5 Ways to Use Automation to Vastly Increase Your Efficiency

 

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Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

 

With the ongoing growth in automation and machine learning software on the market, I feel it’s important for one to take this technology to its full potential; as others begin to incorporate these automation strategies into their workload, they will begin to outperform you in a variety of ways. Here are five examples of how you can use automation to increase your own performance.

  1. Schedule Emails using Templates

This is one of my personal favorite uses of automation, since I find that I send out a lot of emails. Often I’ll schedule about 100 emails to contacts in my data base with Hubspot using a predefined template to send out evenly across the week; this power send usually only takes about 30 minutes. I usually just set up my templates in Word and copy and paste them into Gmail; however, I do know that Hubspot has its own templates system, but I haven’t really inspected it too much. I recommend the Hubspot chrome extension, which you can get here.

  1. Automate content marketing

Most content distribution systems – Youtube, Medium, WordPress – allow you to automatically share your content to social media when it is sent. However, you can additionally set up automation paths using multiple different systems or a service such as IFTTT. For example, for the podcast, I have it shared to WordPress; this then activates WordPress’ sharing, which then sends it to Twitter. When it sends to Twitter, my IFTTT applet gets the tweet automatically retweeted by some of my other Twitter accounts. You can do a lot of different combos like this, and all of them can be very helpful. As I mentioned, I would recommend something like IFTTT for this.

  1. Schedule auto-replies

In addition to scheduling beginning emails, you can set up follow-up emails as well. These systems usually cost money, however, Gmail has added an update that — although doesn’t send follow-ups — does tell you appropriate times to follow-up yourself. If you do want an automatic scheduler, you can use Rebump.

  1. Create a sales pipeline

Getting into more complicated systems, you can combo steps 1 and 3 to create a full on sales pipeline. There are quite a few pieces of software that do both of these things, but most of these cost quite a pretty penny. Rather, I would use the software I mentioned in these two steps, along with (some) manual replying, to create an automated pipeline for dealing with large amounts of contacts.

  1. Automate months worth of content

One of my favorite pieces of automation software is Hootsuite. Hootsuite allows you to schedule content for your social media, allowing you to no longer worry about being consistent in optimizing your marketing; free users can schedule 30 posts at a time, so this can really help ease your workload.

 

These aren’t the only things you can do with automation, and I recommend that you go out and experiment for the many APIs and software that are out there. Things like this can highly increase the efficiency of you and your business, and give you a bleeding edge over the competition.

 

Anyway, that’s all for this one. I do want to point out that we have a brand new newsletter! Following this will give you the low-down of all the new stuff going on. You can subscribe to it here.

The Rise of the Personal Brand

 

 

 

The internet revolution has caused a wide range of massive changes throughout the different industries of the world. From music and movie streaming to e-commerce and grocery delivery, the world is vastly different than it was even a few years before. For this post, I’m primarily interested in one specific section of the industries the internet has changed; the job industry.

People used to work at one company, get promoted a few times, and then retire. Switching companies mid-career, especially to different industries, usually spelled certain doom; provided you could even get the job, you were working at a much lower position for much lower pay. However, things nowadays aren’t quite as simple.

Sure, lateral career switching still is a tricky balancing act. But in a world where companies are focusing more on raw skills than experience, things are a bit different. Numerous success stories have come out of people pulling from a job, learning an entirely new skill set, and getting another high paying job in a separate industry in less than a year or two. Much of this, internet-wise, can be attributed to the rise of educational resource access and easier access to job postings. However, I think that there’s something much bigger at work here too. I think this is a sign of the rise of the personal brand.

One of the biggest advancements have been with social media; I’m not just talking Facebook and Twitter here, I’m talking Youtube, Linkedin, and Medium as well. These last three specifically allow you to post expert-level content about the fields your interested in and share it with a wider world. This, in turn, gives you the ability to have a following; people who are interested specifically in the same sort of topics you post about. Now, call me crazy, but I believe in the future that this following is going to be vital; I believe that those who have the highest quality content with the highest amount of followers will begin to become the most attractive potential recruits to companies.

Let me unpack this a bit. I’ll start off by saying that it’s very likely that the people who are at the absolute top will find some way to become self-employed and not need to take on a job at a company; fair enough. But if I have around ten thousand subscribers on my channel where I make various coding projects and tutorials, I’m going to look better as a software engineer candidate. Why is this? Well, for starters, the way I work and the skill I have is already right there in front of you; there’s no need to go through the work of a formal interview because you can just see the quality of my code in the videos I produce. Secondly, my amount of subscribers – though it may seem modest – shows two things; not only do I have enough of a unique slant for ten thousand people to be interested in following me, but it also shows that I grinded hard enough to get to ten thousand people in the first place. This shows dedication and determination as well; skills that are essential in any career.

In fact, let’s go down a partial list of the most sought out job skills and see what form of media they would coincide to. Written communication? Blog posts. Verbal communication? Youtube videos. Organization? All of the above. Teamwork skills? Podcasts and collaborations. Punctuality? Livestreams. Creativity? All of the above. Emotional Intelligence? Q and A sessions.

Before the internet, all I had was a piece of paper and a thirty-minute conversation to determine whether I was going to hire you. Now, I have a whole wealth of content that you’ve made that can work for (or, to be fair, against) you. And, if you have no content, it makes things a lot harder on me, and so I might not look into your direction as much. So, what are you waiting for?

 

That’s all for now. Enjoy this post? Feel free to follow my blog or Twitter for more updates on my latest articles!

State of the Union 2018

Well, since it’s about the holiday season and I don’t know anyone who’s going to be out reading blogposts, I’ve decided to make one that is more for myself than anything else. A long time ago, I used to write these “State of the Union” posts at the beginning of each year that would go over what I planned to do for that year, as well as going over last year’s goals for what did/didn’t work. Not sure why I stopped; in my opinion, it’s still a pretty good idea. That is exactly why I’m going to try to bring it back with this post. Since I don’t have any goals to go over for last year, I’ll start this fresh by giving some new goals for 2019.

The Blog/Website

I definitely want to get back to writing on a weekly basis, and I’ve already started it back up a bit as of recently. I think the most important thing content wise for the blog is just to keep the posting consistent for all 52 weeks of next year; a feat I’ve never been able to accomplish, but would love to finally hit.

In terms of actual data on views and followers, it looks like the website has around 18 followers with 137 views for the year (and 76 unique visitors). As I began posting weekly only in September, I’d like to see an approximately 4x increase in these numbers for next year (correlating with the other 3-month periods). So, let’s go for ~550 views, ~300 visitors, and ~70 followers added on for next year. For the Medium blog, we currently have 370 views, 203 reads, and 7 fans. So, let’s apply the same logic as last time, and go for 1,480 views, ~820 reads, and ~30 fans.

Astukari & Friends

For the podcast, I think qualitatively I’d like to pin a solid structure for the show down and start consistently getting ~1 hour episodes in every week. When it comes to collecting data, this is a bit harder to pin down; there’s about 172 views in total for the new series for far, with 26 episodes (that’s an average 6.6 views per YT podcast). In contrast, the original AstukaGaming podcast had about 808 views with 36 episodes, bringing it at 22.4 average views per podcast. This increase can be seen due to a couple of more popular videos in the bunch as well as (I believe) the fact that the podcast was a YT exclusive compared to Astukari & Friends which is not just on YT but also on Twitch and Podbean. Incorporating Podbean views, we have 341 additional plays for a total of 513, bringing the average up to 19.7.

For next year, I’d like to see this average increase to go beyond the average views per podcast of the original. I feel like this is definitely possible – AG was around for two years with minimal advertising, vs. A&F which has only been around for a few months with some more focus on tagging – and I’ll try to keep best practices forward when it comes to the podcast and hopefully due to this we’ll see an average increase.

Social Media

There’s a few major focuses on the social media front: We have LinkedIn, my personal Twitter, the AG + BDC Twitters, and my Instagram. Honestly, not too sure what I want to do with the AstukaGaming twitter anymore, but it does have around 330 followers so I figure I might as well use it to retweet some of my other content. I feel like advertising LinkedIn content has been pretty helpful so far, so I’m not really interested in cutting it off either; though I don’t really have any defined goals set in place for it. That leaves the personal Twitter, BDC Twitter, and Instagram.

For the Instagram, my follower count has been levitating right over the 190 – 200 range for a few months now, and I’d love to break that sometime soon. To be fair I haven’t been posting as regularly recently, and that has caused it to fall into the 180s, but at the same time I feel like if I have to post on there every single day I’m going to go crazy, so I’m going to at least one post every week or so. For the BDC twitter, I’m not quite sure what I want; it’s been a few months since Season 1, and so I’ve mostly been advertising my podcast and blog content on there. However, as I prep for Season 2 (which I’ll go more in detail about in the “Other Projects” section) I’ll try to post specifically BDC content. Finally, for the personal Twitter, my main goal is focused on getting the follower count up to 200. It seems to have been increasing pretty nicely by itself, so I plan on adding a bit more advertising of it to content as well as using it more actively.

New Book

In terms of big projects, another book is on the way. This will not be a compilation piece like the one released a few years back, but rather a brand new full-length piece. I don’t have much to share about this just yet since I only just finished the first round draft of planning (not writing), but I’ll put out a tentative release date of summer 2020. More information on this can be expected soon.

BDC LLC

As I mentioned before, BDC Season 2 will be coming at some point; likely around November 2019, which will match up to about a year after Season 1. In the meantime, I plan on throwing on a few sales (or perhaps inter-Season shirts) and advertising them on the BDC twitter to try to get some more sales in. No specific milestones for this one either – just want to see what ends up cookin’.

Well, that’s all for now. As always, check out my personal Twitter for more content in the future!

Analysis of “Hustler Culture”

 

 

It’s true; the key to success is, for the most part, hard work. But there’s a difference between working hard and doing hard work. Just because you devote a lot of time to something doesn’t inherently mean that you’re going to perform well in that category. And yet, it seems that a lot of what the modern “hustle culture” values are long hours and back-breaking work above all.

If you’ve followed any startup community for long enough you’ve definitely come across the hustlers; individuals who are convinced that caffeinated 100-hour work weeks, constant social media blitzes, and product rushing are the keys to success in the modern business world. And while I can see that their heart comes from the right place and that this somewhat holds to be true, what we end up getting is a bunch of people walking around who are much more obnoxious than they are motivational. This is primarily because many of these so-called hustlers go around spewing the virtues of hustling while not really understanding anything that they’re saying.

This, I believe, comes from the commodification of “the hustle” based on individuals such as Gary Vaynerchuk and company. Now, I don’t actually have anything against GaryVee, and I do understand the motivational importance of his videos, but when describing the same five “hustling principles” over and over again without elaborating too much, I believe it can easily confuse people who only take those principles at their surface level without actually looking at all into “Hey, do I really need to spend 100 hours a week working on this project?” or “Hey, is answering five Quora posts a day really helping my business?”.

The problem with this I believe comes from a more intrinsic issue with people themselves. It is easier for people to just have an answer given to them rather than for them to have to say “Well, it’s more complicated than that”. People thrive on simplicity, and so if you tell them “just work a really long and stressful amount of time and you’ll reach your goals”, they’ll believe it regardless of how dumb it sounds. Now, is this innately the “hustler”’s fault? I don’t think so. But something all founders should keep in mind is that there’s no shortcut to success.

Looking into the Future of Tesla

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This is in fact not from Unsplash.

 
Ah, Tesla. Without a doubt the most controversial company I have seen in my young career. For each person who I’ve seen who is against Tesla, there is another that is for it. For this blog post, I wanted to go over Tesla in detail, discussing both sides of the argument and then coming to conclusions as to which endpoint seems more probable. If you’ve seen my podcast , you know that I’ve already discussed this very much in depth; however, I felt it was appropriate to sit down and compile all the pieces together.
 

The For Side

There’s no questioning that Tesla is in the hearts of a lot of people as a bastion not only for the automotive industry but for business in general. There is definitely a lot of clamors for Tesla to pull through as a company, and although that can equate to sales, it doesn’t necessarily equate to sales. That said, Tesla has recently pulled through into profitability, with their most recent fiscal report showcasing that the production of cars has finally caught up with demand. This is massive; most companies that move from the negative cash flow stage to the positive cash flow stage tend to go on to be in it for the long run. While one quarter of positive net income doesn’t mean sustainable positive cash flow, it still is definitely something to celebrate.
 
Another pro-Tesla argument I’ve been hearing has been the comparison of Tesla to early Amazon, where investors and other business-types were bearish on the company ended up being extraordinarily wrong. To be honest, I’m a bit skeptical of this argument. I have a hard time equating an electric car company with an internet e-commerce service. Certainly, both used unorthodox methods of growth, but I don’t know if that’s enough to equate the two. Still, time has yet to tell on this one, and it could easily end up becoming true.
 

The Against Side

One particularly interesting thing I’ve noticed about the demographics of the two sides of this argument is that the people who are against Tesla tend to have much more experience in finance and business. Does this make them more credible? Perhaps, but before we conclude that we should first consider what they’re saying in the first place.
The first big argument against Tesla is in its lofty goals. Tesla’s overall mission statement and process isn’t really something anyone has ever been able to accomplish before, and so far (with the exception of that recent report) it doesn’t really seem like they’re getting anywhere close to accomplishing it. If anything, its just created a lot of stress for Tesla employees, who are desperately trying to create a market while industry heavyweights like GM and Nissan can easily scoop in with their resources. Sure electric cars are a new market, but it’s not that outwardly of a new market, and veteran players won’t have much trouble in adapting to it.
The second argument is probably the biggest one that Tesla is currently facing; it’s the investigations. A few months ago the SEC began a civil probe into Tesla after Elon Musk claimed that funding was secured to take the company private at $420. This probe ended up being cut off short, as Musk took a generous civil settlement which lobbed both him and Tesla with a mild fine and kicked him off the Board of Directors for three years. This seems like the razing of a bullet if anything; depending on the board’s current disposition for Musk, they are likely just to put a stand-in in his place. Shortly after this occurred, however, an FBI criminal investigation was started which appears to have been heating up recently. As of last week, this investigation expanded past the take-private case and into the scrutiny of the production goals and numbers given in earnings reports in the past. From this, numerous former Tesla employees were questioned, as well as appear to still be being questioned. The fate of the FBI case remains uncertain.
 

Conclusions

Naturally, I hedge on the side of caution. I do believe that there is more fundamental evidence on the side opposing Tesla, but at the same time, I do find it hard to believe that such a large company could collapse solely due to missing a few production quotas. However, that belief only stays assuming that the investigations go nowhere, as there are plenty of large companies that have fallen overnight due to criminal investigations. So, I think as of now it’s a relatively 50/50 shot that changes based on that very investigation. It is one hundred percent true, I believe, that Tesla right now is at a crossroads that will decide its fate as a company; if it could make it past this then it can make it past anything, but if it can’t, then its likely that we aren’t going to be hearing too much from it anymore in a few years.
 
Have your own Tesla argument that wasn’t mentioned in this post? Feel free to post it in the comments below. Like this post? Then I encourage you to follow the blog as well as my Twitter, where you can keep up to date on all my new stuff.

Startup Challenge, Week 8 – The End (of the Beginning)

 

Previously on the Startup Challenge:

  • We decided that we would make a RedBubble store dedicated specifically to t-shirts called BDC (short for BOYS DONT CRY).
  • We decided that our mission statement would be to make designs for shirts as opposed to the popular notion of making shirts for designs.
  • We developed our marketing through a twitter account dedicated to BDC (@boysdontcryllc).
  • We decided to launch the week of 10/8 – 10/14

Now, for the newest updates:

 

Post Analysis

The work that we’ve been building up to for eight weeks is finally done! On Tuesday, October 9th at approximately 10:30am, the first official season of BOYS DON’T CRY LLC launched. At the end of the day I’m glad it got done – and I’m also glad that the shirts actually turned out relatively good. Anyway, since this is a pretty small launch, there’s not a lot of analysis to go over, but I did promise it and so we are going to go through a few points.

Sales and Traction

Our total number of sales for the first week of the launch is an epic, phenomenal, whopping… zero. Which, if you’ve ever launched something for the first time (like I have) more than not that’s what’s to be expected. Unless you’ve gotten previous traction (or have a budget, like I did not), more often than not you’re in it for the long game. I knew this going in, so there’s very little disappointment here – overall my prediction for December 31st is to have at least 2-3 sales.

What’s really impressive here is how much traction the BDC twitter got in such a short time. Using some simple growth strategies, BDC broke 100 followers about twice as fast as the Astukagaming twitter did. In terms of other statistics, we got about 2.4k impressions over the month (pretty standard from what I can tell) and got about a 6.6% engagement rate which is actually really nice. And yet, I still see something to be desired…

Throughout the process of BDC, I felt a little confused as to who my target audience should specifically be. I started off targeting people who were followers of Redbubble and other related shops, but these tended to be other creators and thus had much more trepidation in following and sharing BDC. So instead, I decided to go for luxury brands… people who were interested in things such as Gucci, Louis Vuitton, etc. etc. And while this gave us our current stats, I do wonder how willing these people would be to buy Redbubble designs. So… who should be the target audience of BDC?

Lessons Learned

This takes us into lessons for the next season. First of all, I think experimentation with finding perfect product fit is key here, and I don’t think anyone would disagree. Luxury brands somewhat work, because the buyers are willing and designs are relatively similar, but many members of this audience buy luxury brands solely due to prestige, not design. What I’d like to target is individuals who are love good designs but at the same time wish to go cheap.

I also think doing some tests on performing discounts in the future would be interesting – the “limited time” methodology tends to have high success in fashion and so I’d like to test it for the shop. Finally, I think continuing to build traction is also very important. Staying consistent with promotion and growth is definitely something I want to do going forward.

Looking Forward

And so while Season 2 probably won’t come any time soon (I have a heaping of other projects I have to get on), I’ll continue with passively marketing BDC as well as experimenting with the things that I had mentioned. I think overall there was a lot to get out of this project even though it wasn’t tech specific, and so I’m glad it happened.

Anyway, that’s really it for now. As always, you can continue to follow my progress by following this blog or my Twitter, which will be consistently updated to reflect new progress.

Startup Challenge, Week 7 – The Launch

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Photo by SpaceX on Unsplash

 

Previously on the Startup Challenge:

  • We decided that we would make a RedBubble store dedicated specifically to t-shirts called BDC (short for BOYS DONT CRY).
  • We decided that our mission statement would be to make designs for shirts as opposed to the popular notion of making shirts for designs.
  • We continued to develop our marketing through a twitter account dedicated to BDC (@boysdontcryllc).
  • We struggled to find some time to work on the project

Now, for the newest updates:

 

It’s all done

So this is probably two weeks overdue, but the most important part is that we finally got to the point where all shirts are now finalized! Will they look good on a person? No idea, the designs are only simulated – but they appear that they’d look good, so I think it’s now time to get passed the product stage and on to our final stage: launch.

It’s clear that my window for launch is either this week or next week. I know that, personally, I won’t be available from Friday Oct. 5 to Tuesday Oct. 9. Now the question is whether I should do it before the break or after the break…

Benefits of before: I get it out fast and wake up to the results on Tuesday. Benefits of after: I can spend even more time refining and answer any questions that might arise as soon as I get them. It seems like my natural (though limited) entrepreneurial experience is telling me to go for the latter; it might be more time to wait for a launch, but at this point I think the only person who is anxious about it is me, so the further delay shouldn’t affect anything.

As you could probably tell by the dates which I won’t be available, there will be no blog post next week. Instead, the week after that, we’ll do a post-launch roundup as well as some key takeaways and next steps for the launch.

Anyway, that’s really it for now. As always, you can continue to follow my progress by following this blog or my Twitter , which will be consistently updated to reflect new progress.