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5 Steps to Automating Your Business For a Work-Free Holiday Season

Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a…

...wait, was that your smartphone?

What’s the point in working for yourself if you are never going to actually be able to take time off? But with a million things to do and the Christmas break looming, you can’t seem to switch off from your business. Taking a holiday isn’t supposed to be this stressful!

If all you want for Christmas is two weeks of uninterrupted holiday time then here are 5 automated systems to implement that will give you the confidence to take a break from your business:

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1. Schedule your blog posts

I went away for 3 weeks in October. Did you even notice I was gone? Nope. And that wasn’t because I was updating our blog from the mountains of Peru. Soon, Steff and I will both be off soaking up the southern hemisphere sun over our summer break, but that doesn’t mean that our website will go quiet while we’re away from the office.

We ensure that we continue to reach out to our customers through our blog, even when we’re on holiday. At WorkflowMax we use Hubspot to schedule in our upcoming blog posts, but most blogging platforms, such as Wordpress, will allow you to do the same.

Just create a blog post as usual but select the date and time in the future that you want the post to publish and it will update your site automatically. If you don’t think you’ll have access to your blog while you’re off the grid, consider turning off the ‘comments’ feature so you don’t leave anyone hanging.

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2. Schedule your social media

You should also schedule your social media to push a link to your blog post once it is published. Schedule your social posts using a tool such as Hootsuite, Future Tweets, Buffer or another automation tool.

Just don’t forget the ‘social’ part of social networking; remember that you, or one of your team, should still be available to respond to questions, comments or discussions. Use your website, blog and social media to communicate important messages during this time such as holiday hours or support desk availability.

Check that your website is set up with a mobile-friendly version, as many visitors will be accessing your site from their smartphones or tablets while they are also away for their desktops.

3. Set up email automation

Setting up an out-of-office auto-responder is a no-brainer. You can let people know when you’ll be returning to the office and offer them a way of contacting you if their enquiry is super urgent. If you’re not going to be contactable by phone, ensure that any essential email accounts are monitored by someone over this time.

But setting up your email automation can go a lot further than simply switching on your out-of-office notification.

With email automation you can ensure you’re not missing out on any opportunities to engage with your audience, even when the office is closed. If someone visits your website and downloads your ebook or signs up for your newsletter while you’re on holiday, you can send out a series of automated emails, depending on the action that they take or criteria that you have chosen.

You may also wish to send out your monthly or weekly newsletter without an interruption over the holiday break. Perhaps plan to send out a special Christmas or New Year newsletter with a business update, a ‘thank you’ to clients for their support throughout the year and also to share your own plans for the holiday season.

Again, here at WorkflowMax we use Hubspot for our automated email workflows. Other well-known software options include InfusionSoft, AWeber and Mailchimp. But it pays to shop around to find one that best suits your needs and your budget - take a look at this comprehensive list of marketing automation options to review for yourself.

4. Automate your invoices

If you have regular or recurring invoices, you can automate your invoicing process by setting up your invoices to send on a particular day of the month. Use cloud accounting software such as Xero and you’ll be able to log in and check up on your finances from wherever you are. You can make payments and reconcile your accounts to ensure that your cashflow remains consistent while you’re away.

If you’re collecting receipts over your holiday which will need to be reconciled with your business accounts, use an app such as Receipt Bank. You can submit your receipts to Receipt Bank via email, post or on your smartphone. They are then turned into costs against an invoice in Xero.

5. Mobilise your helpdesk

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If you run a business with a customer service team, then you can continue to respond to customer queries remotely during the holidays through the use of a cloud-based helpdesk.

Software such as Zendesk or Freshdesk allow you to not just deal with support ticket requests, but also provide a customer self-service portal so that customers can easily find information to resolve an issue for themselves, without you having to be in contact with them directly.

As a business owner, disconnecting from your business, even for a short while, can feel impossible. But with automated systems, you can allow yourself to take a break over the holiday season, knowing that you can continue to maintain visibility in front of your customers, keep your systems operating and avoid returning from holiday to a complete business breakdown!

What tools do you use to automate your business? Write your answers in the comments below!