5 Things Sole Proprietors Should Automate or Outsource ASAPAccountingSmall Business Management
One of the topics that comes up most when I talk to our CPA and accounting clients is time: they want more of it. But the universe is stingy. So I decided to ask some people who always seem to get stuff done on time what they recommend.
Turns out, it’s two things: automation and outsourcing.
Here are five things you can automate or outsource right away to make the most of the hours you have.
1. Automate Your Calendar
Automating your calendar has two major advantages: you don’t have to play email tag about who’s free when and you get to choose the time blocks you make available for phone calls and meetings. Hallelujah!
I talked to James Pollard, who runs a marketing consultancy that works with financial advisors, and he recommended putting a link to the calendar on your website so anyone can schedule appointments with you in just a few clicks. (I’d also recommend putting a link in your email signature.)
But James isn’t the only one who loves robot calendars. Nancy Gaines, a productivity expert I talked to, is also a big fan. She emphasizes the benefit of limiting your available hours to avoid interruptions at other parts of your day (which I LOVE).
2. Automate Your Prospect Information Gathering
Any repeatable process is a good candidate for automating. When it’s repeatable and doesn’t require your expertise, it’s a great candidate. Use a service like Google Forms, Typeform, or Wufoo, and you can collect as much or as little prospect information as you want without moving a muscle.
This saves a bunch of time on getting (and processing) the pesky details like entity type, revenue, etc. (Side benefit: if you’re shy, this eliminates a lot of that initial conversation. You’ll go into your first contact with way more information.)
3. Automate Your Engagement Letters
Services like Adobe Sign, SignRequest, and DocuSign let you get client signatures digitally, which means you can automate engagement letters. This saves not only time but the hassle of tracking paper documents or email attachments.
Plus, as Nancy pointed out, when you have a way to gather information and collect signatures, you can also automate onboarding. Sending policies and contracts can happen with a single click, and your clients can sign with almost no effort. This can save you hours and speed the sometimes clunky start of a new engagement.
Side note: Not sure how to write a good, no-BS engagement letter? Check out this guest post by Susan Pruskin, a Top 100 QuickBooks ProAdvisor.
4. Outsource Your Secure Document Storage
One guy I talked to, Rob Satrom, used to own a tax and accounting firm (he now owns Feedbackwrench, a digital marketing agency). He told me that one of the best moves his old firm made was to outsource its secure document storage.
They were on the market for cloud storage because they didn’t want to keep paying for Thomson Reuters, so they switched to less-expensive software but then needed a separate cloud storage solution. He found Smartvault, an encrypted vault system that he said integrated beautifully with Intuit programs and Microsoft Outlook.
While I used to be a fan of Smartvault, I think it’s lost its focus since being sold. If you’re in the market for secure document storage today, I’d look at Sharefile.
5. Outsource Work You Hate
You’ve probably told clients over and over that they should outsource their bookkeeping so they can focus on running their core business. The same applies for you. Why are you building your own website if you have no knowledge of development or web design? Why are you spending hours per month shredding when a teenager can take care of that for movie money?
These days, you can outsource pretty much anything. Sites like ThumbTack, 99designs, and (Nancy’s favorite) HireMyMom.com let you connect to talented professionals who are good at the work you hate doing.
Outsourcing work you don’t like has several benefits: you get it done instead of putting it off, you get an expert on it instead of muddling through yourself, and you get to build your network. After all, the people you outsource to are probably freelancers. And freelancers need all kinds of help with their finances.
Free Time = Business Growth Time
Automation and outsourcing let you reclaim your time so you can spend more of it building relationships, winning new clients, and serving the clients you already have. And, you know, sleeping every now and then.
About the Author
Shuyi Shang works closely with accounting partners (Bento Expense Experts, a.k.a. BEEs) at Bento for Business, a QB-friendly solution that combines Visa prepaid cards with a desktop/mobile platform to control and track employee expenses. She loves her QBO community and is a regular participant of the weekly QBOChat on Twitter.