Running a small business can leave owners time-poor and seeking ways to make their processes more efficient. Consider also the multiple platforms owners may use to manage their businesses, including manual processes in tools such as Excel where more sophisticated and automated systems could simplify things significantly.

In aspects such as invoicing and customer service, automation and digitisation can give owners more time to focus on building client relationships, interacting with clients or ideating a new service offering – and help them spend less time in the midst of admin.

Here are two Australian business owners on how digitising accounting, customer service and other business operations has returned more time for use in other valuable areas of their business.

Customer journeys and social media copy

Julia Forté, owner of the brand photography business of the same name, uses digital tools to create efficiencies for her business.

“I have implemented software to automate my workflows, which saves me so much time,” she says. “A great example is my business management app Studio Ninja, which digitises customer journeys.

“I have developed a range of workflows for the different clients I work with. Those workflows have been automated with built-in scheduling, quoting and invoicing, electronic signatures and customer reminders.”

According to Julia, digital tools have also streamlined the customer experience.

“I have digitised the enquiry stage so that if a potential customer completes the contact form on my website, their details will automatically be populated into the business management system,” says Julia. “This reduces duplication and manual data entry.

“An email will be sent to the client outlining additional information about packages and providing a link to my calendar so they can book a meeting or view my availability for a shoot.”

“These tools free up my time to focus on the things I love doing – which is not admin!” – Julia Forté

Some of the other tools Julia uses to take the hard yards out of business admin include:

  • Xero, for accounting. “Gone is manual tracking in a spreadsheet, which my accountant is very happy about,” she says. “My accountant has access to my current financials at any time.”
  • A digital booking system that allows clients to choose a studio time, book and pay in-platform.
  • Generative AI, to write SEO-optimised website and social media copy. “I’ve spent a bit of time learning about prompt engineering, and have developed an ideal customer avatar and a master brand prompt which I use to generate on-brand content,” says Julia.

“They free up my time to focus on the things I love doing – which is not admin!” she adds.

Invoicing, accounting and creative assets

Digitising internal processes has become the bread and butter of Nickie Scriven, founder of women’s tech start-up community Chief Meta Chicks and marketing consultancy and media agency Alchemy8 Media.

A favourite tool she uses “almost on a daily basis” for both internal marketing and that of her clients is Canva, whereas the generative AI tool ChatGPT supports her in written content creation.

“With Canva I can quickly create social media Reels, videos, banners, tiles and more,” she says. “I also set up brand hubs for clients so they have branded templates ready to go when they want to create and distribute content.”

Like Julia, Nickie uses Xero as her accounting software.

“Xero saves me time by automating invoices, payment reminders, pay runs, activity statements and more,” she says. “It also provides helpful business insights and reports.”

These tools are streamlining otherwise mundane tasks for both owners, improving the way they interact with customers and conduct critical financial tasks such as invoicing, and restoring time in their respective diaries for the more important things.