Apr 19, 2021

“There are never enough hours in the day to finish everything I need to do in my business!” I hear this all the time from entrepreneurs that I work with. There’s so much that they need and want to do, but when first starting out, they have limited people resources to get it all done. The key is to work smarter, not harder, and the good thing is that there are so many tools and systems available at no, or very little cost to help.


The idea of systems and automation seems so simple, but many businesses leave this out at the start, waiting until their business and their ‘to do lists’ have grown much bigger. As a start-up or micro-business, it’s easy to think that it’s not for you, or you don’t have the budget for it. This is a false economy, as it then becomes a much bigger task to put it all into place. Not only that, you spend far too much time working “in” your business rather than “on” your business.



This should be the very first system that you get into place, once you have started trading. Many make the mistake of issuing their invoices in Word or Excel. There are a few problems with this: firstly, it makes your business look small (and no one wants to look small) and you have no way of properly tracking the money that comes in and the money that goes out. Depending on where your trade license is from, you might also have a mandatory audit each year. If your books are not in order, that audit is going to cost you a lot! In the UAE you must also register for VAT if you sell more than 375,000 AED in one year – if you’re not tracking this effectively, you could run into trouble. Get yourself started at the very beginning with a good cloud-based finance system that is approved by the Federal Tax Authority. Popular ones include Xero, Quickbooks and Zoho. They all offer free trials, so find one that works best for you and your business.


Email and marketing automation

Depending on the type of business that you have, there are a number of options for automating your emails and marketing functions. A number of product-focused e-commerce businesses in the UAE use Klaviyo because it integrates with e-commerce platforms like Shopify, Shopify Plus, BigCommerce and Magento to segment customers, track website behaviour, create targeted emails and personalise the customer experience.

For non-ecommerce focused businesses, entrepreneurs love platforms such as Convert Kit, Active Campaign, MailerLite or Flodesk. Some provide better functionality than others depending on what you need your business, so it’s always good to try it out on one of their free trials first.


Creating content

I absolutely love Canva to create images for social media, brochures, presentations, proposals and even to edit short videos. The basic plan is free, or upgrade for a small fee to access the whole lot. This is one investment that’s worth it.


I’m also a big fan of Loom for recording my screen for short training courses or video explainers. It’s so much easier to hit record and explain something visually rather than trying to explain the same thing with just words.


I live, eat, breathe and sleep Kajabi at that moment. It’s the platform my companies’ websites are on and it powers online learning, videos and downloads behind the scenes. I can set up separate offerings for my clients, run webinars and create and sell products – all in one place. It looks expensive at first glance, but if you add up all of the add ons you’d need for something similar in WordPress, Kajabi does bring you value for money.


Social media scheduling

No one has time to post on their social media accounts every day, while still trying to run a business. The best way to go about this is to batch your content in advance, so plan out and write your content for the next 30 days. Once you’ve done this, you can plug it all into a scheduling platform. There are many out there, ranging from free to expensive depending on what you want to do with it and how many platforms you post across. Popular ones at the moment include: Facebook Creator Studio (for Facebook and Instagram posts); Planoly; Canva; and Hootsuite.


Getting paid

Talk to any entrepreneur and they’ll tell you one of their biggest frustrations is not getting paid on time or having to chase payments. I absolutely love Zbooni, especially if you want to collect money fast from a client. I recently had a client tell me he could pay me right away by credit card, or in around three months if the invoice needed to be submitted to his company for payment. Guess which option I chose?! If you don’t have Zbooni, you can download the app and get started charging your clients within minutes.


Stripe is now available for all businesses in the UAE. This is a game-changer because it properly integrates with the big international platforms that many SMEs use to power their businesses with. No more paying for custom integrations for your platform – just enter your Stripe  API code and you’re ready to go!


General organisation

Many entrepreneurs struggle to stay on top of all the work they have, but a good old organisational system can help. Some of our favourites include:

  • Calendly is an absolute time saver for booking meetings – it will not only allow people to choose their own meeting time, but it will also create a meeting in Zoom, and send automated follow-up emails afterwards
  • Trello or Asana are great platforms for staying on top of tasks and including the whole team in project management – the best part is that it’s free for the basic plan
  • Monday is another project management tool that comes at a cost, but a number of SMEs find that it’s a great tool to get everyone organised and on-task in the business
  • If you don’t like to type, Otter is a free transcription tool that will have your voice notes down on the page in a matter of minutes!
  • Zapier is an app that integrates all of your apps together – so for example if someone buys a product from your website and your website platform doesn’t automatically create an invoice in your finance system, Zapier creates a “zap” between your website and your finance system to automatically generate your invoice in your accounting software.


These are just some of the automations that I personally use within my companies. These are great tools for entrepreneurs to use to speed up their processes and give them back more time to work on their businesses.