There are some apps that you don’t just use.
Well, maybe you’re just a casual user at first.
But then the more you use the app, the more you start to notice things. You keep finding new things to do, new ways you can use it.
It just keeps getting more and more useful.
And you can’t keep your mouth shut about it.
You start to talk about this app like it’s your new love interest.
“Omg, look at what X did yesterday!”
“X is seriously so amazing, I don’t know what I would do without it.”
“Can you believe how much better my life is now that X is in it?”
And hey, committing to that app for the rest of your life actually sounds a lot less scary than committing to another person. 😉
For me, one of the first apps that hit me this hard was Zapier.
If you’ve spoken to me about workflow automation for more than 30 seconds, you probably already know this.
So today, we’re going to talk about what it is, how to use it, and why it’s one of the best online biz tools for solopreneurs like yo’self. ?
Note: this post contains affiliate links for products that I lurve lots and lots.
How to Use Zapier: Zap It Real Good
Basically, Zapier is one of those really awesome, full-suite process automation tools.
But where, say, IFTTT is pretty focused on personal apps and the internet of things, Workflow is focused on iOS, etc. Zapier is all about business.
No mullet here. Business in the front and the back, dudes. I like to think of Zapier as IFTTT in a suit and tie…holding a briefcase.
(While us solopreneurs using it are working in pajamas holding a potato chip…)
Sure, there are a lot of connected apps that aren’t just used for business. But it’s still very obvious: Zapier is the profesh automation tool.
It connects to over 300 tools, and all of them can help you grow your business as a solopreneur.
And going beyond the obvious uses of the connected apps, Zapier is just more professional than a lot of similar tools overall. For example, there are way more advanced features that let you fine tune workflows to fit existing business processes, like filters and searches.
Now, I’m sure you saw this coming: unlike IFTTT, Zapier isn’t no-strings-attached free. But by the end of this post, you’ll totally get why and be begging them to take your money.
The pricing plans are based on how many zaps you have active in your account, and how often they run.
Its connected app selection does also have a larger percentage of paid apps. But they’re probably things you’re using anyway since they’re really common business tools!
Why Zapier Rocks 🤘
So, when there’s already IFTTT and your apps do so many things themselves, why do you need to bother with Zapier anyway?
It’s sooo much more fancy & advanced
While I always check IFTTT first to see if something can be automated for free, Zapier is the backup I rely on for fancy stuff. Whereas with free automation tools, you log in and just hope you can slap something together, with this you know you’ll be able to make it happen somehow.
It connects to more business/professional apps, frequently offers more in the way of triggers and actions, and gives you a lot more customization options.
Automate entire processes with one workflow
If you have a paid Zapier account, the automations you can create are nothing like what you’re limited to with IFTTT, where they all need to literally follow “if this, then that.”
Zapier zaps can be more like, “if this thing happens at the same time as this or this other thing, then do that this certain way. But if these other things happen, then do this other action.”
It’s hard to follow when you write it out like that, but it’s really pretty simple.
In Zapier, zaps can automate entire processes instead of a single task, and include advanced options like multi-step actions, filters, searches, and even webhooks.
There are crazy helpful resources to help you out
Even though Zapier’s a lot more advanced and potentially harder to navigate than other apps, in reality it’s much easier to get the hang of. That’s because their team has put together an incredible amount of resources to help you out.
For every connected app, there’s a landing page with zap ideas and information on apps they’re commonly used with. Their blog goes really in depth into using the apps you can connect to the tool. Their resource center has tons of ebooks on using tech better for your job. They have an entire separate blog for product news and updates.
So yeah, you won’t have any trouble finding resources to get started easily.
Solopreneur Apps to Automate With Zapier (That You’re Already Using)
The best thing about Zapier is that fits into your existing business. You can work it into your established processes and connect it to the tools you already use. It connects to over 500 apps, after all.
Here are some of the apps I’ll bet you’re already using to run your solo business, and how you can automate them with Zapier.
Since I’ve launched Build Your Own VA last year, Teachable’s been involved in most of the zaps I’ve played with.
The Teachable integration is still in beta, but is still easy to connect and use. You can use it to trigger zaps based on:
- Someone enrolling themselves in a course
- Someone signing up for your school
- A new course enrollment
- Students updating their profiles
- Students completing lectures in a course
- New transactions/payments occurring
- Students completing the entirety of your course
- Students cancelling their subscriptions
As for actions, your options are:
- Creating a new user in your Teachable school
- Enrolling a user in a specific Teachable course
I try to stay out of my inbox as much as possible, and I’ve built a sort of productivity dashboard to send me push notifications throughout the day instead of checking email. (And yes, I will be writing a tutorial to create your own!)
So to find out when someone enrolls in my course, I use Zapier to send a Slack message so I can get up and quickly do my happy dance. 🙂 Sure, it might eventually get annoying if the course gets really popular and I’m constantly getting notifications, but that’s a problem I can’t wait to have.
ConvertKit (affiliate link) integrates with a lot of other tools professional bloggers use, but it is still a new app and the team has other things to build besides integrations.
So I’ve already found the Zapier integration really handy, and I’ve only been using ConvertKit for a few weeks. With it, you get the best of both worlds: a really simple interface that can do really complicated things.
Trigger zaps from new subscribes or unsubscribes to your email list, or use other apps to automate unsubscribing someone from your list or adding them to a specific form, tag, or sequence.
How often do you back up your email list? Can you even remember?
To be honest, I used to only back it up when I was switching providers or making some other major change. It was far from a regular occurrence, and not backing things up makes me nervous. But when I’m nervous about something, I tend to procrastinate it even more…
So a simple zap that adds new subscribers to a Google spreadsheet for a master backup is a life saver. It will keep you prepared in case something goes wrong with your email marketing account. And if you ever decide to transfer or switch around your account, you’ll already have a spreadsheet of everyone.
Since I mentioned Slack in #1, let’s talk about it a little more. Slack is amazing, in case you haven’t heard. (That’s an upcoming post, as well. Maybe 200 posts.)
Sure, it’s meant as a team chat app, and you may not have your squad built yet. But let’s be real, everyone talks to themselves. There’s no reason you can’t have a Slack team of one.
Because Slack can do basically anything with pretty much any app, the automation possibilities are endless. For example, I’ve built myself a little dashboard in my Slack team that streamlines notifications and alerts from other apps.
If you manage a community on Slack – whether for your team of VAs, your course’s students, or your blog’s subscribers – you should set up some zaps to keep conversation going.
For example, this zap automatically welcomes to members to a team in a #general channel – perfect for prompting people to introduce themselves after they automatically add themselves to your team (oops, that’s a whole other post, too!).
Asana seems to be the go-to project management app for solopreneurs, and I can understand why. I use Trello and Todoist for most planning, but find myself craving a good ole’ list format.
Personally, I feel like productivity apps are the most important ones to automate with tools like Zapier. This way, the tools you do work in are connected to the tools you track work in.
For example, creating new tasks is one of the many triggers. By using that, you can create a task to do something, and have Zapier take care of the first step or two.
Another great way to use Asana’s Zapier integration – and the way I’ve started using it – is to automatically progress through your workflows.
Meaning, the automation always tells me what to do next. The zap is triggered by completing step A in some app, publishing a post in WordPress, for example. And whenever that happens, the next step – in this case, promoting the blog post – gets added to my Asana to-do list for the week!
Can’t forget good ole’ email. You can automate your email so easily. In fact, I only spend about an hour total in all of my inboxes each week. *brushes dirt off shoulder*
Most solopreneurs are all over that marketing automation, but don’t do much when it comes to managing their personal inbox with the same principles.
We – human beings with email addresses – spend way too much time in our inboxes. It has to stop. Zapier can automate both managing incoming email as well as sending stuff out.
Here are the triggers you can use if you use Google Apps for Work:
- New email matching a search term
- New email with a certain label
- New attachment
- New email threads
- New starred email
- New email
- New label
As for actions, you can create or send a new email with Zapier, along with creating a new label.
To bring in some more automations from my recent course launch, I’ve also automated a way to add implementing feedback to my product roadmap.
I have all my long-term plans for the course in a Trello board so I can see it laid out more visually. One list I have is pieces of feedback I want to implement.
Since most of that feedback is delivered via email, I whipped up this puppy:
With this, I can label any emails with feedback and they’ll get added to the product plans. 🙂
This is enough info to get you started, right? Because you gotta get started. Countless other solopreneurs and bloggers have told me they thought they were pretty productive until they started looking at Zapier and tools like it.
If you want more help getting started with Zapier, and even more solopreneur zaps handpicked for you, you might wanna check out my new course, Build Your Own VA. You’ll learn how to create more time and less to-dos for your solopreneur biz using workflow automation. 🙂
Do you already use Zapier in your workflows? Share your favorite zap in the comments if you do!
Note: this post was originally published in 2016 and has been updated with new info!