How I cut costs for my startups

Do not index
Do not index
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As you probably know, I don’t run just one project. I run several projects, you might say I run a portfolio of tech startups.
One benefit of doing that is that I can use the same tools to run those products and then share the cost of a those between all of the products.
That’s not what we are talking about in this post. Today we are talking about automation.
I was recently listening to a podcast of Ari Meisel, a productivity expert, and he said that his process for delegating is simple: optimize the procedure, automate it, delegate it.
That really made me think about one thing I was doing wrong. I was outsourcing a lot, just because it was easy and convenient. Oh, I love convenience!
Instead, the rule I set for myself now is: outsource last.
Because I’m a dev, I can automate pretty much everything a VA does. Yes, it requires a little bit of work upfront on my side, but it saves me a lot of money in the long run.

How I automated blogging

Part of our technology on one of my startups, Cart, is fetching and filtering news related to e-commerce.
Then, the technology labels news for context through machine learning. For example a news about hiring might signal that the company is expanding.
My idea was producing a blog post per week using the news, and originally I was planning to outsource the task. Instead, I applied my own rule and decided to automate it first, and delegate it if not possible.
So, here is what I came up with: every Sunday at 10am the cronjob takes all of the news that the tool detected in that week and automatically publishes the blog post. Also, it decides on a “main story” to feature, it scrapes a longer description of it, an image for it and the meta keywords of the article.
This posts are 100% computer-generated. While I know they won’t probably do much for SEO purposes, the main goal is actually just bring more current users back onto the platform, keeping the product top of mind. That’s why I’m also planning to automate sends of these blog posts to our newsletter.
If you are curious, you can see the blog post the tool auto-published last week, here.

How I went from having 3 VAs to having 15+ VAs, for half of the cost

Now, let’s talk about outsourcing. Sometimes, you just can’t automate tasks. Or maybe, you don’t want to.
For me, one task that I don’t want to be automated by a computer is support. I like that prospective buyers and current customers can talk to a real person, and having that personal touch.
One thing you need to outsource properly is: good standard operating procedures (SOPs). I’m pretty OCD about those, and maybe I will write another blog post regarding just how to write good SOPs.
Previously, I had 3 dedicated VAs doing 8-hours shifts to cover 24-hours from Monday to Friday but I wanted to cover the week-ends, too. And, I really wanted to cut costs.
So, how I did it?
My realization was that you achieve true outsourcing power when a specific task can be performed by a different person every time.
Now, as I said, I had dedicated VAs so basically the same people where doing support every time. What if I changed that?
It turns out you can scale people, deliver a better service and *not* scale costs.
Here is what I did: I switched to an on-demand model. While I still have some dedicated VAs for other work, I now have a team of 15 VAs standing by and waiting for support requests to come via the chat app on all of my products.
If you are curious, VAs are provided by a service called Magic, which I recommend. A great selling point is that it costs only $40/m to have access to those VAs and then cents on the dollar for every active minute they work.
Now we can offer a 7 days/week 24-hours support.
I also automated part of the work so that the agent doesn’t have to be logged in the chat system we use ( all the time. They receive a notification on Slack every time someone requests support. You can see a screenshot of our Slack below.
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I hope this post was helpful and hopefully, you will start automating something in your business, too.
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Thanks for reading,
Mike Rubini

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Mike Rubini