I never set out to build a robot army. But today, there are at least a dozen little robots who do my bidding on a daily basis. Between managing my personal life and running my Micro-SaaS Business (Storemapper), my robot army does drudgery while I sleep and makes my life a little easier and more productive. Here’s how you can build one yourself. In Part 1 I’m just going to look at the robots that required no coding to set up, later I’ll do a post about all the little custom scripts I’ve got running on Heroku Scheduler.
If This Then That (IFTTT)
IFTTT is a great tool for automating interactions between various apps. I use it to automatically re-post my Instagram photos to Twitter. I know Instagram has a native “share to Twitter” option but it sucks. It doesn’t include the actual image (just a link back to Instagram). This IFTTT recipe will automatically copy your Instagram photos, re-post the native image to Twitter and include a link back to convert some of your Twitter following to Instagram. This little photo robot is the only reason I actually started using Instagram back in the day when I otherwise couldn’t be bothered to post photos to multiple social feeds.
A much more powerful use IFTTT is to use the RSS feed trigger to automatically date mine Craigslist. This is how I’ve found all my apartments and it saves a mountain of time. First you set up your exact search. Then add “&format=rss” to the end of the URL. This converts the search into an RSS feed. Use that RSS feed as a trigger in IFTTT and set it up to email you whenever a new item is in the feed. This way you will automatically get an email notification whenever a new posting matches your search. You can create a response template and respond to tons of postings in a few minutes per day. Works like a charm.
Zapier is a lot like IFTTT but its robots are a little more focused on business-y things. ZapBots help me automate all kinds of little tasks like copying new customers from Stripe (our payment processor) to Mailchimp. I often use Zapier to test out new features that I later write code for and to sync data between various apps that I use to run my business.
Zapier can be an incredibly powerful tool when you are just starting a new business. You can build an entire first version of a service, including collecting payments, by string together a few of the 500+ apps Zapier supports. I’m currently helping a friend setup a no-coding-required online side business and will be posting the case study for that in the near future.
FileThis is a simple useful app that can automatically log in to your bank accounts (an mobile phone and utilities, etc) and download your statements. I use it to download my business bank statements to Dropbox. Then I have Zapier automatically forward new statements to my bookkeeper at Bench. This essentially fully automates bookkeeping for my business. I tried messing around with Quickbooks and alternatives but I just hate the actual act of bookkeeping so much that I never could get good at it. Now I just get an email once a month telling me my books are done and to please review them. Magic!
Speaking of handy business robots. Stunning is an app that automates dunning which is a fancy word for following up on failed payments. Our customers credit cards are constantly failing for various reasons (expired cards, fraud events, etc) and Stunning sends automated emails and in-app reminders to our customers until they update their card on file. Saves me hours a month.
Amy, my meeting scheduler
Amy is a great little robot that I just added to the team. Amy, from X.ai, is an AI email robot that schedules meetings. Just CC email@example.com on an email and she will follow up, negotiate a meeting time/location and put it on your calendar. Works like magic.