On its surface “automation” brings forth images of robotic arms in widget factories or lifeless emails (selling those robotic arm fabricated widgets) blasting out mindlessly for eternity.
When you look closer though automation is really just about taking repetitive tasks off your plate and setting up processes that are on brand and highly targeted. Two of the best processes to automate in your agency or freelance business are how you onboard and vet potential clients, and then, how you stay in touch with previous clients.
Automating parts of your business doesn’t have to mean removing the human touch or what’s unique about your brand — it just means you can scale that voice and tone you’ve developed and spend more time doing awesome projects and less time vetting potential leads and staying in touch.
“Automating parts of your business doesn’t have to mean removing the human touch or what’s unique about your brand.”
Let’s dive right into an example of how this onboarding sequence could work for your agency or freelance business:
1. A potential lead sees your website, loves your work and wants to learn more.
2. They enter their name and email address into a interest form which triggers a simple automation sequence in MailChimp.
3. The first email goes out immediately to let that lead know who you are, what you do and what niche you serve. You can also let them know the type of projects you do (or don’t do) and share a short success story/testimonial or two via a simple email, a PDF attachment or even a linked video. It’s your brand, so it’s your call.
4. At the end, you can use a simple survey to ask if they’re interested in working together. For example: *|SURVEY:Heck ya I would|* or *|Nah, I’m not interested|*.
5. If they clicked the “interested” option, you can segment another automation email — which would contain a link to a page on your site with contact info or a booking calendar like Acuity Scheduling — to book a quick call with you to discuss the project.
6. Based on goal activity (i.e. them reaching that booking page on your website), you cansegment that automation sequence further and send a follow up a few days later if that goal of visiting your booking page did not happen.
Repeat clients are the best clients — you already have a relationship with them, you’ve already (hopefully) trained them on how to be a great client and they know how you work.
Think about it. Your clients (or customers) are people who like your work so much that they paid for it. And, since you’re good at what you do, they were happy with what you produced. So why lose touch with these people? When phrased this way, it almost seems rude not to re-connect.
There are two ways to get repeatedly hired by the same clients. Obviously, you need to do great work for them. That’s a no-brainer. But the second way is to follow up after projects or contracts are complete.
Too many agencies and freelancers miss these opportunities of easy additional work because they finish one project and quickly move onto another client and another project. But with automation, you can easily create automatic follow-ups for previous clients to stay in touch and more importantly to stay on their radar.
Stay in touch
Here’s what a previous-client outreach automation sequence could look like:
1. When you finish a project for a client, add their email address in MailChimp to a group, e.g.‘Leads : Follow up.’
2. Create an automation sequence that starts when List Activity: Joins List Group and select the group with the follow up group name.
3. Create an email in plain-text (since it’s better if it looks like an email from you) and in your own voice that checks in with a previous client — it can be short and sweet too. For example:
“Hey *|FNAME|*, hope all is well. Just wanted to check in to see if there was anything else I could help your business with?”
4. Set that email to go out 4–8 weeks after you’ve finished the project.
5. Create (by replicating) several more emails that go out every 3–4 months (or whatever makes sense for your business and the type of work you do). Change the wording up slightly from email to email, but keep the gist the same: short, to the point, and asking if there’s anything else you can do for them.
6. Bonus: in the required footer of these emails, you can allow subscribers to opt out of an automation sequence without opting fully off your list by using this merge tag:
So your footer could have a link to unsubscribe (since it’s the law) plus a link to “stop receiving follow-ups like this” that links to:
That way previous-clients can stay on your list (if you send them regular campaigns too) but not be sent these check-in emails anymore.
Defeating feast or famine
Using automation sequences like those mentioned above allow you to inject your own style, brand and personality into repetitive tasks that you no longer need to worry about. It gets specific people on your list (potential leads or past clients) the information they need, when they need it, and frees you up to continue doing awesome work for your current clients.
This process can help smooth out the “feast or famine” in client work, as well as keep your agency or freelance business top of mind well into the future.
Leave the robots to make widgets in widget factories — and use automation in your own business to have some human touch without spending your time and attention on it.