Is Automation the Answer to Work-Life Balance?
December 19, 2017
If better work-life balance was a motivation when you started your small business, automation should be your best friend.
Did you become a small business owner because you want to build an empire – or did you simply crave more control over your career? Many entrepreneurs get into business to step away from the rat race so they can be more present parents, caregivers, partners and well-balanced human beings.
That was the case for Catharine Heddle, a Toronto mom of two boys who left her prestigious job as a vice-president at a busy PR agency to start her own communications business.
“I had reached a point in my career when I felt I couldn’t really succeed at the new job I’d been promoted to without putting in more time. But I didn’t have more time because I had young children at home,” she explained.
“I was faced with an uncomfortable life in which I felt guilty about work when I was at home and vice versa. It was unsustainable.”
Like many enterprising mothers, she made the leap to freelancing so she could eliminate the commute and have more control over the hours she kept. After reaching out to her extensive network, she had “as much or more work than I wanted within a couple of months.”
Poof! Work-life balance achieved, right? Not exactly.
Self-Employment and Work-Life Balance
Suddenly, Heddle was faced with mountains of work to accomplish in a compressed work day. Since she worked from home, she was on the hook for kids’ appointments and managing their care on school holidays. Plus, she wanted to take advantage of her professional flexibility by volunteering on class field trips, taking her kids to activities after school and running occasional errands when the house and stores are quieter.
A different kind of discomfort set in: one in which she was torn between the demands of running a successful small business and being the kind of parent and person she’d quit her job to become.
Ultimately, Heddle did what most effective CEOs do: she clarified her professional and personal priorities and worked to be as efficient as possible with the time she had. Staying organized, being selective about the kind of work she took on and the things she volunteered for and remaining realistic about what was achievable in a given week all helped her maintain a reasonable balance.
Another important strategy for making the most of your time is delegating or automating time-consuming but mundane tasks. There are countless apps and software designed to manage everything from storing and entering online passwords to taking care of social media marketing. But what about accounting tasks? We’ve rounded up five ways your cloud accounting software can automate time-consuming chores so can wring a few extra minutes out of every day.
5 Ways to Achieve Work-Life Balance with Automation
1. Accept Online Payments
Save yourself and your clients a little time—and get paid more quickly by accepting credit cards online. FreshBooks’ research shows that you’ll get paid twice as fast when you offer the option of paying by credit card straight from a link in your invoice.
Most cloud accounting platforms allow your clients to pay by PayPal, Stripe, credit or debit card, bank transfers and e-checks. And since you’re being paid through your cloud accounting platform, it’s easy to keep track of who’s paid and when. The payment is automatically recorded and any transaction fees are imported into your expense folder so you don’t have to do any bookkeeping. See? Sometimes your business really can almost run itself.
2. Create Recurring Invoices
Do you have clients to whom you bill the same amount regularly? Save time each month by setting up recurring invoices in your cloud accounting software. Simply create a recurring profile in your cloud accounting software so it automatically sends out invoices for you. You can even set up an auto-billing function that automatically (and securely) charges your clients’ credit card in seconds.
3. Automate Payment Reminders
Be honest: how much time do you spend every month tracking invoices and following up with tardy clients? Even 10 minutes is too many. Set up automatic payment reminders and leave those awkward emails to your cloud accounting software. It’ll automatically send the right reminder email at the right time. You can even customize the email for a personal touch.
4. Automate Your Expenses
Do you have regular expenses like rent, phone and other utilities that come out every month? Keep your bookkeeping up to date by easily configuring your cloud accounting software to automatically record recurring payments.
You can also set up automatic imports for other business expenses made by credit card or debit. Simply link your bank account or credit card to your cloud accounting account and expenses will automatically be uploaded, eliminating the need for time-consuming manual entry. Say hello to more time and accounting accuracy! Bonus: No more fumbling at tax time; expenses are uploaded all year and ready to file.
5. Track Inefficiencies
Your time is as valuable as any currency. Want to make sure you’re making the most of it – and getting paid for every billable moment? Use your cloud accounting software’s Time Tracker to account for every last second of your workday. Within a few weeks, you’ll see a pattern to how you spend your working hours. This will help yourself find inefficient moments. The best part? You’ll know exactly how much you really earned on those flat-rate projects and be assured you’re not leaving any money on the table for hourly projects.
These solutions may not keep you from careening into the carpool lane at the last minute every day, but the moments you save and the insights you find when you track your time can add up to make a lasting impact on your work-life balance.
Because, if you’re like Heddle, your small business isn’t your sole priority.
“[Starting my own business] was a family-based decision rather than a work-based decision. Being involved in my kids’ field trips and being home for them before and after school was really important to me,” said Heddle.
“Work is important, but it was secondary to all that.”
If there are shortcuts to help you be more efficient, it makes good sense to make the most of them. Cloud accounting software can help you do that.