The Zapier Blog A blog about productivity, workflow automation, company building and how to get things done with less work. Wed, 10 Aug 2022 09:12:00 GMT The ultimate guide to conducting an IT audit (with checklist) .css-12p6n7x{overflow:auto;}.css-12p6n7x >*{margin-bottom:20px;margin-top:20px;}.css-12p6n7x >H2{margin-top:60px;}.css-12p6n7x >H3{margin-top:40px;}.css-12p6n7x>[id]{scroll-margin-top:20px;}@media (min-width: 660px){.css-12p6n7x>[id]{scroll-margin-top:100px;}}

Americans' abysmal cyber-hygiene is bad news for individuals at risk of attack, but the stakes are far higher for the companies that employ them. Especially when employees work from home or bring tech with them on work trips, they're likely to expose the company's entire infrastructure to a potential risk.

What's the answer? Business owners need to conduct regular IT audits to make sure that their systems are uncompromised and their employees are up-to-date on their cybersecurity know-how. These audits also provide a way to be sure costs, speeds, and protocols are on point. If it's your first time tackling an IT audit, our checklist will guide you through the basics.

What is an IT audit?

An IT audit is an evaluation of an organization's information technology infrastructure, policies, and procedures. It's designed to ensure that IT systems are functioning properly and securely and that employees are using them safely and correctly.

Automate your IT management workflows
Learn how

Depending on how large your organization is, you can either run a single comprehensive IT audit or audit different areas of your infrastructure individually. Across the board, the goal is to assess the risks associated with your IT systems and to find ways to mitigate those risks either by solving existing problems, correcting employee behavior, or implementing new systems.

5 key areas of an IT audit

Usually, IT audits are conducted by an organization's IT manager or cybersecurity director (in smaller organizations, those roles may be occupied by the business owner or head of operations). Since the audit is designed to assess the efficacy of the infrastructure, and the IT manager's job is to ensure that same efficacy, it makes sense that the five key areas of an IT audit more or less correspond with an IT manager's key responsibilities. They are:

  • System security

  • Standards and procedures

  • Performance monitoring

  • Documentation and reporting

  • Systems development

Within each of these areas, the auditor will run through a checklist of items to evaluate. Our audit checklist covers all of the steps of a basic IT audit, but depending on your infrastructure needs, you may find that you need to add areas or that some of those listed aren't necessary for your company.

Visual graphic displaying the five areas of an IT audit

How to conduct an IT audit

Though the IT audit itself usually happens over the course of a few days, the process really begins long before that, when you take a look at your calendar and start laying out plans to schedule an audit in the future.

Step 1: Plan the audit

The first decision you'll need to make is whether to conduct an internal audit or to hire an outside auditor to come in and offer a third-party perspective on your IT systems. External audits are more common in large corporations or companies that handle sensitive data. For the majority of companies, an internal audit is more than adequate and will be a lot less expensive to plan. If you want a little extra peace of mind, you might establish a yearly internal audit and hire an outside auditor once every few years.

When planning your audit, you'll need to decide:

  • Who your auditor will be (whether that means choosing an outside auditor or identifying an employee to be responsible for the audit)

  • When your audit will take place

  • What processes you need to establish to prepare your employees for the audit

An auditor will likely need to speak with different employees and team managers to learn about your company's IT workflows, so it's important to make sure you're not booking your audit for a time when your employees are swamped with other work.

Step 2: Prepare for the audit

Once you have a general time frame hammered out, you'll need to work with your audit team to prepare for the audit itself. A shortlist of things you'll need to figure out in this stage includes:

  • Your audit objectives

  • The scope of the audit (what areas are being evaluated, and at what level of detail the auditor will perform their evaluation)

  • How the audit will be documented

  • A detailed audit schedule (which departments will be evaluated on different days, and how much time departments should plan to dedicate to the audit)

Keep in mind that a checklist, while essential, isn't sufficient documentation for an audit. The point of running this evaluation is to get a detailed understanding of your infrastructure's weaknesses and tailored, actionable steps you can take to remedy them. In order to do that, you'll need a more sophisticated system than a paper and clipboard. 

Editable IT audit checklist including steps around, system security, standards and procedures, performance monitoring, documentation and reporting and systems development
Download the full checklist

Step 3: Conduct the audit

Yup, conducting the audit is only step three in the five-step audit process. This step is pretty self-explanatory—if you did step two correctly, then step three will just be to execute the plan you created.

Keep in mind that even the best laid plans of mice and men (or I guess in this case, mice and keyboards) do often go awry, so this step may also include finding a way around any last-minute obstacles. Make sure you build in plenty of time so that you're not in a rush—if you wind up missing things in the audit, that defeats its whole purpose.

Step 4: Report your findings

After your audit is finished, you should have a hefty file of documentation to show for it with your auditor's notes, findings, and suggestions. The next step is to synthesize this information into an official audit report. This is the document you'll put on file for future reference and to help plan next year's audit.

Then, you'll want to create individual reports for the heads of each audited department. Summarize what was evaluated, run down the items that don't need changes, and highlight anything the department is doing really well. Then, give a rundown of the vulnerabilities the auditor identified, and separate them according to their cause:

  • Risks caused by poor adherence to established procedures will require corrective action.

  • Risks caused by vulnerabilities that had gone unnoticed prior to the audit will require new solutions.

  • Risks that are inherent to the department's work likely can't be eliminated completely, but the auditor may identify ways to mitigate them.

Along with each item, explain what the next steps will be in order to address the identified risks. In situations where risks were caused by willful carelessness, you may also want to loop in your HR department for guidance on how to handle the issue.

Step 5: Follow up

Let's be realistic: many (if not most) infrastructure vulnerabilities are caused at least in part by human error. Human error is just as likely to interfere with the solutions your team implements to correct the risks identified by the audit. 

After you deliver your report findings, put a date on the calendar to follow up with each team and ensure that corrections were implemented successfully. It's wise to schedule a few follow-ups throughout the year to check in with each team and make sure that everything continues to run smoothly until your next audit.

As your company begins to move forward with its new solutions in place, set up automatic KPI tracking and reporting so that you can measure the impact of each change. When you check in with your team in the months following your audit, pull these reports so that you can assess performance and troubleshoot anything that's not working the way you expected it to. 

You can also set up automations to do these "check-ins" for you by running regular vulnerability scans and monitoring system performance. Instead of filling your calendar with individual check-in meetings, you can let your tech handle the heavy lifting and only get involved when you get an alert.

As you get more comfortable with the process and begin following up, here's a guide for how to automate your IT management.

]]> (Amanda Pell) Mon, 08 Aug 2022 22:00:00 GMT
How to add focus time in Google Calendar—and why you should .css-12p6n7x{overflow:auto;}.css-12p6n7x >*{margin-bottom:20px;margin-top:20px;}.css-12p6n7x >H2{margin-top:60px;}.css-12p6n7x >H3{margin-top:40px;}.css-12p6n7x>[id]{scroll-margin-top:20px;}@media (min-width: 660px){.css-12p6n7x>[id]{scroll-margin-top:100px;}}

For the past couple of years, I've been filling my calendar with events titled "Busy 🎧" or "Deep work." As an avid time blocker, I like to divide my day into small chunks of time and devote each one to a specific task. From the looks of it, I'm not alone.

Supercharge your Google Calendar with automation
Learn how

Google Calendar has caught on, and they've created a new event type specifically for time blockers like me. It's called Focus time. Here's how to set up focus time on Google Calendar, along with a few tips for how you can use it.

(Note: The Google Calendar focus time feature is only available on work and school Google accounts. If you're using a personal Google account, you won't see the option to add it.)

How to add focus time in Google Calendar

Adding focus time in Google Calendar is just like adding any other event—you'll just choose a different event type.

  1. With your Google Calendar open, click Create.

  2. Select Focus time as your event type.

  3. Select the day and time you want your focus time event to begin and how long you want it to last.

Creating a focus time entry in Google Calendar

If you want to repeat a focus time event, you can do that as well:

  1. In the event details, select Does not repeat (that's the default).

  2. Select the frequency and cadence for your focus time.

If you're really bold, you can even have Google Calendar automatically decline meeting invites if they interfere with your focus time event. To set this up, check Automatically decline meetings, and then choose whether you want that to apply only to new meetings, or to new and existing ones.

Automatically decline meetings in Google Calendar for focus time

Note: Declining new and existing meetings is only an option for one-off focus time events—not repeated events.

How to make the most of the Google Calendar focus time feature

You've likely heard of Parkinson's Law: "work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion." Focus time gives tasks a clear beginning and end, so you don't spend more time on a task than you need. Here are some tips for how to make the most of the feature:

  • Don't overschedule focus time. Focus time can help you avoid Parkinson's Law, but it can also enable it. Humans are generally bad at estimating time, so be sure you don't give yourself too much time, or you'll fill it.

  • Add a description to your focus time. That way, you're sure to dedicate that time to a specific task. This is helpful for future you, and it also lets your coworkers know what you're working on.

  • Schedule your focus time for the parts of the day when you're most productive. I'm usually at my best from 9 a.m. till noon (once the coffee has kicked in and before the post-lunch lull). I like to get as much important work done in that time as possible, so if I can, I'll reserve it with focus time. Figure out your chronotype, and then schedule your focus time around it.

Time blocking my calendar with focus time helps me put my energy toward my most important work. If you haven't used it yet, it's worth a try.

More Google Calendar tips

  • 6 ways to automate Google Calendar at work

  • 8 Google Calendar features you should start using now

  • How to create detailed Google Calendar events using Zapier

]]> (Will Harris) Mon, 08 Aug 2022 22:00:00 GMT
6 ways to automate Asana .css-12p6n7x{overflow:auto;}.css-12p6n7x >*{margin-bottom:20px;margin-top:20px;}.css-12p6n7x >H2{margin-top:60px;}.css-12p6n7x >H3{margin-top:40px;}.css-12p6n7x>[id]{scroll-margin-top:20px;}@media (min-width: 660px){.css-12p6n7x>[id]{scroll-margin-top:100px;}}

Asana has been a popular project management tool for a while now—helping teams large and small keep track of their projects and organize their work lives. Keeping Asana organized and up-to-date, though, can easily become a full-time job.

Automation can help relieve some of this stress. While Asana has some great native automation tools, their integration tools may not do everything you need. Zapier helps fill that void—making it easy to set up automated workflows with Asana that play nicely (and productively) with the rest of your tools.

New to Zapier? It's an automation tool that helps anyone connect apps and automate workflows—without any complicated code. Sign up for free to use this app, and many others, with Zapier.

Skip ahead

  • Keep your team in the loop on tasks

  • Connect Asana to your calendar

  • Turn form responses into tasks

  • Create tasks from emails or messages

  • Add Asana tasks to other task apps

  • Connect Asana to almost any app

To get started with a Zap template—what we call our pre-made workflows—just click on the button, and we'll guide you through customizing it. It only takes a few minutes. You can read more about setting up Zaps here.

Keep your team in the loop on tasks

When it comes to getting big projects done, it's important to keep everyone on the same page. Asana lets users comment and tag team members, but it's easy to miss those notifications—particularly if your team communicates mostly in Slack or over email.

With these Zaps, you can easily keep your team up-to-date on everything happening in Asana. So, if an important task gets completed or a new project is started, everyone is on the same page.

Learn more: How to create custom notifications for critical business information.

Connect Asana to your calendar

For better and for worse, calendars run our lives. To make sure you have time to get important work done, it can be helpful to block time in your calendar for working on specific tasks, not just for meetings. 

If you like to block time on your calendar to tackle tasks, you can use these Zaps to automatically create calendar events for Asana tasks with a due date assigned to them.

You can also use Zapier to create tasks from new events on your calendar. So next time someone books a meeting with you, you can use automation to add it directly into Asana. 

Learn more: How to automate Google Calendar 

Turn form responses into tasks

When you get a response from an online form—whether it's a survey respondent, new lead, or job applicant—you usually want to take some kind of action afterward. But it can be difficult to know when someone actually responds to your form. Without some kind of notification in place, you'll be stuck manually checking for responses multiple times a day if you want to follow up in a timely manner.

With the Zaps below, you can turn form responses into tasks in Asana, putting that follow-up action right into your normal workflow.

Create tasks from emails or messages

When communicating in email or Slack, it's all too easy for to-dos to get lost in the shuffle. Forgot to add a task immediately after someone asks you, and you might forget about it altogether.

Do yourself a favor and create a task in Asana from an email or Slack message automatically with one of these Zaps. Your future self will thank you.

Add Asana tasks to your other task apps

Just because you use Asana doesn't mean you have to use it exclusively. Maybe you like to use Asana for team projects and Todoist for personal tasks. Or, maybe one team at work prefers Asana while your team actually prefers Trello. Either way, if you're using more than one task app, Zapier lets you pass information to and from Asana from whichever tool you'd like.

You might even like to use Google Sheets as your to-do list or simply use it to back up data. If you do, there are Zaps for that kind of thing as well.

Connect Asana to almost any app

While we outlined some of the most popular ways you can use Zapier to automate Asana, there are so many more things you can do. Zapier support thousands of apps, so you can connect Asana with all of your tools—taking the project management work out of your favorite project management tool.

But if you use an app that doesn't have a Zapier integration, you're not out of luck. You can use a webhook in a Zap to connect your app to Asana. Use this Zap to get started.

Make Asana work smarter with Zapier

Automation with Zapier can help save you loads of time doing manual tasks in Asana, freeing you up to do the work that matters instead of creating tasks and notifying team members.

And this is only the beginning of what you can do with Asana and Zapier. Zapier supports thousands of apps so you can automate almost any task at work. Start building your Zap now and see what you can create.

]]> (Will Harris) Mon, 08 Aug 2022 07:00:00 GMT
Slack vs. Teams: Which should your business use? .css-12p6n7x{overflow:auto;}.css-12p6n7x >*{margin-bottom:20px;margin-top:20px;}.css-12p6n7x >H2{margin-top:60px;}.css-12p6n7x >H3{margin-top:40px;}.css-12p6n7x>[id]{scroll-margin-top:20px;}@media (min-width: 660px){.css-12p6n7x>[id]{scroll-margin-top:100px;}}

I've used both Slack and Teams a lot over the years, and honestly? I like both of them. They also have a lot in common, but the experience of using these chat apps is quite different. 

Since the pandemic, both apps have been consistently upping their game to compete for best team chat app on the market. If you notice there's a feature that Slack doesn't have but Teams does, it's likely you'll see it appear in the next Slack release (and vice versa, of course). That's great news for users, but it does make choosing between Teams and Slack even harder.

Here, I'll dig into what differentiates Slack and Teams, so you can make a decision based on what your dealbreakers are.

Slack vs. Microsoft Teams: Which should you choose? 

At the core, both Teams and Slack are business messaging apps that help teams stay in touch and share files securely across various devices. Choosing between Slack and Microsoft Teams really boils down to a few basic things:

  • The tech stack you're already using. If you have an existing (non-Microsoft) tech stack of tools that are already embedded into how you work as a team, Slack is almost definitely going to be your best option. If you're a Microsoft-focused organization, you'll want Teams.

  • How important built-in video calls are. If you use calls as much as chat and you want a built-in tool, you'll go with Teams. If you already use another app like Zoom, Slack tends to be better for chat.

  • The size of your organization. While either app can support as many or as few participants as you want, Teams tends to scale better in terms of user experience.

Here's an overview of how some of the main chat app features of Slack and Teams stack up against each other. Take a look, and then read on for details on the main differences between the two apps. 



Participant capacity

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 100,000 users

⭐⭐⭐⭐ 25,000 users

Storage space

⭐⭐⭐⭐ 1TB (but only on Enterprise top tier package)

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 1TB (available on Basic package)

Call features

⭐⭐ Not a main feature

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐  Advanced features

App integrations

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 2,400+ and integrates with Zapier

⭐⭐⭐⭐ 700+ and integrates with Zapier

Chat history 

⭐⭐⭐⭐ Up to 10,000 searchable messages on free plan; advanced search options

⭐⭐⭐⭐ No limit (but search doesn't provide context—only shows specific searched message)


⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Very customizable 

⭐⭐⭐ Fewer customization options

Ease of use

⭐⭐⭐⭐ Easy once you get used to the UI

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Streamlined and clear

Ease of setup and guest access

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Anyone can join with email address (including guest channels)

⭐⭐⭐ Need a Microsoft email address to join


⭐⭐⭐⭐ Through integrations

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Built into the app

Microsoft Teams has a more streamlined interface

Slack and Teams organize chats in different ways: 

  • Teams groups chats mostly by internal teams (hence the name of the app).

  • Slack groups chats into channels based on the topic.

In Slack, channels are workspaces that users can create for discussion around specific topics, projects, or teams. The default setting is that any user can create a new Slack channel. That's great, and can really help build a fun culture in an organization—but it also often results in channel overload, which makes the interface and usability a bit chaotic.

I recently joined a new company Slack: every team had its own channel, and by default, I'd joined them all. Plus, there were channels for coffee breaks, plans for visits to the office, memes, and other niche channels with names I didn't even understand. Fun? Yes. But very overwhelming.

Slack has recognized this chaos, though, and it lets you customize your Slack sidebar to organize it into sections. Any changes you make won't impact the layout for anyone else (so new folks will continue to be a little overwhelmed), but it'll help you stay more productive on Slack.

Microsoft Teams, on the other hand, is a lot more streamlined. The design feels generic and a bit more corporate, but it's clean. While Teams does have the option for creating channels, any new channel you create will exist as a subcategory of an existing team, so you need to click around a few times to find it. This keeps the side panel neat and compartmentalized, which works out well if you have a lot of people in the same workspace. 

Microsoft Teams free version

Slack's slash commands are more advanced 

Slack is known for its powerful slash command automations: type / and then the name of any action, and you can do almost anything on Slack. 

Say I want to remember to switch on my out of office status before I go on vacation next week. If I  type /remind me to switch on out of office on 11th august into the message bar, Slack recognizes this as a command, and sets it as a reminder that will pop up at the right day and time.

There are three different types of slash commands in Slack: ones created by Slack, ones created by developers, and ones created internally by people on your team. The potential is huge to make your slash commands really personalized to how you and your team work. And once you get used to using these commands regularly, it makes it so much quicker to get things done.

Teams does have slash commands, but it only supports specific ones created by Teams. And as you can see from this Teams commands list, they're pretty basic compared to Slack's list of commands (which doesn't even include the personalization aspect).

Microsoft Teams is a better value for larger teams 

Technically, Slack can accommodate more users per organization than Teams (100,000 members vs. 25,000—although both companies have pointed out that the numbers are so high that it basically means users are unlimited). But once you go outside Slack's free plan, it gets less affordable for large numbers of users compared to Teams.

  • Paid plans for Microsoft Teams start at $4/month per person if you're going for Teams as a standalone product. But for $6/month, you can get an Office 365 Business Essentials account, which includes Teams plus a load of core Microsoft services: Exchange, Outlook, SharePoint, OneDrive, and more. 

  • Slack's paid plans start at $6.67/month per person for Pro, and you get only Slack. The Pro plan doesn't even come with everything Slack has to offer, as you miss out on the promise of 99.99% guaranteed uptime, single sign-on options, administrator privileges to provision and deprovision accounts, and the ability to export all messages for corporate compliance purposes. Those extras just about double the price.

Considering Slack charges about the same but doesn't include any other business apps and services, you get a lot more for your money with Microsoft. That said, it's only going to make sense if you're interested in bringing a full Microsoft package into your organization. If you already have an existing office app tech stack that your team is using (Google Workspace, for example), you can integrate all of them with Slack for free on any of their paid plans.

Bottom line: If you're a large organization that already uses a Microsoft 365 business package, Teams is going to be the most affordable option for you. But if your team doesn't need all the other tools that come with the Microsoft package, Slack might make more sense.

Slack has better custom notifications 

If you don't control how and when you receive notifications from team chat apps, they can become intrusive and distracting. But you do also need to stay in the loop with the important stuff. This is why custom notifications are a really crucial feature in team chat apps, and Slack handles them better than Teams does. 

In Slack, you can follow channels while muting notifications about them, but still receive alerts when other channels have activity. You can mute all notifications except ones that contain specific keywords that you know are high priority to you (for example, "complaint" or "urgent" or "dog"). You can even set different notification preferences for your Slack mobile app and desktop app, so you control how you hear from your team when you're not at your desk. 

Slack's custom notifications

Microsoft Teams' notification settings pale by comparison. Like Slack, you get four options (banner, banner and email, only show in feed, none), but you can only apply them across all teams, all channels, or all private messages. And unlike in Slack, you can't get banner notifications for one channel but no notifications for another. (That said, Teams allows you to choose to switch off either mentions, likes, or direct messages, whereas Slack groups these together as one option.)

Statuses are also more customizable in Slack than in Teams. In Teams, you just have Available, Busy, Do not disturb, Be right back, Away, and Appear Offline. You can tack on a message to your status that will show up when anyone tries to message you or @ mention you somewhere, but it's not quite as visible—and you can only keep that kind of status message live for one week, so hope you don't have any long vacations planned.

With Slack, you can change your status to anything you want for any amount of time. For example, if you're on vacation, you might change it to "OOO until August 28" with a little image of a piña colada and a palm tree. That way, people really get the picture you're taking some much-needed time off and will think twice before sending you a message. Then set that status to clear on August 28, so you don't forget once you're back.

Custom status message in Slack

You can even take it one step further and automate your Slack status based on what's happening in the other apps you use, so people know when you're in a meeting, starting on a project, or anything else.

Microsoft Teams video call features are much more powerful

One area where Microsoft Teams clearly beats Slack is its ability to support video calls. Teams has focused heavily on developing its calling features over the last few years (probably since Microsoft bought Skype back in 2011).

On the free plan of Teams, you can have high-quality video calls with up to 100 people (it ups to 300 on paid plans). And that's just the beginning: here's just a quick look at the meetings features you'll find in Teams—it's night and day compared to Slack. In fact, video and audio calling are now Teams' primary feature, and it's become a main competitor of Zoom

The different presentation mode options in Microsoft Teams

Slack isn't as focused on supporting calls. On a free plan, you only get one-to-one calls (and no screen sharing). When you move into a paid plan, group calls are capped at 15 people even on the most expensive plan. You can have up to 50 people in a "huddle" (audio chat within a channel), but it doesn't come close to mimicking a full video conferencing app.

Having said that, Slack integrates with video conferencing apps like Zoom, Webex, and Google Hangouts, so if you're already paying for one of those apps and plan to keep it that way, you'll find it easy to switch between Slack and your video call app.

Slack integrates better with more third-party tools, but both apps have Zapier integrations 

Both Microsoft Teams and Slack offer impressive integrations with other apps, but their approach to these integrations benefits users in different ways.

Unsurprisingly, Teams lets you integrate seamlessly with any apps from the cloud-based Microsoft 365 suite. With a Microsoft 365 Business Basics package and above ($6/user per month), you get free access to cloud versions of the full Microsoft Office apps and services (including Teams, of course). As these are live versions of the apps, you can collaborate on them in real-time with your team. And their integrations with Teams are incredibly robust.

Slack does integrate well with some Microsoft apps, but as you'd expect, the integration isn't as tight as you'll experience using Teams. But the overall number of apps you can add to Slack is comparatively much higher (2,400+ vs. Teams' 700+), so naturally, they cover a lot more ground when it comes to third-party tools. You can connect Slack with your calendar, add tasks to your to-do list, get alerts about breaking news—the list goes on and on. Basically, if there's something you want to get done while in Slack, chances are you can find an app for it. And Slack's deep integration with Google Workspace makes it a better choice for teams that lean Google.

If you use Zapier, you can connect both Slack and Teams to thousands of other apps, too, so all the tools in your tech stack can talk to each other. Here are some ideas to get you started.

  • The best automations for Slack users

  • The best automations for Microsoft Teams users

Microsoft Teams vs. Slack: Which to choose?

Choosing between Teams and Slack depends on which tool speaks more to your needs.

  • Microsoft Teams is the better option if you already pay for a Microsoft Office 365 Business account, want your team chat experience to be tightly integrated with Microsoft apps, or need excellent video calling included in your communication tool. Generally speaking, Teams is good for large businesses, whereas some of its strengths might go unused with smaller teams.

  • Slack is the better option if you want flexibility in choosing apps and add-ons, use messaging more than calls, and want the best customization options for notifications. Generally speaking, Slack's whole vibe is best suited for less corporate teams who like to have fun while focusing on productivity in their text communication.

It's true that comparing Teams vs. Slack can start to feel a bit like comparing apples to oranges—you'll find lots of nuanced differences across the apps. Since they both have robust free plans, the best way to know which chat app will suit you better is to give them both a try.

This article was originally published in July 2018 by Jill Duffy. The most recent update was in August 2022.

]]> (Katie Paterson) Sun, 07 Aug 2022 22:00:00 GMT
Create a Discord welcome experience for new members .css-12p6n7x{overflow:auto;}.css-12p6n7x >*{margin-bottom:20px;margin-top:20px;}.css-12p6n7x >H2{margin-top:60px;}.css-12p6n7x >H3{margin-top:40px;}.css-12p6n7x>[id]{scroll-margin-top:20px;}@media (min-width: 660px){.css-12p6n7x>[id]{scroll-margin-top:100px;}}

I'm part of Discord servers of all types: friend groups, game criticism, and tips for playing Final Fantasy 14. But Discord isn't just for individuals: lots of businesses build Discord communities for their brands.

Connect Discord to your other apps
Automate Discord

Regardless of the purpose, many Discord servers have a process for greeting new members—including a welcome screen, welcome messages, and welcome channels. First impressions matter, so let's talk about how to create the best welcome experience for your Discord server.

Why should you set up a welcome process for your Discord community?

Many servers drop new members in their #general channel, and that works well enough for some folks. But if you want to nurture a community, you'll miss out on the chance to start newcomers off with an understanding of your goals.

While one of the main purposes of setting up a welcome experience is to help new members feel welcome, it also has these benefits:

  • It sets expectations for how community members should behave and treat each other. You'll have the opportunity to share rules on language to use and the kinds of interactions you want your community to have.

  • It gets the newcomer familiar with your channel structure. Let's say you have a channel called #nates-cool-zone where you share your latest pizza orders. Here's a place to explain what new members should do there.

  • It can teach a few Discord basics if folks are new to the app. For example, if you prefer members to spoiler tag certain content, newbies will learn about that feature.

How to set up your Discord welcome screen, channels, and messages

There are a few ways to create a welcome process for your server. Some of them become easier when you have a verified community server with special features granted by Discord. But if you have a private community, you can still create a comprehensive experience.

As you choose which things to do, think of your typical community member. What measures will guide them, and what will add too much friction to their first experience with your server?

1. Edit Discord's automatic welcome feature

Edit Discord's welcome message

Discord has a setting that sends a welcome message to a channel when someone new joins your server. It also lets you decide if members can click an option to reply to those messages with a sticker to say hi. You can change where the message goes (in the Overview section of Server Settings), but you can't control what this message says, so you might want to turn it off and create your own.

2. Create a Discord welcome channel or welcome screen

The Cat Hut's welcome screen on Discord
Credit: The Cat Hut Discord server

If you manually invite someone to your server, Discord sends them straight to the channel you clicked the Create Invite button next to. When someone joins through a general invite link or by finding your server in the public directory, they'll land in the channel at the top of your list.

Consider making this default channel your welcome channel to greet newcomers. This channel would offer space for current members to say hi or for you to introduce your server.

Community servers also have welcome screens with a message, channel recommendations, and rules that new members see on entry. But as you might guess from the Discord welcome screen example in the above image, the message has a 140-character limit. So it might make the most sense to use both the welcome screen and a channel with more details.

3. Set up bots that assign roles

Role list in Discord
Credit: Elgato official Discord server

You can use Zapier to automatically assign roles to someone who reacts to a message. That means you can have members assign themselves roles based on interests. Depending on how you set up your server, you can also have roles change the color of someone's name and give them access to certain channels.

With this process, you can create a self-serve channel curation process. Have people choose the roles that let them see the channels they want on their list.

Zapier is a no-code automation tool that lets you connect your apps into automated workflows, so that every person and every business can move forward at growth speed. Learn more about how it works.

4. Make a rules or general information channel

A rules channel in Discord
Credit: twenty one pilots official Discord server

Give newbies an overview of your community with a rules or general information channel near the top of your server list.

Using the Zap mentioned above, you could even assign a role that grants access to the rest of your server's channels after someone reacts to a message listing your rules. This trick acts as an unofficial screening feature to ensure new members read your rules.

Already have a verified community? Use the rules screening feature to build this process into your server.

5. Build a Discord welcome bot

Build a Discord welcome bot

You can build a Discord bot without code to create custom Discord welcome messages. This works for more than just welcoming new people—think of it as an extra touch for any experience on your server.

What to include in your welcome experience

Since new Discord server members come across a few touch points when they join, think of the process as a "welcome experience" rather than a quick greeting. Here's some of the information you should include in that experience.

A tl;dr of your server

Explain your server's purpose in a sentence or two. Your community server's welcome screen is a great place for this info. The now-defunct music bot with a still-thriving community, Groovy, introduces its server in this Discord welcome message example:

Groovy Community Discord welcome screen

But you can also include the summary in one of your intro channels with links to your site and socials. Here's how the German Learning and Discussion server summarizes its purpose in its #info channel:

Discord server summary example for German learning

Rules overview or link to rules channel

If you have a few server rules, you can include them in your welcome channel or server summary. You could also highlight your most important rules and direct new folks to your full list of rules. The official Fortnite server, for example, notes that it's open to users 13 and older in its #welcome channel but then links out for the rest:

Fornite Discord server rules

Many large servers have a dedicated space for rules. Community servers can include rules in their welcome screens or have a built-in screening process. Meanwhile, regular servers can have a rule channel.

I help run a Discord server for a publication called Unwinnable. We have a pretty thorough rules list:

A screenshot of Unwinnable's rules page, which showcases how you might write rules for your Discord server
See the full-sized image here.

The VALORANT Discord server keeps its rules channel pretty clean:

Discord rules channel example (Valorant)

Channel tour

Get your newcomers familiar with your channels. Explain your channel categories, note the most popular channels, and send people toward the channels they should visit first.

Discord's welcome screen for community servers lets you highlight a few channels. Like Jack in the Box, you can use creative descriptions to lead newbies to specific channels first:

Discord welcome screen with creative channel descriptions (Jack-in-the-Box)

For a full tour, you might use a dedicated channel or include a list in one of your info channels. An unofficial Animal Crossing: New Horizons server has a comprehensive directory in its server information channel:

Directory in a welcome channel on Discord (Animal Crossing)

Role instructions

If you decide to use bot-granted roles to manage channel access and organize members, your newcomers will need directions. Most servers include directions alongside the bot message in a bot-specific channel. Video game website Fanbyte outlines exactly how its role bot works on its server:

Role instructions on Discord (Fanbyte)

Introduction template for newcomers

If you have an intro channel, try creating a pinned message with a template newcomers can use to introduce themselves.

Still considering Discord for your business?

If you came across this article while figuring out what you can do with Discord for your business, here are a few more resources to review:

  • Slack vs. Discord: Which should you choose?

  • Can you use Discord for business?

  • How to build a Discord community for your brand

Discord suits certain industries and situations better than others, but if your business fits the bill, it gives you great opportunities to build a fulfilling community.

]]> (Melissa King) Sun, 07 Aug 2022 22:00:00 GMT
6 ways to automate your PPC campaigns .css-12p6n7x{overflow:auto;}.css-12p6n7x >*{margin-bottom:20px;margin-top:20px;}.css-12p6n7x >H2{margin-top:60px;}.css-12p6n7x >H3{margin-top:40px;}.css-12p6n7x>[id]{scroll-margin-top:20px;}@media (min-width: 660px){.css-12p6n7x>[id]{scroll-margin-top:100px;}}

Pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns can be incredibly valuable for brands of all sizes. They’re highly effective at driving traffic, leads, and sales quickly, even if there's a price tag attached. 

While PPC campaigns have incredible potential to be high-performing and high-converting, they can also be a lot of work. To get results, you need to manage every aspect of your PPC campaigns. Fortunately, automation can help.

You'll need a Zapier account to use the workflows in this piece. If you don't have an account yet, it's free to get started.

Table of contents

  • Get instant access to lead information

  • Send notifications about campaigns

  • Bulk edit campaigns

  • Improve retargeting efforts

  • Add leads to your marketing funnel

  • Keep track of offline conversions

To get started with a Zap template—what we call our pre-made workflows—just click on the button, and we'll guide you through customizing it. It only takes a few minutes. You can read more about setting up Zaps here.

Why paid marketing channels need automation 

Even small businesses with "minimal" advertising may have an average of 10-24 individual ads spread across two or three platforms. 

Each ad and campaign needs to be carefully monitored, including pausing or starting the campaign, making adjustments to get an ad approved or improve performance, and tracking data. 

There are so many fluctuating metrics and moving parts. You also need to worry about purchase tracking, incoming lead forms, incoming messages, changes in the algorithm, and more.

Automation resources for marketers
Your one-stop shop for inspiration, tutorials, and guides.
Learn more

You have to keep up with all of this across multiple ad types on multiple platforms. 

Automation is key to streamlining the process as much as possible, simplifying it so you can get results faster while sorting through the muck of all the data. This is the best way to discover new options for optimizing and improving your campaigns, too, as it allows you to focus more on the tasks that need your attention instead of endless cycles of busy work.

Get instant access to lead information 

Without automation in place, information from lead forms on platforms like Facebook Ads, Google Ads, and LinkedIn Ads will sit in the database until you manually download it and then upload it to your CRM.

This can cause significant lags in response times, which can impact your ability to convert those users into customers. Since you've paid money to acquire that lead information, this is the last thing you want to do.

Keep the sales funnel moving quickly by getting your sales team access to that data as quickly as possible with automation.

Send notifications about campaigns

When you have multiple campaigns running at any given point in time, there's so much to track. If you have a campaign scheduled in advance, for example, you want to know when it goes live. You may also want to know when a campaign ends, or when you hit certain benchmarks.

If you're on a team with multiple people working to set up ad campaigns, you want to make sure everyone is up to date when those new campaigns launch. Businesses who have hired agencies to create campaigns may also want to be notified.

Here are a few Zaps so everyone can stay in the loop.

If you work with apps or software not included in this article, don't worry—Zapier works with thousands of apps. Head to our App Directory and search for the one you use, or browse to find the right solution for your needs. Plus, here are 5 things you can do in Zapier's App Directory.

Bulk edit campaigns

Have you ever had the deeply unpleasant experience of needing to shift the budget for fifteen different ad campaigns at once? Some platforms require you to go in and edit each individual campaign, one at a time.

There are some automation tools that allow for bulk editing of your ad campaigns. 

You can, for example, adjust the active status of different campaigns by making changes in third-party programs with the right integrations. This can help you shut down, pause, or restart campaigns without needing to manually change each one. This saves time and can prevent campaigns from being missed. 

Improve retargeting efforts 

When a user completes an opt-in form or a lead form but then fails to convert, retargeting is an invaluable tool to recapture their interest and hopefully their sale. 

In order to streamline your retargeting efforts, you want all new email addresses to show up in your custom audiences list on different platforms right away. This allows you to retarget to them faster and prevents potential sales from slipping through the cracks.

Add leads to your marketing funnel

One of the greatest benefits to automation is that it can speed up just about everything you do. This means that your customers can receive a streamlined experience, too: They don't need to wait for follow-up emails or new content, they can get it right away.

Let's say, for example, that a user converts on a lead form to sign up for a webinar that you’ve advertised on LinkedIn Ads. You'll want to reach out several times:

  • Send them a welcome email right away with details of the webinar and a message about when they'll get more information. 

  • Send an email the day before the webinar with the link they need to access the webinar.

  • Send a reminder email 30 minutes before the webinar.

  • Send follow-up resources after the webinar. 

You can do this when you push email addresses from specific campaigns to designated lists on tools like Mailchimp or ActiveCampaign. With pre-set autoresponder campaigns locked and loaded before you ever even start running those ads, you're ensuring a smooth, consistent experience. This is true whether you're offering a 10% discount or access to a lead magnet. 

Keep track of offline conversions

Offline conversions can be tricky to track. And what about in-store purchases? Or customers who attended a live event, or users who made a phone call to book a call? These actions can all be driven by ads. While it's more difficult to track those metrics, it's important to do so.

Facebook’s Offline Conversions API allows you to track this data, however, and automation can make it much easier to set up. 

You can use Zapier to send offline conversions data to Facebook from Google Sheets, Eventbrite, and even an eCommerce tool if it’s not being tracked by the pixel. This is crucial in getting a much better understanding of exactly how effective your PPC campaigns are. 

Use automation to create a right-sized system

The beauty of automation is that not only is it effective, but that it's not one-size-fits-all. You and your team can determine what automated workflows and integrations will best help your team and your customers, and go from there. Test what works for you, and see how automation can impact your PPC campaigns and your sales. 

Related reading:

  • Facebook Lead Ads: 4 ways to automate your campaign's success

  • How we help SMBs run ad campaigns like the Fortune 500

  • Add automation to your marketing tasks for greater impact

This article was originally published in May 2021 and was lightly updated in August 2022.

]]> (Ana Gotter) Fri, 05 Aug 2022 07:00:00 GMT
Meet Zapier's 2022 No-Code Day Contest winner .css-12p6n7x{overflow:auto;}.css-12p6n7x >*{margin-bottom:20px;margin-top:20px;}.css-12p6n7x >H2{margin-top:60px;}.css-12p6n7x >H3{margin-top:40px;}.css-12p6n7x>[id]{scroll-margin-top:20px;}@media (min-width: 660px){.css-12p6n7x>[id]{scroll-margin-top:100px;}}

When we launched Zapier's inaugural No-Code Day contest, we wanted to see what cool things our customers have built using our product. We thought we'd receive a handful of submissions—instead, we were floored by the 400+ folks who sent in their incredible stories. We read each submission and were so impressed by the many creative ways that people are using no-code tools and Zapier to build entire workflows—and even entire companies. 

After evaluating all your submissions, we're excited to announce the winner of Zapier's No-Code Day Contest: Caro Griffin, VP of Tech Ladies

Tech Ladies is the largest community of women in tech, whose primary mission is to help connect women with the best opportunities at the best companies. At Tech Ladies, Caro has built several workflows, but one of the most impactful was a revamp to their job board.

In 2020, Caro noticed an uptick in more clients asking about Tech Ladies' "resume book" for candidates in response to the wildly competitive hiring market. It's then that she realized that it was no longer enough for them to post a job and hope for the best—companies wanted to proactively reach out to great women in tech. Typically something like this would take weeks, if not months, and cost thousands of dollars if she hired an engineer. Instead, Caro went the no-code route and created the Tech Ladies Candidate Database in three days. 

The product helped Tech Ladies grow revenue by 400% in less than six months, made upwards of a million dollars, and is now the most profitable part of their business. 

"The hiring market is constantly changing and we wouldn’t be able to stay ahead of it without no-code tools. They allow us to be really strategic with the new products and services we invest our time and money into building, and that’s helped us grow so much faster than we would've been able to otherwise," says Caro.

Here's a look at what her workflow looks like:

  •  Members of the Tech Ladies community who meet certain criteria are automatically invited to apply to be included in the Candidate Database via Mailchimp.

  • They apply via an Airtable form, and their application is reviewed in Airtable by Tech Ladies' experienced career coaches and recruiters.

  • Eligible Tech Ladies are added to the Candidate Database via a Zap.

  • Clients who purchase a certain plan in Stripe are automatically given access to the Candidate Database in Softr via a Zap. (And canceled clients are automatically removed via a Zap too.)

  • Partners can log in to the database via Softr and reach out to candidates directly.

Tech Ladies was able to help dozens of companies add more women to their teams using this tool.

Inspired by growing Tech Ladies, Caro recently launched another organization, Opsy—a community for operations professionals working in tech. She plans to invest her winnings from Zapier's No-Code Day Contest into Opsy to help grow their community.

(Zapier Editorial Team) Fri, 05 Aug 2022 05:00:00 GMT
Upselling vs. cross-selling: What's the difference? .css-12p6n7x{overflow:auto;}.css-12p6n7x >*{margin-bottom:20px;margin-top:20px;}.css-12p6n7x >H2{margin-top:60px;}.css-12p6n7x >H3{margin-top:40px;}.css-12p6n7x>[id]{scroll-margin-top:20px;}@media (min-width: 660px){.css-12p6n7x>[id]{scroll-margin-top:100px;}}

Upselling and cross-selling are tactics that you can use to sell more, with less—less time, less money, less resources. Simple as that. And both tactics can be applied to virtually every industry: software, retail, finance, telecom, manufacturing, real estate—you name it.

I run Tee Tweets, a clothing brand that lets you wear any tweet in the world, and cross-selling and upselling are two of the most important tactics in my business strategy. Both techniques are designed to get customers to buy more, and since there are hundreds of thousands of tweets generated every minute, I certainly have plenty of products for buyers to add to their cart.

Sell more and keep your customers happy
Automate your eCommerce

Upselling and cross-selling are often confused because, in some ways, they accomplish the same goal of increasing the amount that a customer will buy. But there are distinct differences between the two, and if you can master them, they can both be uniquely instrumental to your business's success.

What's the difference?

Both cross-selling and upselling involve convincing an existing customer to increase the amount they're buying. But here's the difference:

  • When you're cross-selling, you're working specifically to get the customer to make additional purchases that would go well with what they originally intended to buy. 

  • When you're upselling, you're not necessarily suggesting more items, but convincing the customer to buy the bigger, better, and more expensive version of their original purchase.

For example, when I send out marketing or confirmation emails to recent buyers, I make sure to include products that are similar to whatever that recipient bought. Often this results in a new sale, but even when it doesn't, it still exposes the customer to other products they may not have known existed. That's cross-selling.

There's not as much upselling involved in TeeTweets, but I've come across plenty of upselling opportunities in my freelance consulting career at Swyftlight. I had one particular client who wanted me to build a simple marketing website, so they gave me their specs and budget and asked me to put together a proposal. I pitched the idea of adding eCommerce capabilities to their site, quoting them a rate that was still within their budget but was more than I would have quoted them for the simple site alone. They took me up on it—I effectively upsold them on a better version of their original product.

Those are two basic examples, but if you really want to make sure you're capitalizing on every upselling and cross-selling opportunity you encounter, it's important to understand both tactics in depth.

Graphic illustration visualizing cross-selling and upselling

What is upselling?

Upselling is about upgrading the customer to a bigger or better version of the product or service they're already buying. Virtually every modern business does some form of upselling, but one of the most common examples can be seen in an industry we all know and love: food.

Think specifically of the fast food industry, where customers are always encouraged to "supersize" the size of an item. Ordering small fries? Make it a large for only an extra 25 cents. 

Upselling works in all industries, not just consumer-focused ones. If your business pays for software, for example, you've almost definitely seen upselling in action. Let's take a look at Airtable.

Screenshot of Airtable's pricing structure

Airtable's pricing structure is laid out in such a way that you can see every plan's capabilities all in one place. When you're making your purchase, this page encourages you to stop and wonder: will 5,000 automation runs be enough? Will 5GB hold what I need?

As you're contemplating how much you need, you'll also notice that the prices don't increase proportionately with the increase in services. The Pro plan costs twice as much as the Plus plan, but offers four times more attachment space and ten times more automation runs. When the higher overall price means a lower price-per-item, people are much more susceptible to being upsold.

Those are just two examples. Once you know what upselling looks like, you'll start to notice it everywhere. More examples include:

  • Promoting a warranty when someone buys an appliance

  • Suggesting upgrading to a spa package when someone goes to book a massage

  • Offering more analytical accounting services in addition to your standard transitional bookkeeping services

  • When someone hires you to design their logo, proposing an entire branding package instead

  • Suggesting the fleece-lined version when someone's about to buy leggings

What is cross-selling?

Cross-selling is about getting customers to buy different, related items in addition to what they're already buying. The most effective cross-sellers pitch items that will enhance whatever the person is buying, or will make using that item much easier.

The most clear-cut example is Amazon. Whenever you're looking at a product, if you scroll down, you'll always see a "Customers also bought" section. Amazon also uses automated purchase history analysis to look at what you've bought in the past, find customers with similar buying habits, and suggest items that are popular among people who are looking for the same things you are.

Have a look at this small business in the candle game: 

Four candles with prices under the heading "You may also like"

In this case, when you buy a relaxing candle, the site is going to recognize more types of relaxing candles. But cross-selling isn't just about getting customers to buy more similar items right this moment—it's also about exposing your customers to new products they might not be familiar with. 

The most important thing to keep in mind is that while products you suggest don't need to be extremely similar, they do need to be complementary. Cross-selling isn't just about getting customers to buy more items right this moment—it's about exposing your customers to new products and offerings they may not have seen before. When coupled with a purchase your customer is already set on buying, your brand exposure can have more significant weight than you might expect. You may not make the extra sale today, but you increase the likelihood that the customer comes back at some point down the line.

Upselling vs. cross-selling in action

One of the easiest ways to learn the difference between upselling and cross-selling is to look for examples of both within the same industry or even at the same company. 

Let's say you buy a new desk chair for your home office. The upsell would be a better, fancier chair with ergonomic features and fancy wheels. The cross-sell would be an under-desk mat, which you'll need to keep those fancy wheels from tearing up the hardwood.

Applying upselling and cross-selling to your business 

Upselling and cross-selling are both an art and a science. You need to think creatively about your offerings (and potential offerings) and how they might complement existing purchases. But you also need to dive into your analytics and make some data-driven decisions about what your customers are buying, when they're buying them, and why. After all, upselling and cross-selling won't do anything for you if no one actually buys what you're promoting.

I've found that the most effective strategy when it comes to using upselling and cross-selling well is to reverse engineer what makes the most sense for your customers. What adds the most value for them? What questions do they have when buying from you? What products or services do they ask you about that you don't yet offer? Talking directly to existing customers or clients about what they might want is a great place to start.

And remember: there's always room to experiment. If people who buy product X often also buy product Y, you should absolutely be trying to sell product Y to everyone who buys product X. But don't stop there. Try promoting product Z to those same people, or try upselling them to a higher quality version. Think outside the box, and you'll find some creative ways to sell more—and better.

This article was originally published in March 2021 and was most recently updated in August 2022 with contributions from Amanda Pell.

]]> (Hiram Nunez) Thu, 04 Aug 2022 22:00:00 GMT
Setting mental health boundaries for you and your business .css-12p6n7x{overflow:auto;}.css-12p6n7x >*{margin-bottom:20px;margin-top:20px;}.css-12p6n7x >H2{margin-top:60px;}.css-12p6n7x >H3{margin-top:40px;}.css-12p6n7x>[id]{scroll-margin-top:20px;}@media (min-width: 660px){.css-12p6n7x>[id]{scroll-margin-top:100px;}}

Even after years of experience balancing a business with chronic anxiety and depression, it still happens to me about once a year: I'll get excited about a project and forget to ask the right questions or share my boundaries before jumping in. Inevitably, I find myself overwhelmed and unable to fulfill my client's expectations.  

4 self-care workflows to get through hard times
Read more

That's why I've found that setting mental health boundaries is necessary, especially when you work for yourself. It's another way to advocate for yourself and your business and creates a solid foundation so that you can avoid having confrontations with clients. Think preventative maintenance over reaction: not setting those boundaries in place before you need them can have serious consequences. 

Getting to know your work self

So how do you go about setting mental health boundaries? It starts with knowing more about yourself and how you work. And yes, that's about as easy as it sounds.

It's taken me about six years of being a business owner, the same amount of time (give or take) in therapy, and a year with a wonderful business coach who taught me how to track my moods and time. But in all fairness, I started during a serious mental health crisis, and it took a good few years to build the support network and find the information that I have today.

So don't panic. Start small by asking yourself a few questions, like:

  • What does my mental health need from me? How does it affect my life day-to-day?

  • How am I currently structuring my work life to support my mental health?

  • What about work stresses me out? What outside of work stresses me out (and affects how I work)?

  • What do I need to work well? 

  • What would my ideal work situation look like?

This will help give you a baseline of things to look for as you dig deeper.

5 important boundaries to set for your business

Learning what you need and how best to protect those needs is a constantly-evolving process. There's no one right way to identify, create, set, or keep a boundary, which can make it pretty maddening. And when it comes to business, there are plenty of places to start. 

Here are five really important types of boundaries and how you can begin discovering your own.

1. When you work

Think about your ideal work hours or, more importantly, the schedule that suits your needs and mental health best. I learned this by figuring out my chronotype, or sleep type, which confirmed that I get the most done in the early mornings and evenings. By tracking my work hours, I realized that part-time hours are ideal for me since intensive work plus fatigue can easily trigger a depressive episode. 

So my work hours boundary became: limit weekly workload to 25 hours on a maximum of six days a week (unless I'm having a bad mental health week). Another boundary I'm trying out at the moment is not working on weekends. It's not always possible, but having two full days to relax makes a huge difference.

Another time-focused boundary to consider is when you'll take vacations. Building time off into your schedule is great for preventing burnout. It's also helpful to plan vacations in advance, so you can let clients and customers know your availability upfront. 

Getting started: Try tracking your time daily for a couple months to see where your work hours naturally fall. For this to work, you'll want to be a bit flexible about working at different times of day to get a sense of your energy and stress levels and when you need a break. This is also a great way to learn when you may need additional time off.

2. Who you work with 

A lot of my work stress comes from taking on clients and projects that just weren't a good fit. Choosing your clients and projects carefully means you can avoid compromising your health or having that painful breakup conversation.

Thanks to time, experience, and my coach, I have a list of ideal client qualities and an equally long list of red flags to look out for. I'm also very careful when I research potential clients. 

My Manual of Me, a "how I work" page that lives on my site (courtesy of Leapers), has a whole section about potential clients. Here's a quick snippet: "I'm especially excited by remote-first companies that support small businesses, invest in workers, prioritize personal freedoms and mental health in the workplace, and create humanitarian tech with worldwide impact."

Leanna's Manual of Me

Getting started: Envision your ideal client. Where do they work? What does your main contact do? What's important to them, and how do you know you'll work well together? If you prefer something a bit more structured, you can even start creating your own Manual of Me.

3. How you work 

This is a good time to bring in work-life balance. Everyone has a different work boundary style, whether it's work-life separation, integration, or something in between. The key is figuring out which approach best matches your lifestyle and personalizing it.

I have a pretty hybrid work boundary style. I separate some things (limited calls during break time) and integrate others, like switching up my work hours and days when I'm extra anxious or in a depressive slump.

But this isn't just about mental health—it's also a good business practice. Setting work-life boundaries around things like checking email, work calls, the types of projects you take on, and your workflow ensures that you're fully present during work hours and focused on the right things.

I've learned through bitter experience how stressed I get trying to meet short deadlines on a moment's notice. That led to one of my biggest boundaries: don't take on quick turnaround projects (less than five business days) for new or problem clients, and always make sure you get advanced notice.

Getting started: Look over your calendar and projects for the past six months or so, and try to picture how you worked on each project. Think about what really worked for you or stood out as stressful. Did you prefer to have clearer separation, or were you happier flowing from one thing to the next?

4. How you manage your finances 

Financial boundaries keep your business on track, provide security, and help you achieve goals without burning out. They can be anything from income targets to operating expense budgets to emergency buffers. Money is pretty much a constant worry for me, so making firm financial boundaries has been particularly important for my mental health. 

One of the first financial boundaries I made was about business spending: don't spend more than what you have in your operating expenses account. If things are tight, find ways to cut costs temporarily.

Another one I'm working on is: wait a minimum of two months after you get paid before spending any of it. I haven't been great about this recently (I blame pandemic budgeting), but having any kind of buffer can make a huge difference when income is uncertain. 

I've found budgeting methods like Profit First extremely helpful because they offer visibility into how necessary expenses, like taxes and software, change over time and how I can track and manage them.

Getting started: Take a closer look at the financial side of your business. Calculate what you have to spend on your business after you cover your personal expenses, taxes, and savings. Does your spending match your budget? What rules do you need to put in place to meet your short- and long-term goals?

5. What you do when things go wrong 

We all know about setting mental health boundaries like taking breaks, exercising, drinking water, and self-care. But how many of us freelancers and business owners actually build these into our work day?

As someone who has to constantly be ready for bad days, I've had an emergency protocol for years. Work more days for fewer hours. Extend deadlines and move calls. Take lots of breaks. And these are all great boundaries to put in place, but you want to put them somewhere that matters.

My wonderful business coach suggested I build a contingency plan into my annual plan for bad mental health days and create alternatives if my income or other goals don't work out.

Leanna's contingency plan

Getting started: What do you need when you're having a bad day? Write those needs down, and start brainstorming how you can work them into an emergency schedule. If you tend to have a lot of bad mental health days, that's a great reason to set boundaries that meet those needs every day—not just in case.

Who are these boundaries for?

Remember: there's a big difference between external (public) and internal (private) boundaries—both equally important when it comes to business. External boundaries are the ones you share publicly, such as on your website or to your clients and customers. Internal boundaries are for you and your business alone.

Only you can decide what falls into each category. "Taking a mental health day once a month" could be an external boundary if your clients need to know you'll be out of the office or you feel like posting about it. But it can also be private, especially if you have no deadlines that day or are uncomfortable sharing personal details online.

When (something happens) I will…

To me, boundaries are a bit like therapy. Setting them requires you to create a healthy foundation focused on preventing stress and mental health crises. It's also a trial-and-error process you get better at by learning more about yourself and applying those lessons over time. 

But I think my favorite thing about boundaries is the way they keep me accountable, even when that means reminding myself that I have limits. And while keeping some boundaries will always be a struggle, they allow me to live a better, healthier life. 

]]> (Leanna Lee) Thu, 04 Aug 2022 22:00:00 GMT
5 ways to automate your email .css-12p6n7x{overflow:auto;}.css-12p6n7x >*{margin-bottom:20px;margin-top:20px;}.css-12p6n7x >H2{margin-top:60px;}.css-12p6n7x >H3{margin-top:40px;}.css-12p6n7x>[id]{scroll-margin-top:20px;}@media (min-width: 660px){.css-12p6n7x>[id]{scroll-margin-top:100px;}}

The pain of email is universal, but each person approaches it differently. You might be the Inbox Zero type who must have a clean inbox at all times. Or you might be the chaotic type who leaves hundreds of messages unread and relies on the search bar to find anything.

Not sure when to automate a task?
Start here

No matter which type you are, there's a better way to approach your inbox, and you don't have to know any code or change your habits (much) to make it happen. Zapier automates tedious tasks through automatic workflows—which we call Zaps—so you can spend less time organizing your inbox and more time on your most important work.

You'll need a Zapier account to use the workflows in this piece. If you don't have an account yet, it's free to get started.

Skip ahead

  • Organize your inbox

  • Save attachments automatically

  • Keep an email log

  • Send emails automatically

  • Send personalized emails

To get started with a Zap template—what we call our pre-made workflows—just click on the button, and we'll guide you through customizing it. It only takes a few minutes. You can read more about setting up Zaps here.

Organize your inbox

There are many reasons inboxes get out of control. Perhaps you pin or star emails that require action, or you keep emails that have file attachments just in case you need the files later. With a few automatic workflows, you can have peace of mind and stay on top of your day.

Turn emails into tasks

Many emails demand some kind of action, whether it's a bill reminder or a request from your manager. Treating your inbox like a task manager is usually disastrous, but copying and pasting emails into your to-do list app isn't ideal either.

Depending on your email app, you can set up your Zap to look rely on a search string or look for a specific label to mark messages you want to turn into tasks. Then, Zapier will automatically add only those emails to your task manager of choice. The next time you check your to-do list, the actionable emails will be there for you to check off.

Save attachments automatically

Repeat after me: Your inbox shouldn't be storage for your files. Treating your inbox that way easily leads to accidentally deleting an important file you never saved elsewhere. Save yourself the hassle of forwarding, transferring, or saving email attachments by using one of the following Zaps to automatically save important email attachments to a cloud storage app.

You can also accomplish this in your notes app. Want to keep track of emailed receipts or other important information? You can add a filter step—available on our paid plans—to watch for those messages, and have Zapier save a copy to your notebook.

Learn more: How to add a filter step to your Zaps.

Keep an email log

Have you ever kept an email longer than you needed to "just in case"? You can keep your inbox clean without losing the content of that conversation. These Zaps will log a copy of those emails in a spreadsheet or chat app whenever they come in.

Send emails automatically

Perhaps sending emails is cutting into your actual work time. For example, you send the same reminder email to coworkers or clients, or you spend more time than necessary getting the wording just right on a cold email. With a few Zaps, you can automate that work.

Send emails on a schedule

Zapier's built-in Schedule app triggers actions in other apps at a set time, such as every day, week, month, or even hour.

Start your Zap with a Schedule trigger and add the details you want—such as the day of the week or the time of day. Then add your email app in the action step to send an email to yourself or anyone else. When you turn the Zap on, Zapier will send those emails according to the schedule you set, so you don't have to worry about sending reminder emails.

Send personalized emails

Sometimes an email needs a personal touch, but when you're thanking everyone who attended an event or sending a thoughtful message to every new lead you acquire, it can be tough to find the time or sound creative.

With one template email, Zapier can personalize the messages and send them out automatically. You can start with a spreadsheet for one-off outreach lists, but you can also send automated emails for new survey responders, to thank new Shopify customers, and much more.

When customizing your Zap in the Zap Editor, you can use contact information from your trigger app as placeholder fields when writing your email template. Zapier will then populate those placeholder fields with the right information anytime your Zap runs, making your email appear as if a human wrote it.

What if you want to delay sending your email for a specific amount of time? With Zapier's Delay step—available on our paid plans—it will tell your Zap to wait until the time that you want before completing its action.

Learn more about Zap delays.

Share articles with friends or family

My parents never read the articles I write unless I send it to them. If you, too, want to share your written work with supportive friends or relatives, you can use an automatic workflow to automatically email them articles from an RSS feed or WordPress site.

Perhaps you're not a writer, but you regularly share industry news with your coworkers, or you send articles from reputable news sources to your grandmother. You can set up a Zap that will automatically email saved articles from a bookmarking app like Pocket to recipients. It's like a mini-newsletter with minimal effort.

Parse information from emails

Sometimes the info you need from emails is buried in the text. Zapier's built-in Email Parser app will scan your emails for the text you need and send it to any app you want. Need emails parsed in bulk? An app like will get the job done.

Learn more about how to automatically extract and copy data from your emails in our guide to using Email Parser.

Ultimately, this won't replace checking your email or eliminating your inbox altogether, but with a few automatic workflows, email can be a little less painful.

Didn't see your app here? Check out our App Directory for all the apps Zapier supports.

This article was originally written by Matthew Guay in 2018 and updated in September 2020 by Krystina Martinez. It was lightly updated in August 2022.

]]> (Krystina Martinez) Thu, 04 Aug 2022 14:45:00 GMT
CompanyCam: App spotlight .css-12p6n7x{overflow:auto;}.css-12p6n7x >*{margin-bottom:20px;margin-top:20px;}.css-12p6n7x >H2{margin-top:60px;}.css-12p6n7x >H3{margin-top:40px;}.css-12p6n7x>[id]{scroll-margin-top:20px;}@media (min-width: 660px){.css-12p6n7x>[id]{scroll-margin-top:100px;}}

As most contractors will tell you, pushing projects to the finish line requires an extraordinary amount of planning. Whether it's a one-off plumbing issue that needs to be fixed or a heavy-duty roofing installation for a commercial building, a lot goes into each project. After all, there are bids to consider, pricing materials to go over, job sites to secure, and crews to appoint. 

In short, documenting each stage, sharing instructions with your team, and ensuring everything goes smoothly can be tricky, particularly if you're limited to using your phone on site. 

This is exactly the kind of solution that CompanyCam aims to provide to contractors everywhere. The app includes a complete photo management solution, which allows contractors to take unlimited photos, share them with team members, make notes, and keep everyone on track with their day-to-day tasks. 

CompanyCam origins: Knowing your target audience

Luke Hansen is a CEO who understands his target audience. In fact, there's little to nothing he doesn't know about running a roofing company, having worked at White Castle, his family's business in Nebraska, for more than 15 years. 

The idea for a photo management tool (specific to contractors) was born after Hansen experienced the difficulties of documenting photographs throughout each roofing project's stages, from bid to installation and finally, quality control. Inspired, Hansen built the first CompanyCam prototype in 2015. The rest was history.  

Did you know? Hansen originally built CompanyCam for White Castle only, but after employees raved about its success, Hansen saw an opportunity to release it to contractors everywhere. 

CompanyCam today: Documenting jobs through pictures

Today, CompanyCam is used by over 100,000 contractors—in roofing, landscaping, plumbing, and many more industries—to easily document and manage projects throughout every stage.  

Inside the app, you can snap and store photos, sync with your team in the context of a project, and share the results (plus pics!) with customers and insurance companies. 

Project feeds give you an overview of all the projects happening in real-time at your company, and photos are tagged by date and location. Plus, you and your team can easily collaborate by marking project photos with drawings, arrows, comments, instructions, and even voice notes. 

Fave feature: Generate flawless before and after photos with the app's Before and After camera to market your work (and show off the stellar results!) on your site.

Automate your images and design: Popular CompanyCam workflows

Unlock even more value out of your contracting work by connecting CompanyCam with Zapier. Doing so allows you to easily connect CompanyCam to thousands of other apps and automate tasks, giving you more time to focus on what's important. Here are a few popular workflows to get you started: 

]]> (Elena Alston) Thu, 04 Aug 2022 07:00:00 GMT
6 ways to automate business processes in HubSpot .css-12p6n7x{overflow:auto;}.css-12p6n7x >*{margin-bottom:20px;margin-top:20px;}.css-12p6n7x >H2{margin-top:60px;}.css-12p6n7x >H3{margin-top:40px;}.css-12p6n7x>[id]{scroll-margin-top:20px;}@media (min-width: 660px){.css-12p6n7x>[id]{scroll-margin-top:100px;}}

HubSpot is a leading customer relationship management platform for growing businesses. With extensive contact management capabilities, live chat flows, lead management, deep website and email integration, marketing automation, and much more, HubSpot has created one powerful CRM.

By combining HubSpot's power with the flexibility and reliability of Zapier, you can create robust workflows—called Zaps—to automatically manage multiple business processes across your organization, all without writing a single line of code.

You'll need a Zapier account to use the workflows in this piece. If you don't have an account yet, it's free to get started.

Table of contents

  • Add contacts to HubSpot

  • Add HubSpot contacts to your other tools

  • Send notifications for updates in HubSpot

  • Keep HubSpot records up to date

  • Update HubSpot from a spreadsheet

  • Connect customer service systems to HubSpot

To get started with a Zap template—what we call our pre-made workflows—just click on the button, and we'll guide you through customizing it. It only takes a few minutes. You can read more about setting up Zaps here.

Add contacts to HubSpot

There are many ways contacts can engage with your business, including website forms, paid ads, and meeting requests to name a few. Making sure those contacts make their way into your CRM will help you effectively manage them across their lifecycle.

Here are a few Zap ideas that will help you create contacts in HubSpot when engaging with your business through another app.

Add HubSpot contacts to your other tools

Once you've added lead info to HubSpot, that's likely not the last stop on their marketing journey. With these Zaps, you can connect HubSpot to the other marketing tools in your tech stack so leads keep moving down your marketing funnel.

Add to email marketing platforms

Target audience segments

Send notifications for updates in HubSpot

Leads and deals are the lifeblood of growing businesses, so it's important that nothing falls through the cracks.

Zapier helps you automate your deal workflows to get the right information to the right people at the right time. When something important happens in HubSpot, Zapier can alert specific team members where team communication happens so everyone stays in the loop.

Keep your team updated on important deal milestones with these Zap templates.

Keep HubSpot records up to date

Sometimes important events happen outside of HubSpot. Zapier lets you create automated processes to update HubSpot deals so your team doesn't lose precious time waiting to hear back from the customer.

Update HubSpot from a spreadsheet

Even with all the apps in the world, sometimes nothing beats a good old-fashioned spreadsheet. (Confession: We love them too!)

You can import your existing spreadsheets into HubSpot to start managing information in your CRM, but maybe there's just too much love for that existing spreadsheet to stop using it. (Hey, if it ain't broke...)

With Zapier, you can automatically update HubSpot whenever you make a change or add a new row in your favorite spreadsheet app.

Connect customer service systems to HubSpot

HubSpot has a built-in support ticketing system to manage customer service requests. If you use another platform, you can connect it with HubSpot to ensure essential customer information is available across both systems. 

Try any of these workflows to keep important customer service information at your fingertips.

Take your CRM to the next level

We've touched on a few ways to integrate HubSpot with your other apps using Zapier, but this just scratches the surface. We know you'll develop solutions tailored to how you and your team get work done.

Zapier supports thousands of apps, so start building your Zap now and see what you can create.

Related reading:

  • How to distribute leads without an expensive CRM

  • Increase your marketing impact with automation

  • How to automatically segment leads who take your quiz or survey

This article was originally written by Zapier staff writer Krystina Martinez and published in September 2020. It was most recently updated in August 2022.

]]> (Matt Jackman) Thu, 04 Aug 2022 05:00:00 GMT
Kanban 101: How to use Kanban to manage your next project .css-12p6n7x{overflow:auto;}.css-12p6n7x >*{margin-bottom:20px;margin-top:20px;}.css-12p6n7x >H2{margin-top:60px;}.css-12p6n7x >H3{margin-top:40px;}.css-12p6n7x>[id]{scroll-margin-top:20px;}@media (min-width: 660px){.css-12p6n7x>[id]{scroll-margin-top:100px;}}

I use Kanban boards a lot in my daily life—and not just for work. The beauty of the Kanban system is that it works in any context. It helps you visualize your work and ensure it's all moving in the right direction (from left to right, but more on that later!), whether you're running a marketing campaign, planning a product launch, or—as I recently did—organizing a bachelorette party.

The premise of Kanban is simple, but it works. Here's how.

  • What is Kanban?

  • What is a Kanban board?

  • Kanban examples

  • Kanban app features

What is Kanban?

"Kanban" (かんばん) is a Japanese word that translates directly as "visual card." As a project management methodology, Kanban involves creating visual cards that list details about a task and organizing them into lists on a board that represent different stages of a production process. 

move kanban card to list

With this kind of layout, you can easily manage a project workflow, as cards are moved from left to right, in the basic form of "to do," "doing," and "done." Hit a road bump with something you're working on? Slide the card back left to the "to do" column until you're ready to work on it again. 

The Kanban methodology was invented by Toyota back in the 1950s as a way of organizing car factory floors and ensuring each car part was made with the same level of care at every step. Back then, the Kanban methodology was managed with Post-it notes on a whiteboard. As a Toyota factory worker, you'd know exactly where to pick up work on a part, thanks to the product's attached Kanban card that detailed exactly what had been done to the part already and showed clearly which stage it was at in the production line.

Make the most of your to-do list with Zapier
Automate your tasks

Today, Kanban boards have evolved from factory whiteboards to our computer screens in the form of digital Kanban apps. And now, the Kanban project management methodology helps teams manage editorial workflows, push code through development sprints, streamline hiring processes, and much more.

In a nutshell, the Kanban process helps you turn big ideas into workable plans. By getting your project onto a board, dividing your process into a workflow, and creating tasks that sit within that workflow, you have a complete visualization of how and where your project is moving. 

What is a Kanban board?

Regardless of what it's being used for, every Kanban board has three basic elements: boards, lists, and cards. Here's how it works.

Kanban boards include lists that organize kanban cards into workflows
  • Kanban board: The Kanban board is what holds the bigger picture of your whole project or workflow. In the context of a Kanban app, it's easiest to think of the board as a digital workspace. Different Kanban apps have different names for boards—you'll see them be referred to as a "workspace," "project," or "taskboard." Basically, it contains everything you need to get a project done.

  • Kanban list: Lists form the structure of how your Kanban board is laid out. A basic Kanban board structure would contain the lists "to do," "doing," and "done," but we all know most projects aren't as simple as that. You'll probably have a couple of stages that represent "doing" something within the context of your project. That's why you can have as many columns as you want and rename them, each list representing different stages of your production process. And it's within those lists that you'll add and move your Kanban cards.

  • Kanban card: A card represents a task or mini-project that needs to be completed within your wider project. Cards live within lists and are moved along the production line—left to right, from one list to another—as they get closer to completion. Once they reach the "done" column, you can either delete them or keep them stocked up for future reference (my preferred method).

With these elements as a foundation, the possibilities for how you use the Kanban method are limitless. 

engineering and marketing boards

Kanban examples

Kanban boards are incredibly flexible—you can use them for organizing pretty much anything. To give you a bit of insight into what a Kanban board looks like in practice, here's a Trello board I use to manage my freelance projects. 

Kanban board example

My Kanban lists are called "On radar" (i.e., companies who I'm speaking to but no work has been confirmed yet), "To do" (confirmed projects), "Doing" (projects I'm working on that week), "Done" (completed projects), and "Stuck" (projects that are on hold for some reason or that I can't invoice for yet). 

At a glance, I can see six cards in my weekly "doing" list, so that's going to be a busy week. This gives me an opportunity to prioritize the most important or time-sensitive tasks (I normally arrange them so the most pressing projects are at the top), and move any cards that can be pushed to next week back into the "to do" list. 

Now imagine I was using this board to manage a whole team's workload. You can see that Kanban's magic is in how it can help you spot bottlenecks, relieve overburdening, and ensure a project is always progressing in the right direction.

And that's just one example of how you can use Kanban processes to organize your projects. Here are some other things you might use a Kanban board for:

  • Personal tasks. If you use to-do lists (at work, or even in your personal life), try ditching the lists for a personal Kanban board to see how it goes. I use Kanban for planning everything: parties, holidays, you name it.

  • Editorial calendar. Using Kanban for editorial project management ensures you have a constant stream of content ready for publication. With a lot of Kanban apps, you can also switch to calendar view (more on that later), which is useful in this context for obvious reasons.

  • Manage a sales pipeline. There's a reason why a lot of CRMs offer a Kanban view for sales pipeline management. With columns like "On radar," "Contacted," "Meeting arranged," "Contact later," "Won," and "Closed lost," you can see at a glance what areas you need to focus your efforts on to keep a steady flow of sales coming in.

  • Manage a product development roadmap. There are lots of Kanban apps out there that are specifically just for development teams (to name-drop a few: Jira, Blossom, and WeKan). Take a look at our guide to Agile, Scrum, and Kanban methodologies to learn more.

  • Keep tabs on your hiring process. A Kanban board will help you keep tabs on every candidate in your recruitment funnel. Create cards for individual candidates, tag them by department or role, and move them along the board as they reach different stages of the hiring process ("Progressing," "Interview booked," "Offer made," "Hired"). Once you start hiring for lots of roles, you can move over to an applicant tracking system (which might have Kanban built in!). 

These are just a few Kanban board ideas—the options really are endless. Now, let's look at some Kanban principles and the core features to look for in a Kanban app, to ensure you get the most out of these project management tools.

10 Kanban app features you can expect

There are a lot of Kanban apps out there, and there are also a lot of project management apps that offer Kanban as part of their wider package. Regardless of what your needs are, there are a few common Kanban app features to look for—in my experience, they're what make an app more worthwhile than that Post-it board.

Note: the names and specifics of these features vary across apps, but their core functionality remains the same.

1.  Drag-and-drop

Moving cards between lists is at the core of what makes a Kanban board, so you'd be hard pressed to find a Kanban app that doesn't have a drag-and-drop functionality to do this. It should be easy to drag and drop a card—moving it around within a list (up or down) or from one list to another as it reaches different stages of the production line (e.g., to do, doing, done). 

moving a Kanban card