t have to.