- Boosted: Click the link to get your first 3 months for $5!
- iThemes: Get 20% off with code HOWIBUILTIT
- CircleCI: Enter to win a set of Sony Noise Cancelling Headphones!
Have you every wondered how some people seem to do so much? Well this week I sit down with James Rose to unlock some of the secrets of one of my favorite topics: automation. We talk about what it is, how it works, and how you can use it to take some tasks off of your plate, and off of your mind.[Read more…] about Automating Your Life with James Rose
Intro: Have you ever wondered how some people seem to do so much? Well, this week I sit down with James Rose to unlock some of the secrets of one of my favorite topics: automation. We talked about what it is, how it works, and how you can use it to take some of the tasks that you do off of your plate and off of your mind. It’s a great interview. James and I geek out quite a bit in it, so please bear with us. But I think you’ll learn a lot. Let’s get into it.
Joe: Hey, everybody, and welcome to another episode of How I Built It, the podcast that asks, how did you build that? Today we have a repeat guest on the show. His name is James Rose. He is the automation and productivity guy, where he makes fantastic courses and content over at jimmyrose.me. James, how are you today?
James: Joe, I am good, man. I’m excited to be here. This is a topic that normally I get to speak with business about. But to speak with a fellow automation enthusiast, oh, man, this is going to be fun.
Joe: Yeah, I am super excited. For those of you who are listening, James has been on the show before. I will link that in the show notes where we talked about how he built his product Content Snare, which is also super cool. But today, I am excited because we are talking about automation. It’s been a big topic of mine. A few episodes ago, I had my automation toolkit, and I put out a bunch of content, and then James got in touch. So why don’t we start, James, with who you are and what you do, and then move into the automation stuff.
James: Yeah, cool. I’ve been in software for a long time: since 2010. Ran a digital agency starting in around 2014, just building websites, digital marketing, that kind of stuff. My heart’s always been in software though. So at some point, we shut down the agency because I think we’re on our third software product now. We sold one of them. Actually, I probably should have started with the fact that before I started a business, I was an automation engineer of control systems like programming machinery and stuff to run without people, which was super fun. But I don’t get to do that anymore.
Somewhere along the way, automation in business has become my fix for all that work I don’t get to do anymore. So to me, it is just super fun. Even working on clients’ automation stuff, once I’ve got through the initial getting the information I need from clients—I hate that part—but then when I’m in Zapier accounts, and their apps, and building, and automation, I love it, man. A lot of people ask me for help with it because I talk about it so often, and that’s why I started writing about it at Jimmyrose.me.
Joe: That’s awesome. I mean, it sounds like you’re interested in automation. It’s probably part of the reason you created contents there anyway, right? Because that automates part of the content acquisition process.
James: Yeah, that’s right. Software in general is a form of automation, right? Every piece of software you buy, to some extent, you’re buying it to save you time in some way. Otherwise, you wouldn’t pay for it. So yeah, creating software like we do is solving problems with a level of automation. But it’s beyond just buying an app. You get to actually create the processes and everything in there. So yeah, like you touched on, it’s for gathering information files, content from clients.
We originally built it for website agencies and digital agencies to get marketing and website content from clients because that process just sucks in the digital agency lens. But now, man, we’ve got events management companies, online summits, mortgage brokers, all these professional services have this phase of getting content or documents from clients. And certainly insurance companies, even real estate we’re looking at now. So it’s kind of crazy time for us because it’s like I don’t know where we’re going. Because I knew who our audience were before and then all these other people are finding it now. I’m like, “Okay, we’ll work it out.”
Joe: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, as you were saying that, real estate came to mind because I bought a house less than a year ago and there was a lot of…Actually, I guess it’s almost a year now. But anyway, there was a lot of documentation flying around, mostly sent via email. I store everything in Dropbox, so I had like a house folder. My lender was super impressed that I had a binder. He’s like, “You’re really organized.” And I’m like, “I am the minimum amount of organized I think. I just know where stuff is.”
James: But most people don’t. That’s the thing.
Joe: Yeah, right. Yeah, exactly.
James: You’ll actually…
Joe: Oh, go ahead, go ahead.
James: You might really enjoy this and any automation people listening. But I found a product that’s been ripped together for the real estate agency for rental tenants to do their own self-inspections because people can’t go out in Corona times, right?
James: They’ve literally hacked this thing together with Airtable, and they’re selling it like at $10 an inspection. And I was like, “What is going on?” I’m super excited about it because it’s basically exactly what Content Snare does. But like a bad version of it. So I’m like, “Oh, here’s a new market for us.”
Joe: Awesome. That’s amazing. Actually, this is probably a good pivot point in the conversation because, as a programmer, as somebody who’s been into computers since the beginning of time—like I remember our first Windows 95 computer—I have always thought about how can a computer make my life easier? How can I write a simple program to automatically insert this thing that I otherwise have to do manually? You mentioned that you were an automation engineer. Why don’t we talk about how you got into automation in the first place?
James: Yes. You mean as an engineer or business automation?
Joe: Let’s talk business automation.
James: So, like how far are we going back?
Joe: That sounds super interesting. We can have that conversation offline.
James: Like I touched on before, I kind of naturally fell into it because I’ve always been in some level of automation. Literally since I left University, I’ve been in automation control systems and engineering. So when I didn’t get to do that anymore as part of day job, because I had a business, you know, my business is not to go into mine sites. I wish. I probably would be a lot more loaded. When the opportunity came up in business, when I learned about things like Zapier, or when I found new tools that can make my life easier, I just got obsessed with them really quickly. That’s essentially what happened.
That was only for myself. I’d only helped our own business save time and money with automation. But because like anything you’re passionate about, you talk a lot about. And so at business events, like literally in-person stuff, when we were still allowed to do that, I would talk to people and say like…or they tell me about a process they had, maybe it was a podcast, and I’d be like, “Oh, yeah, I know. My show notes automatically get sent to me just before the episode. I’ve got the questions there ready to go and I just run through. I don’t have any preparation for my podcast because it’s all just done automatically.” And they’re like, “Wait, what? How do you do that?” And they ask questions. Because this is just stuff I’ve built because I want to automate things.
That process happened a lot. Over and over and over people would ask me questions. People were like, “I will give you money to teach me this stuff, please.” And I was like, “**** you will.” Everyone just says that. Sorry, I don’t know your swearing policy on this podcast.
Joe: We can bleep that out.
James: Yeah, sorry, man. I should have asked earlier.
Joe: No problem.
James: But people say that sort of stuff. So I did a pre-launch for a course and said, “Give me a hundred bucks and I’ll make a course. It doesn’t exist yet, but just, I guess, put your money where your mouth is.” And a lot of people did. That’s how the Zapier course came about. And now it’s actually become a decent part of our business because people want it. So I kept providing it.
Joe: That’s incredible. I think you touched on a couple of things there. Because automation is something that can save you time and money. I wrote a blog post where I said, “It’s like the cheapest employee I’ll ever have.”
James: Oh, yeah.
Joe: My guest automation flow is the same way. And you know what, people notice it. Especially people who do a lot of podcasts, they do the podcast circuit, they’ll say, like, “I’ve been on so many podcasts and this was the most prepared I’ve ever been.” And I’m like, “I don’t even know.” Once I send them a Calendly link, I don’t do anything else until we get on the call because it’s all automated.
James: Exactly the same, yeah.
Joe: So it’s great because you can surprise and delight but you physically don’t have to worry about that. You know it’s going to work every time.
James: Yeah, man. I got the same comments from people that have done the circuit thing. But that’s how you know you’re really getting a true gauge of it. Some people are like, “Oh this looks so organized.” They might have done two podcasts. But when someone who’s been on like 50 says that, you like, “Wow, I’m glad.” It makes me a little bit happy.
Joe: Yeah, absolutely. A tip for those of you who are booking guests too. I just added a follow-up email to my calendar. So you’ll get that an hour after this, reminding you to send me the recording in case you don’t do it right away and then asking for your address. Because I send a thank you postcard to anybody who wants it.
James: How are we the same? We are so the same. It’s ridiculous. I do the exact same thing although I don’t automate my post message because I ask people to add me on like Facebook and stuff in there. Instead, I use a TextExpander snippet for it. I get a reminder to send it through Trello and then I just use TextExpander to pop it out in there because I might want to delete some bits. But we do the same thing. I get people’s addresses because I actually send these out—you can’t see this if you’re listening but it’s like a wooden coaster with their logo on it—and they go nuts, man. People love these things because it’s like their own little brands. They live on their desk and they remember the time they came on my podcast.
Joe: So you’re saying that they get a coaster with their own logo on it or with your logo on it?
James: We laser engrave their own logo on it. I actually learned about this from another podcast. I can’t remember what one. But it’s the guy that owns giftology.com. It’s like the number one rule of gifting is, send people stuff not with your brand on it. Like something with their brand or something else that they use in their daily life. Maybe with no brand on it. His classic one was sending people really good knives, but expensive knives. So that every time they’re cooking and cutting out meat in their kitchen, they’re like, “Goddammit, I can’t get this guy out of my head because I think of it every time I’m cutting meat.”
Joe: That’s awesome. I might have to steal that. I stole the postcard idea. But the postcard has my logo on it. It’s like a handwritten note. I don’t have that sent through like Printful or whatever, which you totally can do. But I had a bunch printed. I write a thank you note with one of my fountain pens, and then I sent it out.
James: That’s really nice too.
Joe: I like the gift idea, though. Because if it were me I would read it and then go, “Oh,” and keep it on my desk, and then like a week later throw it out. But people aren’t going to throw that out. That was a sweet coaster that you just showed me.
James: They are big, thick. I got one on my own desk, one engraved with my own logo because I’m like, “I want one, too.” I keep sending people these things but I want one for myself.”
Sponsors: This episode is brought to you by iThemes. Did you know that 60% of website breaches occur because a vulnerability could have been patched but wasn’t? That means having software with known vulnerabilities installed on your site gives hackers the blueprint they need to take over your site. Every day it gets harder and harder to keep track of every disclosed WordPress vulnerability. You have to compare that list to your plugins and themes by version and make sure you’re constantly updating.
To solve this problem, the iThemes Security Pro plugin created a better way to protect your site’s against software vulnerabilities, the number one culprit of WordPress sites. The new improved WordPress security site skin powered by iThemes performs automatic checks for known website vulnerabilities and automatically applies available fixes so you don’t have to. That’s some peace of mind. I could speak personally to this because as somebody who has repaired hacked websites, I know that it could be costly and dangerous to lose information, especially when it’s personally identifiable.
iThemes Security Pro also includes a ton of other features to help you keep the bad guys out. Brute force protection, two-factor authentication, password list logins, uncompromised password protection. Plus a whole lot more to keep you safe. If you want to start securing your sites today, head over to howibuilt.it/ithemes to get the best WordPress security plugin to secure and protect WordPress. iThemes is giving How I Built It listeners a 20% discount by using the code “HOWIBUILTIT” at checkout. Again, that’s howibuilt.it/ithemes. That’s howibuilt.it/ithemes, and use the code “HOWIBUILTIT” at checkout for 20% off.
And now back to the show.
Joe: So we’ve been dancing around this. You mentioned TextExpander, which is great because they have been a sponsor of the show. Let’s talk about your automation toolkit. You’ve mentioned Zapier and TextExpander. Are those the two crucial ones in what you do? Are there other tools?
James: They are two of the biggest, for sure. Like Zapier alone, you know, I think last month we did nearly 15,000 tasks, which I think equates to…it’s got to be like, I don’t know, hundred plus hours if you do the maths. It’s funny TextExpander gives you some math as well. It’s like, “Oh, 45 minutes saved this month.” But it’s not true because that’s only the time saved in actual typing. What it doesn’t talk about is the time saved looking for resources.
For example, if I want to link to a blog post in a Facebook group, someone asks a question, and it’s like, “I’ve covered that topic. Here’s a link to it.” I have shortcodes for all my good blog posts that I often link to. And you can use the search, so the Ctrl + / to search through. Like I have been using a cloud library or whatever, of emojis. So if I’m on a computer, I don’t have an emoji keyboard, I’ve got shortcodes for emojis.
Joe: Oh, smart.
James: So I don’t have to go and search for that. So there’s way more time in finding that thing and pull that link or that emoji or whatever and putting it in the box. So it’s way more than that, like 45 minutes or whatever it tells me I’ve saved.
Joe: That’s like keystroke time. I have all my affiliate links in there. I have full emails composed in there. It’s just amazing.
James: Yeah, I’ve got a lot of different snippets. I keep learning about more stuff. I actually just released a mini TextExpander course. And since that, because I gave it for free to all my current students, and then made a cheap price on it for the front end, suddenly I’ve got all these people messaged me about their TextExpander ideas they’re having, and I’m like, “Oh, my God, I didn’t even think about using it.” Like license keys for plugins for web developers, because they’re building new sites for people all the time. Then putting their license keys in there and just like boom. I’m like, “Wow, that’s genius. I haven’t thought of that.” So many cool things, man. I really like having students for that reason because they feed you ideas.
But, man, it’s hard. You’d asked about other tools or what’s in my toolkit. It’s really hard to draw on what’s automation. Otter as automation, like voice to text, being able to record voice notes and transcribe them. I tried once to write a blog post while I was driving just by having Otter active on my dashboard on my phone that was sitting in front of me and just like dictating. Then I got home and it had converted to a text note and I just turned it into a blog post. Is that automation?
Joe: Yeah, Kind of. Kind of. I would say yeah because you don’t have to type all that. You just probably read it.
James: ActiveCampaign is a huge part, though. Not just from marketing automation either. So I run a lot of processes through our CRM with Zapier. Because ActiveCampaign, any CRM that’s able to send Webhooks really opens up your capabilities. Because then you can send emails to people, and then based on what they do in that email, like if I click a certain link in an email, you can fire off a Webhooks out of ActiveCampaign, catch it in Zapier, and fire off another Zapier in another tool.
Joe: That’s awesome.
James: Where Zapier falls down is they don’t have really flexible automation builders. It’s quite linear. It’s like if this, then do this, and this and this. They’ve got paths so you can kind of do If…Then…Else kind of logic. But it’s not great. ActiveCampaign is great.
Joe: All right. I was going to ask because I’m like this close to upgrading my Zapier to the Paths plan. Because there’s a couple like…this is an automation talk, listeners. So you’re going to hear us talk through some of our automations.
Joe: But I have one, in particular, where when a proposal is accepted in Newsy, it fires off a FreshBooks’ invoice and then sends an onboarding email. Right now I have two Zaps for that based on the name of the proposal. So, if Done for You podcasting is in the proposal, it fires off that onboarding email. If a video is in the proposal name—but those are two different Zaps—a path will let me combine that into one. Because if it says this, then do this kind of.
James: But how complicated as the Zap?
Joe: It’s like three steps?
James: Then absolutely not necessary. Paths are good if you have to duplicate a Zap like, say, three times or two or three times. And it’s really long. That’s where I find it is. Because otherwise there’s nothing wrong with just duplicating it completely and changing the filter, which is essentially all the paths are. Honestly, it is. So whether implemented in Zapier, it’s like you have your trigger, you might have an action, and then you’ve got your paths. And the start to each of them works exactly the same as a normal filter. It’s not actually if this is true, else this. It’s you have to put all If conditions. It’s like if then, if then, if then. There’s no Else. It’s a really poor implementation of logic.
Joe: I see. Got you. Well, it’s probably the case that I’ll be upgrading soon anyway because I’m automating more of my stuff. But you saved me a couple months probably.
James: Yeah. I mean, it’s totally not worth messing around with, I don’t think. If you do want advanced logic, you can get into stuff like Integromat. Obviously, a Zapier competitor, but I use it for different stuff. Like I would never ever recommend Integromat for newbies. It’s just way too complicated, man. It’s funny. It’s like a no-code tool. They build automations without code, but it’s clearly built by developers. It’s so hard. I’m a nerd, super nerdy man and I look at this and, especially because I teach people, I’m like, “No one is going to be able to work this out. Unless you’re already technical and pro or can probably code.” So it’s quite ironic.
Joe: Man, that’s wild. Awesome. ActiveCampaign is also interesting to me, I use ConvertKit. For all of my stuff. I’m probably not using it the best like I definitely need to. I have a bunch of automations and sequences in there, and they’re great, but I don’t think they’re probably fine-grained enough. Because I know I can do more there. And you have the ability to tag people based on links they click and stuff like that if you want. I guess you could probably have a Zap to watch when a tag is added to a user or something like that.
James: That’s easy to work around. Without being able to send direct Webhooks, that’s easy to work around in tools like that when using event tags. So a tag that’s explicitly used to fly something in Zapier. And it’s like you trigger when that gets added and you immediately remove it from them.
Joe: Oh, yeah, smart. That’s really smart. I just realized we really haven’t defined any of the terms that we’re using. We’re just kind of assuming people listening know what automation is. First of all, I would say automation is taking something that you have to do and then making a computer do it. It is the simplest way I would put it. I don’t know if you would word it differently.
James: That’s actually quite a nice way of putting it, I guess. I’m going to steal that next time I go…
James: I’ll get off the same thing.
Sponsors: This episode is sponsored by Boosted. Creating well-designed marketing videos for social media can be hard. I know because I have tried a lot. With Boosted, you can easily create beautiful looking marketing videos that are optimized to get business results. You can choose from a wide range of templates to create ads, Instagram stories, tutorials, or anything else that you can think of. And the best part is they won’t look like everyone else’s videos. Plus, now you can create amazing looking graphics for other social media like Facebook and Twitter.
I’ve been using Boosted it to come up with a series of short videos for my own projects, and I honestly can’t believe how easy it is. I’m hooked. This is the only way I will create Instagram story videos now. The app is free to download with a bunch of templates out of the box. But if you want to try Boosted premium, you can. Listeners of the show can get an exclusive deal: $5 for the first three months. Just visit howibuilt.it/boosted. That is, howibuilt.it/boosted. Stop struggling to create marketing videos that look great. Get Boosted premium and start making videos that will get you results. Again, the link is howibuilt.it/boosted for three months of Boosted premium at just $5.
Joe: And then a trigger is some event that happens. An action or an event is the thing that happens based on…
James: I think the simplest way to describe triggers and actions is when this happens, do this. IFTTT is another sort of automation product. I think it’s quite confusing in a way because it’s not If This, Then That because that’s the name IFTTT stands for; is when this happens, do this. That’s the whole idea with automation. The classic simple example for anyone new to it is like when someone signs up for a contact form on your website, when someone completes the contact form, you add them to your CRM. When this happens, do this. Everyone can relate to that. Everyone’s got a contact form, everyone’s got a signup form. So that is just the classic simple example.
There are still some people that get lead emails from their contact form and then stick them in the CRM manually—then there’s opportunity for data error, human error and not copying. You might maybe miss the first letter when you copy the email address over or something. That’s what automation fix is, is having to do the same menial crap over and over and over ends like human error in the process.
Joe: Yeah, that’s exactly right. And that’s exactly what I’m using it for. You too, right? The fact that when I book a guest, we don’t have to do the time zone dance, right? Because you’re in Australia. Is that more than 12 hours? It’s like six o’clock in the morning there right now for you, is it?
James: It’s 8 a.m. right now.
James: I think it’s 17 hours. It depends where you are. It’s quite a big difference between the coasts in the US, right?
James: It’s going to be very hot.
Joe: Oh, right. So it probably is a little bit worse because I’m on the East Coast.
James: East Coast is the worst. And when you’re on daylight savings, it’s even worse again.
Joe: But we didn’t have to do that dance that we literally just did. We didn’t have to do that. I didn’t have to remember to send you a calendar invite and a Zoom link. That’s all just stuff that’s taken care of. That’s what I would recommend for people with automation. I think probably TextExpander or IFTTT are both pretty low barriers. IFTTT because it has stuff prebuilt for you.
James: It’s super simple. Like in Zapier, you get the ability to add multiple actions. You can say, when someone fills out your contact form, add them to your CRM and to Spreadsheet, I don’t know, send an email to myself to follow up. You could do multiple actions. IFTTT is very much like that’s it. If this do this, done. But there are some cool things, man. I don’t know how much you want to get into, but IFTTT has the ability to create really, completely custom voice commands for Google Assistant. So that’s one of my favorite automations. It’s nearly impossible to do it in Zapier yet. It’s literally saying the Google keyword because it’s my final wake up, and say add something to my Trello. Custom-built that in there and it will add that item to my Trello, which is amazing when I’m driving. If I think of something or even if I’m walking around the house, I yell it out, and I add it to my Trello right there or my calendar. Alexa does that as well. Just so you don’t forget things.
Joe: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Siri…sorry it’s just called Shortcuts now. But Shortcuts on iOS does a lot of the same things.
James: Yeah, I’ve heard that’s so good.
Joe: Yeah, Shortcuts is so good. The HomePod is so bad.
James: What’s that?
Joe: It’s their Amazon Echo competitor. Except it’s like three times the price, and it sounds amazing. It sounds better than any other home assistant. But like I will ask it to do just the simplest thing and it’ll be like, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” And I’m like, “You are the worst.” And it hears me from anywhere. So it automatically overwrites my phone, even if I’m upstairs and like whisper it.
James: Oh, wow.
Joe: Yeah, it’s got hearing like a bat. But that’s so frustrating that I might turn off the voice activation, and if I want to talk to it, I go and tap it. I wish it was better because I have a lot of shortcuts that I could presumably run just by shouting it into the air in my house. But about 60% of the time, the HomePod doesn’t know what I’m talking about.
James: Wow. And that makes it useless, right?
Joe: Yeah, right.
James: If you just expect that most of the time it’s not going to know, then you’re never going to use it.
Joe: Yeah, yeah. So basically, I use it to turn on my lights and off my lights. And even that doesn’t work sometimes. I got the Echo right next to it that could do it better. I was worried that it was me, and then I was listening to Connected, which is a fantastic podcast, and Federico Viticci, who has like a million HomePods has said the same thing. And he has like a million shortcuts. He said the same thing; he doesn’t even really use it for the voice commands anymore. So it’s just a really expensive speaker.
Joe: I really am just waiting for someone to come out with…Literally, there’s two things that make me jealous of Apple. I’m not going to lie. I hate Apples so much, and I have for a long time. I tried their devices for six months on a laptop and two years on my phone and I’ve never looked back. But Alfred for shortcuts on the computer itself and Shortcuts are the two things I just want so bad.
James: What does that do?
Joe: Oh, man. It’s like custom Keyboard Shortcut actions.
James: Oh, yeah. That kind of stuff has been around for Windows for a very long time. There’s AutoHotKey, there’s AutoIt. When I was an automation engineer, I was writing scripts in that for engineering tasks. It was quite funny. I remember there was one day…Actually, this is a good story. It shows you the power of automation. But I was given this task to write code. It was really similar code across like 100 different pump stations. They’re almost all the same, but the duplication process is a real pain in the ass. You have to go through all these different lines of code and change one thing at a time. And you literally have to go through the code with keyboards. That’s the kind of thing it was.
Anyway, they told management it was going to be like three or four days to finish this project. And I’m like a brand new engineer out of university. And I wrote a script that would like Alt Tab to a spreadsheet and move down a cell to get the number of the name of the next site, and then paste it all throughout and move throughout the code with the keyboard. It was done in three hours. The whole thing was done in three hours. Nothing for me to do for a week. So I just sat around and screwed around on the internet.
Joe: That’s fantastic. See, if you are not convinced that you need to automate, that right there.
James: Yeah, it’s like four days into three hours.
Joe: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, on the same token, I’ve written plugins, not nearly as cool as that, but I’ve written plugins for WordPress that automates a lot of the back end stuff for the podcast, creating the redirect, emailing the guest. So again, I don’t have to do that. When the episode is published, the guest gets an email with the link that says like, “Kindly share it if you want. No pressure.”
James: Just in case people are wondering if it’s complicated because what I was talking about there, writing a script if you say that to most people, they’re going to be like, “Oh God. No, this is above my paygrade.” Some of them are like AutoHotKey. It is probably going to be hard for most people to work out.
Joe: Keyboard Maestro and things like that.
James: Things like Zapier and IFTTT are not. They are simple, and they’re made that way intentionally so that anyone can use them. I have Zapier tutorial on YouTube if people are interested, just to go through the basics. Because I think it’s important to see someone do it so you can wrap your head around it and go, “Oh, that’s not so bad.”
Joe: Yeah, absolutely. I agreed. We’ll get into tips for listeners who want to get started. Because you just kind of heard us eke out a little bit. But again, I really think that IFTTT is great because they have a lot of prebuilt stuff. It’s super clear. One of my favorite IFTTTs is…is that what they’re called? Are they called apps?
James: Applets or something.
Joe: Yeah, Applets, I think. One of my favorite automations through IFTTT is when I post a photo to Instagram natively post it to Twitter. So like just grab the image from Instagram, and post it to Twitter. That way the image actually shows up in people’s feed.
James: That’s good.
Joe: It’s super simple. It’s prebuilt. You search for Instagram, and then a bunch of prebuilt stuff for Instagram shows up. And I think that’s really cool. It’s free to use. I guess they probably charge for access of the API. I don’t know how else they would make money.
James: I think it’s to the actual partners. So like people that run Twitter might pay. I don’t think Twitter do, but I think that’s how it works and make money off the big companies using it.
Joe: And they’re really great for the hardware stuff, too. Like James was saying about creating your own voice commands for Google’s Home Assistant or Amazon’s. You could do stuff with Amazon Echo too. Whereas Zapier is just the thing to connect one web service to another, essentially if we’re putting it super simply.
James: Just the apps that you’re already using. I mean, that’s a good place to start. I go through that in my tutorial. It’s just like, go to Zapier, plug in some of the apps you’re using. I think it’s called “explore” in the main header, and you just literally can find apps. Search for the apps you’re using, like ActiveCampaign, Google Sheets, whatever, and just get an idea. You go down to the bottom and you can see what triggers it supports and what actions it supports. And then you can go, “Okay, I can add a new row in a spreadsheet. So when do I want to do that?”
Once you know these things are possible, as you’re going about your business, you might go, “Oh, I’m just adding this thing to a spreadsheet again and again. What if I could totally automate that?” So building up your knowledge of what’s possible is one of the best places to start.
Joe: And I think that’s another good point that you mentioned there too. I’ll usually tell people, like, think of the stuff that you do everyday that you personally don’t have to do. If you do something once every six months, it’s probably not worth automating. It’s something that you do regularly that you would want to automate.
James: Yeah, absolutely. There is a line. It’s hard to know. I go a bit crazy and automate stuff that probably doesn’t need to be automated. But it’s kind of cool that I don’t have to think about it ever again.
Joe: Yeah, absolutely.
Sponsors: Sponsors: This episode is Sponsored by CircleCI. Whether you’re on a development team, manage a development team yourself, or you have a business that relies on working software, a good process is so important to making sure you’re creating high-quality work. Continuous integration or the ability to check and manage code automatically can help you and your developers streamline the process in a big way. And CircleCI is here to help. Designed for modern software teams, CircleCI‘s continuous integration and delivery platform helps developers push code with confidence. Trusted by thousands of companies, from four-person startups to fortune 500 businesses, CircleCI helps teams take their software from idea to delivery quickly, safely, and at scale. Visit howibuilt.it/circleci to learn why high performing DevOps teams use CircleCI to automate and accelerate their continuous integration and delivery pipelines.
As someone who’s worked on big coding projects for big companies with distributed development teams, I can tell you that continuous integration tools have helped us make sure we deliver working code to our clients. It helps instill trust in our team, and it lets our team focus on solving new problems instead of dealing with the same ones over and over again. So once again, learn how CircleCI can help you and your business at howibuilt.it/circleci. As a special bonus for How I built It listeners, CircleCI is having a virtual raffle where you could win a pair of the newest Sony noise-canceling headphones. Improve your team’s processes and enter for a chance to win at howibuilt.it/circleci.
And now, back to the show.
Joe: I was spinning my wheels today on a shortcut to automatically create an OmniFocus project. OmniFocus is my task manager for when somebody hires me to make a custom video. And then I was like going through it and I’m like, “I do this part of it so infrequently, and there’s too many fringe cases that it’s really not worth doing.” Instead, I have a text file with the template, and then there’s a shortcut that will grab that text file and make it an OmniFocus project. So I’ll just fill it in as is needed. Because a shortcut where I get a prompt like, “What’s the client’s name?” I’m like, “I don’t really need that for this.”
James: Yeah, it’s possible to go over the top. I mean, I find it like a pendulum sometimes. When you first discover this and you learn, it’s like, “I’m going to automate everything.” And the pendulum swung all the way over here and then you gradually bring it back to being normal and being practical.
Joe: It’s like you discovered you know how to fly. You’re probably going to fly a lot that day. And then you’re going to be like, “Do I really need to fly to the bathroom? I could just walk to the bathroom.”
James: That is such a good analogy. I love it.
Joe: Awesome. Well, we’re coming up on time here. But I think the two tips that we have for listeners, go to Zapier and add in some of the apps that you’re using to get ideas. I’ll have a link to that, and all of the tools—I’ve just been writing down links—all of that in the show notes over at HowIBuilt.it.
James, if you could give us a trade secret for automation, what would it be?
James: Oh, I think that was pretty much it. Just thought, hey, like, get in there and just stop playing around because it’s not something you’re going to be able to do immediately. But it snowballs over time. I think it’s really important to know what is possible because as a business owner, I get this all the time as someone who knows Zapier. People will come to me and go, “I need to automate stuff. How much is it going to cost?” And it’s like, “Well, we need to talk about your business.” And it is quite expensive for me to learn enough about their business to be able to automate things.
If you know what’s possible as the business owner, you don’t have to do the automation. But just having that knowledge of what’s possible enables you to find people and outsource and actually come up with ideas. And that’s important. You can’t just go get someone off like Upwork and go, “Help me with Zapier.” Because they don’t know your business. They probably don’t even know how to run a business, like general. So I think it’s really important to build your knowledge as a business owner.
Joe: Yeah, absolutely. I think that’s such great advice. It’s like walking into a restaurant and like, “Make me food.” What if you have allergies? Like what do you like? My general advice is, think of the stuff that you do regularly and make a list. Then like add a checkmark to the stuff that you absolutely need to do. That you, the business owner needs to do. And then look at the rest and say, “Can I hire somebody or can I automate this? Can I get a robot to do this for me?” That’ll get your wheels turning. I think that’s a really good exercise. That’s exactly what I did when I first started automating, and I immediately started saving hours’ worth of time a week.
James: Because I’ve got so much stuff automated now, I forget how much opportunity there is in the early days when you’re first getting started. I just had a video testimonial done with one of my students. He was literally deciding between hiring someone and my course basically. And he went with my course. I was like, “Oh, wow, that’s really cool to hear.” Like I forgot how much time there really is in this and how much it does save.
Joe: It’s wild, right? Because you could hire a virtual assistant to do some of the things that we’re automating. I do Zapier 25 bucks a month, or 50 bucks a month or whatever to do the job of like 14 virtual assistants.
James: Well, I mean, it depends how much you got to automate it. Because like I said last month, there are 15,000 tasks, I think if you estimated at 30 seconds a task. We’re over 100 hours. That’s most of a person.
Joe: Yeah, absolutely. That’s great. Well, I know that you have a few courses. Where can people find you? Where can they learn more about this?
James: Just head to Jimmyrose.me. Everything’s there. I would recommend Jimmyrose.me/zapier-tutorial. I know that’s a bit long. But if you just search “Jimmy Rose Zappier tutorial,” I’m assuming it comes up. That’s just a free video that’s like 10 or 15 minutes that goes through the real basics and where to get started and how to use that Zapier interface to plug in your apps and come up with ideas. That’s the easiest place to start.
Joe: Fantastic. I will link to that. And like I said, everything that we’ve talked about, if you’re like, “That was a lot of links and I didn’t write any of them down,” don’t worry, they will all be over at Howibuilt.it. James, thanks so much for joining me. I could literally talk about this for hours. I have a hard stop because it’s dinnertime at my house. So thanks so much for joining me and sharing some of your knowledge.
James: No worries at all, Joe. Thanks for having me to talk about this. I’d do the same: talk about this all freakin day. Thanks a lot, man.
Outro: Thanks so much to James for joining us this week. If you couldn’t tell, I loved this conversation. We geeked out quite a bit a little behind the scenes action. He was the last of five interviews I recorded this day. So we had a little more fun I think than usual.
I loved his tip about sending custom coasters to his podcast guests. That is something I’m probably going to steal. But aside from that, just learning how to automate and doing it in small steps first. Go to Zapier and look at some ideas and get started. Buffer is a way of automation, where you schedule things to be posted at a later date. On my Facebook group, my student Facebook group, those posts are scheduled to make sure that I actually do them. So every Friday I sit down and I schedule the next 10 posts for the Facebook group so that I don’t have to think about it throughout the week are worried that I’m not engaging. So definitely check out automation. You can find all of the links to this episode at howibuilt.it/176.
Thanks to this week’s sponsors: iThemes, Lightricks, and CircleCI. Without their support, this show would not happen. So check them out, show them some love. If you liked this episode, be sure to give it a rating and review on Apple Podcasts. It really helps people discover the show. And if you have any questions, feel free to reach out on Twitter @jcasabona or via email at Joe@casabona.org. Thanks so much for listening. And until next time, get out there and build something.