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There are some apps that you don’t JUST use. Well, maybe you’re just a casual user at first.
But then the more you use the app, the more you start to notice cool things. You keep finding new things to do, new ways you can use it.
It just keeps getting more and more useful.
And you can’t keep your mouth shut about it.
You start to talk about this app like it’s your new love interest. 😍
“Omg, look at what Zapier did yesterday!”
“Zapier is seriously so amazing, I don’t know what I would do without them.”
“Can you believe how much better my life is now that Zapier is in it?”
And hey, committing to that app for the rest of your life actually sounds a lot less scary than committing to another person. 😉
For me, one of the first apps that hit me this hard was Zapier.
If you’ve spoken to me about workflow automation for more than 30 seconds, you probably already know this.
I love all automation and productivity tools – anything that creates more time for my business is boss, in my book. And Zapier is one of the best.
So today, we’re going to talk about what it is, how to use it, and why it’s one of the best online biz tools for solopreneurs like yourself.
And if you’d prefer a video walkthrough, you can watch it right here:
Jump to a specific section:
- What is Zapier?
- Zapier pricing: free vs. paid
- Why Zapier rocks SO hard
- How to use Zapier
- Learning the Zapier language & terminology
- Creating your first zap
- Browsing plug-and-play zaps
- Best Zapier zaps and integrations (with tools you’re already using)
- Try advanced automation with Zapier’s built-in apps
Note: this post contains affiliate links for products that I lurve lots and lots.The Ultimate Guide to Automating Your Business With ZapierClick To Tweet
What Is Zapier?
Let’s start with the most basic question: what is Zapier (other than magic)?
In simple terms, Zapier lets all your other business tools talk to each other better. 😀
It connects to the APIs of over 1,000 business tools and lets you build automated processes with them.
Since you’re using a third-party tool to connect and automate everything, the workflows you can build are WAY more awesome than most of the integrations in the tools themselves.
If you’ve ever used IFTTT, it’s super similar to that!
But IFTTT is pretty focused on personal apps and the internet of things, and Zapier is all about business.
I like to think of Zapier as IFTTT in a suit and tie…with a hat and briefcase like my penguin friend here:
Not only is Zapier more biz-focused than IFTTT, it’s a gazillion times more advanced (and that’s saying something – I LOVE IFTTT).
IFTTT only lets you automate one action at a time with simple “if this, then that” statements. But Zapier lets you string multiple actions together to build multi-step zap workflows. Think of it like, “if this, then that and that and that and that.”
(If you remember the drive-thru speaker scene in Dude, Where’s My Car?, it’s like that! 😝)
Zapier Pricing: Free vs. Paid
Like all the awesome things in life, Zapier can’t be completely free. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
While they do have a free plan, I recommend upgrading.
I tell Build Your Own VA students that Zapier is the best $20/month you can possibly spend in your business, especially when you’re in the solopreneur stages of entrepreneurship.
With the smallest paid plan starting at $20/month, it’s no more than your average business software subscription. And while the pricing is standard, what you can do with it isn’t. 💪
Because when you upgrade your Zapier account, you also upgrade every. single. other. tool. you integrate it with. And as I mentioned before, that’s over 1,000 possible apps.
Since its whole purpose is automating *other* tools, it spreads productive karma through the zaps you create.
It’s like adding extra features to ConvertKit, Teachable, MailChimp, etc. without upgrading all of those accounts individually. So really, it can save you money.
There have literally been times I’ve been able to downgrade other software plans after creating Zapier zaps that replicated the features I needed. 🤓
Most solopreneurs like yourself will only need a free or starter plan. Here’s a breakdown of the pricing to see if you’d want a free or paid plan to start with:
Zapier Free Plan Features
- Run 5 zaps (automations) at a time
- Automate 100 tasks/actions per month
- Connect any of the basic app integrations
Zapier Starter Plan Features
- Run 20 zaps (automations) at a time
- Automate 1,000 tasks/actions per month
- Connect with both basic and premium app integrations
- Build multi-step automations
Why Zapier Rocks 🤘
So, when there’s already IFTTT and your apps do so many things themselves, why do you need to bother with Zapier anyway?
It’s so much smarter and more advanced 🤓
While I always check IFTTT first to see if something can be automated for free, Zapier is the backup I rely on for fancy, advanced stuff.
Whereas with free automation tools, you log in and just hope you can slap something together, with Zapier you know there’s like a 99% chance you’ll be able to make manipulate the tools you need.
It connects to more business apps than any of its alternatives, frequently offers more in the way of triggers and actions, and gives you a lot more customization options and types of automated actions.
Automate entire processes with one workflow
If you have a paid Zapier account, the automations you can create are nothing like what you’re limited to with IFTTT, where they literally follow “if this, then that.”
In Zapier, you can automate entire processes instead of a single task, and include advanced options like multi-step actions, filters, searches, and even webhooks.
When you combine multi-step automations with filters and other add-ons, Zapier zaps can be more like, “if this thing happens at the same time as this or this other thing, then do that this certain way. But if these other things happen, then do this other action.”
It’s hard to follow when you write it out like that, but it’s really simple once you get started.
There are crazy helpful resources to help you out
Even though Zapier’s more advanced and potentially harder to navigate than other apps, in reality it’s easier to learn because of the resources available. That’s because their team has put together an incredible amount of resources to help you out.
For every connected app, there’s a landing page in your dashboard with zap ideas and information on apps they’re commonly used with.
Their blog also goes really in depth into using the apps you can connect to the tool. Their resource center has tons of ebooks on using tech better for your job, and they have an entire separate blog for product news and updates.
Plus, I have a whole video training course on Zapier and other automation powerhouses.
So yeah, you won’t have any trouble finding resources to get started easily. 😎
How to Use Zapier: Leaving for the Automation Station
I’ve got you totally convinced and excited, don’t I?! I knew it! I can talk almost anyone into trying Zapier (including a friend of my mom, true story).
So let’s go over what you need to get started.
Learning the Language: Zapier Terminology
All apps have their own language to the extent.
Like how you retweet on Twitter but share on Facebook and reblog on Tumblr.
Here are the words you need to know to understand your Zapier dashboard and setup wizard:
- Zap: a full Zapier automation from start to finish, however many steps it is.
- App: a software or tool that you connect to Zapier, like MailChimp, Google Sheets, or Asana.
- Trigger: the event or action that starts off your zap, like getting a new email in Gmail or a new sale in Thrivecart.
- Action: an automated…well…action performed by Zapier after a zap is triggered.
- Multi-step zap: a Zap with one trigger but multiple actions.
Creating Your First Zap
Here’s a walkthrough of the editor you use to create each zap:
I love how many “helpers” the zap editor has.
There’s detailed explanations and examples that help you fill out the different fields correctly, so that even if you’ve never automated anything before you can figure it out.
It also tests your zap at every step to avoid confusing troubleshooting and trying to figure out which step is setup wrong if your zap’s not working.
Browsing Plug-and-Play Zaps
Creating a zap is easy, but you don’t even need to create one yourself to get started. There’s a HUGE library of plug-and-play zaps on the website that you can customize to your own work.
If you look at the above screenshot, that’s 186 popular zaps *that use Airtable* alone.
Their library is so massive that there’s always a good chance you can find the automation you need without creating it yourself.
My Favorite Zapier Integrations (With Apps You’re Already Using)
The best thing about Zapier is how well fits into your existing business processes. You can work it into your established processes and connect it to the tools you already use. It connects to over 500 apps, after all.
Here are some of the apps I’ll bet you’re already using to run your solo business, and how you can automate them with Zapier.The best thing about Zapier is how well fits into your existing business processes. Here's how it works with the apps you're already using.Click To Tweet
Since I launched my first online course in 2016, Teachable’s been involved in most of the zaps I’ve played with. My courses are tied to so many other parts of my business that having them “talk” to each other easily is crucial.
For example, I like getting Slack notifications when new students join my programs. 💰 I also need to then add the new student to my ConvertKit account so they can start receiving their onboarding sequence.
Both can be done automatically, so I don’t need to pause my latest Netflix binge every time I make a new sale:
You can use Teachable to trigger zaps based on new sales, students completing specific courses and lessons, and more. You can also use Zapier zaps to enroll users in courses based on actions and triggers from other apps.
ConvertKit integrates with a lot of other tools professional bloggers use, but it’s still a fairly new app in the email space. It’s also a bootstrapped team, and they have other things to build besides integrations.
All that makes ConvertKit’s Zapier integration really handy. It had already saved me hours of time within my first few weeks of switching to the tool back in 2016. For example, can you even remember the last time you backed up your email list? 🤔
A simple multi-step Zapier zap can automatically add new subscribers to a Google Sheets spreadsheet (and remove them when they unsubscribe), so you have a spreadsheet that’s a real-time, living accurate backup.
Sure, Slack meant as a team chat app, and you may not have your squad built yet. But let’s be real, everyone talks to themselves. There’s no reason you can’t have a Slack team of one. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
And since it’s so powerful to begin with, the Zapier Slack integration has pretty endless possibilities.
For example, I’ve built a little notification dashboard in my Slack team that streamlines notifications and alerts from other apps, so my VA and I don’t need to check those individual apps as frequently.
Plus, if you manage a community on Slack – whether for your team, your mastermind, or your membership community – you should set up some zaps to handle any regular reminders or conversation starters.
For example, the zap above automatically welcomes to members to a team in a #general channel – perfect for prompting people to introduce themselves after they automatically add themselves to your team (oops, that’s a whole other post!).
Asana is one of the few project management tools loved equally by solopreneurs, startups, and bigger companies. My boyfriend’s company even uses it!
And automating productivity apps with Zapier are some of the most powerful use cases out there. It’s when your project management tools start managing themselves, that it’s really like you have a robot virtual assistant (the inspiration for Build Your Own VA‘s name 😝).
You can use Zapier to connect Asana – where you manage work – to the tools you actually do the work in. For example, when your team is talking in Slack and an action item comes up in conversation, you can “star” the message to create a task in your team to-do list.
5. G Suite and Google Drive
Can’t forget good ole’ Google.
Think of how often you get an email about an in-progress task or project, or have a to-do that involves a Google Sheet. You can streamline most of that.
Look at how I automatically add feedback emails about my course to my Trello list of things for everything course-related:
With this, I can automatically add them to course plans, instead of switching between multiple apps to manually do so.
Raise your hand if you love Trello! 👋
Their organized, visual layout is great for “storing” information from other tools, like Gmail, Typeform, or Google Sheets. It’s like creating a digital bulletin board, so I love using it to create info hubs for things like my courses and products.
For example, I use Typeform to collect testimonials from clients and students. It’s easy to send them a link to my pretty and simple form there.
But I’d prefer something simpler than checking the results area in Typeform every time I want to quote or read off a testimonial in other marketing copy.
So a simple Zapier zap adds info from testimonials to Trello, where I store important info for all products and services:
Whoah! Okay. The last Zapier integration I want to talk about is Airtable. I’ll make it quick.
If you use tools like Trello, Google Sheets, Asana, etc. Airtable is like a DIY productivity tool that combines features from all of them. Yeah, it’s kinda amazing. 🤓
Just using Airtable alone streamlines so many of your systems and processes. So automating it with Zapier basically lets you build your own app for your business. For example, instead of using PR software to create a portfolio of all my guest posts, PR coverage, and other mentions, I have multiple zaps powering a portfolio base:
I also use Airtable bases as the CRM for my freelancing business, the member directory for the Work Brighter Clubhouse, my editorial calendar, and more. Almost every base has at least one automation connected to it. 🤓
Go Advanced With Automation With Zapier’s Built-In Apps
Hold on! Before you go running to set up new automations, there’s one more thing we need to talk about.
In addition to integration with over 1,000 other business apps, Zapier has also created more than 20 mini-apps inside Zapier that you can use in your zaps. 😮
Here’s a quick overview of Zapier’s built-in apps:
Sometimes you’ll get zap errors and neither you nor Zapier can figure out why. For this, app status is a handy tool.
This app monitors the external apps used in your different Zapier zaps for their status, so when an error occurs in your zap, you get notified if one of the apps is the source.
Email by Zapier
Oh yes, my friend. This is the exciting thing it sounds like!
The Zapier email app lets you send and receive emails through a special email address, without another third-party email tool. It’s great for quick one-off actions that aren’t necessary to keep in your full email marketing or outreach platform.
For example, you can send things to your special email address to trigger zaps. Zaps can also send quick notification emails on your behalf based on actions in other zaps.
SMS by Zapier
If automatic email reminders sounded cool, what do you think of automatic text messages? 🤔
When you want to be absolutely positive you receive a notification, like for an email from a VIP client, the SMS channel is perfect. You can call or text yourself to break through the noise of all the other app notifications.
The Zapier webhooks integration lets you work with apps that may not integrate with Zapier directly. If you can use their API to send or receive webhooks, there’s still a chance.
If this all sounds complicated, don’t worry. The Zapier integration doesn’t require learning the ins and outs of APIs and webhooks, that’s the beauty of it!
Just know that if an app or tool doesn’t connect to Zapier directly but you see webhook info in the help info, you can probably still automate it! 🙌
RSS is a way of creating feeds of content online – once again, you don’t need to understand the nitty gritty to use Zapier with it.
You can use the Zapier RSS integration to create simple feeds from different channels. For example, I use a Zap that combines the RSS feeds from my blog and YouTube channel to create one feed of all my content.
The scheduling app lets you trigger Zapier zaps on a certain schedule.
For example, if you want a zap to trigger every day at 10am, this app lets you do so directly and succinctly. Otherwise, you would need workarounds to trigger the schedule from a third tool.
IMAP and SMTP by Zapier
IMAP and SMTP are two specific ways of delivering email. Once again, the beauty of Zapier is that you don’t need to understand the details.
With this integration, you can connect to certain email services and platforms that don’t connect to the regular email app.
Email parsers will read your incoming email and pull important data from them, but they can be expensive and complicated to use. Especially if you’re not tech savvy!
But the built-in Zapier email parser works with your existing apps and the interface you’re already familiar with.
By forwarding your emails to the Zapier parser, you can extract relevant info before sending it through the rest of a zap.
Weather by Zapier
Thanks to an integration with the Dark Sky weather app, you can use this Zapier app to trigger zaps based on weather forecasts in a given location. 🌦
Zapier isn’t just for people who want to automate instead of coding. It’s also a great supplement for developer’s building their own automations.
Formatter by Zapier
So Zapier’s magic is that it lets different apps talk to each other. But what if they’re speaking different languages? 🤔
No worries! Simply bring in a translator. 💁🏻
The Zapier formatter app does exactly that – reformats and “translates” data used in your zaps before moving it from one tool to another.
This does exactly what it sounds like. Add a break in your zap’s flow by adding a “delay” step.
Zapier filters let you narrow down your triggers to more specific qualifications than you might have in the trigger setup itself. It’s great for customizing zaps even further.
Translate by Zapier
So we talked about figurative translators with the formatter app.
But Zapier *also* has a LITERAL TRANSLATOR app. It works with over 100 languages!
Storage by Zapier
Now, don’t go cancelling your Dropbox account yet, but you can store small amounts of data in Zapier itself to pull for use in different zaps.
Digest is a way to create digests of triggers from other apps. It’s great if you don’t want a zap to fire an action *every* time a trigger goes off.
For example, I have Zapier digest zap that notifies me of new ConvertKit subscribers once a day. It lists them all at once, because it would be way too overwhelming to receive the notifications one-by-one all day!
If you’re in marketing or sales, you might score or qualify the leads that come in through different online sources. Zapier can help you with this, too!
OMG. This lets you create Zapier zaps *to manage your Zapier account.* It’s so meta and so cool.
For example, when an zap malfunctions, you can trigger different actions in other tools. You can also automatically turn it off until you can troubleshoot.
If you’re using automation with link shortening tools for social media or click tracking, you can streamline things even more. Try using Zapier itself as your URL shortener.
Paths by Zapier
Paths is a new Zapier feature that lets you create zaps that don’t just have multiple steps, but also multiple branches.
So think of creating multiple filters and workflows within one zap. 😮
Push by Zapier
Push is Zapier’s Chrome plugin that lets you trigger Zapier zaps with a single click…or push. 😉
Forget your troubles, come on, get zappy ⚡️
Countless other solopreneurs and business owners have told me they thought they were pretty productive. UNTIL they started using Zapier and tools like it. 🤘
If you want more help getting started with Zapier, and even more Zapier zaps hand-picked for you, you might wanna check out my course, Build Your Own VA.
You’ll learn how to create more time and less to-dos for your online biz using workflow automation. 🤖
Do you already use Zapier in your workflows? Share your favorite zap in the comments if you do!
Download your free Zapier cheat sheet to get started saving time and automating today!
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Note: this post was originally published in 2016 on BrittanyBerger.com and has been updated with new info!