Underpaid and overworked? Same as 87% of the other bloggers. This post explains how to outsource your blog, so that you can become part of the 13%.
Have you seen the film 2013 Spike Jonze film “Her”?
If not, here’s a summary…
A lonely divorcee lives in a futuristic Los Angeles, spends most of his time playing computer games and then falls in love with his new Operating System.
Though the really interesting part of the films is actually what our loveable friend Theodore does during his working hours:
Ghost writes love letters for clients around the world.
As all of the routine and mundane tasks in society are managed by computers, only the creative and empathetic tasks remain.
This got me thinking about our business.
If any task that can conceivably be completed by a computer… WILL be completed by a computer in the very near future… should I not be focussing on improving my skills in the areas that computers are not capable of undertaking?
- Spending time talking and understanding our audience
- Providing high-value advice to our audience
- Defining high-level strategy
So that’s what I started doing.
I started working on taking all of the mundane and routine tasks we were doing and either gave them to a computer or to a virtual assistant with a lower hourly rate than the value of my time.
We then started seeing astounding results.
Both the productivity of myself and my co-founder James doubled almost overnight and great things started to happen in the AskTina business.
So naturally, we thought we would share everything we learned and executed with you.
Oh and one last thing before we get started…
AutoBlogging is not this:
It is not one simple plugin that you download then churns out cookie cutter content that drives… well… zero traffic.
And has even less impact on the well-being of your subscribers and the world.
AutoBlogging is a process and a mindset.
It takes hard work, consistency and an intense awareness of where you invest your time.
But when executed correctly, the rewards will far surpass the energetic investment.
The continuous outsourcing/automation of lower value, routine tasks to unlock more time for the higher value empathetic and creative tasks (that computer can’t do).
And why is AutoBlogging important?
Because if you don’t adopt AutoBlogging and your competitor does… whilst you are spending time on those low value, mundane tasks, they will be helping each and every one of their tribe to a greater extent than you are.
And slowly but surely… your traffic figures will dip, your email opt-in conversions will diminish and sales will dwindle.
But as you are here, giving us your attention, I’m not going to let that happen to you…
Welcome to AutoBlogging.
Throughout the rest of this post, we will move through Steps 1-12 and it is important that you follow through in this order.
Steps 1-5 focus on understanding which tasks YOU don’t need to be doing and how they can be handed off to a virtual assistant and then Steps 6-12 move onto how to automate some of those tasks completely.
Step 1: Time Assignment Assessment
The first step of the AutoBlogging process is to build awareness.
Becoming intensely aware of exactly where your time is being spent.
As when you develop this first level of awareness, it will build its own momentum and soon whenever you start a low value you task, it will become obvious to you.
This first task is both simple and boring… BUT is absolutely necessary to lay a foundation of awareness.
I need you to record every task you perform related to your blog in a notepad with an amount of hours spent on that task.
Once complete, we can now start to identify those that can and should be outsourced or automated…
Step 2: Identify Tasks To Be Outsourced
Once we have a complete view of where you are spending your time we can now move this data into the AskTina Task Delegator.
Simply click the image below, enter your email address and I will send over this tool that we use in our business to identify which tasks and processes within your business are outsourced friendly.
You will need to enter each task you operate in your business from Step 1 in the “Tasks” column and then input a numerical value between 1 and 10 into the next 5 columns.
The tool will then provide an opinion as to whether this is a task that should/shouldn’t be outsourced.
Here are a number of tasks that we have found are perfect for outsourcing:
- Social Media
- Lead Generation
- Customer Service
- Inbox/Calendar Management
- Data Entry
(We will come back to these shortly…)
But before that, we need to understand HOW these tasks will be outsourced effectively.
Step 3: Perform The Tasks To Be Outsourced
This is the crucial step that most people miss.
Once you are aware of the tasks that should be outsourced within your business, it is vitally important to have a good idea of how the task or process is performed yourself.
This enables you to both optimise the process and to understand how much time needs to be invested to achieve the desired end result.
So go ahead and make sure you are fully proficient in the task that is to be outsourced.
Step 4: Create Working Procedures
Pick up this book: Work The System by Sam Carpenter.
It’s an awesome story about how Sam evolved his small business from a chaotic mess to a well-oiled machine through the use of process documentation.
Each process you outsource must have an associated Working Procedure – a document detailing exactly how the process is performed in written, image or video format.
Here is the Working Procedure template we use in our business:
And as now you have personally been completing each process that you are looking to outsource, you should be able to rapidly document each one.
For bonus points, you can use ScreenFlow to create videos of you/your team members completing the process.
Step 5 – Train Your Team
(If you are looking for a curated database of Virtual Assistants that you can pay by the hour to handle your outsourced processes, then we recommend heading over to Virtual Valley)
If you are the person that has created the Working Procedure for each process in your business then it is your responsibility to train the person who will be taking the responsibility in the future.
To do this, the first thing you need to do is simply share your Working Procedures with the relevant resource and then perform both:
- Forward Job Shadowing – You operate the process whilst your team member observes
- Reverse Job Shadowing – Your team member operates the process whilst you observe
It is only when both of these stages are complete that you can step back and allow the process to operate independently of yourself.
One of the biggest mistakes with outsourcing is a lack of training for your assistant and the expectation that everyone knows precisely how you want things done.
The better training you provide, the less time you will have to spend managing people.
This is the outsourcing process I used for 3 years whilst working as a Management Consultant at Accenture and as three years as an online entrepreneur, trust me…
And in case you are struggling to identify specific tasks within your online business that could be outsourced, here is an overview of a five of the lower value tasks that we have handed over to a virtual assistant…
Example 1 – Managing Your Social Media & Content Strategy
Every online business needs a social media and content strategy, as let’s face it, content is the language of the internet and your social media accounts are your megaphone (if used effectively).
Furthermore, a content strategy cannot be effective without a well thought out social media strategy (and vice versa).
So, to build an audience of die-hard fans that love (and share) your content you need to consistently invest time in a number of tasks consistently day in day out.
- Managing content production
- Scheduling content
- Keyword research
- Researching content pieces
- Ensuring social content is native to each network
- Creating a posting schedule
- Reaching out and interacting with your audience
- Ensuring leverage of niche relevant hashtags
All of which take up a significant amount of time, which for you…
Could be better spent elsewhere.
This is your first opportunity to engage the five-step formula for outsourcing outlined above…
Example 2 – Keyword Research
There are parts of the keyword research process that SHOULD NOT be outsourced and those that definitely should.
For example, you must define the high-level strategy, though the time spent to gather data in the category you choose to target, is a great candidate for outsourcing.
It is also crucial to track ranking for your targeted keywords over time to enable you to measure the results of your SEO efforts.
Example 3 – Filtering Emails & Managing Your Calendar
Waking up to a pre-organised and filtered inbox and calendar is a wondrous feeling.
It leaves clarity of mind, which you can use to direct straight into your most important tasks that morning.
However, in order to set this up with your virtual team member you need identify strict guidelines:
- Folder structure and guidelines
- Structuring calendar invites
- Time availability
- Emails to unsubscribe to
- Emails to reply to
For the following tasks:
- Replying to/unsubscribing from and categorizing emails
- Collating content for your consumption
- Monitoring Google Alerts for specific keywords
- Scheduling and setting up appointments
- To do list creation
Finally, it is important to note that outsourcing email and calendar management is definitely a learning process and the greatest time rewards will be experienced after a number of months working with your assistant.
Example 4 – Managing Your Email Lists
Growing your list is a crucial task for every professional blogger, and guess what?
These time sucking activities do NOT classify as “List Growth” tasks:
- List hygiene
- List segmentation
- Subject line analysis
- Scheduling auto responders
- Simple replies to customer requests
No, these tasks come under the category of “Email List Management”, and fortunately, these tasks are ideal outsourcing material.
Thus as your list grows, you are able to continue to focus on the high leverage, monetization activities (which of course, can be augmented by the use of a free AskTina Widget ;)).
Example 5 – Customer Service
As social media amplifies the effect of word of mouth marketing, it is of paramount importance that your customer experience is flawless.
Now, you may feel that as a business owner you are able to provide the best customer support…
And you are probably correct.
However, is that the best use of your time?
Would your customers prefer that you spend 4 hours per day addressing the menial support tickets or developing that valuable new product they have been waiting eagerly for?
Ok, so as ever, let’s follow the five step formula above, perform the “Customer Service Representative” role for a couple of days, create the Working Procedure and then hand over to an enthusiastic assistant.
OK so let’s take a step back and understand what we have covered:
- Step 1: Time Assignment Assessment
- Step 2: Identify Tasks To Be Outsourced
- Step 3: Perform The Tasks To Be Outsourced
- Step 4: Create Working Procedures
- Step 5: Train Your Team
Once you have moved through Step’s 1-5, you now should be in the process of removing those tasks that need to be completed by a human, though that human doesn’t necessarily need to be you…
Which now enables us to move onto the more exciting stuff.
Those tasks that do not need to be completed by a human.
This automation will not only make you more productive… but will make the rest of your team more productive to enable them to start taking on more of the tasks that you are doing… giving you more free time…
And the cycle goes on.
Fuelling greater value creation for yourself, your community and the world.
You could say that AutoBlogging a win: win: win: downside win mindset downsides.
Anyway, let’s get back to it…
Step 6 – Automate Reporting
There is something strange about us human beings… in that when we can visualize key data plotted against time, we just want to make it improve.
Therefore, in order to improve the performance of your business, it is pretty crucial that you are visually tracking those key metrics for your business.
The benefits are clear.
But what is the cost of collating this data on daily basis?
When you start, it may take a few minutes each day (which your assistant can do, as outlined in Steps 2-5 above).
But the real goal is to automate this data collection.
Here’s how we do it.
You first need to understand 3-5 key numbers that need to be reported daily that indicate the health of your blog.
You then need to add them as rows into a spreadsheet and use each column as a single day.
You can then track each figure daily.
And then when you reach around 10 days you can make the quantum leap…
And add each metric to a line graph to uncover trends.
But where does the automation come in?
Instead of using yourself or your assistant to collect those data points from the various application, you can use software to grab and load them into a live Dashboard using Klipfolio
For example, you can track daily and accumulated revenue against a monthly target.
Klipfolio can be configured to take data directly from your payment processor on a daily basis.
Klipfolio has a vast amount of integrations enabling you to feed a vast variety of data into your Dashboard.
Step 7 – Automate Application Connections
As per Step 6, you need to access data from your various applications to make key decisions, but interestingly each of your applications also needs to talk to each other to enable them to function properly.
Your CRM (E.g. Hubspot) needs to be aware when a customer purchased a product so they do not receive further promotion about that same product.
Or when a customer talks to you through your AskTina Widget, this data needs to be passed through to your autoresponder so that they can receive valuable follow up emails after your call.
Fortunately, there is SAAS service that is designed just for this purpose: Zapier.
Again, Zapier integrates with many of the SAAS product you are already using and enables them to talk to each other (no coding required).
Here’s an example:
This Zap ensures that when potential client books a call with a sales person (through booking software ScheduleOnce), their “Owner” within the CRM (HubSpot) is updated to ensure that if the sale is made, it is assigned to the correct salesperson.
This enables an accurate calculation of sales commissions, with no manual steps.
So you now need to list down each of your SAAS applications and identify which of those need to interact with each other… you can then create your Zaps.
Step 8 – Automate Email Follow Ups
Of course, if you have been around the online marketing world for any amount of time you are most probably aware of the importance of the autoresponder.
But for those of you that aren’t…
An autoresponder is a series of emails that are drip fed to a subscriber once they have handed over their email address/become a customer.
An autoresponder can have various goals:
- Provide post purchase content/support
- Educate & inspire your customer, building trust and authority
- Provide other opportunities for your customer to purchase further products
Autoresponders can be set up with any good CRM/email list management software, we use Aweber.
Though things can get a little more interesting with more complex software…
Enabling specific emails to be sent to specific customers based on their interaction with your emails or within your membership site.
For example, when you sign up for your AskTina Widget and move through the onboarding flow, you will receive different emails based on how far you get in the process.
These emails have been created to provide the information required to set up and get the most value from the Widget.
If we weren’t using Customer.io to do this, I would be spending my time following up with our professional bloggers and would not be spending my time creating valuable content or other high-value tasks.
This image shows the profile of a recent professional blogger that signed up for the AskTina Widget, you can see that this person belongs to two segments based on their interaction during the onboarding flow.
They then received an email that was specifically sent based on their position in the flow.
Step 8 – Automate Notifications
Some people say that notifications are the enemy of productivity….
And I tend to agree (I have zero push notifications set up on my phone for this reason).
However, there are some notifications that you want to receive.
And fortunately, these can be automated so that your time investment to receive this vital information is negligible.
Take this example from Zapier:
This Zap takes the email sent from Uptime Robot and delivers it directly into a #notifications Slack Channel.
(As an aside, Slack has been built to enable all sorts of notifications to be observed by your whole team, if you are not using it, I would recommend you sign up now ;))
Another useful (and free) application for automated notifications is Notify.
This product will send notifications of social media mentions directly into a Slack Channel to enable your assistant to review and engage periodically.
There are few things more motivating for your team than notifications that their hard work is actually helping people.
This is why it is crucial for you to ensure that sales notifications are also set up in your Slack Team:
You simply need to set up a CRM/payment processor to Slack Zap e.g:
(Adding a / Giphy for significantly more impact)
Step 9 – Automate Social Media Posting
As per Example 1 in Step 5 above, you have already handed over your social media posting schedule to your assistant, it is now time to help them automate.
Using Edgar, you can automate posting to all the main social media channels that recycle content over time.
But then, of course, you need to find the content to share right?
- Feedly collates all of your favorite blogs into a single place for quick browsing
- Buzzsumo enables you to easily find the most popular content in your niche in a couple of seconds:
Step 10 – Automate Content Promotion
It is now common knowledge in the blogging world that 50% of time should be spent on creating content with the other 50% on promoting.
But it is not so well known that many of the tasks that will make up your 50% promotion time can be automated.
Here’s a brief run through:
- Snap – Automate posting to social networks from WordPress that Buffer/Zapier don’t allow you to do
- IFTTT to Reddit – Pushes new blog posts straight to Reddit
- IFTTT to Storify – Pushes new content straight to Storify
- Social Locker – Enables content upgrades in exchange for social promotion
- Coschedule – Coordinate your social/content team all in one place
Step 11 – Automate Scheduling
There are times where you will need to set up meetings with partners/suppliers and clients…
Instead of spending time negotiating the best time/date, simply send over a link to your scheduling software.
We use Calendly and include this link in a couple of our autoresponders to enable our professional bloggers to jump on a call with someone in our team to discuss how they could use their AskTina Widget more effectively.
When they click the link, they are shown my availability:
And can select a slot and confirm. This leads to an automated calendar invite being sent to both parties.
Step 12 – Automate Value Delivery
As well as automating basic processes within your business, it is now possible to automate value creation tasks for your clients/subscribers.
A simple example of this is using an email autoresponder such as Aweber or landing page software such as Leadpages to automate the delivery of a lead magnet once a new subscriber has provided their email address.
Though this process does not necessarily limited-written content delivery.
It is possible to automate the delivery of audio/video content using automated webinar software such as EverWebinar.
New subscribers can sign up to various automated webinars in exchange for their email address and then take further steps to become customers through offers presented in that same webinars.
Because if you have accurately followed Steps 1-11, you will have practically transformed your online business before your own eyes.
And not only does that result in a more profitable and enjoyable life for you and your blog… but everyone else wins as well.
Let’s go back to Theodore… (Remember him? The guy that falls in love with his OS in the film “Her”)
He sits there ALL day using his creative and empathetic faculties because everything else is handled by the computer.
This is my goal for you… that aside from basic admin tasks that cannot be outsourced/automated, that you are spending the majority of YOUR time each day adding value to your community.
As let’s face it.
That is the only way you are going to hit all of your goals you have set for your blog, whether they be financial, emotional or spiritual.
Welcome to AutoBlogging.
To finish off, I would love to hear the very first task that you are going to outsource/automate in a comment below this post, I will jump in and give my expert opinion on whether it is the right task to start with…
And what is the outcome of the Autoblogging revolution?
More time to do the things that matter, both inside and outside work.
More specifically, you get more time to learn and help your audience.
Which is why you got into this game in the first place right?