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Thinking About Webinar Software

About a month ago I went in a quest to find the perfect webinar software. I create a spreadsheet and everything1.

But at CEX, I had a great conversation with Luria Petrucci of Live Stream Pros and I asked her, “What do you think is the best way to run a webinar?”

Now before I tell you what she said2, I want to tell you how I’ve been doing it:

  1. Create a new landing page in ConvertKit associated with the webinar
  2. Create the calendar invite, Thank You page, and reminder/follow-up emails manually.
  3. Create a new Live Stream on YouTube for the “webinar” link
  4. Use eCamm Live to run the webinar.

Now the things I like about this process:

  1. eCamm Live
  2. The fact that YouTube is free

I don’t like anything else, really. That’s why I was looking at other solutions.

OK OK but what did Luria say?

She said she likes Zoom.

Just plain old Zoom meetings, not even the “webinar” plan.

Why?

Because she likes the interaction. She likes that you can unmute people and have them participate. That you can see everyone.

It forms a better connection.

And you know what? Everyone knows Zoom.

Zoom creates a calendar invite.

You don’t need to set up a bunch of things.

So I’m in.

For my next few webinars, I’m using Zoom.

…it won’t be that simple though. I still want to use ConvertKit. Which means I need to automate.

I’m covering that for members, and adding it to my Automations Library soon.

  1. You can get it by becoming a member. ?
  2. In true YouTube fashion ?

How to Determine What to Automate

Imagine being told you need to get your wedding1, and that’s it.

No time. No date. No location. Just, “You need to get to your wedding.”

You’d feel kind of stuck, right? Surely there are people who know that information. You’d think it would be part and parcel with, “You need to get to your wedding.”

That’s kind of how it feels when someone tells you, “You need to automate.”

What should you automate? How should you automate it? How do you know if you can automate it?

Well, there are a number of questions you can ask yourself to figure our what you don’t have to do, but the are also categories of tasks to help you figure out if a task is worth automating.

They are:

  • Common, easily repeatable tasks
  • Infrequent tasks that have a high level of effort to do.
  • Tasks that require specific timing
  • Tasks that you cannot forget to do.

Common, Easily Repeatable Tasks

These are things you do so often that it’s worth the time for you to set up the automation, so that you no longer have to do them manually.

One example is emailing your newsletter when a new blog post or podcast episode is out. Most email service providers will connect to your RSS feed and send emails when a new item gets published.

Infrequent, High Level of Effort

Conversely, if there’s a task that you don’t do very frequently, but it takes a long time for you to set up, the automation is worth it because you save the time through context switching and having to re-learn your process.

A perfect example of this for me is contract client work. I don’t do too much of that anymore, but there is still a process for me where I send a contract for signing, then an invoice, then onboarding.

It takes me more time to figure out the right process than for me to actually execute the tasks…though since these actions also rely on client actions, it could take me time over several days.

This is a great task for me to automate because once I kick it off, it doesn’t require me to do anything once I sign the contract.

Require Specific Timing

The third type of task you can automate is a task that requires specific timing. You see this all the time when you purchase a digital product.

Imagine paying $300 for a course and then having to wait to gain access to it for the seller to give you access.

But this doesn’t have to just be for digital products. TweetHunter has a tool where you can tell people to DM you for a free resource, and they’ll handle the DMing. This is a great for of automation where you don’t have to watch your social media DMs.

Can’t Forget

Finally, you’ll want to automate tasks you can’t forget. I like to call these the “automatic bill pay” tasks. You definitely don’t want to miss them, but maybe they don’t happen often.

For me, one of these tasks is to upload workshop recordings for my members. I promise them immediate access once the workshop is done, so I have a simple automation to upload the recordings from my computer to Vimeo.

So there you have it! 4 types of tasks you should automate. And remember: automation doesn’t have to be a big production.

If you’re doing things like automatic bill pay, you’re already automating!

  1. Sub some other major life event that matters a whole lot to you ?
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Make vs. Zapier: Why I Moved

January has come and gone, and I’ve made the decision to fully move from Zapier to Make. I’m pleased with the functionality, the workflows, and the considerable cost difference1.

Here are my thoughts after one month with Make:

I really love the route building and general design of the scenarios better. The interface is much more intuitive. It’s easier to move things around, insert actions between other actions, create filters, and add routes.

MUCH. Easier.

You do need a little more know-how than with Zapier. Zapier has some tighter integrations with Dropbox and Google. For example, if you want to use your personal Gmail account, you need to spin up an API key for certain actions, instead of just authenticating.

It is a lot more secure though, as you’re not giving complete access to an app. You’re explicitly choosing the services you want the app to have access to.

Along what that know-how, you need to be mindful of how often your scenarios run. Since Make charges per operation, you can’t just let your automations run wild. I ended up hitting the 10,000 operation limit within 2 weeks.

Luckily, I was able to dial them back a reasonable amount and now I’m well within the limits of 10,000 operations per month, giving me wiggle room to add even more scenarios. And for what it’s worth, Zapier has this baked into their much higher cost.

The way to manage operations is to not have them run as often. The default is 15 minutes. I have some run every 2 hours, and some that run every 2 days. This is perfectly fine for me. They still run often enough that it doesn’t bottleneck my workflows. The hardest part was coming to terms with knowing they aren’t constantly running.

Make is much more affordable. I’d need to pay for around 90,000 operations to hit the same monthly costs as with Zapier. If I doubled my monthly operations, I’m still saving $55/mo on the billed monthly plan.

Finally, thanks to re-evaluating my automations, I was able to create more efficient actions, as well as move some automations to the native apps. For example, Vimeo has direct integration with Dropbox. I don’t need Make or Zapier as a third party anymore.

If you have any questions about Make, feel free to leave them in the comments!

  1. I got a few people tell me that the time savings is worth the month. My friends, the wealthy didn’t get wealthy by wasting money. And IMO, using Zapier over Make if you have more than 5 automations is a waste of money. ?
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How to Add a Google Doc in a Specific Folder with Your Stream Deck

I’ve greatly improved my process for creating social media content in a centralized place.

The basic workflow is this:

  1. Create a Google Doc in a folder called “Social Posts”
  2. Kick off a Make automation that watches that folder, and adds a new entry to my “Social Media content” base in Airtable. A schedule date is also determined.

Then my VA goes in and reviews the documents, creating images as needed, and posting them on the scheduled dates.

Building the Google Doc URL

To make this even easier, I wanted to create a Stream Deck button to open a new document in that Google Drive folder1. Turns out, you can create a new file in a specific folder via a URL.

Here’s the URL Format: https://docs.google.com/document/create?usp=drive_web&folder=[FOLDER-ID].

And here’s where you get the FOLDER-ID:

Creating the Stream Deck Button

With that in hand, I have my URL. And I can easily launch this with my Stream Deck thanks to the “Website” action:

Now, whenever inspiration strikes, I push that button and start writing.

But I know what you’re thinking. “What about when you’re not at your Stream Deck?”

Sadly, because the Google Docs team apparently hates iOS, there is no native shortcut for Docs, and when you open that URL on mobile, it throws an error.

Instead what I do is dictate a new document using Drafts. Then Drafts has an action to save to Google Drive. It’s not perfect, but it works for now.

  1. The subtext here being I have this sort of automation for all things I want to quickly capture — ideas, notes, journal thoughts. ?
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Doubling Down on Airtable

I’m a huge fan of Airtable; it’s the very basis of my podcast planners. But up until now, I haven’t been using it to its full potential.

I do some cool things, especially when it’s paired with Zapier (soon to be Make), but there are a ton of features I’m not taking advantage of.

This was made incredibly clear to me thanks to two recent experiences:

The first was Justin Moore sharing his sponsor tracker in Notion. I took a look at how he was doing things, and there were some very complex functions in there.

The second is friend Brian Richards. He created an incredible system in Airtable that tracks and building sponsorship packages, leads, and all sorts of other information for his virtual events.

I have a few ideas, one being a content dashboard to track the various pieces of content I’m working on across different platforms and clients.

The other is my own sponsorship tracker; I have some pieces of this already for How I Built It, but I’d like to formalize it better.

Finally, I want to be better at social media this year. Part of that will be posting consistently (and better), and part of it will be bringing in my VA to do more.

I’m excited at the prospect of building better systems to help us work.

If you want to see BTS videos of what I’m working on, you can become a member of How I Built It Pro.

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Switching to Make

Formerly Integromat

One thing I like to do in December is review my expenses, switch things from yearly to monthly, and see what I can change.

This year I decided to switch Zapier from yearly to monthly and learned they charge an obnoxious 33% more because of it.

Combine that with a recent episode of the Automators podcast that covers Make, and I’ve decided to try switching completely to Make from Zapier.

Evaluation and Plan

I did a quick evaluation last week and saw it supports most of the apps I use in Zapier, and there are other alternatives for the ones I don’t use.

I tested the waters over the weekend by converting one of my most crucial Zaps to a Make Scenario, and it worked.

So throughout January, I’m going to see just how much of my operation I can move to Make. If all goes well, my last day with Zapier (at least as my primary automation platform) will be January 31st.

Want a Deeper Look at the Transition?

Members of How I Built It Pro will get behind the scenes looks at how the transition is going, as well as my thoughts on Make as a platform, and some basic tutorials. You can join here for $5/mo.

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Save Time and Embarrassment with TextExpander

How many typos do you make when you’re writing? How many times do you need to retype emails you’ve already written? Or find URLs, emails, and other information you wish you had readily available? You need a tool to help you manage all of this and save you time. That’s where TextExpander comes in.

If you’re a creator, podcaster, or small business owner, you’re probably a little strapped for time…or at least it can feel like it. And while I highly recommend automating with Zapier or Shortcuts, there’s a much lower barrier for entry: TextExpander.

You’d be surprised how much time keyboard shortcuts for commonly typed text can save you. On-time of actual keystroke hours, I no longer have to hunt for URLs or code, and I don’t have to re-create emails I send regularly. So today, I’m going to show you my favorite ways to use TextExpander.

Check out TextExpander and get 20% off your first year.

How I’m Experimenting with Automation (Spring 2022)

Back in the summer of 2018, I talked about how I was going to dedicate more time to automation. Since then, I’ve automated significant parts of my business, including guest outreach and booking, project creation, and even workspace configuration.

Now that Shortcuts has reasonably good Mac support, and I have an Apple Silicon Mac, I’m re-evaluating my automation strategy and exploring what more I can do with these tools.

Automations I’m Working On

There are currently a few things I’m working on that I think solve interesting problems…a lot more advanced that just connecting Thing 1 to Thing 2.

My “New Trip” Shortcut

Recently I completed a revamp of my travel automation, swapping out Omnifocus for my new task manager, Todoist…though truth be told, Omnifocus is a much better steward to the Apple platform.

The old one would ask for a name and a number of days, then calculate when I needed to order a plane ticket and create some tasks that I do for every travel event. The new one asks for a name, start date, and end date. This allows me a bit more flexibility. Plus, Shortcuts makes it easy to calculate the number of days between 2 days.

I also added 3 new actions:

  1. Create a calendar entry for the event…which isn’t something I remember to do right away.
  2. Create a Craft note in my “Travel” folder for the event.
  3. Run my Packing List shortcut, passing the number of days

These are massive improvements that let me overlook one very annoying shortcoming of Todoist: I can’t use Shortcuts to create subtasks, projects, sections, or labels. In other words, it’s easy to get tasks in, but it’s not easy to organize them…which is frustrating.

Figuring Out How to Send Data From Zapier to Shortcuts

One of the biggest hurdles for me is that my notes app, Craft, doesn’t support Zapier. Because of that, I can’t use it for everything just yet. Instead, I’ve been using Evernote for my newsletter, and Notion for my Podcast Guest notes.

I’d love to change that and I have some thoughts on how to do it. There are 3rd party apps for Shortcuts, like Pushcut, which runs a server your shortcuts can access, Scriptable, which allows for JavaScript on iOS, and Data Jar, which acts as a database for Shortcuts.

I’m hoping with this combination of stuff, I’ll be able to automatically push information to Craft….or at the very least, make that data retrievable with a Shortcut. Doing a daily data dump is better than nothing.

More Workspace Experiments

Shockingly, I just learned that Moom allows for saving window configurations. So I’ll be working more with them to make better workspaces for specific projects.

I’m also going to check out more tools for making recording better, like Bunch, which is text-file automation.

And naturally, I’ll be tinkering with my Stream Deck throughout all of this.

Interested in Watching Me Experiment?

I like working in the open and thinking through problems like this. Currently, there are two ways to see how I work through this stuff:

  1. I live stream weekly on YouTube. Join my mailing list to get notified when I’m going live, or subscribe to my YouTube channel.
  2. Those live streams are only available while they are live. If you want access to the archive, and other experiments, you can join my membership. It’s $50/year and I put out content weekly.

What are you trying to automate? Let me know in the comments!

How to get Keyword Search for Safari Anywhere with TextExpander

I do a lot of searching directly from the address bar in whatever browser I happen to be in (usually Safari), so anything to make that process faster would be super swell. A while back, I learned about the Safari Keyword Search Extension from Six Colors, and decided to give it a try. It is incredible! Oh, and as of iOS 15, it works on iPhone and iPad too!

How It Works

Once you install the extension, it gives you a list of shorthand snippets for common searches. So far example, g Casabona would open a Google Search for “Casabona.” yt Baby Shark would open a YouTube search for…well you know.

Keyword Search Extension
Some of the keyword searches I use.

But as you can see from the above screenshot, you can also add custom search. So I’ve added one for this site, as I’m often looking for links. I’ve also added one for searching Unsplash, and the LinkedIn Learning Library.

The only problem is, it appears, if you don’t use Safari you’re out of luck.

Using TextExpander Instead

There is another way though. If you use TextExpander*, you can get a decent replacement that is cross browser. Create a new snippet with the URL:

https://casabona.org/?s= and then a Single Text line fill in.

Expanding this will allow you to create the search URL. Then you can press Enter/Return. OR, you can simulate that click right in Text Expander. The final snippet will look something like this:

Search URL expansion in TextExpander

The only drawback is you’ll need to create separate snippet for each URL you want to search. You can join the Creator Crew to get my list in the Automation Library.

*Full disclosure: TextExpander is a current sponsor of my podcast, How I Built It.

Fast Searching!

Before this extension, I don’t think I realized how much I actually searched for stuff on places besides Google. It saves me a ton of time, and I know it will for you too.