Productivity / Processes

How I automated my business to achieve a 4 hour work week

I’ll admit I was naive in thinking I could create a profitable business that didn’t require a big number of hours from me. However I was determined that more hours now, would mean less later. Here’s how I did it.

22 March 2016 by

12 months ago my goal was to design an online platform that completely automated PR and allowed brands to access media directly with the click of a button. That platform was launched in March 2015 and was an instant hit with users excited by the simplicity and success they were getting.

But … even though the business was totally online and the platform was humming along nicely, I was still working 12 hour days thanks to the huge range of other tasks required to keep things running smoothly. That wasn’t the plan. My intent in creating an online business was to work fewer hours, not more!

Then it happened. I was squealing with delight to find out that I was well up the duff with a tiny person. This was the push I needed to truly automate my business and set it up to operate without me in it.

And you’ll be pleased to know that over the past six months I’ve increased my revenue and invited two amazing staff members to the team. Meanwhile, my business is stronger than ever but I’m now down to a four-hour work day from 12 long ones. In six weeks I’ll be down to two hours a day, and come D-day, I won’t be necessary at all.

"It seems a four hour work week is possible. However, it took me a little over 4,000 hours to design it that way."

Here’s how I did it, right down to the platforms I’m using.

(Please keep in mind there are no kick-backs here – just sharing what works for me. Hopefully some of the below will work for you too.)

Website developer handover

I wrote down everything I did every day, and then went through the list one by one. I analysed each element with a very critical eye to see how I could remove myself from the task. I then compiled a list of repetitive tasks and gave them to my website developer who then rolled them into the website functionality. It was a shock to find out how much time I was spending each day slaving over tasks that took a little code to cover. One of these tasks took three days a month and 100 phone calls. Yep, every month I was blocking this out. It cost me $700 to put this functionality into my website. Take my money!

Virtual Assistant

Everything I couldn’t automate into the website, I wanted to hand to a virtual assistant. I tried a few agencies and went through three VAs who weren’t the right fit. I decided to take longer to find someone a little more specialised. I created a detailed job description and worked with a wonderful agency who spent three weeks searching for her. Taking the time to find the right person paid off, and now she’s even managing my inbox.

HelpScout

I realised I was in a co-dependent relationship with my business. If someone had a question about the platform, I was the one answering it via email or phone. Originally I thought this was a wonderful benefit for our members. Chat with me! I’m an expert resource available for you!  However, many members didn’t have the time to call or email. As their unasked questions were going unanswered their engagement dropped. I spent a couple of days and wrote out every answer to every question that I’d ever been asked and added big help button on the site that connected to HelpScout. (This is a help desk platform where members can search for answers to their questions.) Surprisingly, the members preferred it! They loved a quick answer at their fingertips. I learned that I can empower users and the website to support each other without me. Epiphany!

Calendly

My day was often interrupted by many phone calls. I changed the phone number on the website to a link to my calendar for people to book times, and set it up so that I was only taking calls from 9am to midday. Interestingly, enquiries increased when I replaced the number with the link, and by batching calls I was more productive. Winner. I can update the dates and times I’m available in the future and also delegate the link to another staff member.

Pre-emptive on-boarding sequence

Every question I was asked, I wondered how I could have it answered beforehand. I updated the welcome page. I rearranged some buttons that caused some confusion, and re-wrote the welcome email sequence. These tweaks gave the answers people wanted before they had the chance to ask the question. It was like putting a ship in the water with the holes plugged up, rather than bailing it out on the way.

And now…

It seems a four hour work week is possible. However, it took me a little over 4,000 hours to design it that way. The business is running smoother and better without my filthy mitts all over it. My stress levels have dropped, and my customers are having better experience.

So my question to you is: Can you drop hours and make your business better? I’d love to hear your thoughts or questions in the comments below!

Amanda Westphal

created Prize Pig, an online platform busting with media competitions that any small business can access to get major media space without the media spend.

Comments

  • Hi Amanda… so close to the holy grail. You must be proud and thrilled!

    It is ironic, I was just reading that overcoming procrastination is a common hallmark of all successful business people so I rather suspect that you have beaten this curse – 4000 hours to get this set up right?

    So how will you fill so many hours when you get your input down to zero?

    P.S, the Hero Image on your website is incredible!

    • Thanks @Md @flyingsolo-76a969fc1d1adaac804d2dabce3451f5:disqus. What am I going to do with my time? I’ll get to re-introduce myself to my family and friends! I’ve never found procrastination a problem of mine, I’m the total opposite so I’m fortunate for that. It was at least 4000 hours to set-up however, I’d do it all again in a heartbeat. Good luck and thanks again for your wonderful feedback.

  • So excited to publish this piece Amanda. We all hear about the 4-hour work week but it’s so rare to come across someone who’s actually done it. I’m so excited for you that when you have your baby you will be able to relax and enjoy him/her

    • You’re too kind Kelly ! Now more time to write you articles. 🙂

  • Great article, thanks for sharing your ideas.

    • Thanks @flyingsolo-640f83ae6bb1f036f45e453ceba79db9:disqus

  • Amanda, great article and congratulations on the execution! Im inspired!

    • Woo! Get automating @flyingsolo-192a6e6df92a5ebd88de9b476fdd350d:disqus!

  • Exactly. Everyone gets sucked in by the fantasy of the 4 hour work week but aren’t willing to put in the hard yards to create it. Kudos to you Amanda.

  • Well done – you are the envy of us all
    Also “well up the duff with a tiny person” – I LOL’d

    • Hi Matt, I watched so many business owners do this and was always a bit envious. If I can do it, anyone can!

  • Awesome post Amanda. Very timely as I’ll be aiming to implement automation into my business without losing revenue and quality of work.

  • i loved the filthy mitts comment, so funny. Brilliant Article Thanks Amanda

  • Great stuff Amanda! This is something I’m currently working on and loved your story. I’ve worked a normal week this week while my family and friends have been enjoying an extended Easter weekend and it’s been challenging to say the least. It’s inspiring for me to know that the 4000 hours I’m putting in right now, will result in the 4-hour-week soon.

    • Thanks @missrbit:disqus . You’re right, it’ll all pay off. I wonder how different your Easter will be next year? Something to look forward to. Good luck!

  • This is a great article. We’ve been “testing” VA and PM for months and its super stressful.. We just cant find the right fit. You mention you used an agency to find the right person.. Who did you use? Thanks!

    • Hi @flyingsolo-d85326f2aa8a99e25f810086ab138116:disqus We used Kristy at Virtual Elves. They were brilliant at finding exactly the unicorn I needed. Good luck!

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