Automation 101: Learn Automation with Zapier - Automation Myths Debunked

Table of Contents

Table of ContentsPart One: Five Common Automation Workflow Myths DebunkedMyth #1: "You need a technical background!"Myth #2: "Automation tools are expensive!"Myth #3: "Automation is only for large companies!"Myth #4: "I don't have the time to learn all this. I have a business to run!"Myth #5: "It's cheaper (and quicker) to do it myself!"And that's it!Part Two: What's Your Aspirational Hourly Rate?Your time will never be worth more than you think it's worth.So… why does everybody allocate their time so poorly?The solution: set an absurdly high aspirational hourly rateSet and enforce an aspirational hourly rate.Part Three: How Automation Can Help You Grow Your Business (With Less Time and Effort)Now, imagine being able to apply the same level of automation to your online business.How automation can help you grow your business (with less time and effort)How to outline your first automationPart Four: How To Build Your First Zapier AutomationWhy do we use & recommend Zapier?How to automate your first boring task using ZapierStep #1: Create your Zapier accountStep #2: Create a new Zap from scratch (or use a pre-built template!)Step #3: Name your zap and add a descriptionStep #4: Add a trigger to your ZapStep #5: Add an action to your ZapStep #6: Document Your Zap (Pro Tip)Step #7: Turn your Zap onPart FiveToday you’ll learn how to troubleshoot the five most annoying Zapier errors.Annoying Zapier Error #1: Your Zap won't triggerAnnoying Zapier Error #2: Zap paused and not runningAnnoying Zapier Error #3: Incorrect Zap dates or timesAnnoying Zapier Error #4: Zap not sending any dataAnnoying Zapier Error #5: Zap stuck in a "Loop"Part Six: 20 Curated Zap Templates You Can Use Today for Free!General Zap TemplatesPodcasting Zap TemplatesWriting Zap TemplatesVideo Creation Zap TemplatesCourse Creation Zap TemplatesPart Seven - 3 Bonus Resources You Might Find Helpful as You Continue to Learn and Build Your “Automation Habit”And that's the main lesson we want you to walk away with: automation is a habit.In this sprit, we'd also like to share 3 bonus resources you might find helpful as you continue to learn and build your "automation habit":Now before we wrap it up, let's do a quick recap of everything we've covered:

Part One: Five Common Automation Workflow Myths Debunked

Hey 👋
In talking to other ambitious, creative entrepreneurs like you, we found something interesting:
Automation's biggest problem is people's misconceptions about it.
That's why our first goal is to dispel the five most common myths about automation.
Let's dive in.

Myth #1: "You need a technical background!"

No, you don't!
Automation can be learned without a technical background (or pre-requisite knowledge). All the tools we cover in this course are called “no-code” tools which don’t require any programming experience.

Myth #2: "Automation tools are expensive!"

We used to think this way, too.
However, your perception changes when you realize how valuable your time is (we'll talk more about this in the next lesson).
The tools we share are "beginner-friendly" and their plans range from $5 to $30/per month.
Also, they offer free plans and free trials, so you’ll be able to complete the course, and build your first automation all without spending a penny.
When you're done with the course, we hope you'll see automation as an investment instead of an expense.

Myth #3: "Automation is only for large companies!"

No matter how big or small your business is, you can use automation to accomplish more with less.
At first, it might be challenging to find and identify tasks and processes to automate, and that's normal. But after going through our course, you’ll learn everything that’s possible with automation, and your head will be spinning with ideas!
In the upcoming lessons, we'll share plenty of examples (and templates) to help you get up to speed.
Also, you'll learn how to notice potential automations everywhere - both in your work and your personal life.
Here are some common automation workflows you can begin automating today:
  • Send personalized testimonial requests
  • Personalized emails sent to new leads based on the outcome of a call
  • [EXAMPLE]: Be personable: send personalized testimonial requests and e-mails to new leads based on the outcome of a call. This helps let (potential) clients know that you care and are engaged.
  • Send your invoices, receipts, and expenses to your accounting software
  • Get notified when someone mentions your products (or keep tabs on your competitors)
  • Send your customers "thank you" emails or a product they may want based on their original purchase
  • Keep regular backups of your newsletter subscribers, essential files, and documents while you sleep
The list goes on and on…

Myth #4: "I don't have the time to learn all this. I have a business to run!"

We get that!
The course helps you understand the fundamentals. By understanding how automation works and how it can transform your business (and personal life), you'll start recognizing ways to free up your time.
Then, you can hire a VA for a fraction of the cost of hiring an expert.

Myth #5: "It's cheaper (and quicker) to do it myself!"

This myth may be true for annoying tasks you only have to do once.
But with repetitive work, automating a task is always more cost-effective than doing it yourself… So why not find out if you can automate it first? Don't worry - we will give you our exact framework to determine whether something should be automated!

And that's it!

After breaking free from these wrong beliefs, you can decide whether automation is for you. Let's retake a look at the many benefits of automation:
  • Regain control over your time
  • Increase your outputs and get superior results
  • Focus on the creative, high-impact work you love
  • And get more sales, increase your revenue, and grow your business
  • While also spending more time taking care of yourself and your loved ones
 
Before we let you go, we'd love to hear from you.
Let us know which of these caught your attention or if we missed one!
 

Part Two: What's Your Aspirational Hourly Rate?


Before we dive into the nitty-gritty of automation, there's one thing you need to wrap your head around:

Your time will never be worth more than you think it's worth.

And you won't be able to unlock the full power of automation (and delegation) until you figure that out.
Let us expand on that.
On paper, every founder and business owner in the world understands that time is their most precious asset.
But in reality, most people don't act accordingly.

So… why does everybody allocate their time so poorly?

The answer has nothing to do with productivity tools and systems, and everything to do with psychology.
Time is a vague and abstract idea. I'm sure you know your time is super valuable. But how valuable? How much is it really worth?
If you don't have a clear, concrete answer to those questions, you're going to have a hard time prioritizing, delegating, and getting high-leverage things done. You're going to quickly start drowning in busywork and struggle to spend time working on the things that do grow your business.
Why?
Because if you don't have a clear framework for valuing your time, you can't objectively tell what's worth doing and what's not.

The solution: set an absurdly high aspirational hourly rate

Once you set (and enforce) an aspirational hourly rate, this problem is solved for good. The way you allocate your time changes forever.
For example, say you decide your time is worth $1,000 an hour. Suddenly, anytime you find yourself caught up doing a time-consuming, low-leverage task -like replying to emails or manually updating a spreadsheet,- you can't help but think to yourself:
"Am I really wasting $1,000 on this!?"
Every day you're forced to face the harsh reality that you're underutilizing your time.
And when you start feeling this pain, the word "automation" becomes music to your ears.
That's when it finally clicks.
And that's why we wanted to share this framework with you first.
Now you're probably asking yourself "How do I come up with my aspirational hourly rate?"
We've got 2 resources to help with that:
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Set and enforce an aspirational hourly rate.

  1. This short post from Naval Ravikant (who originally came up with the term "aspirational hourly rate") will help you further internalize the framework
  1. And this blog post by James Clear will help you calculate and find a realistic-yet-aspirational hourly rate. (He includes a free spreadsheet template that's super helpful too, you can check it out here. Just a heads-up: the spreadsheet makes more sense -and is more useful- when you read the article!)
No worries if you can't read them right now. But make sure you block out 15-20 minutes later today to check them out and start working through them.
Remember: If you don't put a price on your time, someone else will.
And the sooner you decide how much your time is worth, the sooner you can start to regain control over it.

Part Three: How Automation Can Help You Grow Your Business (With Less Time and Effort)


Have you ever seen one of those industrial factories where there are no humans, just robots doing all the work?
 
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It's mind-blowing, huh?

Now, imagine being able to apply the same level of automation to your online business.

What if you had an army of digital assistants working for you 24/7 and taking care of all the tasks you hate - the same way robots work for us in the real world?
Oh, and the best part: every month, you'll just pay a tiny fraction of your aspirational hourly rate.
That'd be huge, right?
Well, that's exactly what you unlock when you learn to use no-code automation tools.
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How automation can help you grow your business (with less time and effort)

No matter the size of your company or the industry you're in, you can add automation to every area of your business to achieve more with less.
Here are some common examples:
Do you create content? You can automate…
  • Reposting a piece of content across all your social media channels
  • Turning your videos or podcast episodes into blog posts on your website
  • Adding all your social media posts to a database or spreadsheet
Do you run your own paid community? You can automate…
  • Sending invites and onboarding new community members
  • Inviting all your community members to new live events
  • Sharing access to Zoom recordings or other exclusive content
Want to get more sales? You can automate…
  • Following up, assigning, and keeping track of new leads
  • Sending personalized handwritten notes to your most loyal customers
  • Asking new customers for feedback and testimonials
Hate accounting? You can automate…
  • Tracking and uploading receipts to your favorite accounting software
  • Tracking payment status and emailing customers if they haven't paid
  • Collecting signatures, required paperwork, and expense reports
In the next lessons, we'll continue to share more examples (and templates). But that's enough reading for today, let's start building!

How to outline your first automation

I'm sure your mind is spinning with ideas after going through the examples above.
So let's write them down!
We've put together a free "cheat sheet" you can use to brainstorm and outline your first automation in 3 easy steps.
And that's it for today. No worries if you can't complete the exercises right now. Just make sure to block out some time to do it later today or tomorrow.

 

Part Four: How To Build Your First Zapier Automation

Today is an exciting day. You know why?
Because today we'll show you how to build your first automation.
But before we dive in, we'd like to share a quick tip that will save you hundreds hours of wasted work:
💡
Before trying to automate anything, always ask yourself: "Do I really need to do this in the first place?"
After all, automation can also become busywork if you automate the wrong things.
Now onto the tutorial.

Why do we use & recommend Zapier?

For all our course tutorials, we're going to be using Zapier.
Why Zapier?
  • Easy to use and learn
  • 100s of pre-built templates
  • Super friendly for non-technical folks
  • Can transfer existing data between apps
  • 3k+ integrations (more than any other tool)
We've tried all the popular automation tools in the market and we truly think Zapier has the perfect balance of powerful features and a friendly, easy-to-use interface.
Later in the course, we'll also share some alternative tools you could explore and try out if you're curious. But if you just want to start automating your business quickly and without headaches, Zapier is your best bet.
Now grab one of the tasks you outlined using the free cheat sheet we shared with you in our previous email and get ready to build!
(If you haven't completed the exercise yet, no worries. You can still follow along this lesson using one of our examples in the cheat sheet. But make sure you block out some time to finish the exercise later so you can actually automate one of your own tasks!)

How to automate your first boring task using Zapier

Step #1: Create your Zapier account

If you already have one, skip ahead.
If not, that's the first thing you need to do. You can use  to sign up.
💡
Zapier Pro Tip: Stick with the free plan and avoid starting your free trial until you've run out of tasks.

Step #2: Create a new Zap from scratch (or use a pre-built template!)

Another cool Zapier feature:
(Zap = Zapier automation)
So once you've picked the task you're going to automate, you can use the search bar on the top right corner to look up one of the tools involved in the automation. When you find the tool you're looking for, click on it and you'll find a page full of pre-built Zaps you can use.
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But if you'd rather just start building, there are 2 ways you can start a new Zap from scratch:
  1. You can click on the "Create Zap" button on the top left corner
  1. Or you can fill out the "create your own workflow" box that shows up at the top of your Zapier dashboard with the tools and steps you plan to automate to quickly create the "skeleton" of your Zap
 
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Step #3: Name your zap and add a description

Whether you're starting from scratch or using a template, naming your Zap is the first thing you should do.
The goal here is to be as clear and specific as possible.
A good rule of thumb:
Your Zap name should always start with a verb.
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Step #4: Add a trigger to your Zap

A trigger is the event that will initiate your Zap.
As we explained in the previous email's exercise, every automation in the world follows the same formula:
"When X happens, then do Y."
X is the trigger. Every automation needs a trigger - no matter the tool you're building it on.
To add a trigger to your Zap, you need to complete these 5 mini-steps:
  1. Choose your trigger app
  1. Select your trigger event
  1. Select your app account
  1. Set up your trigger
  1. Test your trigger
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Step #5: Add an action to your Zap

After adding a trigger, you'll need to add an action.
Remember the universal automation formula?
"When X happens, do Y."
Y is the action. This is what your Zap will do any time the trigger event happens.
To add an action to your Zap, you need to complete the same 5 mini-steps:
  1. Choose your action app
  1. Select your action event
  1. Select your app account
  1. Set up your action
  1. Test your action
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📌
Since this is a 101 tutorial, we're only going to cover single-action Zaps. But you can add up to 100 actions to your Zaps.
Now, most people will move on after adding and testing a trigger and an action to their Zap. But as you start creating more of these, your dashboard will get messy and you're going to have a hard time finding your automations. So to avoid this problem, we encourage you to organize your Zaps in folders.
So, before turning your Zap on and moving on with your life, click on the settings wheel icon on the right panel and then choose or create a new folder for your Zap.
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Step #6: Document Your Zap (Pro Tip)

Keeping a list or a database of all your Zaps is extremely helpful when you're working with a team, a virtual assistant or a client.
It's also vital for scaling, troubleshooting and improving your Zaps over time.
That's why we also encourage you to document your Zaps.
We'll show you how to do this like a pro in one of our next lessons. But if you do the cheat sheet exercise and map out all your automations before building them, you already did 80% of the work.

Step #7: Turn your Zap on

You're finally good to go!
Turn on your Zap and say goodbye to doing this task manually ever again!
After turning it on, you'll see a little popup asking if you'd like to share your Zap. Follow the instructions to grab the link of your Zap and then share it with us by replying to this email with it!
That way, we can check if you did it right and give you feedback on it. (And no worries - when you share a Zap, people can only see the specific apps and steps you added but none of your credentials or personal information!)
That's it for today!
Did you build your first Zap? Let us know in the comments!

Part Five

As you're probably starting to realize, automation is amazing.
BUT… It's not perfect.
And when you're starting out, you'll inevitably run into bugs - just like we did. Which can be frustrating if you don't know how to deal with them!

Today you’ll learn how to troubleshoot the five most annoying Zapier errors.

Let's dive into it.

Annoying Zapier Error #1: Your Zap won't trigger

Sometimes your Zap won't run as expected. When this happens, the first thing you want to do is make sure it's being triggered.
How?
  • Go to the left hand side of your Zapier dashboard and click on "Zap History."
  • Once you're on the "Zap History" page, click on "Zap Runs."
  • If your Zap is running properly, it should show up there as a "Successful" run. If not, it's because it's not getting triggered.
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To fix this issue, try these 3 steps:
  1. Go to your Zap and make sure it's turned on:
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2. If it is turned on, click on the Zap to go into the editor and retest both the trigger and the action steps of your Zap:
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3. Still not working?
  • Make sure you're using the right accounts for the apps involved in your Zap
  • If you are, try disconnecting and reconnecting your apps back.
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If none of these help, check out these recommendations by Zapier

Annoying Zapier Error #2: Zap paused and not running

Sometimes you create a Zap, you turn it on, and then you close your browser thinking you're done.
But when you come back, you realize your Zap hasn't been running.
"What the heck!?"
This problem is typically created by one of these 3 reasons:
  1. Your Zap ran into an error too many times in a row
  1. Your Zap uses a pro feature that's not included in your current plan
  1. You ran out of tasks for this month
To solve problem #1, check the task history of your Zap so you can get more details on the error.
To solve problem #2 and #3, you'll have to upgrade your plan (or wait until the next billing period so you get more tasks!).

Annoying Zapier Error #3: Incorrect Zap dates or times

Dealing with different time formats and time zones can be confusing - especially at first!
And sometimes the apps you're working with won't display a date or they will but in an incorrect format.
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To fix this:
  1. Go to your profile settings and make sure your time zone settings are correct.
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  1. If the time isn't off by a lot then it could be an issue with an incorrect format (if you're typing the date by hand).
  1. Sometimes the date formats of different apps are not compatible. So if you're using a dynamic field to map your date (if the date is being pulled from a previous step), then you might need to use the Formatter step.
You can learn more about date formats here.

Annoying Zapier Error #4: Zap not sending any data

Sometimes your Zap might seem like it's running perfectly but the action is still not being completed.
The problem? It isn't sending any data. This is a common bug when you're building Zaps involving media files.
To fix that, go to your Zap editor and make sure your fields are properly mapped
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Still not working? Go to your Zap History and check if it's pulling empty values
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If you see a bunch of curly brackets in your Zap task history, it means your Zap is indeed pulling empty values. Check out this resource to learn how to fix this issue.

Annoying Zapier Error #5: Zap stuck in a "Loop"

Lastly, the infamous "loop."
A "loop" is when one of your Zaps run over and over again from a single trigger event - until they suck up all your tasks!
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This typically happens when you have two Zaps that trigger each other. For example:
Zap 1:When a new contact is added to Salesforce, create a new contact in Google Contacts.
Zap 2:When a new contact is added to Google Contacts, create a new contact in Salesforce.
Or when the trigger and the action of a Zap are the same:
"Looping" Zap: When a new contact is added to Google Contacts, create a new contact in Google Contacts.
This ends up unintentionally firing off Zaps and eating up your tasks.
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And that's it!
Make sure you save this email so anytime you run into a bug, you can review it and find a solution quickly.
And don't hesitate to reach out if you have any questions!

Part Six: 20 Curated Zap Templates You Can Use Today for Free!

Hey!
By now, you should've built your first couple automations.
You may have even run into your first bug! (No worries, that means you're a doer!)
But what's next?
In the beginning, the biggest bottleneck is not knowing what to automate.
That's why in today's email we want to share with you 20 curated Zap templates you can use today for free!
In this list, you'll find 2 types of templates:
  • General Creator Zaps: Workflows for common creator tasks (that most of you will find useful)
  • Niche Creator Zaps: Workflows for specific creator types and mediums (podcasting, writing, course creation, etc.)
To "grab" one of these, just click on the link of the template you want and once you're redirected to the Zap's page, click on the "Try this Zap" button. After that, just plug your personal data using the Zap editor, and you'll be ready to go!
Now let's dive in!

General Zap Templates

Podcasting Zap Templates

Have you heard of Descript? If not, highly recommend checking it out. It makes editing your recordings, getting transcripts, and even creating clips for social media super easy!

Writing Zap Templates

Video Creation Zap Templates

Course Creation Zap Templates

Also, if you'd like to easily republish and repurpose your video content across YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, Twitter, and more… we highly recommend checking out Repurpose.io
Phew… And that's 20!
Lots of ideas here, huh?
Now go and try at least one of these!
And if there's any workflow you wish we'd included, please comment below and let us know. We'll get back to you with a template for it - and we'll add it to the list so other creators can use it too!
 
 

Part Seven - 3 Bonus Resources You Might Find Helpful as You Continue to Learn and Build Your “Automation Habit”


 
This has been an absolute sprint - we've covered a ton of ground in just a few days.
If you've already gone through all the previous emails and exercises, give yourself a pat in the back for the incredible work .And if you haven't yet, no worries. We'll do a quick recap at the end of this email. But remember: all the content is in your inbox, waiting for you to put it into practice!

And that's the main lesson we want you to walk away with: automation is a habit.

It's not about taking a course, spending a few days building a couple Zaps, and then forgetting about it.
It's about…
  • Learning to pay attention to the way and the things you work on
  • Constantly asking yourself how you can keep improving
  • And using these tools & frameworks to execute on your insights
All of this so you can create a deeper, more meaningful life.
Yes, you need to understand how these ideas can transform your life and your business first. (Hopefully we helped with that!) But if you don't make it a habit and take consistent action after having this mindset shift, you won't be able to leverage the power of automation to create that deeper, more meaningful live you want.
(We definitely won't cover habit building or behavioral change here. But if you'd like to use a research-based approach to build your "automation habit," I highly recommend reading Atomic Habits or The Power of Habit. This blog post is also a great preface before reading any of those books!)

In this sprit, we'd also like to share 3 bonus resources you might find helpful as you continue to learn and build your "automation habit":

  1. Want to dive deeper into Zapier? Check out Zapier University - a free, self-paced course that can complement what we covered in Busy to Leverage.
  1. Want to try and experiment with other tools? If you're looking for a simpler, more affordable tool, check out IFTTT. If you're looking for a slightly more advanced and powerful tool, check out Integromat (they recently rebranded to "Make").
  1. If you'd like to learn more about other no-code tools and how you can build with them (while also combining them with automation), check out this free course by Zapier and Makerpad.

Now before we wrap it up, let's do a quick recap of everything we've covered:

  • In email #1, we debunked the 5 most common myths keeping creators from unlocking the power of automation & living a high-leverage, stress-free life
  • In email #2, we explained why setting an aspirational hourly rate is the most important thing you should do before even thinking about automating something
  • In email #3, we shared some initial automation ideas and gave you a "cheat sheet" for brainstorming & outlining your first automation
  • In email #4, we introduced you to our favorite no-code automation tool, Zapier, and walked you through our step-by-step process for building a Zapier automation
  • In email #5, we shared a quick guide on how to fix and deal with the most common Zapier errors you might run into as you build your first automations on Zapier
  • In email #6, we shared 20 free Zap templates for common creator workflows that you can use or draw inspiration from
Last thing: if you've made it this far, we'd love to hear your feedback. Please, comment below and let us how you'd rate the course from 0 (not valuable at all) to 5 (super valuable). 🙏🙏🙏
Our goal is to create the most valuable automation fundamentals course for creators out there, so we'd also appreciate any suggestions or ideas for improvement!
Look forward to hearing your thoughts!