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As your business expands, it’s natural that it will need more management.
It’s also natural that you might begin to find yourself a bit short of time for doing the things you do best because you’re spending so much time on that management.
Processes that used to seem efficient may begin to take up huge amounts of time. I can sympathize with anyone who’s come back after a weekend and taken until midday Tuesday just to clear their emails. It’s just not a sustainable way of managing the workflow.
One Solution: A Business Administrator
One option that sounds great at face value is hiring a business administrator to manage everything for you, the idea being that you’re left free to be productive and make money. A business administrator could handle emails, recruiting, PR and social media, any staff or affiliate management, keep an eye on competitors and, if you’re lucky (and in the same office), maybe even have five minutes spare to make you a cup of coffee.
The catch? A business administrator is an extra employee, and with all that on their plate you’re going to need to find someone good, train them up extensively and keep them (in part with a healthy salary). That’s potentially quite a big drain on your resources, and the time spent going through the recruitment process, then – if you find someone at all suitable – getting their expertise to a level similar to your own is going to be inordinately long.
That’s not to say that a business administrator isn’t the way to go. If you choose to employ someone extra, though, you do need to make sure it’s going to be a worthwhile investment, with an above-living-wage salary being worth the time you free up in the long run. It wouldn’t be fair or sensible to take someone on, train them and then notice two months in that you’re not making enough extra for their employment to be worthwhile.
So what’s the solution? WordPress and its multiplicity of developers come to the rescue once again! WordPress plugins can massively speed up your administration tasks (often at no extra cost). Using plugins rather than hiring someone should save you the money on employment costs and relevant taxes; you’ll also be doing it yourself still, so whilst the time commitment to the administration is massively reduced, you’ll retain control; because you’re staying in the driving seat, there’s also no need for extensive training to create another expert in your field if you use plugins.
The 8 Plugins That Can Replace a Business Administrator
There are plenty of different uses for business administrators, so this post will cover a few plugins for each of a few sections that should be able to negate the need for a business administrator.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems are a great way to keep on top of general administrative duties. No longer do you need to sieve through hundreds of Outlook contacts then trawl through client folders to find elusive information; your CRM will store everything you need to know in one place.
Enter WP-CRM, a WordPress-based CRM available for free in the WordPress plugin repository.
As CRM plugins go, WP-CRM is one of the most full-featured, with advanced user management features, including through shortcodes for front end user interactions. The plugin creates a CRM that enables you to store notes and details about users or companies, set up meetings and reminders, and manage user roles and capabilities. Meanwhile, users can interact through multiple customizable shortcode forms, creating new user accounts where necessary for new leads being among its most powerful features.
Any other messages can also be submitted on the front end, although account management means integrated control panels for users can be used as well.
The plugin provides basic CRM functionality, and although a bespoke CRM could be used to offer more complex features, there are also premium add-ons available that can enhance the system. Furthermore, many settings can be changed within the plugin to achieve specific goals.
Another option is WP Issues CRM, also free in the repository.
WP Issues CRM does much the same as WP-CRM on the back end, although arguably it’s a bit easier to find and view important information about clients (who can be assigned to specific staff users, which is useful). The power of the forms isn’t as great, but “Issues” can be created from the back end and attached to various clients. These can be marked “Pro” or “Con” and statistics tracked over a long period of time.
Personal details for clients are also stored, and more fields can be added easily. Under Case Management settings, clients can also be marked “Open” or “Closed” easily, meaning the most important records can be accessed. Historical details are stored too, and are visibly old – useful for compliance with European Data Protection legislation, which may require removal after certain periods of time.
Overall, the WP Issues CRM will feel nicer to use for you, but it might not seem as powerful for clients, especially if you have anything else like management panels on your WordPress back end for them to access.
A CRM can help you to manage your activities and client details and whilst, as noted, a bespoke solution might be necessary for the most complex operations, WP-CRM and WP Issues CRM are pretty flexible solutions and should be sufficient for most people.
Email newsletters are a bog-standard part of many businesses, but putting them together to a high standard can take a lot of time. Using WordPress (especially with all your lovely client details from your CRM!) can speed up the process, with one of a number of plugins making content easy to embed and designs quick to replicate.
One understandably popular choice is MailPoet Newsletters, freely available from the WordPress Plugin repository.
MailPoet has an easy drag-and-drop editor and a themes system, making the creation of professional-looking newsletters exceptionally easy. Newsletter templates can be duplicated once you’ve made them and recent posts can be integrated quickly if you want (furthermore, a newsletter can be triggered to create and send itself automatically, for instance with new posts).
Users can be split into multiple different groups, to which certain newsletters can be sent. If you like, users can be allowed to manage their own groups; shortcodes are provided to embed mailing list sign up forms.
MailPoet also gives a quick feedback view, showing the percentage of users who open, click upon the email and unsubscribe as a result. More detailed lists can also be found.
There are plenty of email options to configure, but the plugin does most of the work and managing your subscribers is made easy, letting you keep customers engaged without spending huge amounts of time managing mailing lists and creating newsletter designs and filling out templates yourself.
One nice, quick option for managing emails is Automattic’s Jetpack plugin and its Subscription module.
In case you haven’t used it before, it enables you to put a subscription form on your site via a widget. Emails are then sent whenever you make a new post. It’s pretty simple, so the styling remains the same (although you can change some of the content, such as what is sent when someone signs up) and you can’t send emails without making a post. Nevertheless, it’s a simple and automated system.
The Newsletter Plugin is a more advanced option, but once set up will also save time with its pre-set design templates and easy integration of social media and other important information.
A huge number of options are available to configure with subscription forms (possible to embed via both widgets and shortcode), mailing preferences and content locking, along with email statistics and the possibility of expanding this functionality with premium extensions. Setting up mail to send from your own server can be a little tricky depending on the host, so the plugin also provides a diagnostics tool.
That’s all setup, though – the point in this post is to save time; in the long run, The Newsletter Plugin really can do that. Its social media integration is quick, while preset themes are available. It’s also possible to create custom themes to reuse for every email, improving efficiency. Targeting (e.g. by gender), scheduling and tracking options are available for each newsletter, but once it’s set up, the plugin can be used to send professional-looking emails to subscribers (also handled well by the plugin) without much fuss.
Depending on what sort of whole-organization emails you want to be sending to clients or readers, using a plugin like those listed above can speed up your task, giving you more time and hopefully removing the necessity of hiring someone else to manage all these contacts and communication for you.
Invoicing is pretty essential for most businesses for obvious reasons. Managing every invoice can be a time-consuming pain if you’re doing it manually and would almost certainly be something you might like to delegate to someone helping you to manage things. It’s possible to delegate to WordPress instead, though, saving you money (and still reducing time spent, hopefully).
The first invoicing plugin to recommend also fits in very nicely with WP-CRM, as recommended earlier. WP-Invoice adds advanced invoicing functionality to your WordPress installation.
With multiple payment methods configurable, it’ll probably integrate with the systems you already use and because it works with WP-CRM, you can manage your users with both plugins together.
The plugin enables the creation of invoices from the WordPress back end, payable on the front end. They can be tracked by paid and unpaid, most valuable clients and other measures; the plugin also includes some pretty pie charts, which is always a bonus. It also includes functionality to send emails, which can be auto-generated (but still edited before sending in case there’s anything to change for a particular client), when invoicing, as reminders, etc.
Other settings include saving common items (e.g. “Monthly Hosting @ $50”) to insert quickly onto invoices, allowing or disallowing partial payment, creating new email templates for different circumstances (e.g. a final request for payment email could be generated), configuring currencies and taxes, and using Google Analytics tracking.
There’s plenty to do with WP-Invoice, but the task it effectively performs is simple enough: it makes invoicing simple to keep on top of, from creation to reminders and payment. Of course, it also makes the web-based invoices look professional; branded for your clients.
If you’re looking for something very quick to set up, Smart Invoice and Billing Management Plugin might float your boat.
With a simple CRM included (storing customer name, email and business), the plugin allows the invoicing of single services and payment via PayPal. The invoice is emailed to the individual and reminders can be sent via the Invoice Status panel, which shows paid and unpaid invoices separately for easy differentiation.
Sprout Invoices also provides a CRM in addition to invoicing (into which details from other WordPress CRMs can be imported) but provides a far more comprehensive invoicing system.
Projects can be created for invoices to be attributed to, while global settings like payment terms can also be created.
Like WP-Invoice, the invoices (and estimates) can be found on the front end of the installation. Templates can be created, as can notes, and many editable emails are available to configure.
Sprout Invoices, of all invoicing plugins, provides one of the easiest, most comprehensive CRM/invoicing systems within WordPress.
Any invoicing plugin should keep the time you spend chasing clients for payment to a minimum with helpful automation and clear details and notes in one location. Far from needing additional help managing invoices, you should find it easy once you’ve installed one of these plugins.
There are a lot of plugins available to perform business tasks; if there’s something I haven’t mentioned that you’d like to look into, chances are you might be able to find it in the WordPress plugins repository.
While there’s no harm in continuing to consider employing a business administrator, hopefully this post has shown you that there are other ways to maximize your time for development and other important tasks simply by streamlining your workflow. As I noted at the beginning of this post, if it saves you money to automate without recruiting, training and employing a new person, why wouldn’t you want to do it? Just be careful that if you do decide to employ someone, that it’s financially effective and you don’t end up having to let them go after a brief period: it’s not a good use of your time, nor is it fair on them.
The best of luck in whichever direction you hope to take your business: hopefully some of these plugins will feature!
Image Credit: venimo / shutterstock.com