The Zapier Blog https://zapier.com/blog A blog about productivity, workflow automation, company building and how to get things done with less work. Wed, 20 Dec 2023 03:52:43 GMT What should you automate next? https://zapier.com/blog/what-to-automate-next .css-12p6n7x{overflow:auto;}.css-12p6n7x >*{margin-bottom:20px;margin-top:20px;}.css-12p6n7x >H2{margin-top:60px;}.css-12p6n7x >H3{margin-top:40px;}.css-12p6n7x>[id]{scroll-margin-top:20px;}@media (min-width: 660px){.css-12p6n7x>[id]{scroll-margin-top:100px;}}

As a senior technical support specialist at Zapier, I have more than 10 years of experience assisting users who want to make their tech work for them rather than the other way around. When I interact with these folks, they're almost always laser-focused on solving a particular problem—using automation to reduce friction for customers, for example, or to share data across the enterprise. 

Solving a single problem is always a win, and I'm not here to knock it. But I think automation really shows its value when it begins to improve repeated processes and boost efficiencies in areas that might not even be recognized—yet!—as chokepoints. 

Because once you make the investment in automation tools, there may be dozens, if not hundreds, of opportunities to use them in every aspect of your company's work. You just need to know where to look for that next automation opportunity.

This post was developed from a session given by David Leszcynski, at ZapConnect 2023, Zapier's annual user conference. Watch the full session in the video below.

Step 1: Evaluate your time

In the effort to uncover automation opportunities, a good place to start is by stopping. I mean it. 

In our go-go world, the pressure to get things done means we often don't take time to evaluate what we're doing and how we're doing it. Now, I know that sometimes it might feel as if stopping means defeat, but I disagree. Evaluating the best way to accomplish your goal rather than jumping in headfirst will save you time in the long run. 

That's why the first thing I tell people who want to leverage their automation investment is, don't be afraid to put a project on pause for a moment. Time and again, I've seen the proof—when you evaluate where you're going and how you're getting there, you'll surely save time in the long run. 

A process may "work," but if you're repeating many manual tasks every day, day after day, week after week, the inefficiencies compound like interest on a loan. 

But if you stop for an hour to build an automation, it reduces time spent every time you use it. So if it saves six minutes per task, five times a day, that one hour you originally invested returns 120 hours saved over the course of a year. Three weeks! It's completely worth it.

Now, this begs the question, do you know where you're spending your time?

Track your time to spot the inefficiencies

Are you so busy getting things done, you're not even aware there's a better way to do it? One way to discover new automation opportunities is to track your time and look for the logjams.

There are several apps and services out there that you could utilize to track where you're spending most of your time. Are you spending a lot of time on a specific app or logged into a specific website? Do you burn through hours communicating with colleagues, sharing data with other departments, or providing clients with updates? Tracking your time by activity or project might reveal where you can automate a task.

Learn more: Discover 6 ways to automatically track time spent on projects

If you've been in your job for a while, look at past projects. Most to-do and project planning apps will have some sort of log that shows you all of your past tasks. Take a look at how long these old projects took and remind yourself which tasks you were hung up on. 

Oftentimes, you'll find the 80-20 rule applies—80 percent of your effort goes into just 20 percent of your work. That's the next opportunity to use automation!

Step 2: Automate your habits

We often think about building new habits to improve our work, but psychologists tell us that our brains are lazy and will prefer to repeat bad habits rather than discover new ways of accomplishing our tasks. In a very real sense, we can think of these habits as our daily weaknesses.

Let's say you tend to work through lunch because you've felt you needed the extra time to complete your tasks. But think like a scientist and test that hypothesis! 

What if you used automation to send yourself a daily Slack message with a reminder that taking a break from work to get a bite to eat provided you with better energy and focus in the afternoon, enabling you to be more efficient? These kinds of automated nudges can be applied throughout the day to break habitual routines that no longer serve you. Use this Zap template, one of our pre-made workflows, to set it up now:

Or maybe you're not a morning person. Try an automation that takes upcoming appointments on your calendar and tasks from your to-do app and feeds them into ChatGPT, which returns an itinerary that matches task efforts and appointments with your own energy levels throughout the day. 

Step 3: Revisit past mistakes

The Roman God Janus (for whom we named the month "January") was a two-faced deity who looked forward and backward. We need to adopt this Janus-like approach to uncovering automation opportunities. To prepare for a better future, we need to understand the past. 

Think for a moment—when you were reviewing your old tasks and projects for automation opportunities, were there any that didn't go particularly well? And was there a pattern you could discern? 

For example, was there a breakdown in communication? Were some tasks not completed on time? If so, there's an opportunity to automate to ensure the best possible outcome going forward.

Don't let a lack of preparation derail your goals. Take advantage of Zapier Interfaces to create a shared timeline so everyone working on a project is aware of what everyone else is doing. 

Or create a form and interface for your teammates to report issues, which could then trigger emails or messages to be sent out in Slack or Teams, and then create a ticket in Jira or Zendesk.

Perhaps another way of thinking about this is to prepare for a problem before it happens. There's no way to exactly predict what's going to happen, but preparing for how you'll handle a sudden out of office or loss of a vendor ahead of time is key. Creating automations that help you pivot just might save the day. 

Step 4: Ask your team

Finally, don't try to uncover automation opportunities all by yourself. 

The myth of the solitary creative genius is hard to shake, but research shows that creativity and discovery are often interpersonal qualities. We know how helpful it can be to bounce ideas off another. Make that part of your automation planning process.

You're not in this alone. Talk to your peers, your teammates, and managers. These folks are with you day in and day out. Maybe they've noticed a task that the team struggles with or could be improved. You could also ask them for feedback. Maybe you could use that form and Interfaces approach to aggregate ideas.

Automating and refactoring your workflow can be a group project all by itself. That gets everyone on the same page and also lets your team become more aware of how each individual contributes.

Enabling automation with Zapier

Now let's talk more about accomplishing these goals with Zapier. Here are some questions we frequently field in customer support.

Where do I start?

We never want you to pay for more than what you need, so the free plan is a great place to solve that first obvious automation issue. But to utilize and take advantage of everything that Zapier has to offer—filters, multi-step Zaps, or integrations with premium apps—you'll want to explore the capabilities of our paid plans. 

A great way to experience the power of these tools is to take advantage of the two-week trial period, which lets you check out almost all of the features of the professional plan. 

This will also give you a good idea of how Zapier can benefit your team. Our Team and Company plans offer more users, security options, and top-notch support when you have a question.

How do I build my first automation?

Getting started with building a Zap has never been easier. One way is to check out prebuilt Zaps, which are available in our App Directory on individual integration pages. For example, visit https://zapier.com/apps/slack/integrations and scroll down to the Zapier templates section. 

The Slack integration page in the Zapier App Directory.

There, you'll find dozens of Slack-related Zaps to try out. If you find one that fits your needs, just click on it to give it a try. With more than 6,000 apps on Zapier, there's likely a prebuilt Zap that will save you time.

From the same page, you can also pair two apps together. For instance, you can pair Slack with Trello and see all the ways we've thought to integrate them. There's no use reinventing the wheel, right?

Trello entered in the search field for the Slack integration page in the Zapier App Directory.

But maybe your particular wheel hasn't been invented yet. Utilizing ChatGPT and AI, we've launched the AI Guesser, which allows you to simply type in what you want the Zap to do and then builds it for you. If it's not exactly what you need, don't worry—you can still add steps or make changes after the Zap's been built.

The AI Guesser in the Zap editor.

How can I manage and monitor my new Zaps?

With Zapier, you can build a self-monitoring solution—a Zap that manages your automations. Utilize the Zapier Manager option to set up a custom watchdog that DMs you in Slack or sends you an email when there's a failed Zap run. Or maybe it sends you a text using SMS by Zapier when there's an error from one of your integrations. Think ahead and build the alert system that works best for you.

What if I need something custom or unique to my team?

Zapier already integrates with over 6,000 apps and services, with more being added all the time. But what if you need something customized or specific? We have a utility for that. Take a look at Code by Zapier, made even better recently with the addition of AI. 

If you discover that you need a custom code step, AI will help you write your code in either Python or JavaScript to meet your needs. No longer do you have to be a professional programmer to make your Zaps work for you in the best way possible, making the possibilities for automation endless. 

As a member of the support team, I'd be remiss if I didn't end with a plug for our services. As you think about building workflows using Zapier, if you run into any trouble, please don't hesitate to reach out to us, watch some of our YouTube videos, or post in the Zapier Community. There are countless opportunities to learn more.

So, what will you automate next?

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David Leszcynski Tue, 19 Dec 2023 08:00:00 GMT https://zapier.com/blog/what-to-automate-next
ClickFunnels vs. Kajabi: Which should you use? [2024] https://zapier.com/blog/clickfunnels-vs-kajabi .css-12p6n7x{overflow:auto;}.css-12p6n7x >*{margin-bottom:20px;margin-top:20px;}.css-12p6n7x >H2{margin-top:60px;}.css-12p6n7x >H3{margin-top:40px;}.css-12p6n7x>[id]{scroll-margin-top:20px;}@media (min-width: 660px){.css-12p6n7x>[id]{scroll-margin-top:100px;}}

The creator economy is buzzing with tools to help online entrepreneurs turn their knowledge and skills into a business. Kajabi and ClickFunnels are two of those tools: they combine several solutions to help creators easily build, market, and sell digital products.

I've been using all sorts of marketing tools for years now, and I created accounts with both Kajabi and ClickFunnels to test all their features and better understand each one's strengths and weaknesses. Here, I'll break down the pros and cons of each platform and explain how they stack up—to help you decide which is the best for your business.

ClickFunnels vs. Kajabi at a glance

ClickFunnels and Kajabi are both powerful platforms with tools to help you start and scale your online business. But when it comes down to it, they have pretty distinct core value propositions:

  • Kajabi is 100% built for creating digital products, from courses to coaching programs and communities to podcasts. It has a robust digital content delivery system.

  • ClickFunnels is focused more on the marketing and sales side. It'll give you fully automated funnels optimized for conversion to make promoting and selling your digital content easy.

Having said that, ClickFunnels and Kajabi do share many similarities that can make it tougher to pick between the two. So here's a quick rundown of their features—but keep reading for more details about each app and my experience testing them.

Kajabi 

ClickFunnels

Ease of use

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Super easy to use for less tech-forward and design-minded users

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Also easy to use with lots of training materials to help if you get stuck

Marketing and sales

⭐⭐⭐⭐ Nice range of templates for building landing pages, websites, and sales funnels, but has limited funnel capability

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Excellent assortment of templates for all marketing assets and an unbeatable funnel system; you can split test funnels for conversion optimization

Courses

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Robust course creation platform with advanced features like certificates, live sessions, quizzes, and automation

⭐⭐⭐ Average course platform lacking advanced features.

Coaching 

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Includes live video and scheduler to enable you to host coaching sessions without third-party tools like Zoom

Does not intrinsically support coaching

Community

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Excellent community-building tools, including live streaming and chat, newsfeed, and challenges to keep your audience engaged; you can also monetize your community with one-time or subscription payments

Does not intrinsically support communities

Email marketing

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐  Built-in email marketing functionality with the ability to create automated email sequences; plus, pre-written email copy to make your life easier

⭐⭐⭐ Limited email marketing functionality, so you either figure it out with workflows or integrate a third-party tool

Integrations

⭐⭐⭐⭐ 10 native integrations and connects with Zapier

⭐⭐⭐⭐ 25 native integrations and connects with Zapier

Pricing 

Basic: $149/month

Growth: $199/month

Pro: $399/month

Basic: $147/month

Pro: $197/month

Funnel Hacker: $297/month

Kajabi is better for creating digital products

Both platforms allow you to create digital products, like courses and memberships. But Kajabi supports more product types, including coaching programs, communities, and podcasts, which can help with scaling your business.

Kajabi's digital products

Let's start with a product that's shared between them: courses.

Kajabi and ClickFunnels offer a nearly identical course creation workflow: provide general information about the course, and receive a structure with modules and lessons to hit the ground running. Customizing the modules and lessons is straightforward with both tools. You can drip the course to customers over a set period or lock modules to encourage them to complete specific lessons. Both platforms allow you to upload video and audio course materials directly from your device without third-party hosting sites.

But after that, Kajabi takes things up a notch by offering "when, then, if" automation rules in lessons to better manage your students and business. For example, you can set a rule to issue students a certificate or grant them an offer when they complete a lesson. 

An automation flow in Kajabi

And if you want to give your students a more interactive learning experience, Kajabi allows you to hold live video sessions. For instance, you could hold weekly Q&A sessions to discuss the course and answer any questions your students might have. It even lets you record sessions and publish them as lessons.

Setting up a Q&A session in Kajabi

Kajabi's courses also include assessments with short answer, file upload, and other question types, and you can require a passing grade to advance in the course to help increase student engagement. There's even automatic grading for checkbox and multiple-choice questions. 

Setting up an assessment in Kajabi

These advanced features are all notably lacking from ClickFunnels' courses.

When you're ready to create a recurring revenue system, Kajabi allows you to build subscriptions—you just have to add the course and community to an offer. You can create communities with multiple paywalled access groups that subscribers can only join after purchasing. And you'll get features like circles (Q&A), challenges, live meetup sessions, and broadcasts to manage your community. 

Community features in Kajabi

It's a really streamlined process: create a course > create a community > add them to an offer. 

In ClickFunnels, creating a membership program follows a different process. The platform doesn't support communities, so memberships are paywalled pages inside a sales funnel. Setting up the membership funnel is pretty confusing—I spent several hours watching YouTube videos to figure it out. Since ClickFunnels and Kajabi play very well together, I'd argue that it's better to integrate the two, so you can create courses and memberships with Kajabi and then use ClickFunnels for sales.

ClickFunnels offers more for conversion optimization

Once you're done creating your digital products, you need a way to sell them. Both platforms provide sales funnels to help you capture leads and turn them into customers, but ClickFunnels' system is on a whole other level. The reason is obvious: the tool was built for sales.

Creating funnels is similar in both Kajabi and ClickFunnels: start from scratch or select a template, then customize it with a visual drag-and-drop builder. After that, ClickFunnels quickly differentiates itself with powerful funnel workflows, A/B testing, and conditional split paths.

When setting up a funnel in ClickFunnels, you can create variations of every page and then split traffic between them to see which brings in the most sales. You can test everything from design to headlines, copy, images, and CTAs, and then use the results to optimize your offer and improve conversions.

A split-testing workflow in ClickFunnels

Once you set that up, you can further optimize your funnel with conditional split paths that direct visitors to follow different steps depending on the action they take on your page. For example, you can set a condition to send visitors down a YES path and reward them with a gift, like early access to your course, if they provide their email address. Visitors who do not meet that condition will go down the NO path.

An automation workflow in ClickFunnels

This feature helps you filter customers who pass on to the steps in your funnel. That way, you can target them better with upsells, downsells, and emails, increasing your chances of conversion. Unfortunately, Kajabi is lacking in this aspect, as it doesn't allow any form of funnel testing or optimization. That means there's no way to know why your funnel isn't performing as expected or the specific ways to improve it.

On top of that, ClickFunnels gives you many more funnels on all plans than Kajabi. And if you're also promoting physical products, you'll find ClickFunnels' funnels especially useful, as they enable you to promote several products simultaneously.

Bottom line: if driving the most leads to your offer and converting them to customers is your primary goal, ClickFunnels is your best bet.

Kajabi is better for email marketing

Part of the marketing and sales capability of ClickFunnels and Kajabi is built-in email marketing. In both, you'll find automatic tagging systems, good-looking email templates, and an interactive drag-and-drop builder to make customization easy. But when it comes down to it, Kajabi offers a more streamlined process, making it a better fit for creators.

For example, once you sign up with Kajabi and upload your contact list, you can start sending emails immediately. There's no need for any extra setup or configuration. ClickFunnels is quite the opposite: it requires you to set up a custom domain and SMTP authentication before you can send emails. While this might not be a big deal for experienced marketers, less tech-forward creators might find it complicated.

That said, the most notable difference between ClickFunnels and Kajabi's email marketing is that ClickFunnels limits you to email broadcasts, while Kajabi allows you to send broadcasts and dripped email sequences. You'll find templates for real situations like making a referral, announcing an event, or showcasing your products. You can easily customize each template to your liking, set your schedule, and Kajabi will handle the rest.

Setting up a drip email sequence in Kajabi

You can even use automation rules to make your campaign more powerful. So, you can automate things like "when email is clicked, add a tag and send a single-use coupon." Kajabi also includes thoughtfully-written email copy inside all its templates. You're at liberty to personalize the copy or discard it, but it comes in handy if you want to save time and use tested copy that's proven to convert. 

With ClickFunnels, you don't get email sequences out of the box. The only way to set up a sequence is to trigger a workflow (e.g., an event) and then use delays to connect the different emails as separate steps in your workflow. If that workaround is too complex, you can integrate your favorite email marketing tool, but you'll have to pay extra for it.

Pricing is relatively similar, but ClickFunnels has a slight edge

Neither ClickFunnels nor Kajabi would be considered downright affordable. They're both on the pricier side of marketing software, with starting prices just shy of $150/month. But when you compare the features they offer at different price points, ClickFunnels has the slight edge. 

For instance, Kajabi's basic plan costs $149/month and includes three products (courses, podcasts, and communities), three funnels, and one admin user. Meanwhile, ClickFunnels costs $147/month for the same level and gives you 20 funnels, unlimited products (including courses), and three admin users. Their middle plans are also similar in price, with ClickFunnels having the upper hand with funnels and products.

The pricing gets significantly different in their highest tier, where ClickFunnels charges $297/month and Kajabi $399. You still won't get unlimited funnels or products in Kajabi, but you'll be able to access a custom code editor if you want to customize your emails and pages with CSS styling. Meanwhile, ClickFunnels offers this code editor on all its plans.

There's no clear winner here because they both lack entry-level pricing, but ClickFunnels offers a lot more features for its price.

Both tools integrate with Zapier

Every tool becomes more powerful when you connect it with the rest of your tech stack. And since both Kajabi and ClickFunnels integrate with Zapier, you can connect them to thousands of other apps. This means you can do things like automatically create contact profiles when someone completes a form or create tasks for new purchases. 

Learn more about how to automate Kajabi or how to automate ClickFunnels, or get started with one of these pre-made workflows. 

It's also possible you'll want to use both tools: Kajabi for creating your course and ClickFunnels for promoting it. In that case, you can use Zapier to integrate Kajabi and ClickFunnels.

Zapier is a no-code automation tool that lets you connect your apps into automated workflows, so that every person and every business can move forward at growth speed. Learn more about how it works.

Kajabi vs. ClickFunnels: Which should you choose?

Go with Kajabi if delivering digital content via courses or communities is your main goal. You'll get all the tools you need to turn your knowledge into income without paying for additional software, and you can promote it well, especially via email marketing. You just won't have access to in-depth conversion optimization features.

Choose ClickFunnels if sales and marketing are your priority and you don't mind using a different tool to deliver digital content. ClickFunnels will give you a robust system to market and sell both digital and physical products.

Related reading:

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Juliet John Tue, 19 Dec 2023 05:00:00 GMT https://zapier.com/blog/clickfunnels-vs-kajabi
FreshBooks vs. QuickBooks: Which is best? [2024] https://zapier.com/blog/freshbooks-vs-quickbooks .css-12p6n7x{overflow:auto;}.css-12p6n7x >*{margin-bottom:20px;margin-top:20px;}.css-12p6n7x >H2{margin-top:60px;}.css-12p6n7x >H3{margin-top:40px;}.css-12p6n7x>[id]{scroll-margin-top:20px;}@media (min-width: 660px){.css-12p6n7x>[id]{scroll-margin-top:100px;}}

Choosing the right accounting software isn't as easy as a shopping spree in Downtown Disney—it takes a lot of care to ensure your business is set up for financial success; you can't just put things in your cart without thinking twice about it. I took FreshBooks for a spin when comparing FreshBooks and Xero, but there's another popular software that should be on your radar as you hunt for the best accounting solution: QuickBooks Online.

FreshBooks and QuickBooks both offer a lot of tools to help you manage your business's finances. I've been testing these apps for a couple years now for this article, and I created a fake company for both and experimented with their features to determine which platform is the best fit for various types of businesses. Read on for my analysis of FreshBooks vs. QuickBooks.

FreshBooks vs. QuickBooks at a glance

FreshBooks and QuickBooks, while both powerful and user-friendly, each have unique strengths that make them a good fit for different audiences.

  • FreshBooks is best for freelancers, solopreneurs, and small businesses that offer services and don't intend to grow much. It offers time tracking, unlimited invoicing, basic project management, and basic reporting at a low price.

  • QuickBooks is best for medium to large businesses and businesses that have plans to grow. It offers more comprehensive accounting and reporting features than FreshBooks, while also providing unique inventory management for those with physical products—as well as lots of automation opportunities.

This should shed some light on why FreshBooks topped our list of the best accounting software for self-employed individuals, while QuickBooks topped our list of the best accounting software for bigger businesses.

FreshBooks

QuickBooks

Price

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Plan pricing is significantly lower than QuickBooks

Lite: $17/month

Plus: $30/month

Premium: $55/month

⭐⭐⭐ Plan pricing is significantly higher than FreshBooks due to its more extensive capabilities

Simple start: $30/month

Essentials: $60/month

Plus: $90/month

Advanced: $200/month

Accountant access

⭐⭐⭐ Can only invite one accountant after upgrading to Plus plan

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Can invite two accountants with any plan and three with the Advanced plan

User-friendliness

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Simple and intuitive interface with callout tips describing features

⭐⭐⭐⭐ Large number of options poses a slight learning curve to those less familiar with accounting, but videos and walkthroughs assist the user

Time tracking

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Available with all plans

⭐⭐⭐⭐ Requires a separate account with QuickBooks Time ($20/month); manual time entry available with Essentials plan and up

Automation

⭐⭐⭐⭐ Integrates with Zapier; has several automated task features but no in-app workflow automation functionality

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Integrates with Zapier; enables automation through its workflow feature (with Advanced plan)

Reporting

⭐⭐⭐ Templates provided; one report style with minimal customization options; Lite plan only includes tax reporting

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Templates provided; the user can customize and save their own reports; reporting capabilities scale with plans

Inventory management

⭐⭐⭐⭐ Basic features like automatic stock updates based on invoicing

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ More advanced features like low stock alerts, pricing rule setting, and reports of best-selling products available with Plus and above

Mileage tracking

⭐⭐⭐⭐ Mobile mileage tracking available with Plus plan and up

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Available with all plans

Bank reconciliation

⭐⭐⭐⭐ Available with Plus plan and up

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Available with Simple Start plan

AI

N/A

Intuit Assist AI assistant is forthcoming

FreshBooks is friendly to freelancers, whereas QuickBooks caters to scaling organizations

FreshBooks is a solopreneur's dream, providing inexpensive access to some great freelancer and small business tools. QuickBooks is more equipped to meet the accounting needs of larger businesses.

Time tracking

Every FreshBooks plan allows you to track time both live and retroactively and bill clients for accrued time. The FreshBooks app is also really convenient for on-the-move freelancers by offering mobile time tracking, invoicing, and expense management.

Meanwhile, QuickBooks only offers manual time tracking for Essentials and above and real-time time tracking with an upgrade to QuickBooks Time (priced at $20 per month for the Premium plan, plus an extra $8 for every additional user). That said, the bonus features that come with QuickBooks Time, such as geofencing and shift scheduling, are more advanced.

Client and accountant access

QuickBooks one-ups FreshBooks in a lot of features that matter to large and growing businesses. While FreshBooks places limitations on how many billable clients you can include in its first two plans (five clients with Lite and 50 with Plus), QuickBooks doesn't stipulate any client limits for any of its plans but notes that its systems limit individual firms to 2,000 clients. For users with more than 2,000 clients, they recommend adding a firm to your account or consolidating clients.

It's a similar story for user and accountant access. QuickBooks offers multi-user access in its higher-level plans, while FreshBooks charges an additional $11 per month for every additional user, regardless of your plan. QuickBooks also allows you to invite two accountants, whereas FreshBooks only allows you to invite one (starting at the Plus plan).

Accounting features

QuickBooks is also more geared toward helping big businesses with accounting, offering bank reconciliation with all of its plans, while FreshBooks requires that you upgrade to its Plus plan to access this feature. It also helps you keep your expenses organized, offering additional tabs for expense claims, bills, and vendors—a great feature for larger companies that sell a lot of products and work with third parties.

Screenshot of the bills tab on the QuickBooks' expenses dashboard

Payroll

If you're looking for integrated payroll features, you'll have to look past FreshBooks—at least for now. FreshBooks has no native payroll feature as of this writing, but it offers a separate Gusto integration that allows you to track FreshBooks transactions, update reports, and categorize payroll as expenses. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but you'll have to jump through some hoops by talking with an account specialist to set it up. However, it's worth noting that there's a forthcoming FreshBooks Payroll feature powered by Gusto that's currently in beta testing.

Meanwhile, QuickBooks has an optional native payroll service add-on for all account levels. Divided into three tiers corresponding to your account tier—Payroll Core + Simple Start ($75 per month), Payroll Core + Essentials ($105 per month), and Payroll Core + Plus ($170 per month)—this is a predictably robust offering with tons of features. You can set up autopay, handle 1099 e-filing, set up an employee portal, and much more, directly through your existing QuickBooks account.

Pricing

If nothing else indicates that QuickBooks' main audience is larger companies, its price certainly does. The most basic plan costs almost double that of FreshBooks, and its most advanced plan costs nearly quadruple that of FreshBooks. Who's most likely to spend big bucks on accounting software with highly scalable features? Established businesses.

FreshBooks is best for businesses offering services, whereas QuickBooks is best for those offering products

Your choice of accounting solution might just come down to what your business offers.

Invoicing

If your business provides services, there's a good chance you'll be regularly invoicing your clients. Both QuickBooks and FreshBooks allow you to send unlimited customized invoices, but FreshBooks does so for much cheaper—$17 per month compared to QuickBooks' $30 per month. Simply put, FreshBooks is the way to go if invoicing clients for services is the main reason you need an accounting solution.

Sales channel syncing and POS

If you offer a lot of products, QuickBooks can make your life easier. The platform allows you to record daily sales from your channels (imported from Amazon, eBay, or Shopify) and sync data from your sales systems (Square, PayPal, etc). QuickBooks even offers its own POS system—QuickBooks Point of Sale—doubling down on its product focus.

That's not to say FreshBooks can't do any of the above—similar to its payroll features, it may just be a little trickier to set up. Square, for example, offers a FreshBooks integration in its app marketplace. And while FreshBooks doesn't sync directly with Amazon, you can use Zapier to create a custom automated workflow between FreshBooks and Amazon Seller Central.

Inventory

QuickBooks also caters to big businesses that sell a lot of products with its inventory features. Starting at the Plus tier, it sends restock notifications when stock is low, enables you to set pricing rules, provides reports presenting your best-selling items, and now even allows you to categorize products. FreshBooks' inventory features are more limited, though it does automatically update your stock using data from invoices.

FreshBooks is straightforward and limited, whereas QuickBooks is complex and flexible

If simplicity is your cup of tea, you may not need to pay big bucks for a platform that includes every accounting feature under the sun.

Interface and menu items

FreshBooks' simplicity is evident as soon as you enter the platform. When I logged in, I was greeted by an interface that a toddler would enjoy playing around with (no offense): bright colors, clear breakdowns of tools, and relatively few navigational options.

Screenshot of FreshBooks' dashboard showing places for total profit and revenue streams

Opening QuickBooks was another story: I encountered over 20 menu items, several widgets with charts and graphs summarizing business metrics, and an overall "business professional" interface.

Despite all of QuickBooks' advanced features, the platform does a good job with user-friendliness. On most of the platform's pages, I had the option to "take a tour" through the interface and its options. Some pages even included walkthrough videos explaining how to use its features. Overall, it's a platform that any office manager should be able to learn relatively quickly.

Reporting

Both platforms allow you to generate reports, but the FreshBooks reports all have the same simple and non-customizable format. These rigid reports can only auto-populate from existing data and can only be altered by a few basic filters.

Screenshot of a FreshBooks profit and loss report

Meanwhile, QuickBooks offers a long list of customization options for its pre-saved reports and even allows you to build your own custom reports from scratch.

AI

While neither option has AI just yet, it's worth noting that FreshBooks has yet to make any claims about forthcoming AI features, while Intuit has announced that QuickBooks users will soon get access to Intuit Assist, an AI-powered accounting assistant.

Automation

Another area where QuickBooks shines is its workflows feature, enabling you to schedule reminders and automate tasks. For example, you can tell QuickBooks to automatically generate and send reports to people via email on a specific schedule. You can either choose from several templated workflows or create your own from scratch. Granted, this feature is only included with the Advanced plan, so you have to spend quite a bit to access it.

Whichever platform you choose, FreshBooks and QuickBooks both integrate with Zapier, so you can keep all of your business's tools communicating seamlessly. Get started with one of these pre-made workflows, or build your own to connect to any app in your tech stack.

Zapier is a no-code automation tool that lets you connect your apps into automated workflows, so that every person and every business can move forward at growth speed. Learn more about how it works.

Alternatives to FreshBooks and QuickBooks

Still not sure whether FreshBooks or QuickBooks is right for you? We've already rounded up and analyzed popular alternatives like Xero and Wave so you can see how all the top accounting software options stack up:

FreshBooks vs. QuickBooks: Which is right for you?

Like most things in life, there isn't a one-size-fits-all answer to the FreshBooks vs. QuickBooks debate. Each solution has different features offered at different price points, so you should ultimately choose the option that meets all of your business's needs.

If you're a freelancer, solopreneur, or very small business that primarily offers services and needs an easy tool for invoicing clients, FreshBooks likely offers everything you need at a relatively low price point. If you run or work in accounting at a medium, large, or growing business that sells inventory and needs a comprehensive and customizable accounting solution, QuickBooks has you covered.

FreshBooks vs. QuickBooks FAQ

Is FreshBooks a good alternative to QuickBooks?

FreshBooks is a great alternative to QuickBooks if you're a solopreneur, freelancer, or small business owner looking mainly for accounting software that caters to services rather than products.

What are the cons of FreshBooks?

FreshBooks isn't as strong as QuickBooks when it comes to reporting, advanced accounting features, inventory management, and integrating with third-party sales channels.

Are QuickBooks and FreshBooks the same?

QuickBooks and FreshBooks are competing accounting software. QuickBooks is owned by Intuit, which also owns software like TurboTax and Mailchimp, while FreshBooks is an independent company.

How much is FreshBooks per month?

FreshBooks plans are $175 per month (Lite), $30 per month (Plus), and $55 per month (Premium). These prices are discounted if you commit to a yearly contract. You can also add on services like payroll, extra team member access, and advanced payments for additional fees.

Related reading:

This article was originally published in December 2022. The most recent update, with contributions from Bryce Emley, was in December 2023.

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Luke Strauss Tue, 19 Dec 2023 05:00:00 GMT https://zapier.com/blog/freshbooks-vs-quickbooks
The 8 best platforms to create and sell online courses in 2024 https://zapier.com/blog/online-course-platforms .css-12p6n7x{overflow:auto;}.css-12p6n7x >*{margin-bottom:20px;margin-top:20px;}.css-12p6n7x >H2{margin-top:60px;}.css-12p6n7x >H3{margin-top:40px;}.css-12p6n7x>[id]{scroll-margin-top:20px;}@media (min-width: 660px){.css-12p6n7x>[id]{scroll-margin-top:100px;}}

Ever-changing social media and search algorithms make owning your channels more important than ever. Online courses are a great tool for building community and growing your list.

Today, anyone can share knowledge as quickly and easily as you can upload a video to YouTube. But to explore a topic in depth, build a community, earn an income, or grow your business by selling online courses? That takes a more robust setup to help you design course pages, build out a curriculum, and promote your course.

I've been updating this article for several years, and this year, after researching and testing more than 60 apps for creating and selling online courses, these are my picks for the best.

The 8 best online course platforms

  • Udemy for launching your first course

  • Skillshare for teaching creative skills

  • Teachable for creating an online school with advanced marketing

  • Podia for selling digital products and memberships

  • Thinkific for customizable add-ons

  • Kajabi for marketing a course on autopilot

  • Mighty Networks for building a paid community

  • Simplero for managing your business

What makes the best online course platform?

How we evaluate and test apps

All of our best apps roundups are written by humans who've spent much of their careers using, testing, and writing about software. We spend dozens of hours researching and testing apps, using each app as it's intended to be used and evaluating it against the criteria we set for the category. We're never paid for placement in our articles from any app or for links to any site—we value the trust readers put in us to offer authentic evaluations of the categories and apps we review. For more details on our process, read the full rundown of how we select apps to feature on the Zapier blog.

For this piece, I only considered platforms for building and selling an online course, which means I didn't consider learning management systems (LMS). While the terms are often used interchangeably, LMS software is generally used either in a school setting or to help companies train their customers and employees. The platforms to create online courses covered below, on the other hand, are designed for businesses and individual creators to earn money (or build an audience) by selling their courses.

Online course creation platforms can be broadly divided into two categories:

  • Course marketplaces

  • Course creation software

In a marketplace, your course is a part of a catalog, and you have the option to customize your course landing page but not much else aside from the course content. Most marketplaces let you publish a course for free but take a share of course sales. The major advantage: course marketplaces provide you with an existing student base, so if you don't have much of an online presence yet, you might want to dabble with these first.

Online course creation software, on the other hand, offers many more customization options. You can create branded landing pages, choose from multiple content formats when building your course, and get the necessary tools to market your course. These usually charge a fixed monthly fee, and some platforms also charge a transaction fee.

Unsurprisingly, there's no one-size-fits-all solution for creating a profitable course. Your ideal course creation platform is unique to your needs and goals. Are online courses your bread and butter? Then you need a platform that helps you reach the maximum number of students. Does teaching and engaging with students excite you? Then a course creator with interactive tools would work well. Are you creating a course to engage your existing audience? Then you'll want a tool with robust marketing features.

While every platform has its own unique selling point, I've judged the online course software below based on certain criteria:

  • Content formats supported, including video, audio, PDFs, and images

  • Editing features and customization options

  • Whether or not they're realistically affordable for small and medium businesses

  • Support for assessments: quizzes, exams, certifications, etc.

  • Marketing and payment features

With those criteria in mind, I narrowed it down to 24 apps worth testing, then spent several days exploring them and running through an in-depth testing process. Here's what it looked like:

  • Signing up for an account and completing any onboarding flows offered

  • Walking through the core workflow to create a new course, including browsing any course templates, building out the curriculum, and adding course content in varying formats

  • Testing out other core features like building quizzes and tests, designing course certificates, scheduling live sessions, and setting up drip schedules

  • Customizing the overall design, colors, fonts, logos, landing pages, and more—to the extent possible with each app

  • Finally, looking at payment and marketing features like email broadcasts, pricing structures, community building, and SEO

The eight course creation platforms below are the best I found.

The best online course platforms at a glance

Best for

Standout feature

Pricing

Udemy

Launching your first course

Guided, proscriptive course creation flow

Free; 3% to 63% revenue share on course sales

Skillshare

Teaching creative skills

Quick, easy course setup

Free; royalties for premium class minutes watched

Teachable

Creating an online school with marketing

Wide-ranging AI features in beta

Free for 1 published course and 10 students (plus $1 + 10% per transaction); from $39/month

Podia

Selling digital products and memberships

Simple course outline builder

From $33/month

Thinkific

Customizable add-ons

Course templates, pre-populated with sample content

Free for 1 course and unlimited students; from $36/month

Kajabi

Marketing a course on autopilot

Loads of built-in marketing features

From $119/month

Mighty Networks

Building a paid community

Strong community-building focus

From $99/month for plans that include online courses

Simplero

Managing your business

All-in-one CRM, marketing automation, and online courses

From $59/month


Online course marketplaces

Best online course marketplace for launching your first course

Udemy (Web, Android, iOS)

The interface for Udemy, our pick for the best online course marketplace for launching your first course.

Udemy pros:

  • Guided, proscriptive course creation flow

  • Built-in Udemy audience

  • Minimal editing/design needed

Udemy cons:

  • Steep revenue share structure

  • Requires video

  • Must apply and be accepted to offer paid courses

While the earliest massive open online courses (MOOCs) made learning accessible, Udemy took it a step further: it made teaching online possible. Today, the platform has well over 65 million students enrolled in its courses and an instructor base of over 75,000.

To create a paid course on Udemy, you first have to apply to become a premium instructor. Once approved, you'll see a series of easy-to-follow steps to help you create your first course. As you plan course content, keep in mind that all courses need at least 30 minutes of video and five lectures. You're also welcome to add quizzes, assignments, coding exercises, and discussion prompts.

Why launch your first course on Udemy? Because the platform offers loads of support for creating and marketing a course. For example, if you're not sure if your video lessons are up to snuff, you can submit a sample for review and get feedback on video and audio, along with suggestions for equipment. And for tutorials on planning a course, filming your first video, and related topics, Udemy offers the Teaching Center with tips and tricks.

If you're struggling to make your first few sales, Udemy's tailor-made marketing programs will offer support. Get your course featured in their email blasts, be a part of site-wide discounts, or opt for Udemy's affiliate marketing program. All of these programs are optional, and depending on the promotional channel you choose, Udemy takes a share of course sales.

Finally, Udemy's marketplace insights help you select the perfect course topic and see how it stacks up against other courses on the platform—which is important because of the size of the marketplace you're competing with. Similar to Google Analytics, this feature tells you how popular a topic is on Udemy, its search volume, and related keywords. You can also see the number of existing courses for a topic, top-earning courses in the category, monthly revenue earned, and best promotion channels (Udemy discovery, Udemy search, external sources, paid ads).

To put it simply, with Udemy, you're in good hands.

Udemy price: Free to publish free courses with under 2 hours of video; Udemy charges 3% revenue share on course sales made by instructor coupons and 63% revenue share on all other course sales. (Note: Revenue share does not include processing fees charged by PayPal or Payoneer, or mobile platform fees for mobile course sales.)

Best online course marketplace for teaching creative skills

Skillshare (Web, Android, iOS)

The interface for Skillshare, our pick for the best online course marketplace for teaching creative skills

Skillshare pros:

  • Quick and easy course setup

  • Designed for creatives

  • Free

Skillshare cons:

  • Requires video

  • No support for assessments

  • Minimally customizable

If you're an entrepreneur, designer, writer, photographer, or blogger looking to teach your craft online, Skillshare is great for teaching creative skills. You'll find courses on all kinds of topics, both popular and niche: marketing, photography, cooking, hand painting, doodling, and even wall hanging.

The platform offers a membership plan for students that gives them access to all of its 35,000 premium courses. As for creators, it's a free online course platform if you just want to sign up and publish a course, but if you want to get paid, it must be a part of Skillshare's premium catalog.

Free or premium, Skillshare classes have three major moving parts: video lessons, a project, and community discussion. Each class includes 20-60 minutes of video, broken down into 2-5-minute lessons. The practical project then ensures hands-on experience. For instance, a social media class project might require students to promote their Instagram account, or a writing class might require students to draft a pitch. Finally, the community portion of a class allows students to post their work.

Instead of favoring final outcomes, Skillshare encourages students to share their progress, gather feedback, and tweak their work accordingly—which is perfect for the creative topics you'll be teaching.

Skillshare price: Free for creating a premium class. Skillshare pays instructors $10 for premium membership referrals and royalties for minutes watched in a premium class each month.

Online courses software

Best online courses platform for building an online school with advanced marketing

Teachable (Web, iOS)

The interface for Teachable, our pick for the best online course creation software for building an online school with advanced marketing

Teachable pros:

  • Tons of built-in marketing features

  • Custom-code course editor

  • Wide-ranging (beta) AI features

Teachable cons:

  • Only 3 design templates

  • Pricing structure is less scalable than some

Teachable helps savvy course creators grow and nurture an online audience. To begin with, the platform offers various options to customize the look and feel of your course. Build a website that reflects your brand, create sales pages for launching your course, and if you happen to know some code, use the Power Editor to tinker with it. If not, edit one of the three templates available. Teachable's course builder accepts files from Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive, among other content formats.

While several of the apps I tested tout new AI features, Teachable's generative AI was the only one I found somewhat useful. The feature is still in beta, but it generated a course outline, lesson content, and section summaries that were good enough to serve as a solid starting point.

There's flexibility when pricing your course too. You can offer courses on their own or in bundles, and choose between a one-time fee, a payment plan, or a subscription. When you're ready to launch, create coupon codes to see a quick boost in course sales. To build a sales team for your course, use the platform's built-in affiliate marketing option: simply add affiliates, and they'll get a percentage of course sales. No third-party integration required.

Teachable's native email marketing tool lets you filter and message students when they enroll in a course, redeem a coupon, or complete a course. The platform also helps you collect student feedback and uncover insights about your course using Google Forms and surveys. If you'd like to keep in touch with students after they've completed your course, add them to your email list with Teachable's integrations. As they say, the money is in the list.

You can do more with Teachable when you connect it to your favorite apps through Zapier's automated workflows. Automatically add your students to your marketing campaign, track them in a Google Sheet, and more. Discover more ways to automate Teachable with Zapier, or try one of these pre-made workflows to get you started.

Teachable price: The Free plan includes 1 published course or product and 10 students, with transaction fees of $1 + 10% per transaction; paid plans start at $39/month for the Basic plan, which includes 5 products and unlimited students, plus a custom domain, email marketing, coupon codes, drip course content, and a 5% transaction fee.

If you're looking for a Teachable alternative, LearnWorlds is another good option with a user-friendly course-building interface and nearly 50 visual themes to choose from.

Best online course creation software for selling digital products and memberships

Podia (Web)

The interface for Podia, our pick for the best online course creation software for selling digital products and memberships

Podia pros:

  • Simple, clean course outline builder

  • Support for multiple kinds of digital products

  • Affordable

Podia cons:

  • Email marketing requires additional cost

  • Podia transaction fees on top of payment processor fees

Podia lets you build an online store for your digital content. Create online courses, digital downloads, coaching sessions, and even membership sites, all as part of one digital storefront.

All Podia storefronts have a similar template, which is helpful if you find too many options overwhelming. Each store's landing page includes an overview, a "What's included" section, a content section, FAQs, and creator bios. And all courses, memberships, and digital downloads have a separate landing page.

Once you create an online course, you can publish it immediately or pre-launch it to collect emails. If you have additional resources to supplement your course—cheat sheets, eBooks, videos, audio, text, checklists—sell them as a digital download. You can also bundle and sell the two together.

Online content creators often try to nurture an online community on platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn. This can work, but you're often at the mercy of algorithmic changes and the rules of the platform you choose. Podia allows you to create your own private membership site, with different membership plans, perks, and content for members. Share updates with your community, notify them about new products, and watch your business grow.

Connect Podia to the other apps you use most through Zapier's automated workflows. Automatically add your students to your marketing campaign, enroll new purchasers in your course, and more. Here are some ideas, but you can connect Podia to thousands of other apps with Zapier.

Podia price: Free to build your draft course; from $33/month for the Mover plan to sell your course, with unlimited courses and members and a 5% transaction fee.

Best online course creation software for customizable add-ons

Thinkific (Web)

The interface for Thinkific, our pick for the best online course creation software for customizable add-ons

Thinkific pros:

  • Affordable pricing structure

  • Extensive support for assessments

  • Course templates

Thinkific cons:

  • Limited free plan

Putting together your first online course can be daunting. How many lessons should you include? Where should you add assignments and quizzes? What other file types should you include? Thinkific takes the guesswork out of course creation with its simple and ready-to-use templates.

There are two parts to creating a course on Thinkific: course material and landing page. To get started, choose from the following templates: pre-sell, mini-course, flagship course, membership resource library, and webinar replay. Unlike other course builders, where you start with a blank slate, Thinkific templates provide helpful cues and tips to build a valuable course. Apart from video lessons, the templates are pre-populated with sample quizzes, downloads, surveys, and instructor messages, at regular intervals throughout the course. Add or remove content as you see fit, or follow the template as is.

Thinkific's website builder is one of the easiest to use. Choose the pages you want to include, add your copy, pick a theme, and you're done.

Want to include testimonials on your website? Here's a neat trick to collect them on Thinkific: turn on student reviews for your course and add the ones you like directly to your landing page. Plus, Thinkific offers a number of add-ons and integrations that are super easy to get set up—they add features like AI chatbot quizzes, collaborative whiteboards, interactivity, gamification, and even test prep simulations.

And by connecting Thinkific with Zapier, you can do things like automatically add your students to your marketing campaign or get an SMS message when a course is purchased. Here are some examples.

Thinkific price: Free for 1 course and unlimited students, full eCommerce, and no transaction fees; from $36/month for the Basic plan, which offers most features, including unlimited courses and students, zero transaction fees, a custom domain, and drip content.

Best online course creation software for marketing a course on autopilot

Kajabi (Web, iOS, Android)

The interface for Kajabi, our pick for the best online course creation software for marketing a course on autopilot

Kajabi pros:

  • Tons of built-in marketing features

  • Decent generative AI feature

  • Native email marketing

Kajabi cons:

  • Expensive

  • Less customizable than some

Kajabi gives marketing superpowers to busy course creators. Its marketing blueprints, called funnels, help you create an entire marketing funnel—from landing page and opt-ins to emails and course checkout—with just a few clicks.

Here's an example: The freebie funnel consists of three touchpoints. The first is a landing page where you collect emails in exchange for a free downloadable, such as an eBook or cheat sheet. When a visitor enters their email, they're subscribed to your freebie email sequence, where you can thank them for signing up and upsell your course. If they choose to purchase, they're taken to a thank-you page. And that's it.

You can also choose what to do with the emails you collect. Add them to an email sequence, remind them about your special offer, or send them a thank-you note after they purchase. Kajabi has templates for all kinds of pages. Select a funnel, add your content, and your marketing machine is all set.

Templates can be handy, but if you want to create your own automations, Kajabi offers a number of if-then scenarios to choose from. When a student completes an assessment, fills a form, cancels a subscription, or has been inactive for a while, you can send them an email, register them for an event, or unsubscribe them from an email list. Given that email is at the core of all its features, Kajabi also has a native email provider that helps you track how many of your emails are opened.

You can do more with Kajabi when you connect it to your favorite apps through Zapier's automated workflows. Automatically get email notifications for new purchases, give new purchasers access to your product, and more. Start with one of the pre-made workflows below, or learn more about how to automate Kajabi.

Kajabi price: From $119/month for the Basic plan for one site, 3 products, 3 funnels, 1,000 active customers, and unlimited marketing emails and landing pages.

Deciding between Kajabi and Teachable? Read our comparison: Kajabi vs. Teachable.

Best online course creation software for building a paid community

Mighty Networks (Web, Android, iOS)

 The interface for Mighty Networks, our pick for the best online course creation software for building a paid community

Mighty Networks pros:

  • Strong community-building focus

  • AI-generated course outlines

  • Modern, user-friendly interface

Mighty Networks cons:

  • High starting price

  • Not a ton of native marketing features

Mighty Networks helps you build a vibrant, active paid community around your online course. The app focuses broadly on community-building, which includes paid groups, events, and—you guessed it—online courses.

Users can sell individual courses, community membership, or bundle a combination of the two. Memberships can be priced as a one-time payment or subscription, and pricing is 100% custom. Each course can be priced separately or offered for free to paying members.

Every course comes with a built-in Activity Feed that works to foster engagement and conversation as members complete your course. Members can share all kinds of content, too—from quick text posts to images and links. As the instructor, you can set topics to drive the conversation and build live events (both online and IRL) into your courses. Add icebreaker questions to get the ball rolling, and create polls to engage your audience and gather feedback.

Uniquely, the app offers a small but mighty feature (pun intended) that enables instructors to change the verbiage used in their community. For example, your table of contents can alternatively be called syllabus, course material, or any custom label you choose. Instructors can be professor, TA, teacher, or another custom name.

Mighty Networks also now offers one of the most useful generative AI features (called "Mighty Co-Host"), which can generate an extensive course outline based on your provided topic. It worked really well for me in my testing.

You can do more with Mighty Networks when you connect your favorite apps using the Zapier integration. Bring conversations across channels, automate new member invitations, sync events to your calendar, and more with these (and other) pre-made workflows.

Mighty Networks price: Plans that include online courses start at $99/month for cohort courses and Zapier integration.

Best online course creator for managing your business

Simplero (Web, iOS, Android)

The interface for Simplero, our pick for the best online course creator for managing your business

Simplero pros:

  • All-in-one CRM, marketing automation, and online course platform

  • Native payments

  • Customizable settings

Simplero cons:

  • Not-so-scalable pricing structure

If you're looking for a capable, customizable online course builder, you can't go wrong with Simplero. Creating and outlining your course curriculum is super quick: click the Create a new course button, and a few screens later, you're ready to build out your curriculum and add your learning content.

But Simplero isn't just a course creation app—it's more like a CRM, marketing automation, and online course tool in one package. That's reflected in the robust automation and list management features included in the app. You can build, publish, and market courses, track sales and financials, and maintain your customer list all in one app.

Head over to Marketing > Done-For-You Campaigns, for example, to install the Course Launch Challenge, a 21-day automated sequence. All you need to do is customize the emails and choose when the automation flow should run. It's a perfect all-in-one solution for when your online course is your business.

And with Simplero's Zapier integrations, you can do even more with the platform, like adding new students to your email list automatically or creating new Simplero subscribers from form submissions.

Simplero pricing: The Starter plan starts at $59/month and includes 1 product, 1 course, and unlimited landing pages; upgrade to the Scale plan at $149/month for 1,000 contacts, unlimited courses and products, affiliate marketing features, automations, and more.

Which online course platform is best for you?

Whether you're passionate about teaching, want to grow your audience, or are just looking to earn an income from your courses, there's an online course creation platform to help you achieve your goals.

When picking a tool to launch your course, consider your budget, time constraints, current online following, and earning potential. If you're simply testing the waters, start with a course marketplace. Once you've validated your course topic and content, only then proceed to launch your own course website. Don't worry about migrating content from one platform to another. Most platforms support this, whether for free or for an added fee.

In the end, software for online courses should allow you to focus your efforts on the course content, not the process of getting it out to your audience.

Related reading:

This article was originally published in September 2018 by Farheen Gani. The most recent update was in December 2023.

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Kiera Abbamonte Tue, 19 Dec 2023 05:00:00 GMT https://zapier.com/blog/online-course-platforms
The 6 best time tracking apps in 2024 https://zapier.com/blog/best-time-tracking-apps .css-12p6n7x{overflow:auto;}.css-12p6n7x >*{margin-bottom:20px;margin-top:20px;}.css-12p6n7x >H2{margin-top:60px;}.css-12p6n7x >H3{margin-top:40px;}.css-12p6n7x>[id]{scroll-margin-top:20px;}@media (min-width: 660px){.css-12p6n7x>[id]{scroll-margin-top:100px;}}

If you spent an hour working on a client project, but no timer was around to track it, did you even do any work? (That's how that saying goes, right?)

As a freelancer, I'm responsible for every aspect of my business, from client work to marketing to record-keeping and admin. I keep detailed records of how long every business task and client project takes me, which helps me price my services accurately and avoid overbooking my schedule. But whether you're a solopreneur like me or a 9-5 office worker, knowing how you spend your time gives you crucial insight into—and control over—where you spend your energy.

Time tracking apps make it easier to record billable hours, streamline your business processes, and improve your personal productivity. The best time trackers have built-in timers but also let you edit or add time manually. Some of these apps even incorporate AI for a hands-off tracking process, so you can focus on deep work and leave the analytics for later.

After several weeks of in-depth testing, I've rounded up the best time tracking apps for individuals and teams so you can choose the app and features that match your work style best.

The best time tracking apps

  • Toggl Track for a free time tracking app

  • HourStack for integrating with your team's project management software

  • Timely for automated time tracking for large teams

  • Memtime for simplified automated time tracking

  • TrackingTime for visualizing time differently

  • RescueTime for reducing distractions

What makes the best time tracking software?

How we evaluate and test apps

All of our best apps roundups are written by humans who've spent much of their careers using, testing, and writing about software. We spend dozens of hours researching and testing apps, using each app as it's intended to be used and evaluating it against the criteria we set for the category. We're never paid for placement in our articles from any app or for links to any site—we value the trust readers put in us to offer authentic evaluations of the categories and apps we review. For more details on our process, read the full rundown of how we select apps to feature on the Zapier blog.

When you know how you spend your time, you can analyze your work trends and make smarter business decisions. Whether you're working solo or in a small team, time tracking software can give you a complete overview of your daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly work. 

What do you do with this information? Perhaps most importantly, project time tracking can help you get paid, allowing you to feel confident about your invoices rather than trying to estimate how much time you worked after the fact. If you're part of a team, time tracking can help you answer the question, "What have you been working on this month?"

When evaluating the best time tracking apps, I considered the following criteria: 

  • Real-time tracking. Nearly all time tracking apps let you track in real time, meaning they give you a running clock that you launch when you start a task, and that you can pause or stop when you finish. 

  • The ability to edit time tracked or manually add time blocks. The best apps let you correct time tracked after the fact, such as if you accidentally leave a timer running while you take off for lunch. You should be able to edit the time log to subtract however many minutes you weren't working. You also want an app that lets you enter a block of time post hoc in case you forget to launch a timer at all. For example, if your phone rings and you jump into a 20-minute consulting call, you might not start a timer, but you do want to log and bill for those hours worked.

  • Reporting features. The most powerful time tracking apps offer dashboards and reports that let you break out daily, weekly, or monthly time spent per project, per person, or per client. 

  • The ability to create an invoice or export data. Once you aggregate all your time spent on your work, you have to be able to take action on it. All these apps let you either automatically create invoices from the time tracking data stored in the app or export that information into PDFs, CSVs, or Google Sheets to share with the right people.

  • Multiple points of access. The best time tracking tools make starting a timer easy and convenient. They have the versatility to let you start a timer from wherever is most convenient to you, whether that's your browser, a desktop app, or your mobile device.  

  • Bonus: AI features. Artificial intelligence is automating and simplifying workflows across tools of all industries, and time tracking apps are no exception. I gave special consideration to time trackers that use AI to auto-track your time or use machine learning to automatically assign time blocks to related tasks and projects.

What's not included in this roundup

Here, I focused specifically on finding a time tracker for freelancers, individuals, and small teams. I didn't consider employee monitoring software, which often includes some type of time tracking. I did include two automated tracking tools that monitor users' activities—but the data is for each user's eyes only. With these tools, you choose how much (if any) data to share with your supervisors. If you're looking for more team-focused apps, take a look at Zapier's picks for the best free timesheet software.

Additionally, I haven't included project management, invoicing, or accounting apps that come with an add-on or built-in time tracker. While time-tracking clocks can be very helpful inside these tools, I assume if that's what you need, you're likely shopping for a more robust solution. 

Looking for ways to make tracking time even easier? Add automation to your time tracking app and automatically start events, create projects, and notify your team when you start work on a task.

The best time tracking apps at a glance

Best for

Standout feature

Pricing

Toggl Track

A free time tracking app

Easy accessibility from anywhere

Free for up to 5 users; from $9/user/month

HourStack

Integrating with your team's project management software

Simplicity in planning and tracking a team's workload

From $12/month for 1 user

Timely

Automated time tracking for large teams

AI assistant for categorizing activities

From $9/user/month for up to 20 projects and 5 users

Memtime

Simplified automated time tracking

Minimalist interface

From $12/user/month (with a 24-month subscription)

TrackingTime

Visualizing time differently

Robust task management features

Free for up to 3 users; from $5.75/user/month

RescueTime

Reducing distractions

Focus sessions to block distracting websites

Free Lite plan for individuals; from $12/user/month


Best free time tracking app

Toggl Track (Android, iOS, Windows, macOS, Linux, Web, and browser extensions)

The interface for Toggl Track, our pick for the best free time tracking app

If you need a time tracker tool but can't pay for one, you should use Toggl Track. In fact, until I found my new favorite timer while researching for this article, Toggl has been a daily part of my freelance workflow. The time tracking tool has a generous free tier of service that gives you access to all its apps (Android, iOS, Windows, macOS, Linux, Web, and browser extensions) and includes all the core functionality you'd expect in a time tracking app. 

Toggl Track works so effortlessly primarily because it doesn't ask much of you when you start timing a task. With many time tracking apps, you have to have a client, project, and task entered into your account before the app will let you track time. If you don't, you have to set your task aside for the time being and enter them. With Toggl Track, you can track your time right away, view your tracked time entries in a grid or calendar format, and worry about the details later. 

Additionally, when you use Toggl Track through the Chrome or Firefox browser extension, a Toggl timer button shows up in just about every web app you could imagine, from Google Docs (and other Google apps) to Help Scout. Because you always see the Toggl Track button while you're working, you have a continual reminder to track your time. I also like keeping the desktop app open on my computer, so even if I start a timer from my browser window, the running clock will appear on my Mac's menubar. The easy accessibility from wherever I am makes Toggl's timer one of the most flexible and easiest-to-use tools I've tested—and it's why I've used it regularly for over three years now.

Toggl Track also has some of the most detailed options I've seen in a time tracking app. For example, in the Toggl Track Chrome extension, you can automatically start and stop tracking time based on whether the browser is open or not. It also has excellent idle detection, which helps you maintain high accuracy across your records. When the app detects your computer has been idle but a timer is still running, it offers ways to correct the recorded block of time. That way, if you're interrupted while working and get sucked into a 20-minute conversation, Toggl Track can knock out those 20 minutes from your record. Toggl Track even has a Pomodoro Technique setting, so that you can work for a set amount of time on a project that requires your focus and then take a short break, all with simple stopwatch-like reminders. 

Toggl has also recently upgraded its dashboards and reporting features for even more in-depth data analysis. You can create customized dashboards to see weekly stats or team summaries, and then generate reports filtered by team, tag, or client.

For even more flexibility, use Toggl Track's Zapier integrations to connect Toggl Track with your favorite apps, so you can start new time entries in Toggl Track when calendar events start, add new entries to a spreadsheet, and more.

Who Toggl Track isn't right for: While the free plan is simple and easy to use for basic time tracking and reporting, you'll need to upgrade to Premium if you want granular insights into your work, saved reports, or billable hours. For your money, another app on this list would probably work better for you. And there's no free task management or planning feature, so if you're looking for a way to schedule and track your team's workload, you'll need to look elsewhere.

Toggl Track pricing: Free for up to 5 users; $9/user/month when billed annually for the Starter plan, which includes time rounding, billable rates, saved reports, and more.

If you're looking for a simple time tracking app without extra bells and whistles, consider Clockify. While the free plan doesn't offer the same level of functionality as Toggl Track, it does include unlimited tracking, unlimited users, unlimited projects, and unlimited reports—all for free. 

Best time tracking app for integrating with your team's project management tool

HourStack (Web, Chrome, Firefox, Microsoft Edge)

HourStack, our pick for the best time tracking app for integrating with your team's project management tool

If you're looking for a project time tracker that integrates smoothly with your favorite project management tool to help your team both plan and track your time, HourStack is worth exploring.

HourStack is a sleek and easy-to-use combination calendar and time tracker that continues to impress me. The app has native integrations with popular project management tools like Asana, Google Tasks, Trello, Todoist, and even Google Calendar. When you connect to one of these apps, you can view your tasks from a sidebar from within HourStack—and drag and drop them directly into your HourStack calendar to schedule your team's workload. 

And the best part? The integration works both ways, so you can mark tasks completed from HourStack, and they'll update in your project manager. As a productivity tool nerd, I was impressed and excited by this feature.

The power of HourStack is in its simplicity. There's no danger of being overloaded or distracted with complicated settings or interfaces. The Calendar page shows you your planned tasks and lets you schedule and record work time. The Reports page, which is filterable by clients, projects, and labels, displays your scheduled vs. logged hours, along with how many tasks you've completed. And with the browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Microsoft Edge, you can quickly add or start tracking project time without needing to input a task or project first. 

If you need to connect HourStack to a tool that isn't supported natively, you can make your own HourStack integrations using Zapier. Connect HourStack to thousands of apps, so you can coordinate your time tracking however it's most useful. Here are a couple of examples.

Who HourStack isn't right for: Those who want a desktop and/or mobile app. HourStack works in your browser and through browser extensions, and while it's very responsive for mobile, some users might feel constrained by the limited points of access.

HourStack pricing: $12/month for one user; $15/user/month for teams.

If you're in the market for time tracking apps optimized for team project management, I'd also recommend Harvest and Everhour. Both apps are built to handle collaborative workloads reliably and easily. Harvest works offline and has a robust free plan, and both tools have multiple native integrations that make it easy to incorporate your team's project management tool for scheduling. 

Best automated time tracker app for teams

Timely (Web, macOS, Windows, iOS, Android, Chrome, Firefox)

Timely, our pick for the best time tracking app for automated time tracking

The best time tracking apps make it as painless as possible to capture an accurate record of how you're spending your time. What's more painless and accurate than an automated time tracker?

Timely is a time tracking app from Memory AS that makes "Memories" of every software and website you use during the day. Then, whenever it's convenient, you can drag and drop these Memories into their assigned tasks or projects to create a Timesheet. 

If you're a part of an organization, a tool like this might seem a little scary—but Timely isn't an employee surveillance app. All the data it collects is private to you, and only you decide how much to share on your Timesheet. And if you don't want the app to track your activities at any point, you can easily toggle off the app from your menu bar.

The great thing about Timely is how easy it is to start using it. After downloading the desktop app, you'll be prompted to connect to your calendar and/or conferencing tools so that Timely can incorporate your meetings into your work schedule. You can also easily add projects, tasks, and clients and set up your hourly rate for people and projects. 

Then, just let the app work in the background. There's no need to remember to start and stop a timer—just spend a few minutes at the end of the day dragging and dropping activities into their respective projects on your time sheet, and you'll have an accurate and detailed accounting of how you spent your time. 

It even records when you're in a Chrome tab group—which I love, since I use tab groups to organize different projects I'm working on at the same time. This thoughtful Timely feature makes it easy to assign tracked web activity to projects. And the new AI assistant also learns patterns in your time tracking and, after the first day or so, starts making suggestions for categorizing activities as projects.

Timely offers very detailed and customized reports. Easily view unbilled hours and reports for the whole workspace or just a specific project. You can also create report templates for customized views, filtered by clients, projects, people, tags, or teams. Then, when it's time to invoice, Timely connects to QuickBooks to create invoices and push them to QuickBooks Online when they're ready to send. 

And if you like planning ahead, Timely also offers a task planner feature for an additional $5 per month. You can plan out tasks by the assignee or the project. Then, every day, drag and drop your activities into their respective tasks on your Timesheet to compare planned vs. tracked time for each task.

What makes Timely such a great choice for teams is its emphasis on team scheduling and project management. You can click on the People tab to see a dashboard overview of planned vs. logged time, a breakdown by user, and an activities report for the team. Timely makes it easy to see who's at capacity and who's over-scheduled—and you can even filter for missing or overtime hours.

To get the most out of the app, you can integrate Timely with Zapier. Connect Timely to the rest of your tech stack to streamline processes like creating new clients or projects in Timely.

Who Timely isn't right for: Users who don't want an AI tool to track their every move on their computer. Also, if you do a lot of work off-screen, Timely may not be the right fit for you; it's focused primarily on tracking and categorizing computer-based work.

Timely pricing: $9/user/month for the Starter plan (up to 20 projects and 5 users). The Premium plan is $16/user/month for unlimited projects and 50 users.

Best time tracking app for simplified auto-tracking

Memtime (macOS, Windows, Linux)

Memtime, our pick for the best time tracking app for simplified auto-tracking

Memtime (formerly timeBro) is a relatively new automated time tracking tool that has quickly become my new favorite. I may give up my years-long Toggl reliance after spending a few weeks letting Memtime run in the background of my work.

Much like Timely, Memtime is a desktop app that keeps track of your computer activity, so you can categorize it later. No more remembering to start or stop a timer; just visit the app at the end of your workday to review and categorize what you've done.

What I love so much about Memtime is its simplicity. The other auto-tracking tools I tested (including Timely) have so much emphasis on team project management and timesheet creation that it's easy to become overwhelmed. If, like me, you're not collaborating on projects with others or planning to submit detailed timesheets to your supervisor, tools like Timely might be overkill. Memtime's interface is much more minimalist, with a running log of your activity, a space where you can create entries with a click, and an overview of your day's work. There's also a page for project management—where you can add clients and projects manually or import them from your other apps—and a reporting page with your productivity stats. You can also sync Memtime with your calendar to view events alongside captured activities.

To create new time entries in the Timeline view, it's easy to click on the timeline and drag your cursor to adjust the entry's duration. The display is broken down into five-minute intervals (or you can choose a one-minute breakdown if you prefer to be more granular and don't mind scrolling). Alternatively, you can use List view, which lets you drag and drop activities to log new entries. 

One thing to keep in mind is that Memtime only works in a desktop app; no mobile app or web access. And since Memtime uses five-minute intervals by default in the Timeline view, I found the total logged work time to be less precise than Timely. But since I'm just tracking for my personal use, the simplicity of Memtime is worth the sacrifice. 

If you're looking to dip your toe into automated time tracking but don't want to be overwhelmed with team or project management features, I absolutely recommend trying Memtime.

Who Memtime isn't right for: Users who don't want an AI app tracking their computer activities. Also, the tool is a little too minimalist for teams—and if you're looking for multiple integrations or a mobile app, look elsewhere.  

Memtime pricing: $12/user/month (with a 24-month subscription) for the Basic plan, which comes with fully automated time tracking and calendar sync. The Connect plan starts at $18/user/month for project management software integration.

Best time tracking app for visualizing time differently

TrackingTime (Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, Web, Chrome, Firefox)

TrackingTime, our pick for the best time tracking app for visualizing time differently

TrackingTime is a collaborative time tracking tool that looks different from many other time tracking apps. It represents time in blocks or windows, just as if that working time were an event on your calendar. It's not the only app that lays out your time in this fashion, but it does offer the most opportunities for customization. For example, you can choose between a day, week, month, or team view.

The daily view has the most helpful layout I've seen, showing the full month's calendar on the left (with each day displaying an icon to show the amount of time tracked) and the day you select on the right, color-coded and organized by blocks of tracked time.

TrackingTime also puts more emphasis on planning your time before you start working compared to other apps. For example, you can schedule blocks of time on your calendar for tasks you intend to work on later in the week or for recurring events, like meetings.

The Projects tab is the closest to a traditional project management tool that I've seen, with a sleek and user-friendly interface. It looks similar to an Asana list, where you can view tasks broken down by project, client, priority, or date. Clicking on a task expands a side panel where you can view tracked time, add attachments or subtasks, and set custom fields. If you're looking for a time tracker that doubles as a relatively robust task manager, TrackingTime is worth checking out.

If you'd rather keep your task manager separate, TrackingTime's Chrome extension integrates with several productivity tools, allowing you to start a timer directly from apps like Airtable, Asana, and Notion. Or you can connect TrackingTime to Zapier to help it talk to all the other apps you use. Here are a couple examples to get you started.

Who TrackingTime isn't right for: Users who don't care about time blocking or scheduling specific tasks in advance.

TrackingTime pricing: Free for up to 3 users; $5.75/user/month for the Pro plan for unlimited collaboration, advanced reporting, and team management features. 

Best time tracking app for reducing distractions 

RescueTime (Android, iOS, Windows, macOS, Linux, Chrome, Firefox, Brave)

The interface for RescueTime, our pick for the best time tracking app for reducing distractions

RescueTime is an automatic time tracking app that prioritizes mindfulness, deep work, and reducing distractions throughout your workday. 

To start using RescueTime's (far superior, in my opinion) "Focus" version, you'll first install a small monitoring app on your computer. This software works in the background to observe your computer usage and powers the RescueTime Assistant, "a digital wellness coach."

The Assistant is accessible on your desktop's menubar, taskbar, or system tray, and helps you manage your daily work progress, goals, and reports. For example, it may alert you when you're distracted and multitasking more than normal.

RescueTime's most interesting set of features are designed to help you focus and take on deep work—high-value, mentally-demanding projects. RescueTime refers to this type of work as "Focus Work." You can determine the activities that qualify as Focus Work in your settings and set goals for how much Focus Work you want to complete in a day. 

When you're ready to tackle this kind of deep work, you start a "Focus Session." During this session, RescueTime blocks all websites that you've identified as personal activities (like social media sites or YouTube). It keeps track of how well you're concentrating, and at the end of the session, it will give you a detailed report. 

There's a learning curve with RescueTime. You have to familiarize yourself with all these terms and how RescueTime defines and categorizes certain activities. But once you feel comfortable with the vocabulary and the settings, you won't have to tinker with much else and can immediately dive into your deep work.

This is also the only app in this roundup that does not let you export your hours or automatically create an invoice. RescueTime is for the person who wants to track their hours worked for their own benefit, learning more about their working habits and how to optimize their productivity.

One word of warning: when you sign up for RescueTime, you're given the option to choose your priority ("Focus" or "Analytics"). RescueTime's strengths lie in its focus-friendly features, so if you try it, I recommend choosing Focus when you sign up. I tried Analytics at first, and I wasn't impressed. Going that route, I missed out on the active coaching included in the desktop version of the Focus app. Instead, the desktop app was very minimalist, directing me to a browser dashboard where I could see a list of my activities—but without the easy categorizing and exporting functionality that I found with an app like Timely. 

Also, while RescueTime has recently implemented a new "Timesheets AI" feature that lets you categorize your tracked time into projects, I found it to be a little too clunky for daily use. Maybe after a few updates, RescueTime will become the perfect dual distraction reducer and timesheet log. But for now, it's a great choice for reducing distractions and gamifying focus.

You can do even more with RescueTime by using RescueTime's Zapier Integrations. Zapier can connect RescueTime to all the other apps you use, so you can spend more of your time on that Focus Work.

Who RescueTime isn't right for: Users who want to easily track time for individual projects and tasks.

RescueTime pricing: Free Lite plan for individuals, which doesn't include activity blocking, advanced reporting, goal setting, or offline time entry. RescueTime Premium starts at $12/user/month.

What makes the best time tracker?

The right time tracking app takes the guesswork out of scheduling and accounting for your workday. Easily start and stop timers, add or edit time entries manually, and export or review your data for more accurate invoicing and planning. And you can save even more of your valuable time by automating the data flow between your other apps and your time tracker of choice. That way, you're spending your time where it matters most.

Related reading:

This article was originally published in September 2018 by Emily Esposito. The most recent update was in December 2023.

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Nicole Replogle Mon, 18 Dec 2023 11:00:00 GMT https://zapier.com/blog/best-time-tracking-apps
4 ways to automate your no-code app builder https://zapier.com/blog/automate-no-code-app-builder .css-12p6n7x{overflow:auto;}.css-12p6n7x >*{margin-bottom:20px;margin-top:20px;}.css-12p6n7x >H2{margin-top:60px;}.css-12p6n7x >H3{margin-top:40px;}.css-12p6n7x>[id]{scroll-margin-top:20px;}@media (min-width: 660px){.css-12p6n7x>[id]{scroll-margin-top:100px;}}

It used to take a computer engineering degree and months of work to design a simple app—but not these days. Now, no-code app builders make it easy for even tech newbies to create custom tools for both front-end and back-end processes. You might build an app for your eCommerce store or paid course, for example, or turn your databases into interactive client portals and internal dashboards.

But your custom apps are only as powerful as they are efficient. It's still up to you to be aware of important updates, keep accurate data logs, and stay in touch with the app's users. Thankfully, there's also a no-code way to tell your app to communicate with the rest of your tech stack: Zapier's automated workflows.

In this article, we'll show you four of the best ways to automate your app builder so you can maximize your custom app's effectiveness while saving yourself valuable time.

New to Zapier? It's an automation tool that helps anyone connect apps and automate workflows—without any complicated code. Sign up for free to use this app, and many others, with Zapier.

Table of contents

To get started with a Zap template—what we call our pre-made workflows—just click on the button. It only takes a few minutes to set up. You can read more about setting up Zaps here.

Send notifications

There could be many reasons you might want to send a notification whenever a specified action occurs in your custom app. Whether it's sending follow-up messages to new subscribers or notifying your team of important updates, automation can keep the right people informed without bogging you down with busywork.

Send automated emails

For instance, say your customer-facing app lets users create accounts or make purchases. It's a good idea to send them a follow-up email whenever they take that desired action. 

But managing welcome emails for each new customer or subscriber can quickly get unwieldy—especially as your app becomes more popular. Instead, set up a Zap that sends welcome emails automatically. You'll show new customers great customer service without being glued to your app builder's dashboard.

Or maybe you want an easy way to stay up to date on changes to an app database. You could send time-sensitive notifications to your team for new orders or customers. Or if your staff uses a custom employee portal, it could be useful to send your HR team automated emails whenever there's a new PTO request. These Zaps send custom emails to you or your team whenever a new record is created in your app builder of choice.

Send Slack notifications

If your team lives in Slack instead of email, send those important updates to a Slack channel instead. You may want to notify your customer success team of new subscribers, update your IT team on incoming requests, or make company-wide announcements for new additions to your staff directory. 

No matter your use case, these Zaps can get it done. Whenever a new workflow trigger event is received in Bubble or a new user is registered in Backendless, your chosen Slack channel will receive a custom message.

Connect your no-code app with your spreadsheet or database

Custom apps are powerful tools for a great user experience, but when it comes to data storage, nothing beats a good old-fashioned spreadsheet. For everything you store in a custom app—be it product inventory, work orders, employee data, or customer purchases—you likely want a backup database for that crucial information, as well.

But manually copying and pasting data from one app to another doesn't scale. And as your business grows, it'll become increasingly impossible to stay on top of new entries.

Thankfully, you can effortlessly sync your no-code app builder with your spreadsheet or database of choice using automation.

Connect with Google Sheets

These Zaps automatically copy new record information from Adalo, Bubble, and Glide to a Google Spreadsheet. Whether you're using a Google Sheet as a backup, for data analytics, or as a central hub for further automation, these integrations are a great starting point. 

Or, if you prefer to add new information to a spreadsheet first, these Zaps let you skip manually copying and pasting that data into your app builder. Anytime there's a new spreadsheet row detected in Google Sheets, a new Softr user or Backendless object will be created automatically. 

Connect with Airtable

If you use an Airtable database for storing and managing your business data instead, you can use these automated workflows to keep your Softr or Adalo apps in sync. That way, your data will stay effortlessly consistent and up-to-date across both systems.

Add to your email list

If you use no-code app builders to create customer-facing apps, it's crucial to ensure new app users are consistently added to your customer database. Anytime a customer makes a purchase from your eCommerce store or books an appointment for a service, you'll want to save their information for future marketing or customer service efforts.

But without automation, you'll be stuck manually exporting CSV files or copying and pasting user data from your app builder to Mailchimp. Not only is this process tedious and time-consuming, but it risks letting new users fall through the cracks.

Instead, use one of these Zaps to add or update subscribers in Mailchimp or Flodesk whenever a new account is created in your custom app.

Back up files

Finally, whether your app contains product information, portfolio photos, or instructional videos, it's a good idea to keep a backup of important brand documents in your Google Drive. But uploading files to two apps takes double the time—and forgetting to create manual backups is all too easy.

Thankfully, you can skip the tedium of manual file management by automating your app builder. These Zaps keep you organized by uploading files to a designated folder in Google Drive whenever a new record or trigger event is detected in Adalo, Bubble, and Glide. 

Get more out of your custom apps with automation

No matter how you use no-code app building, it takes a lot of effort and time to manage custom apps. You need to stay aware of important updates like new users or back-end requests. It's also important to keep backups of data and files, whether you're using a database or Google Drive (or both). And if your app is customer-facing, you'll need to copy new user information into your email marketing software to nurture new leads.

Doing all this work manually gets old fast, not to mention wastes all the time you saved by not having to learn to code (well, maybe not all the time, but at least one semester of a computer engineering program, right?). 

Instead, you can use automation to connect your custom apps to the rest of your most-used tools—ensuring up-to-date records and timely responses, minus all the grunt work.

Ready to automate your no-code app? See what you can start building today.

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Nicole Replogle Mon, 18 Dec 2023 08:00:00 GMT https://zapier.com/blog/automate-no-code-app-builder
7 ways to automate Buffer with Zapier https://zapier.com/blog/automate-buffer .css-12p6n7x{overflow:auto;}.css-12p6n7x >*{margin-bottom:20px;margin-top:20px;}.css-12p6n7x >H2{margin-top:60px;}.css-12p6n7x >H3{margin-top:40px;}.css-12p6n7x>[id]{scroll-margin-top:20px;}@media (min-width: 660px){.css-12p6n7x>[id]{scroll-margin-top:100px;}}

To execute a successful social media strategy without exhausting yourself, you need to take all the help you can get. Buffer does a lot of the heavy lifting for you by helping you create engaging content, grow your following, and coordinate your strategy within a team. 

But you can still do more to create a truly streamlined and successful social strategy. Combining Zapier with Buffer to create automated workflows makes your work even easier. 

These workflows automate the repetitive tasks involved in managing social—like sending notifications or posting across platforms—so you can concentrate on your most important work. Here's how.

New to Zapier? It's an automation tool that helps anyone connect apps and automate workflows—without any complicated code. Sign up for free to use this app, and many others, with Zapier.

Table of contents

To get started with a Zap template—what we call our pre-made workflows—just click on the button. It only takes a few minutes to set up. You can read more about setting up Zaps here.

Send content to Buffer from your RSS feed

Many people rely on RSS feeds (Really Simple Syndication) to keep themselves informed. In some ways, they're a handy bit of automation by themselves! If you want your audience to stay up to date with your business, you'll want to generate an RSS feed item whenever you have something to share on your blog, news announcements, or posts on your social media accounts.

What's extra useful is that RSS works the other way around, too. You can use it to push content to other social sites and apps as well as pull posts from your social media. Automate your RSS feed to automatically push new content to Buffer, where you can organize it and share it to other platforms.

Easily cross-post content between platforms

You want the content you've put so much effort into to find the widest audience possible. Repurposing content between platforms is key. Post articles to social to pull more readers to your blog, and repurpose content for all the different platforms you operate on.

The challenge with cross-posting content to many different platforms is that each platform has different formats and submission interfaces. The time you spend copy-and-pasting content, adding appropriate tags and hashtags, and uploading media can quickly add up.

Automation is much more suited to successful cross-posting than people are. Just set up an automated workflow once, and it will trigger your content to post across whatever platforms you need instantly.

You can share Instagram photos on Facebook, WordPress articles on Twitter, and YouTube videos on LinkedIn. Then, add each of those posts, images, or videos to Buffer so you can repurpose them whenever they're needed.

Connect your project management platform to Buffer

If you're planning your social posts ahead of time, you probably use a project management tool to keep a big-picture view of planned content and more easily coordinate posts across your team.

But you still need to get that content into your social media management tool. With an automated workflow managing your social media schedule, you can work more efficiently. Plan social posts on a weekly, monthly, or quarterly basis instead of day-by-day. Make sure posts go out on a regular cadence, even when part of your team is out of the office. 

Add content to Buffer from your file management tools

You need a lot of images and assets to manage social media posting. And if you've set up even the most basic file management system, you're probably dropping images in Google Drive or tracking post details in a spreadsheet.

Take out the extra step of moving those assets into Buffer manually. Instead, set up workflows between your file management tool and Buffer to help keep track of all your content. 

These Zaps will help you keep all your social assets organized and available when you need them:

Keep your team in the loop on new social posts

Depending on what you're posting, you might have different teams across your company who need to stay on top of your social campaigns. Say you're posting something important and want your team on high alert to respond to breaking customer questions. Or maybe you just want your customer support team to know about social campaigns so they know what customers are asking about.

Use a Zap to keep your team in the loop in your team chat app. That way, your team doesn't have to leave Slack to check in on things.

Or, you can create detailed events in your or your team's Google Calendar for new items in Buffer. Get a calendar alert when an important post is going up so that your team is ready to monitor responses, engage with followers, and stay informed of your social media activity.

Schedule regular social media posts

Do you publish a consistent message on a schedule? Maybe you send a daily reminder to your followers to check in on your app. Or want a daily reminder to keep your business front-of-mind for your audience. Use this Zap to schedule a daily post in Buffer with Zapier's built-in scheduling tool.

Use webhooks with Buffer

While Zapier connects with thousands of apps, there may be a more niche tool in your social media workflow that doesn't have a Zapier integration—yet! But that doesn't mean you can't automate all the tools across your tech stack.

Webhooks let you send information to and from almost any tool. Here's a popular workflow to get you started.

Supercharge Buffer with automation

When you use automation, you can focus your energy on making engaging videos, creating compelling images, and writing social copy instead of copy-and-pasting all of that content into Buffer. Use automation to give your team back the time to focus on their most important work—connecting with your growing audience.

And this is just the start of what you can do with Buffer and Zapier. What will you automate first?

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Wren Noble Mon, 18 Dec 2023 08:00:00 GMT https://zapier.com/blog/automate-buffer
4 ways to automate Manychat with Zapier https://zapier.com/blog/automate-manychat .css-12p6n7x{overflow:auto;}.css-12p6n7x >*{margin-bottom:20px;margin-top:20px;}.css-12p6n7x >H2{margin-top:60px;}.css-12p6n7x >H3{margin-top:40px;}.css-12p6n7x>[id]{scroll-margin-top:20px;}@media (min-width: 660px){.css-12p6n7x>[id]{scroll-margin-top:100px;}}

Social media has turned mass communication into an instantaneous back-and-forth. But when you have a growing company, it's not always easy to manage all those customer conversations. Enter Manychat, a chat marketing solution for automating conversations with customers who reach out on apps like Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger.

Using Manychat will make your brand more responsive to customers who want to know more about what you sell. You can use it to answer frequently asked questions, offer instant customer feedback, or steer curious leads toward your sales page. 

But if you want to connect Manychat to the rest of your tools—like your calendar app or email marketing software—you need a system in place to connect your business-critical apps. Here's how you can use Zaps—Zapier's automated workflows—to automate Manychat and make those customer conversations a seamless experience for both you and your customers.

New to Zapier? It's an automation tool that helps anyone connect apps and automate workflows—without any complicated code. Sign up for free to use this app, and many others, with Zapier.

Table of contents

To get started with a Zap template—what we call our pre-made workflows—just click on the button. It only takes a few minutes to set up. You can read more about setting up Zaps here.

Connect Manychat with Google Sheets

There are a few reasons you might want to build a pipeline between Manychat and Google Sheets. For starters, Google Sheets makes it easy to view and organize your customer information in one spot. For example, you can route information about your newest leads from Manychat and other marketing outreach software with automation, giving you a single source of truth for your entire customer list.

Having a backup list of all of your customer data also ensures you never lose valuable info if something happens in any of your marketing tools. Build peace of mind into your system automatically with one of these Zaps.

Send notifications from Manychat

Even though Manychat can run in the background while you're focusing on other work, you may want to keep tabs on all of the conversations taking place in the app. For example, you might want to know when new users express interest in your business. The question is: how do you want to learn about these interactions?

One way is to use a Zap to trigger a new email in your email app when an event happens in Manychat. You can also use this method to reach out to customers in specific instances, like when they're first added to your Manychat account or you add a specific tag to a contact.

Or you can send Slack notifications to the appropriate team members when new events happen in Manychat. 

Either way, you can keep your marketing team in the loop, prepping them for key follow-ups when Manychat engages your users. 

Add Manychat users to your mailing list

Manychat's automated chat functions are great for customers. They'll get quick answers to their FAQs without any additional waiting time—and they don't need to wait for a customer support specialist to drop in either. 

But a quick automated reply shouldn't be the last they hear from you. If you use email marketing apps like Mailchimp or ActiveCampaign, you can use automation to bring these potential customers into your mailing list software. 

Have Manychat tag a user who agrees, for example, and you can set a Zap to import those customers directly into your newsletter. Your mailing list will grow without you having to lift an additional finger.

Manage your contacts across multiple apps

The trick with a service like Manychat is that you're constantly pulling in new contacts. Having a lot of customers is a great problem to have, but it can get difficult to manage. And while Google Sheets is a great option for bringing in new customer contacts into a single source of truth, you may also need to make Manychat play well with your other apps. 

For instance, what if you have a new Calendly invitee and want to register them as a Manychat "custom field"? Or what if you want to bring in a new user from Manychat into your LeadConnector software?

Let a Zap fill in those gaps. 

Build Manychat into a marketing and contact management powerhouse

The appeal of Manychat is that it makes your brand feel responsive in real-time. A user can reach out on a service like Messenger and get immediate answers to their questions as if you're there chatting with them. And that's great for the users. 

But it's even better for you if you're able to automate Manychat on the backend. You can use the system to save your contacts, notify your sales team when there are new interactions, and enter new contact information into your marketing systems. The result is a far more responsive way to interact on social media. And with Manychat in place, you can remain responsive even as your business grows and your audience expands. 

This is just the start of what you can do with Zapier and Manychat. What will you automate first?

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Daniel Kenitz Mon, 18 Dec 2023 08:00:00 GMT https://zapier.com/blog/automate-manychat
10 communication plan templates—and how to write your own https://zapier.com/blog/communication-plan-template .css-12p6n7x{overflow:auto;}.css-12p6n7x >*{margin-bottom:20px;margin-top:20px;}.css-12p6n7x >H2{margin-top:60px;}.css-12p6n7x >H3{margin-top:40px;}.css-12p6n7x>[id]{scroll-margin-top:20px;}@media (min-width: 660px){.css-12p6n7x>[id]{scroll-margin-top:100px;}}

There's a warning on the box my steam iron came in that says, "Do not iron clothes while wearing them."

This gave me pause for a few minutes, but it got me thinking about the kind of lawsuit that prompted lawyers to include an otherwise obvious warning on the box and the kind of crisis communication plan that came to exist in the aftermath.

Add that to the "pudding will get hot when heated" warning and the trademark "shower cap fits only one head" disclaimer, and you've got yourself an era in which communication plans are not only a helpful organizational tool but a very necessary one.

Successfully running a company requires clear communication across the board: with employees, customers, investors, and any other stakeholders. Any gap in communication can lead to difficulties that range from minor project blips to absolute disaster. And while they're necessary for crisis management, communication plans have plenty of other uses beyond ensuring your consumer doesn't give themselves third-degree burns.

Table of contents:

  • What is a communication plan?

  • Communication plan templates 

  • How to write a communication plan

  • Communication plan essentials

What is a communication plan?

A communication plan is your blueprint for delivering key information to appropriate stakeholders. It outlines the information that needs to be communicated, who it's meant for, the channel it's delivered through, and the folks in charge of it to ensure clear, consistent, and purposeful communication.

This document can look different depending on what it's used for. Here are some examples to give you an idea:

  • If I were creating a crisis communication plan for the unlikely event that someone irons their shirt while wearing it, I'd consider all the steps we'd have to take to avoid scrutiny and legal issues, like seeking medical attention, designating a spokesperson to represent our company, or press release strategies to address the issue. (I'd also consider whether the box should come with a logical analysis puzzle the user needs to solve before they can open it, but that's just me trying to fix the world one steam iron at a time.)

  • A marketing communication plan plays a different role. It's designed to outline responsibilities and initiatives within the grand scope of the marketing strategy to keep teams aligned and informed. One initiative I'd underline twice for our steam iron product would be to produce marketing imagery that clearly demonstrates how to iron a shirt—i.e., on an ironing board, not a body.

  • A product launch communication plan helps keep everyone on the same page regarding brand messaging, intended effects, and progress throughout the launch. Let's take Apple as an example. They're known for their meticulously planned and executed product launches. Their communication strategy involves creating anticipation through teaser campaigns, leveraging secrecy to build excitement, and hosting live events to unveil new products.

Bottom line: communication plans run the gamut. When it comes to format, some plans may be in a table format, outlining talking points and deadlines. Others may contain more of a narrative, meant to inform and update the reader on how a situation is being handled.

You can use a communication plan for both external and internal communication. An employee communication plan, for example, is only meant for your team's eyes. On the other hand, public relations communication plans can be used internally and can also be shared with relevant third parties for outreach and marketing purposes.

Communication plan templates

A communication plan is that one bookmark every employee clicks at the beginning of their day until they associate its main page with the smell of coffee.

Knowing what it is and why it matters is one thing, but understanding the different ways you can use a communication plan is another. Since there are so many different types of plans, I've put together a few templates to highlight the differences. Pick your (well-labeled) poison.

1. Marketing communication plan

Screenshot of Zapier's marketing communication plan template showing the person or team in charge of the project, tasks, timeline, communication channels, audience, and notes in a dark orange bar the top for each target audience on the left side

This communication plan outlines your marketing initiatives for each audience. It tracks relevant information, including the person or team in charge of the project, tasks, timeline, communication channels, audience, and notes.

It also organizes this information based on each aspect of your marketing strategy, whether it's targeting existing clients, potential leads, investors, events, or any PR third parties. 

2. Crisis communication plan

Screenshot of Zapier's crisis communication plan template with places to fill in information about the crisis management team and a summary of the predefined crisis communication strategy

No organization is immune to unexpected and challenging situations that can potentially harm its reputation and operations. This communication plan outlines a systematic approach to addressing crises, including key team members, their responsibilities, communication channels, and the predefined strategy.

It should include clear guidelines for rapid response, methods for updating stakeholders, and ways to mitigate potential damage to the organization's image. The plan should always outline the key crisis management team, their roles and responsibilities, procedures for identifying the crisis, and how to work with media outlets and external entities.

3. Internal communication plan

Screenshot of Zapier's internal communication plan template with places to fill in a summary of the plan, key contacts, and communication objectives

This communication plan is designed to ensure employees receive timely and relevant information, have clear visibility of organizational goals, and stay informed about key developments within the organization.

It includes details on communication channels, such as newsletters, meetings, and virtual seminars. Typically, it outlines how the leadership team communicates with employees, how frequently they can expect updates, and methods for gathering feedback to enhance internal communication across the board.

4. Social media communication plan

Screenshot of Zapier's social media communication plan template with places to fill in information about the plan summary, key contacts, and communication objectives

A social media communication plan guides a company's strategy in utilizing social media platforms for its communication goals. It's important for building a strong online presence, engaging with your target audience, and managing your company's reputation in the digital world.

This plan includes an overview of your social media content strategy, detailing the type of content you intend to share, how often you should publish posts, and the voice of the message. 

To make the most of your social media communication plan, define the target audience on each platform, outline KPIs for measuring success, and establish helpful guidelines that can tie into your crisis communication plan and leverage social media in case of an emergency.

5. Change management communication plan

Screenshot of Zapier's change management communication plan template with places to fill in information about the plan summary, key contacts, and communication objectives

If your company goes through grand-scale change such as mergers, rebranding, restructuring, or process optimization, a change management plan is crucial for ensuring your team is informed, engaged, and supportive of the changes. 

The team's going to need an explanation and a plan of action now that Janice is walking down the office toward the door marked "manager" with a big smile on her face.

Its goal is to facilitate a smooth transition and should always include clear messaging regarding the reasons for the change, the anticipated benefits, and how this could affect employees. It outlines the timeline for the change, strategies for addressing concerns, available communication channels, and any feedback regarding the process.

6. Non-profit communication plan

Screenshot of Zapier's nonprofit communication plan template with places to fill in information about the plan summary, key contacts, and communication objectives

Non-profits operate differently from other organizations, and their communication plans reflect that. The document effectively conveys the non-profit's cause, engages stakeholders, and develops support. 

Since it's designed to build awareness, foster donor relationships, and maintain a level of transparency about the organization's impact, a non-profit communication plan should include well-crafted messaging that aligns with the org's values, outlines the strategy for reaching and mobilizing donors, and plans how to make the most of communication channels such as social media, newsletters, and events.

For a unique touch that sets your non-profit communication plan apart, emphasize storytelling to humanize your cause and connect with your audience on an emotional level. For example, you might include an initiative that triggers an automatic email when a donor registers or makes a contribution—something that reflects their impact on the cause.

7. Product launch communication plan

Screenshot of Zapier's product launch communication plan template with places to fill in information about the plan summary, key contacts, and product details

Developing a new product is a stressful and tedious process on its own. Introducing it to the world can be its own hassle, but a good communication plan can help simplify the process by creating anticipation, generating excitement, and breaking down the approach for a successful product launch.

Your plan should include key features and details about the product, the target audience, and market positioning. To nurture and engage that anticipation, you should also include a timeline for communication activities and strategies that cover the channels you intend to use, like social media, email marketing, and press releases.

To take it a step further, include messaging that addresses potential challenges and opens up the opportunity to receive feedback and gauge your customers' response to the launch.

8. Public relations communication plan

Screenshot of Zapier's PR communication plan template with places to fill in information about the plan summary, key contacts, and communication objectives

This communication plan is ideal for organizations that want to manage their brand reputation and build relationships with the public. Your brand image is an important aspect of business that can affect operations on every level, and nurturing it requires strategic communication, especially with media and public inquiries. You want the public eye to see you in your nice, freshly-ironed shirt.

A public relations communication plan includes key messaging, a media relations strategy, and a calendar of planned PR initiatives, as well as goals, target audiences, and metrics for monitoring the success of your PR efforts.

9. Employee communication plan

Screenshot of Zapier's employee communication plan template with places to fill in information about the plan summary, key contacts, and internal communication objectives

Any organization with a team bigger than six people can face major communication challenges, to say nothing of companies that employ staff in the hundreds and thousands. Company news, updates, policies, and initiatives that employees need to be aware of can be difficult to disseminate properly.

Sure, you can take your chances on a company-wide email, but it'll likely end up buried unopened somewhere in everyone's inbox, and you'll be standing there with the corporate equivalent of eating mango-scented shampoo.

An employee communication plan helps foster organizational transparency and workplace alignment within your team. It'll contribute to your company culture and enhance your employees' sense of belonging and connection to company goals.

This plan includes channels for internal communication as well as a content strategy that touches on employees' needs and concerns. While an internal communication plan focuses on the company's business goals, an employee communication plan addresses the company's internal development initiatives. 

10. Event communication plan

Screenshot of Zapier's event communication plan template with places to fill in information about the plan summary, key contacts, and communication objectives

This communication plan guides your organization's efforts surrounding an event, ensuring effective promotion, coordination, and engagement. It's useful for managing the flow of information before, during, and after an event.

The plan includes key messaging, the timeline for the event's communication activities, strategies for putting channels like social media and email marketing to use, and how to properly approach inquiries and feedback from event attendees.

How to write a communication plan

Each type of communication plan contains a different set of elements, but the process of putting a communication plan together, regardless of its purpose, remains the same. 

1. Set communication goals

I hate sounding like every therapist ever, but communication goals are very important. If your roommate doesn't understand that your scream of pain from the other room means you might have accidentally ironed a shirt while wearing it, help isn't coming, and your room will smell like barbeque. 

Your goals can range from increasing brand awareness and engagement to notifying stakeholders about a new product launch or managing an emergency. Setting these goals beforehand lays the foundation for the entire plan and defines communication channels, messaging strategies, and evaluation metrics. Focus on setting specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) business objectives.

If I were ironing a shirt, I'd outline my goal for a smooth, freshly-ironed shirt free of wrinkles, and I'd prepare for that by neatly placing the shirt, being conscious of those pesky corners, and keeping it nice and aligned before getting started. In the same vein, If I were writing a communication plan that focuses on brand awareness, I'd outline goals for social media campaigns and content marketing strategies. I'd aim to increase user engagement on each social media platform by a certain percentage, increasing visibility, ad clicks, and interaction with my brand.  

Clear communication goals give your organization a sense of direction and allow your team to accurately measure success, making adjustments based on tangible results.

2. Identify the audience

Each audience you're trying to reach through your communication plan will have its own unique expectations and concerns. The plan and the message within need to align with the audience's values and interests.

If you're writing for investors, the plan needs to outline your communication goals for them specifically, touching on relevant topics and important points. It would also designate how the information will be conveyed, by whom, and how to move forward if any variables were to shift. 

Conduct thorough market research, and collect relevant insight into your target audience's demographics, behaviors, and preferences. What data are you sharing with your investors? What kind of information would be both relevant and important to share with them? How can you best phrase that communication so it has a positive impact?

Who's telling the board that a customer ironed their shirt while wearing it?

A good practice is to segment your audience and create detailed personas to ensure your message is not only read but understood and embraced.

3. Outline key messages

The key information you're distributing through your communication plan is a delicate balance between the organization's goals and resonance with the audience. 

For example, a product launch communication plan doesn't really need your 25-year company trajectory outlined and explained. The key information here would pertain to the product itself, the process for the launch, steps to take, tasks to perform, and the timeline for the entire project.

Make your messages clear, concise, and compelling to leave a lasting impression. 

4. Choose communication channels

Outline which communication channels are best suited to execute your plan. For example, an employee communication plan should utilize private internal channels like meetings, internal platforms, or emails. Product launch communication plans should leverage external channels as well, like websites, social media, newsletters, and press releases.

Choose communication channels that fit the plan and can be integrated for a cohesive communication strategy that aligns with both your company's goals and the audience's preferences. Ask yourself: 

  • Who's meant to read this? 

  • How can I reach them? 

  • Is this private internal communication or is it meant for public distribution? 

  • Which channel would have the best visibility for my audience? 

5. Create a timeline

For the plan to be effective on any level, you need to outline its execution in a detailed timeline that sets the start and end dates of each initiative or item on the document.

Details such as specific dates for key events, launches, and regular updates anchor the plan and facilitate a proactive approach. The timeline is your audience's visual roadmap, and it is handy for allocating resources when you're executing your communication plan. 

6. Allocate resources

Putting the plan into action will require resources like budgets and staffing needs. Even time is a resource that needs to be considered. For example, your budget should account for advertising costs, materials, technology investments, and communication channels.

Allocating resources as soon as the timeline is clear ensures the communication plan runs smoothly and delivers the intended message across all initiatives. 

7. Designate responsibilities

If you run into an unexpected crisis situation while at the helm of an organization, even the most detailed communication plan won't make a difference if no one knows what they're supposed to be doing.

Designate responsibilities and outline who owns which task so that when the plan goes into action, your team can just refer to the document to know who's taking care of each task, who to reach out to, and what their part in the operation is.

This is important even in non-crisis situations. Let's say you're launching a new tech product. Your plan should designate your marketing director as responsible for presenting the new product concept and strategy to the company's executive board. It should also designate your marketing coordinators as responsible for any workshops or seminars for external partners like retailers and distributors. 

8. Create contingency plans

Always prepare for the unlikely. Create contingency plans to deal with challenges that might come up when you're executing your plan. What should the team do in the case of negative public reactions or technical difficulties? Who's taking charge of directing efforts in each aspect? How do you address potential issues should they arise? How do you pivot or proceed if you don't achieve your goals?

Be prepared for gaps in the execution, and outline proactive responses to bring the plan back on track.

9. Set metrics for evaluation

Measurement and evaluation are key for the development of your communication plan. You want to track and gauge how well the efforts outlined in your plan are performing.

You can monitor public perception and sales volume before and after implementing your crisis communication plan, or you can monitor KPIs like audience engagement, reach, and conversion rates when your new marketing plan goes into effect. In the case of internal and employee communication plans, you can monitor the change in processes and how it affects your team's efficiency and comfort levels. 

Leverage your communication channels to identify these metrics and areas for improvement, so you can keep adjusting your plan as you go.

10. Perform testing and gather feedback

While testing and gathering feedback are encouraged throughout the process, this relates more to testing your communication plan before you launch it.

For example, you can test how effective your communication plan is and how well it would be received through focus groups, pilot programs, or even internal experimentation.

Once you have feedback from your target audience, you'll be better positioned to refine your messaging and its presentation, and address pitfalls before you execute the plan.

Communication plan essentials

You don't want your communication plan to be just another document in your arsenal of organizational tools. The goal is to make it a piece of your strategy that actively contributes to better communication and company-wide transparency. In order to write an effective communication plan, here are some essential points to consider:

  • Establish messaging and branding guidelines: Stick to your organization's tone, style, and visual uniqueness to keep your brand identity alive in all communications.

  • Monitor and adjust: Keep an eye on the plan's performance. Make efforts to adapt based on emerging trends, feedback, and unforeseen challenges.

  • Report and review: Set KPIs and review them to gauge the effectiveness of the communication plan and better prepare for future strategies.

  • Document your plan: Keep your plan detailed and well documented, so all team members are on the same page regarding your strategy.

  • Consistency and long-term planning: Maintain and encourage consistency in your messaging and plan for the long term. Align initiatives with your long-term communication goals.

You can launch exceptional initiatives with a communication plan template and set a unique process that's invaluable for your company's strategy in marketing, PR, change management, and crisis situations. The right plan can make your operations smoother, a bit like a steam iron would your shirt if you're conscious enough to not turn yourself into an ironing board.

Most importantly, it defines how your organization communicates—both internally and externally. It sets the pace and tone for future initiatives. As you become more accustomed to how they work, you'll be able to customize and create your own document templates for other aspects of your business. As you establish the foundation for business communication, you'll be able to automate every part of your project management flow and communicate those goals seamlessly. Find out how Zapier can help you streamline project management

Related reading:

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Hachem Ramki Mon, 18 Dec 2023 05:00:00 GMT https://zapier.com/blog/communication-plan-template
12 free timesheet templates (and how to use them) https://zapier.com/blog/timesheet-templates .css-12p6n7x{overflow:auto;}.css-12p6n7x >*{margin-bottom:20px;margin-top:20px;}.css-12p6n7x >H2{margin-top:60px;}.css-12p6n7x >H3{margin-top:40px;}.css-12p6n7x>[id]{scroll-margin-top:20px;}@media (min-width: 660px){.css-12p6n7x>[id]{scroll-margin-top:100px;}}

About five years ago, my roommates and I invested in an old-timey punch clock to solve a few co-habitation issues. It came with these little discontinued cards and made a spooky clicking noise, but it helped us stay informed regarding who left that pan to soak in the sink for two days. Each roommate would clock in to do their chores and keep track of the hard work they put in at the sink.

The clock was fun in a retro, connect-with-your-factory-working-ancestors kind of way, but there were challenges that we couldn't overcome even with Tock the Clock's help. 

I could see that Danny spent 30 minutes at the sink, but I had no idea what he was doing since the pan was still there soaking afterward. I couldn't really blame Tock—after all, it worked well for my grandfather's generation. We needed a solution that tracked time but also informed the collective residents, even briefly, of what was being done, which tasks were taken care of, and which ones still needed to be done. Since we were bored and wanted to find the ultimate dishwashing time management tool, we transitioned to timesheets.

You may think punch clocks and timesheets are overkill, but our co-habitation situation at the time required some old-school solutions to prevent anarchy and piled-up problems in the sink. Timesheet tools can make a huge difference, and that's as true for my old roommates as it is for your business.

Table of contents:

What is a timesheet?

A timesheet is a document that keeps track of the amount of time someone spends on a project over a certain period. It offers everything the old-timey clock does with an extra dash of detailed information, such as project progress, tasks, and milestones that keep teams aligned.

While punch clocks were frequently used by corporate offices filled with cubicle-shaped despair to track their employees' clock-in and clock-out times for each day, timesheets provide much more context and utility. For example, modern businesses use timesheets to accurately report time spent on specific tasks, activities, and projects. Managers, HR specialists, and company leaders can then easily monitor project progress, resource allocation, and payroll details.

The basic elements of a timesheet include the company's info, the employee's name, the timeframe that's being tracked, and the work hours completed. Even the most basic timesheet should, at the very least, inform you of the amount of work each employee accomplishes during a certain timeframe.

The timesheet can be a paper document, a digital spreadsheet, or software—which one you choose depends on what works best for your company and how you prioritize each project or task. As the former managing director of one kitchen sink in an apartment too small, I recommend spreadsheets and software, because Danny might "accidentally" destroy your timesheet paper with water just as his performance review is around the corner, or struggle to keep his timesheet record organized once he hits his 189th session at the sink. 

With that being said, here are a few Danny-vetted timesheet templates that you can adopt.

1. Standard weekly timesheet template

Screenshot of Zapier's weekly timesheet template showing how to track time for tasks in one week

The standard weekly timesheet template contains all the basic elements. It tracks time allocation for multiple projects over a five-day workweek, something you can easily customize to fit your company's needs. Input the number of hours an employee has spent on each project, and adjust the hourly billing rate. The template is set up to automatically calculate the total number of hours worked and billing due.

The second page of the timesheet outlines project details. Employees can use it to outline their efforts for each project, note their progress, and if needed for collaborative efforts, update their team on what they've accomplished.

Tip: Encourage your team to use the notes section for collaborative discussions.

2. Biweekly timesheet template

Screenshot of Zapier's biweekly timesheet template showing how to track time for tasks over two weeks

The biweekly timesheet accommodates tracking time for projects that span—you guessed it—two-week periods. It contains the same basic elements, outlining daily hours, dates, billing totals, and a page dedicated to project details. 

It's best used for businesses that adopt a biweekly approach to their payroll or operations. Considering the longer period of time, it's best to keep project details separated by week and make sure that information isn't condensed into a single box. This helps minimize confusion and enables more detailed notes and reports.

Tip: Use the notes section to summarize biweekly progress for each project and keep information digestible at a glance for the rest of the team.

3. Hourly employee timesheet template

Screenshot of Zapier's hourly timesheet template showing how start and end times and total hours worked in one week

This timesheet is the simplest version and performs the same function that Tock the Clock did for our kitchen, with the added benefit of a page outlining project details. This function would have been useful to outline who did the cutlery, who was soaking the pan, and maybe host a note warning against opening the kitchen drawer too fast or it'll come loose, scattering spoons, hopes, and dreams all over the floor.

This template benefits businesses that track hourly activities to accommodate situations like advisors, temporary or part-time workers, and consultants.

Tip: Train your employees in utilizing time management strategies that work in tandem with hourly time tracking, like time blocking, timers, and batching tasks.

4. Daily timesheet template

Screenshot of Zapier's daily timesheet template showing how to track hours and tasks in one day

The daily timesheet template tracks activities on a day-to-day basis. This is most useful for operations that require a daily report or update, like daily sales volumes, event attendance, or training progress. Each day is tracked on its own page, outlining start and end times, total hours worked, and project or task descriptions.

The dedicated description section for each day can be especially useful for teams that don't always work in close proximity or don't collaborate on the same project for extended periods of time.

Tip: Create a new tab for each day and title it with the date to keep your daily timesheets organized as they start piling up.

5. Freelancer timesheet template

Screenshot of Zapier's freelancer timesheet template showing daily start and end times, total hours, and rate per hour for a week

This timesheet is designed to track the flexible details of freelancer work. Alongside tracking hours, start times, and end times, it also tracks the freelancer's hourly rates, their total daily earnings, and the amount they are due throughout the project.

Tip: Customize the timesheet to fit your freelancer's entire contracted period to aggregate their work, progress, and billable hours in one document.

6. Client billing timesheet template

Screenshot of Zapier's client billing timesheet template showing how to bill clients for hours worked in a week

This timesheet template is useful for companies that track their daily billable hours for each client over time. It's designed to outline the particular task or project being worked on, the stage it's at, and the rates for each service.

For example, a marketing agency's advertising services may be more expensive than its market analysis services. This timesheet template keeps track of all this information for better visibility of its revenue over time.

Tip: Color-code your clients on the timesheet to better analyze their significance in terms of revenue and time consumption. 

7. Consultant timesheet template

Screenshot of Zapier's consultant timesheet template showing start and end times, total hours, location, and a place for notes for one week

This timesheet template is designed to track a consultant's daily work. Considering many consultants charge a flat fee for their services, this timesheet isn't designed to track total earnings. 

It also outlines the various locations the consultant may visit or work in. Companies that hire consultants sometimes need them to move through different facilities to get their expert opinions on what can be improved.

Tip: Aggregate your consultant's activity remarks into a separate document you can use later to review their observations and incorporate their feedback to streamline your business operations. 

8. Timesheet for multiple projects

Screenshot of Zapier's project timesheet template showing how to track time for projects in one week

This timesheet template is designed to keep track of multiple projects over time. It includes fillable sections that identify the project, activities undertaken within it, and the tracked time for each day.

My roommates and I could have used this template to track our different endeavors, from cutlery cleaning and pan soaking to nailing that pesky drawer shut once and for all. Our kitchen was a high-tension environment, and there were always multiple ongoing projects. Don't let this be your reality.

Tip: Once the timesheet is beginning to fill up, use the project details tab to group project activities together, creating a detailed summary of work done for each project.

9. Task-based timesheet template

Screenshot of Zapier's task-based timesheet template showing how to track time for specific tasks in one week

The task-based timesheet allows users to track specific tasks, input descriptions, and designate their status, whether they're in progress, completed, or halted. This makes it easier for readers to quickly scan the document and know exactly where each task sits.

Tip: Use the task description section to outline the details of the task, and use the project details notes to go in-depth regarding any issues, updates, or reasons for delays.

10. Payroll timesheet template

Screenshot of Zapier's payroll timesheet template showing start and end times, total tracked hours, plus places for overtime hours, sick leave, vacation, and holidays over one week

The payroll timesheet template outlines hours worked alongside any overtime, vacation, sick leave, and holidays that need to be considered. It simplifies matters for your HR department and helps them keep each employee's billable hours organized and well-documented.

Tip: Incorporate any holidays your company observes into the timesheet, so those days are always tracked and added automatically and employees only need to input their own work hours.

11. Field service timesheet template

Screenshot of Zapier's field service timesheet template showing how to track time for projects done in the field, like at construction sites

The field service timesheet is designed for work performed on various sites, be it construction sites, homes, or public property. Companies that engage in physical labor or whose services require a specialist can use this timesheet template to better track employee hours, work, location of work, and any notes they may have.

Tip: Leverage the timesheet to get detailed reports from your employees. Leadership may not always have visibility regarding on-site projects, making the notes section on this timesheet an especially valuable tool.

12. Contractor timesheet template

Screenshot of Zapier's contractor timesheet template showing how to track time for contractor projects or tasks in one week

This timesheet template helps track a contractor's work hours, billing rates, and contracted hours. Generally, companies that engage contractors will have already established an agreed-upon number of work hours. By outlining the contracted hours in the timesheet, both the business and the contractor can easily discern milestones to hit.

Tip: Adjust the timesheet to reflect your company's preferred billing cycle (weekly, biweekly, or monthly), so it remains compatible with any other payroll documents or tools your team is already using.

How to use a timesheet template

Incorporating a timesheet into your team's process boils down to clear instructions and training. With that in place, it takes a bit of time and practice to streamline the process.

It took Danny four days to realize that he was punching his time in on Tock the Clock but never punching out. We were halfway through making the intervention banner to address his soapy sink problem before we realized what was happening.

Your team will likely go through a similar adjustment period. Make sure you have documentation outlining how to use the timesheet, how to track and log their hours, and the company policies regarding matters like breaks and overtime.

Depending on the time period you're tracking, the timesheet can be filled out in a number of ways. Some employees prefer to track their time live or mark their hours at the end of the day. Others will be more comfortable logging their hours on a weekly basis. Determine what works best for your business and adjust accordingly.

Timesheets on their own have limitations. However, there are ways to complement these documents by integrating time tracking software tools that can automate data entry and time logging.

Timesheet FAQ

We spent the first few days after Tock the Clock moved into our home trying to figure out, through trial and error, how we could best use it to solve our kitchen issues. We managed to find the answers in the end, but we would have probably saved a lot of time, effort, water, and soap if we had done our research beforehand. To save you the experience, I've put together some frequently asked questions about timesheets.

How do I choose the right timesheet template for my business?

Start by identifying the timeframe that works best for your company. Once you know whether you'd like to track time on a daily, weekly, biweekly, or monthly basis, you can filter the timesheet templates based on the nature of your work. 

Businesses with a focus on large-scale projects would benefit from the task-based timesheet template, whereas companies that employ a lot of freelancers would likely find the freelancer and contractor timesheet templates more useful.

Are there any legal implications associated with timesheets?

Before you implement timesheets into your process, make sure you do your research regarding compliance with labor laws and regulations in your region. You'll also want to emphasize the importance of accurate recordkeeping to employees.

Create a document that addresses any local legal requirements, and distribute it throughout your company before implementing timesheets.

How can I ensure employee compliance and accuracy in filling out timesheets?

The best way to maintain accuracy is to utilize software to track the exact number of hours worked and consistently assess time tracking activities.

Extensive training and supervision can help guide your workforce to be compliant with regulations. 

Automate time tracking with Zapier

Timesheets can make a difference in your time tracking efforts and change how your team operates. They add structure and visibility—the kind that turned Danny from a pan-soaking expert to the most efficient dishwasher I've ever seen.

But timesheets have their limitations, and they require a decent amount of manual data entry. This is where software comes in. The best time tracking software will automatically track your time, log it, and calculate everything from total hours worked and billing details to subtracted leave and holidays.

Time tracking software offers a lot of features designed to simplify and automate the time-consuming manual input and data entry of a timesheet. And Zapier can help connect your time tracking tools to your other HR software to streamline your operations. Learn more about how to automate time tracking with dedicated software.

If you decide to stick with these Google Sheets timesheet templates, you can automate your spreadsheets, so they still work with all the apps you already use at work.

Related reading:

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Hachem Ramki Mon, 18 Dec 2023 05:00:00 GMT https://zapier.com/blog/timesheet-templates
Midjourney vs. DALL·E 3: Which image generator is better? [2024] https://zapier.com/blog/midjourney-vs-dalle .css-12p6n7x{overflow:auto;}.css-12p6n7x >*{margin-bottom:20px;margin-top:20px;}.css-12p6n7x >H2{margin-top:60px;}.css-12p6n7x >H3{margin-top:40px;}.css-12p6n7x>[id]{scroll-margin-top:20px;}@media (min-width: 660px){.css-12p6n7x>[id]{scroll-margin-top:100px;}}

DALL·E 3 and Midjourney are two of the best AI art generators you can use right now. Both can take a text prompt and generate a series of matching images, no matter how weird or wild your request. DALL·E 3 is probably the simplest to get started with, while Midjourney, despite being a bit awkward to use, offers some of the most powerful features. 

I've been testing both of these image generators, both professionally and personally, since they were released, and there's a lot to unpack. So let's dive in. 

How do DALL·E 3 and Midjourney work?

Both DALL·E 3 and Midjourney were trained on millions or billions of text-image pairs, which allows them to comprehend concepts like dogs, deerstalker hats, and dark moody lighting. This is how they can parse what a prompt like "an impressionist oil painting of a Canadian man riding a moose through a forest of maple trees" is asking them to create.

When it comes to actually generating images, they use a process called diffusion. They start with a random field of noise and then, over a number of steps, edit it to better match their interpretation of your prompt. This is why you can get different results every time, even if you try the same prompt a second time: the randomness of the starting seed can totally change the end result. In a previous article comparing DALL·E 3 and Stable Diffusion, I described the process as kind of like looking up at a cloudy sky, finding a cloud that looks kind of like a dog, and then being able to snap your fingers to keep making it more and more dog-like. While there's more to it than that, it's not a bad way to think of things. 

Four images of a dog in a cloud looking more and more like a dog each time

Of course, just because both models use the same technique to generate images, doesn't mean you're going to get similar results from both DALL·E and Midjourney. How each model interprets your prompt, the weight it puts on the various parameters, the data they were trained on, and the philosophies of the companies responsible for developing them all massively affect what the output will look like. 

Here's DALL·E 3's take on "an impressionist oil painting of a Canadian man riding a moose through a forest of maple trees."

DALL-E 3's images based on the prompt

And here's Midjourney's.

Midjourney's images based on the prompt

As you can see, DALL·E 3 has done a much better job of having my Canadian man riding a moose, though for my money, Midjourney's output looks way more like a real impressionist painting. 

I'll dive much deeper into these kinds of differences as we go, but don't call these results a win for either AI model just yet.

DALL·E 3 vs. Midjourney at a glance

DALL·E 3 and Midjourney both do similar things, but there are some big differences. Here's a short summary of the major distinctions, but read on for a more detailed breakdown. 

DALL·E 3

Midjourney

Quality

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Exceptional AI-generated images

⭐⭐⭐⭐ Exceptional AI-generated images, but may occasionally miss key bits of a prompt

Ease of use

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Collaborate with a chatbot

⭐⭐ Awkward at every step

Power and control

⭐ Very limited options beyond asking the chatbot to rerun a slightly different prompt

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Best-in-class prompting and editing options

DALL·E 3 is easier to use

DALL·E 3 is available through ChatGPT, the Bing Image Creator, Microsoft Paint, and other services using its API. All offer a broadly similar experience, though ChatGPT is the most official option and the nicest to use, so it's what I'll mostly focus on for this comparison. You need to be a ChatGPT Plus subscriber to access it, though, so if you're not, check out one of the other free options.

Even though there are multiple ways to access DALL·E 3, all of them work much the same, and they're all incredibly simple: you just ask DALL·E 3 to create an image for you. 

DALL-E 3 in ChatGPT producing two pictures of a wolf running through the woods

Midjourney, on the other hand, is awkward right from the start. It doesn't have a web app. Instead, you have to access it through Discord, a team chat app. It's not hard to sign up for a Discord account and join Midjourney's server, but it's still an odd way to access an AI art generator.

And this extends to using Midjourney too. Instead of having a nice, logical interface, you have to prompt the Midjourney Discord Bot by typing /imagine /<your prompt>—either in a direct message or a public channel. And that's before we even start looking at the arcane parameters and different remixing features you can use to better control the results you get.

Editing options in Midjourney

So really, if you're looking to just try out an image generator, DALL·E 3 is much simpler to get started with.

Midjourney is a lot more powerful

For all its awkwardness, Midjourney still brings a lot to the table. It's probably the most powerful AI image generator available right now, at least if you aren't prepared to train your own custom model

Let's start with the parameters. There's a full list here, but by typing -- followed by the relevant command, you can control things like the aspect ratio of your images, how varied they are, what seed to start with, and even whether you want to create repeating tiles for seamless patterns. 

Creating tiles in Midjourney

And then there are the tools that allow you to upscale, vary, and edit your images. Once you've run a prompt, you're presented with two sets of four buttons: U1, U2, U3, and U4, which upscale the corresponding image to 1024px wide, and V1, V2, V3, and V4, which rerun your prompt to create more variations based on the corresponding image. 

Upscaling and rerunning options in Midjourney

Once you upscale an image, you can upscale it again to 2048px wide—or even to 4096px wide using the Upscale (2x) or Upscale (4x) buttons. You can create more variations that either closely match the starting image with Vary (Subtle) or are more distinct with Vary (Strong). You can even change specific parts of the image using Vary (Region).

Editing just a part of an image in Midjourney

And the Zoom Out and Pan (the arrows) buttons allow you to extend your creation beyond its boundaries. Turn on Remix mode, and you have even more control, as you can change your prompt each time you make variations.

The Zoom Out option in Midjourney

And that's all before we even look at features like image prompts or blend, which allow you to combine the "concepts and aesthetics" of multiple images you upload.

The wolf in the picture is now a dog

DALL·E 3 doesn't come close to matching this feature set. While you have some control over the aspect ratio, everything else relies on just getting ChatGPT to rerun a slightly different prompt. Even the Bing tools that use DALL·E 3 don't give you many more options. The only ones of note are that Image Creator allows you to import your image directly into Microsoft Designer, and Paint allows you to generate images in the app, so you can edit them (or at least paint over the top).

When you use ChatGPT to ask for edits, it just generates new images with a new prompt.

DALL-E 3 changing the image completely when asked to edit

Shockingly, at least for now, DALL·E 2 comes closer to Midjourney. It at least allows you to inpaint (where you vary the internal parts of an image) and outpaint (where you add content beyond the image boundaries). The model is nowhere near as good, but you have more control. 

Both make great AI-generated images

For all that, both DALL·E 3 and Midjourney are capable of creating incredible images. DALL·E 3 is quicker and easier to use, but you have less control over the results. Midjourney is a bit obtuse at times, but you have a lot more control over what things look like. 

Still, there are a handful of differences worth noting. DALL·E 3, since it integrates with ChatGPT, does a really great job at interpreting prompts. It feels better able to handle both shorter prompts and longer, more complicated prompts.

It's not that Midjourney messes up very often, but it takes a lot more steering. I found that instead of writing long descriptions, it was more effective to give it a series of key words.

Using lists of key words to prompt in Midjourney

Also, because it has decent editing tools, I was much more willing to accept a less-than-ideal first image and then use remixing, variations, and the other tools to create a final image I was happy with. 

Pricing depends on your needs

DALL·E 3's pricing is super simple: it costs $20/month as part of ChatGPT Plus, or it's available for free as part of different Microsoft tools, though some of them will watermark your images. As of now, there are no limits published on how many images you can generate each day or month with DALL·E 3, but presumably those limits exist to prevent people from creating images non-stop. 

Midjourney has no free option, but the Basic Plan starts at $10/month and entitles you to 200 minutes of GPU time. Which, of course, is where things get complicated. Midjourney says that's good for roughly 200 generations a month, but it totally depends on what you're getting it to do. If you create lots of variations and upscale them all to the maximum amount, you'll burn through those GPU hours faster than if you create lots of low-res images. 

Midjourney pricing

And to make things more complicated, starting with the $30/month Standard plan, you get more fast GPU hours, but you can generate unlimited images in Relax mode—which only runs when there's free GPU power.

Given all the extra features both apps bring, I'm incredibly reluctant to make any judgments between DALL·E 3 and Midjourney based on price. If it meets your needs, the $10/month Midjourney plan is probably the best balance of features and price, but you can use DALL·E 3 for free through the Bing Image Creator, or for $20/month as part of ChatGPT Plus—which also has all of ChatGPT's language generation features. 

Commercial use is complicated

If you're planning to use DALL·E 3 or Midjourney for commercial use, things get a bit complicated. Both models allow commercial use (although not if you use DALL·E 3 through Microsoft), but the full legal implications haven't really been explored. 

In a ruling in February 2023, the U.S. Copyright Office decided that images created by Midjourney, and by extension, other generative AIs, can't be copyrighted. This means you have limited protections if someone takes your images and uses them in ways you don't want them to. Technically, using someone else's image goes against Midjourney's terms of service, but that's not exactly a very strong legal shield if you're trying to build a brand or create character designs using the app. The worst that Midjourney is likely to be able to do is ban whoever takes your images.

From a technical standpoint, I'd probably recommend Midjourney if you want to somehow monetize your AI creations, simply because its model gives you more freedom. DALL·E 3 will flat-out block you from creating a huge amount of content, including images of public figures.

Midjourney is weird

Because I've been trying to compare DALL·E 3 and Midjourney as closely and sensibly as possible, there are other weird and awkward bits with Midjourney that I haven't been able to touch on. Three of the bigger things to note are:

  • Unless you're on the $60/month Pro plan and activate Stealth Mode, all your images are automatically published to Midjourney's member gallery, where anyone can see them, download them, and copy your prompts.

  • Every setting and feature is handled through commands to the Discord bot. It will never not be strange. 

  • In addition to its standard models, Midjourney has an anime-specific model called Niji that you can enable by adding --niji 5 to the end of a prompt or by typing /settings and selecting it. 

The help docs are really good, and I've never run into real difficulties with Midjourney, but I can't stress how strange using it feels if you're expecting a more typical app. They're apparently developing a regular web app, so I'm excitedly waiting for that to launch.

You can automate DALL·E

DALL·E connects to Zapier, which means you can use DALL·E directly from the apps you spend the most time in. For example, you can create images based on chat messages, database records, form responses, spreadsheet entries, or anything else—and send the image through to any other app you want. Learn more about how to automate AI image generation with Zapier, or get started with one of these pre-made workflows.

Zapier is a no-code automation tool that lets you connect your apps into automated workflows, so that every person and every business can move forward at growth speed. Learn more about how it works.

DALL·E vs. Midjourney: Which should you use?

The choice between DALL·E 3 and Midjourney should be relatively straightforward for most people:

  • If you want the best AI image generator currently available, want to be able to tweak and edit your images, and are happy to work through its many quirks, Midjourney is a great choice. 

  • If you want the easy option that reliably produces great results, DALL·E 3 is what you need. 

Alternatively, you could also check out Stable Diffusion. It's less quirky than Midjourney but more powerful than DALL·E 3.

Related reading:

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Harry Guinness Mon, 18 Dec 2023 05:00:00 GMT https://zapier.com/blog/midjourney-vs-dalle
The 5 best business card scanner apps in 2024 https://zapier.com/blog/best-business-card-scanner-software .css-12p6n7x{overflow:auto;}.css-12p6n7x >*{margin-bottom:20px;margin-top:20px;}.css-12p6n7x >H2{margin-top:60px;}.css-12p6n7x >H3{margin-top:40px;}.css-12p6n7x>[id]{scroll-margin-top:20px;}@media (min-width: 660px){.css-12p6n7x>[id]{scroll-margin-top:100px;}}

Business card scanning apps present a modern solution to a decades-old problem. Now, with the click of a button, you can scan business cards directly into your phone and store an unlimited number of contacts. Plus, the best business card scanner app doesn't stop with scanning and storage—it comes with plenty of other features that can help you be more efficient, organized, and connected.

To help you find the right business card scanner software, I tested several dozen apps—including the ones already included in your phone, CRM apps with card scanners, and those designed with both general and specific users in mind. A lot of the options are starting to share the same features, so I narrowed the list down to the five that do it best.

Here are my picks for the five best business card scanners. Click on any app to learn more about why I chose it, or keep reading for more context on business card readers.

The best business card scanner apps

  • BizConnect for accuracy

  • ABBYY BCR for ease of use

  • Haystack for the best free business card scanner app

  • HiHello for customization

  • Covve for maintaining relationships

  • Plus, more ways to scan business cards

What makes the best business card scanner app?

How we evaluate and test apps

All of our best apps roundups are written by humans who've spent much of their careers using, testing, and writing about software. We spend dozens of hours researching and testing apps, using each app as it's intended to be used and evaluating it against the criteria we set for the category. We're never paid for placement in our articles from any app or for links to any site—we value the trust readers put in us to offer authentic evaluations of the categories and apps we review. For more details on our process, read the full rundown of how we select apps to feature on the Zapier blog.

To find the best business card scanning app, I started by compiling a list of basically every option out there. I then downloaded each app, set up my accounts, and tested each one with two business cards: one with a simple design that I knew should be easy for any solid app to scan, and one with a busy layout that I thought might trip up even the best options. 

From there, I assessed each app against five main criteria:

  • Accuracy. Whether or not names, emails, phone numbers, and any other information listed on the cards were captured correctly.

  • Ease of use. How intuitive the app was to maneuver around.

  • Contact storage. How the app handles contact management.

  • Integration and sharing options. The amount and variety of options available for exporting or syncing contacts with other platforms, such as email clients and CRMs.

  • Organization. The ability to organize, tag, and group contacts as desired.

Additionally, I looked for apps that had special features, such as multi-card capture, AI, design suites, and company contact management capabilities.

The best business card scanner apps at a glance

Best for

Standout features

Pricing

BizConnect

Accuracy

Verification phase for extra accuracy, task setting, and reports

Free plan can scan up to 600 cards; paid plans from $6.99/user/month

ABBYY BCR

iPhone users

Very accurate scans, contactless card sharing with QR codes

Free plan available; paid plans from $7.99/month or $29.99/year

Haystack

A free option

Vibrant visual representations of cards, automatic information gap-filling

Free

HiHello

Customization

Wide range of social media fields, including unconventional ones

Free plan available; paid plans from $6/month

Covve

Maintaining relationships with contacts

Follow-up reminders, intuitive interface, activity tracking

Free plan with limited features; $12.99/month or $119.99/year for the Pro plan with unlimited features


Best business card scanner app for accuracy

BizConnect (Android, iOS)

BizConnect, our pick for the most accurate business card scanner app

BizConnect pros:

  • Great for accuracy

  • Really intuitive to use

  • Extra features, including task setting and reports

BizConnect cons:

  • Verification for accuracy can take up to 5 minutes

BizConnect produces the closest I found to perfect scan accuracy. It's the only app that consistently found and linked social media accounts, captured blurry and unusual fonts, and identified words that the others just missed. What's unique about the scanning process here is that it goes through a verification phase to ensure extra accuracy. It took about five minutes for my most difficult business card, but I could still see all the contact info while this verification took place—it's just an added layer of accuracy.

BizConnect is also easy to use and thoughtfully designed to give users plenty of features without feeling overwhelmed. From the Holder screen, you'll find all of your contacts with their card image, name, title, company, and when they were added. Next to each contact is a handy options menu that lets you call, email, and share without having to even open the card. At the top of this screen are color-coded options to export, import, add to CRM, and perform other actions. The scan button is prominently displayed at the bottom.

Clicking Scan gives options to scan a single card (front and back), a QR code, or scan in batch, which means scanning one card after the other. Once scanned, you'll get a processing message, and within a few minutes, you'll have a completed contact. Though it's a bit slower than other apps on this list, it's worth the wait.

In addition to stellar scans, it also comes with task setting, activity tracking, and reports showing daily and monthly leads captured. There's even a barebones CRM where you can add deal stages, tasks, and activities with a revenue feature tracking all won deals. Integrating your CRM (HubSpot, Salesforce, Zoho, and Pipedrive) is easy by connecting your accounts and selecting the contacts you want to export.

Or, if you want to connect to a different app, you can do that with BizConnect's Zapier integrations. Zapier lets you connect BizConnect to thousands of apps, so you can do things like automatically add all new BizConnect business contacts to other apps—and vice versa. Here are a couple examples.

BizConnect price: Free plan can scan up to 600 cards; paid plans from 6.99/user/month

Best iPhone business card scanner app for ease of use 

ABBYY BCR (iOS)

ABBYY, our pick for the best business card scanner app for ease of use

ABBYY BCR pros:

  • Very accurate scans

  • Intuitive to use

  • Contactless card sharing with QR codes

ABBYY BCR cons:

  • Android version is no longer in service

ABBYY is one of the most popular business card scanner apps on the market, and for good reason. The app's simplicity and accuracy are its main selling points. After you scan, it highlights digits or letters that it's not 100% certain about in a different color—though, in my experience, everything was spot-on. 

As far as storage goes, you have a variety of options: you can keep contacts in the app's Cardholder, share them to your phone's contacts, and/or send them to Salesforce. A nice touch is the choice to do all three of these at once right after you finish your scan, so you don't have to go back and manually save contacts to different places one at a time. You can also export contacts as a CSV.

Besides the usual fields, like name, phone number, and address, you'll also be able to add Facebook and LinkedIn information for your contacts—and for your own digital business card. And like other apps on this list, the business card can be presented as a QR code for contactless sharing. 

I tested this app on my iPhone, but if you're an Android user, be aware that as of August 2023, ABBYY no longer accepts new subscriptions or in-app purchases for the Android version, and it discontinued support as of September 2023. This could be a dealbreaker for some, but for iPhone users like myself, ABBYY is a solid option. It might not have some of the flashier features of other apps, but it covers all the essentials for a business card scanner app, including Salesforce integration, contact export options, and regular automatic backups.

ABBYY BCR price: Free version available; $7.99/month or $29.99/year

Best free business card scanner app

Haystack (iOS, Android)

Haystack, our pick for the best free business card scanner app

Haystack pros:

  • It's completely free to use—no surprise charges

  • Vibrant visual representations of each card

  • Automatically fills in information gaps via web search

  • Contact syncing from your phone list

Haystack cons:

  • No integrations with other apps

  • No contact grouping

Haystack was by far the most advanced app I tested when it comes to contact details. It doesn't just scan and store the information from a business card; it also goes out of its way to find more information on the web. For example, once I scanned my first card, it presented me with a series of company logos associated with the website listed on the card and asked me to pick one. The app even created a digital card from the scan, and it used the colors from the logo as a color scheme for the contact profile.

Haystack is big on the visuals, so if you like to actually see all your cards instead of just text and names, you'll be happy to see digital representations of all the cards in your deck. You can even create your own digital cards with Haystack—as many as you want, so long as they don't have the same email address. Plus, you can share your cards with others via email, SMS, and QR code. If you needed to, you could also share other people's contact info this way.

The Contact Syncing feature proved to be very useful: it lets you sync any of your Haystack contacts to your phone's contacts app. I was also able to make edits to the contacts after the fact and see those edits updated within my phone's main contacts app—pretty nifty.

Beyond these features, the app doesn't offer much as far as integrations or contact grouping, but for a free app (that's also ad-free), Haystack is a solid choice.

Haystack price: Free

Best business card scanner app for customization

HiHello (iOS, Android)

HiHello, our pick for the best business card scanner app for customization

HiHello pros:

  • Plenty of customization options

  • Great scanning accuracy

  • Wide range of social media fields

HiHello cons:

  • Honestly, nothing worth mentioning

HiHello stands out with a user-friendly and intuitive interface. Right from the start, it guides you through a seamless process of entering your personal details—including your name, title, company, and phone number—to effortlessly create your personalized digital business card. A notable feature of HiHello is the ability to have separate work and personal cards (similar to Haystack) with multiple sharing options, like QR code, email, text, and even Apple Wallet.

Customization is another strong suit of the app. It allows for a variety of personal touches, including color choices, layout designs, logos, and links to social media platforms. It neatly categorizes these platforms into sections like Communication, Payment, and Music, providing options beyond the usual business card staples like LinkedIn and Facebook. You can even add less conventional ones like Venmo, Spotify, and Twitch.

Scanning accuracy is very precise—I didn't need to modify any fields, but the app provides the option to review or retake scans if necessary. It automatically sorts contacts into work or personal categories post-scan, but this can be manually edited.

As far as integrations, HiHello syncs with Google Contacts, allowing seamless access across both platforms. But if you want to integrate with thousands of other apps, you can use Zapier. Here are a few pre-made workflows to get you started.

HiHello price: Free plan available; paid plans from $6/month

Best business card reader app for maintaining relationships

Covve (iOS, Android)

Covve, our pick for the best business card scanning app for maintaining relationships

Covve pros:

  • Great for follow-up reminders

  • Intuitive, friendly interface

  • Ability to log your activity and interactions

Covve cons:

Do you ever struggle with remembering to follow up with people? I definitely do, which is why I was delighted to discover that Covve not only scans business cards and stores your contacts, but it also helps you maintain your relationships with these contacts.

When it comes to communication, Covve gives you the option to contact people via call, SMS, email, and WhatsApp. Then, after you've communicated, you can mark people that you've contacted recently, so you know who you've covered and who still needs some attention. Once you've scanned and saved a contact, you can also take advantage of the auto-remind option so that you can set a duration for how often you want to reach out to someone. You can do this by frequency, like every week, or you can pick a specific week on the calendar. The app will also let you know which reminders are coming up during the current week, which reminders are in the future, and it'll also let you know if you missed any reminders. It's like a little CRM.

Because it isn't your typical business card scanning or contact storage app, Covve doesn't hold contacts in one place alphabetically or by date added like some other apps. In fact, it classifies contacts as "relationships." When you scan in one of these new relationships, the app will automatically add a reminder alert for every three months, but it'll also ask you when you last spoke to the contact. From there, you can add tags or any other general notes.

To streamline tasks even further, Covve also offers an AI assistant you can access through the settings. The assistant helps with simplifying data entry: you can forward your emails and some instructions to a special email address provided by Covve, and the AI will organize the data in Covve. You can even set reminders to contact someone. The email they provide is quite long and complex, but you can change the assistant's email to a custom one that's easier to remember and type.

As far as scanning accuracy goes, even my most difficult business card was transcribed correctly with minimal effort, which was just the cherry on top of this already very solid app.

Plus, you can use Zapier to connect Covve to thousands of other apps, so you can automatically create new contacts in your other apps whenever you scan a card into Covve. Here are a couple of examples to get you started.

Covve price: Free plan gives you 20 contacts, auto-reminders, activity logs, and tagging; $12.99/month or $119.99/year for the Pro plan which comes with unlimited everything

Other ways to scan business cards

Only occasionally need to scan business cards? You actually might not need a dedicated app just for cards. Instead, you could use the scanner tools built into an app you already use to capture cards and copy text—and then manually save contacts to your address book.

  • Evernote Scannable. The popular notebook app Evernote happens to also have an app for scanning business cards. Scan a business card, and Evernote will usually automatically recognize and store it as a Business Card, with fields for the contact info along with a picture of the card and any notes you want. You can then save the contact to your address book or have Evernote remind you to stay in touch.

    Evernote business card scanner screenshot
  • OneNote. Then there's OneNote, Microsoft's alternative to Evernote. Using its companion Microsoft Office Lens app, you can scan business cards and other documents and save them to your OneNote notebook for free. On your Mac or Windows desktop, you can then right-click on the business card scans in OneNote and copy the text, then add it to your address book.

  • Google Lens. Google Lens could be used as an alternative Android business card scanner, as it's built into most newer Android phones. While it may not be the best scanning app for Android, it's certainly the easiest to get started with. Simply take a picture of your card, tap the Lens icon, and save to your phone's contacts.

  • CamCard (Business). CamCard scanner is a great option for anyone who needs their business cards to be more dynamic. If you work in different industries, you can have multiple digital cards for different roles (like Haystack and HiHello). The app also provides valuable insights about how your cards are viewed and the number of connections you make. The only drawback to using this app is the unpredictability of the scanning accuracy.

  • ScanContacts. The ultimate free business scanning app for HubSpot users is ScanContacts. You will need to sign into your HubSpot to use the app, but once you're in, you can count on ScanContacts to automatically save all your new scanned contacts into the CRM.

  • Eight. In addition to its superb scanning accuracy, another neat feature is the ability to easily share contact info with other Eight users via Bluetooth. If the person you want to share with isn't an Eight user, you can also just send your contact info via QR code or URL.

  • Google Drive or other OCR tool. You could also use a dedicated scanner app or the OCR tool built into Google Drive. Those apps can work well at recognizing text—though again, you'll need to do the hard work of copying the recognized text and putting it to work.

  • CRM. If your team uses a CRM app to manage your contacts and customers, its mobile app may have business card scanning built-in. HubSpot CRM, Zoho CRM, Insightly, Nutshell, and noCRM, among others, include business card scanning in their mobile apps. Zoho's scanner's accuracy is very good, but the app is standalone and not included in the CRM app. HubSpot's app, on the other hand, includes the scanner in its mobile CRM app (as do Nutshell and noCRM) and is free forever.

HubSpot CRM business card scanner

So before you add another app to your stack, it's worth checking to see if an app you already have will do the trick.

With the number of digital business cards and contactless QR code-sharing capabilities that so many apps have today, it'll be interesting to see how these apps evolve beyond the need to scan physical cards.

Related reading:

Originally published in November 2017 by Matthew Guay, this article also has contributions from Hannah Herman and Chris Hawkins. The most recent update was in December 2023.

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Kristina Lauren Fri, 15 Dec 2023 14:00:00 GMT https://zapier.com/blog/best-business-card-scanner-software
4 ways to automate EngageBay Marketing with Zapier https://zapier.com/blog/automate-engagebay-marketing .css-12p6n7x{overflow:auto;}.css-12p6n7x >*{margin-bottom:20px;margin-top:20px;}.css-12p6n7x >H2{margin-top:60px;}.css-12p6n7x >H3{margin-top:40px;}.css-12p6n7x>[id]{scroll-margin-top:20px;}@media (min-width: 660px){.css-12p6n7x>[id]{scroll-margin-top:100px;}}

From email marketing automation to responsive landing pages to robust help desk software, EngageBay Marketing is a one-and-done solution for customer conversion and retention. It's the perfect solution for bringing your marketing, sales, and support teams together.

But what about those pesky other apps you just can't seem to quit? If you rely on scheduling apps and web forms to draw in new leads, it's not always easy to get those leads into EngageBay and run your marketing through their system. Fortunately, you can set up Zaps—Zapier's automated workflows—that will funnel these leads, making EngageBay the marketing machine you always intended it to be. 

Here are the most popular ways to connect your other business-critical tools with EngageBay Marketing.

New to Zapier? It's an automation tool that helps anyone connect apps and automate workflows—without any complicated code. Sign up for free to use this app, and many others, with Zapier.

Table of contents

To get started with a Zap template—what we call our pre-made workflows—just click on the button. It only takes a few minutes to set up. You can read more about setting up Zaps here.

Add contacts from your scheduling app

Believe it or not, phone calls are enjoying a rise in popularity. Gen Z uses phone calls to contact brands more often than Millennials, beating them out at 31% to 29%. Even in the digital world, reaching out for a one-on-one conversation can be the difference between making sales and leaving conversions at the table.

Create a Zap with Calendly to forward new leads into EngageBay Marketing and save those contacts. This will ensure that every new lead ends up in your funnel, opening up opportunities for EngageBay's internal automation capabilities, like automatic follow-ups.

Connecting Calendly to EngageBay Marketing won't only ensure that you follow up with every lead. It will also ensure that these new leads can integrate with your marketing system when they convert into paying clients or customers. From there, you can use EngageBay to automate new touchpoints with them, such as scheduling check-ins for the services you provide.

Bring webform leads into your EngageBay Marketing funnel

If it ain't broke, don't fix it. That's the common wisdom. But if you're just starting out with EngageBay, you may find yourself tempted to start uprooting all of the current web forms that are already working for you. 

But you don't have to. If you have existing web forms with great copy and high conversion rates, there's no reason not to keep using them. And maybe you don't want to abandon the robust features you're getting from offerings like Gravity Forms, either.

Instead, keep your existing lead forms as they are. Just connect them to EngageBay with one of these automated workflows. That way, you won't miss a beat from EngageBay's back end, and you won't have to adjust the front-end web forms that are already converting visitors into customers.

Connect EngageBay Marketing to Google Sheets

Even in secure, robust solutions like EngageBay Marketing, there are a variety of reasons why you might also collect customer info in a Google Sheet.

You might use a spreadsheet to analyze the data for more insights into your ideal customer persona, for example. Or you might create a backup file to ensure you never lose your essential customer data. Or maybe you just like how Google Sheets makes it easier to manage custom reports, visualizing your data for more insights into your customer behavior.

Use this Zap to automatically add new EngageBay contacts in a Google Sheet for easy tracking and analysis:

You can also run the process in reverse and add customer data into EngageBay Marketing automatically from Google Sheets. Maybe you use Google Sheets as a hub to collect customer data from assorted tools or other teams. With a Zap, you can add everything to EngageBay to keep a single source of truth for important customer info. This keeps you efficient whenever you need to review essential customer data.

Add leads and contacts to EngageBay Marketing

If you're like most businesses, you probably collect leads from a variety of sources, not just web forms. Maybe you run robust campaigns on Facebook Lead Ads, for example. But you need an easy and efficient way to consolidate your leads in one place.

You can set a Zap to bring in new leads from Facebook Lead Ads, then immediately move those to EngageBay Marketing to ensure timely follow-up with your potential customers. Run lead nurturing campaigns, follow up with personalized (and automated) messages, or run quick follow-ups to ensure you don't lose an opportunity—all without lifting an extra finger.

You can also work with Google Contacts if that's a favorite platform in your business. Sync your EngageBay contacts with Google Contacts in both directions. This will keep EngageBay information—like client contact data—readily available in your Google systems. This is especially great for ensuring a Google Phone is updated with the latest info from EngageBay. 

You'll also have some side benefits to syncing to Google Contacts: backup and recovery on multiple clouds, for example, will help keep your data secure. And if you prefer Google Contacts as your contact management software, syncing the two will help you keep both systems clear and navigable.

Run your business from EngageBay Marketing

Once a customer is in EngageBay, you know how powerful the platform can be. You can run automated workflows to follow up with clients and potential customers, adding a sprinkle of personalization to each interaction. But it can't hurt to bring in third-party software to enhance, supplement, and simplify how you do things at your business. This way, you can keep the features of EngageBay while making your customer intake easier to manage.

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Daniel Kenitz Fri, 15 Dec 2023 08:00:00 GMT https://zapier.com/blog/automate-engagebay-marketing
How to build your own calendar assistant GPT https://zapier.com/blog/how-to-build-custom-calendar-assistant-gpt .css-12p6n7x{overflow:auto;}.css-12p6n7x >*{margin-bottom:20px;margin-top:20px;}.css-12p6n7x >H2{margin-top:60px;}.css-12p6n7x >H3{margin-top:40px;}.css-12p6n7x>[id]{scroll-margin-top:20px;}@media (min-width: 660px){.css-12p6n7x>[id]{scroll-margin-top:100px;}}

Ever wished for a personal assistant to help you manage your schedule? I know I have. With the constant overlap of meetings, events that happen outside of my working hours, and a deluge of communication in Slack, it can become overwhelming to keep everything organized and on track.

Fortunately, I've been testing out a brand new way to do the heavy lifting for me: by creating my own version of ChatGPT with OpenAI's GPTs and Zapier's AI actions

The combination of the two allows you to build a custom GPT directly in ChatGPT that pulls in the power of Zapier's 6,000+ apps. That means you can take action in apps like Slack or Google Calendar—all from within ChatGPT's interface. 

Picture this: I built my very own Google Calendar GPT that lets me ask about upcoming events on my calendar, send messages to team members about my schedule in Slack, and even search the web for information about meeting attendees. 

Here's how you can build your own from scratch. 

Screenshot of calendar assistant set-up

Want to test out the calendar assistant GPT before you build your own? Try out the live demo.

Before you get started

You'll need a Zapier account to get started. It's free to sign up

You'll also need a ChatGPT Plus or Enterprise account. Already have the required account type? Click Log in to start chatting. 

Screenshot of OpenAI login page

If you're having trouble logging in, your best bet is to reload your page. For specific login issues, check out OpenAI's troubleshooting tips.

Set up your Zapier AI actions

First, we'll need to create and enable the AI actions you want your GPT to perform directly within Zapier. This refers to setting up the apps and the relevant actions you want your GPT to have access to. For the purpose of this tutorial, we'll be adding two actions: Find a Google Calendar event and send a direct message in Slack

Head over to https://actions.zapier.com/gpt/actions/ to get started. 

Once you've opened this page, click Add a new action. You'll see this window:

Screenshot of AI actions page

Type Google Calendar into the search bar, and select Google Calendar: Find Event

Screenshot of Calendar action in AI actions

Now it's time to customize your Google Calendar action. The first three fields (Action, Zapier Account, and Google Calendar Account) will be auto-populated. You shouldn't need to edit them, but you can connect a different Google Calendar account if you need to. 

Screenshot of Zapier AI actions

Under Calendar, you can decide to either have AI guess a value or set a specific value for this field. I recommend this second option so you can select your exact calendar base.   

Screenshot of calendar field

Once you've done that, click Enable action. You'll be brought back to the page listing all of your AI actions. 

Next, let's carry out the same steps for our Slack action. Click Add a new action and type Slack into the search bar. Select Slack: Send Direct Message

Screenshot of Slack action

Remember to connect your specific Slack account. Then you can have the AI guess the values for the usernames and the message text. When you're interacting with your GPT, you can tell it what to write and who to send the message to, so having AI guess the field is a more flexible option. 

Screenshot of Slack action set up

Next, click Show all options. 

Scroll down until you find the Send as a bot? option. I recommend setting a specific value for this field and selecting No from the dropdown menu. If you leave it set to the default setting, any message your GPT sends will be shown as a bot (and you won't be able to see the sent message). If you choose No, this message will come from you—which is what we want in this case. 

Screenshot of bot field

Once you've finished customizing your fields, click Enable action

Create your custom GPT

Once you've created your AI actions, log into ChatGPT and head over to the sidebar and click Explore. Next, click Create a GPT.

Screenshot of create GPT in builder

The GPT builder will display a split screen: the Create panel is where you enter your prompts to build your chatbot; the Preview panel allows you to interact with your chatbot as you build, making it easier to determine how to refine it.

Screenshot of create panel

To get started, you can enter your instructions in the message box of the Create page. If you need inspiration or want to ask it what it can do, you can type it out here. 

Because I want to create a calendar assistant that can connect to both my Slack and Google Calendar accounts, I'll type out the instructions in the message box. This will serve to give it context. 

Screenshot of GPT builder prompt

Once you've typed out your instructions, press Enter

The GPT builder will then suggest a few things based on your instructions: a chatbot name, profile picture, and default conversation starters.

Screenshot of GPT interactions

The GPT builder will prompt you to enter more specific instructions to fine-tune your chatbot's behavior. The more context you give it, the more prompts and conversation starters the GPT will generate in the Preview panel, like so:

You can test your chatbot—interact with it how you normally would—and use its responses to inform your modifications.  

Note: These preliminary instructions serve to give your GPT context, but it won't connect your apps for you. We'll cover how to do this below. 

Configure your GPT

Now it's time to configure your GPT with more advanced instructions. Click Configure on  your GPT builder screen. 

Screenshot of calendar assistant configure panel

If you don't like the name and description the GPT builder generated, you can change your chatbot's name and description in the relevant fields.

Screenshot of GPT name

You can also change the profile picture by clicking on the image and uploading either the relevant file from your computer or by using DALL·E.

Screenshot of calendar icon

Configure your instructions

Once you've finished customizing these fields, scroll down to the Instructions field. You can update the instructions generated by the GPT builder or enter additional instructions and guidelines on how your chatbot should or shouldn't behave. 

In our case, I'm going to add specific instructions for how the GPT should format its output, which kinds of events it should pull from my calendar, and what information it should pull from the internet. Here's an example: 

Screenshot of GPT instructions

Next, you'll need to tell your GPT builder how to interact with your Zapier actions—the ones you set up earlier. These instructions should detail each step your GPT will take as it searches for a Google Calendar event, for example, or searches for a Slack user to message. 

Don't worry if you're not sure what to write. I recommend copying and pasting our Zapier example below directly into your Instructions field, but you can also check out our AI actions help documentation for more information and examples of instructions. Remember, these rules are just a starting point, so feel free to experiment!

###Rules:

- Before running any Actions tell the user that they need to reply after the Action completes to continue.

- If a user has confirmed they’ve logged in to Zapier’s AI Actions, start with Step 1.

###Instructions for Zapier Custom Action:

Step 1. Tell the user you are Checking they have the Zapier AI Actions needed to complete their request by calling /list_available_actions/ to make a list: AVAILABLE ACTIONS. Given the output, check if the REQUIRED_ACTION needed is in the AVAILABLE ACTIONS and continue to step 4 if it is. If not, continue to step 2.

Step 2. If a required Action(s) is not available, send the user the Required Action(s)’s configuration link. Tell them to let you know when they’ve enabled the Zapier AI Action.

Step 3. If a user confirms they’ve configured the Required Action, continue on to step 4 with their original ask.

Step 4. Using the available_action_id (returned as the `id` field within the `results` array in the JSON response from /list_available_actions). Fill in the strings needed for the run_action operation. Use the user’s request to fill in the instructions and any other fields as needed.

Remember to copy and paste this text directly below your other instructions, like so:

Next, you need to add in information from your required actions—this refers to the apps (Slack and Google Calendar) you enabled in a previous step. 

The information you need is the name of your Slack and Google Calendar actions. This is how you should format it:

REQUIRED_ACTIONS:

- Action: Google Calendar: Find Event

- Action: Slack: Send Direct Message 

If, however, you want to share your GPT with other people so they can also use it, you'll need to include the actions' configuration links. This will allow other users to set up their own Zapier AI Actions directly with your GPT.

While we've provided the configuration links for these specific actions below, you can learn how to set up configuration URLs from scratch here.

Here are the configuration links for your Google Calendar and Slack actions: 

REQUIRED_ACTIONS:

- Action: Google Calendar: Find Event

-   Configuration Link: https://actions.zapier.com/gpt/start?setup_action=google%20calendar%20find%20event

- Action: Slack: Send Direct Message 

 -   Configuration Link: https://actions.zapier.com/gpt/start?setup_action=Slack%20Send%20Direct%20Message

Note: If you're building the GPT just for your personal use, you won't need to add the configuration links, just the action names. 

Copy and paste this information into your GPT instructions, below your rules. 

Screenshot of rules pasted in GPT

Once you're done, exit the instructions field and head back into your GPT builder. (Your instructions will save automatically.)

Add conversation starters, upload files, and add capabilities

Head back to your Configure panel. Under Conversation starters, you can click X beside any prompt to remove it or enter a new prompt in an empty field. Remember, these are the example prompts you or your users will see when you open the finished GPT. 

Screenshot of conversation starters

You can also add any company files you have to your GPT in the Knowledge field. For example, you might want to upload your company's style guide or any customer service PDFs you have to give it additional context. In my case, I'll leave it blank. 

Next, check to make sure that your GPT can browse the web as we want our calendar assistant to access information from LinkedIn and other sites. To do this, enable Web Browsing

Screenshot of web browser

Add the necessary actions to your GPT

Now it's time to officially connect your GPT to your Zapier AI actions, which will bring all your apps together. Click Create new action

Screenshot of action CTA

This will bring you to the actions page, which looks like this:

Screenshot of calendar assistant actions page

First up, copy this special URL to your clipboard: 

https://actions.zapier.com/gpt/api/v1/dynamic/openapi.json?tools=meta

You can copy this URL from this blog post or from the Zapier instructions, located here. (You'll only need to use this URL once in your GPT set-up.)

Inside your GPT builder, click Import from URL

Screenshot of import from URL button

Paste in your special URL in the empty HTTPS field and click Import

This will generate text inside the Schema box, which defines the components and paths available in the API. 

Screenshot of action schema

Important: You should now click Save or Update in the top-right corner of your GPT builder.

Screenshot of save button

You'll be able to select who you want to share your custom chatbot with: Only me, Only people with a link, or Public. If you're on an Enterprise plan, you'll also have Anyone at [your company] as an option. 

Once you've enabled your choice, click Confirm to publish your GPT. 

Screenshot of save settings

Test your GPT

Now that we've finished configuring our GPT, it's time to test it out and make sure everything's working correctly. After you've saved your GPT, you'll be able to click View GPT.

Screenshot of view GPT button

This will open the public front-end page of your GPT. 

Screenshot of published GPT

To test your GPT, ask it a question about your schedule. This will kick your AI actions into gear. Just remember that you'll have to click Sign in with actions.zapier.com to grant your GPT access to your Zapier account. 

Screenshot of sign in button

This will take you to another window where you can enable OpenAI to access your Zapier account. Click Allow.

Screenshot of OpenAI/Zapier access window

You'll be taken back to your GPT. Now, thanks to the rules you set up in your GPT, it will first check to make sure that specific Google Calendar action is available:

Screenshot of Google calendar action working

Click Allow

Your GPT will now scan your calendar and send your full agenda to you, according to how you set up your formatting earlier:

Screenshot of meeting agenda

Now because I have an overlap in my schedule, I'm going to test out my Slack action and let someone know I won't be attending the Content monthly meeting.

Screenshot of assistant in action

Once your GPT confirms the Slack message, make sure to double-check that it got sent in Slack.

Screenshot of Slack message

Finally, I'd like to test the GPT's web browser function, using myself as an example:

Screenshot of assistant web browser working

You might use this function, for example, when a new guest outside of your company gets added to a meeting and you'd like to know more about them. You might want to research a customer, a guest attendee, or even pull up recent news about a company itself.

If you're happy with the way everything is working, you're now ready to use your assistant. If something looks off or you want to modify the GPT's instructions, go back and edit your GPT. 

To do this, just click into the dropdown menu of your Google Calendar Assistant and click Edit GPT

Screenshot of edit GPT button

This will bring you to the backend of your GPT where you can continue refining. If you want to share your GPT with other people, just click Copy link and you can share that URL with the rest of your team.

Screenshot of copy link button

Build GPTs that pull in the power of thousands of apps

With Zapier AI Actions and OpenAI's GPT-builder, you can build custom assistants that can help streamline the way you work across thousands of apps—boosting your productivity. 

This is just the start of what you can do. Start experimenting now and see what you can build!

Related reading:

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Elena Alston Fri, 15 Dec 2023 08:00:00 GMT https://zapier.com/blog/how-to-build-custom-calendar-assistant-gpt
How to delete blank rows in Excel https://zapier.com/blog/remove-blank-rows-excel-online .css-12p6n7x{overflow:auto;}.css-12p6n7x >*{margin-bottom:20px;margin-top:20px;}.css-12p6n7x >H2{margin-top:60px;}.css-12p6n7x >H3{margin-top:40px;}.css-12p6n7x>[id]{scroll-margin-top:20px;}@media (min-width: 660px){.css-12p6n7x>[id]{scroll-margin-top:100px;}}

Crafting a spreadsheet often involves creating a mess as you copy and paste data throughout your document. During this process, you might leave behind some blank rows that can mess up your data and make your sheet look unpolished.

Here, I'll show you how to delete blank rows in Excel individually and in bulk. I'm using Excel online, but you can use the exact same steps in the desktop app.

How to remove individual blank rows in Excel

As you shift data around, you might end up with a stray blank row here and there—or maybe a few. It's easy to delete these rows as you go.

Click a row's number to select it, and drag your mouse to nearby rows if you have more than one blank row side by side. Right-click the number(s) you selected, and choose Delete rows to get rid of them.

Right-click and Delete Rows in Excel

How to delete all blank rows at once in Excel

When you're dealing with massive amounts of data, right-clicking and deleting won't always do the trick. Thanks to the COUNTA formula, though, you can find completely blank rows in a spreadsheet (and then delete them yourself).

The COUNTA formula counts the number of cells in a range that have values on them, so when it returns a 0, that means all of the cells in the range are empty. You can then filter your spreadsheet to find only the rows that come back with a 0.

Follow these steps:

  1. Add a new column at the end of your spreadsheet called "Blanks" (or whatever you'd like, as long as you remember it).

  2. Enter the COUNTA formula in the first row by typing =COUNTA( and highlighting the rest of the cells in the row. Finish off the formula with a ). The final formula should look something like =COUNTA(A2:C2) but with your relevant cell numbers taking the place of A2 and C2.

    The COUNTA formula in Excel to delete blank rows
  3. Copy that formula down your entire column. Click the cell with your formula in it and drag the bottom-right corner down the cells you want to add it to. Or:

    1. Click your formula cell.

    2. Hold Shift, and click the last cell in the range you want to select.

    3. Press F2 to go to edit mode for your formula cell.

    4. Press Ctrl + Enter or command + return to copy the formula across the full range of cells.

  4. The cells in your Blanks column should now have numbers corresponding to the number of cells with content in them per row.

    The Blanks column in Excel
  5. Now it's time to filter your data to just the rows with 0 in the Blanks column. Include all of your data in the filter by clicking the square in the top-left corner between the 1 row title and the A column title to select all of your data.

    Clicking the top-left square in Excel

  6. Click Filter in the Data toolbar.

    Clicking Data > Filter in Excel to delete blank rows
  7. You should see buttons at the top of every column. Click on the one above the Blanks column. At the bottom of the menu that appears, click the Select All checkbox to unselect all filter options, then click the 0 checkbox to select only rows that contain 0 in the Blanks column.

    Selecting 0 to delete blank rows

  8. You should see only blank rows now. Select those rows, right-click, and choose Delete Rows to remove them.

    Delete Rows in Excel

Enjoy your sparkling clean document!

Automate Microsoft Excel

Now that you're the proud owner of a pristine spreadsheet, keep it working for you. Connect Excel to Zapier, so you can automatically update data and take action on it. Learn more about how to automate Excel, or get started with one of these pre-made workflows.

Zapier is a no-code automation tool that lets you connect your apps into automated workflows, so that every person and every business can move forward at growth speed. Learn more about how it works.

Related reading:

This article was originally published in May 2019 by Justin Pot. The most recent update was in December 2023.

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Melissa King Fri, 15 Dec 2023 05:00:00 GMT https://zapier.com/blog/remove-blank-rows-excel-online
The 6 best free email marketing services in 2024 https://zapier.com/blog/free-email-marketing-software .css-12p6n7x{overflow:auto;}.css-12p6n7x >*{margin-bottom:20px;margin-top:20px;}.css-12p6n7x >H2{margin-top:60px;}.css-12p6n7x >H3{margin-top:40px;}.css-12p6n7x>[id]{scroll-margin-top:20px;}@media (min-width: 660px){.css-12p6n7x>[id]{scroll-margin-top:100px;}}

When you don't own the channels where you reach customers, the ground can always shift beneath you. That's where email marketing shines.

The good news: there's an entire ecosystem of free email marketing tools available, and they have all the features you'll need to build out your email marketing (and then some).

I researched and tested more than 60 email marketing apps with free plans to find the best ones for a variety of use cases and business types. Here are the six best free email marketing apps.

The best free email marketing apps

  • MailerLite for advanced email marketers

  • HubSpot for segmentation

  • Brevo (formerly Sendinblue) for all-in-one marketing and sales features

  • Mailchimp for a growing email marketing program

  • Sender for the most generous free plan

  • Loops for email marketing automation

What makes the best free email marketing service?

How we evaluate and test apps

All of our best apps roundups are written by humans who've spent much of their careers using, testing, and writing about software. We spend dozens of hours researching and testing apps, using each app as it's intended to be used and evaluating it against the criteria we set for the category. We're never paid for placement in our articles from any app or for links to any site—we value the trust readers put in us to offer authentic evaluations of the categories and apps we review. For more details on our process, read the full rundown of how we select apps to feature on the Zapier blog.

Full-featured email marketing apps and free ones are far from mutually exclusive. There are tons of options that offer flexible subscriber and send thresholds along with the robust features small businesses need—for free. If you're just getting started with free marketing tools or want to try out a few options before committing to a paid plan, you have plenty of choices.

Here's what I looked for when testing free email marketing services:

  • The number of subscribers and sends included for free. Some free email marketing platforms are generous in this regard, offering thousands of free sends per month, while others include low caps that mean your "free" platform isn't free for very long. I kept this in mind while testing.

  • Email templates and customization. You shouldn't have to start your email marketing operation from scratch. The best options come with at least a few fully-designed and professional templates to get your free email campaign started. And in cases where there aren't any free templates, the email editor needs to really shine in ease of use.

  • Audience segmentation. Success with email relies on being able to deliver the right emails to the right people at the right time. For growing businesses, that means you need capable audience segmentation features with any free email campaign software you choose.

  • Automation. From transactional emails to triggered campaigns and more, a growing business needs to be able to automate email marketing as your efforts scale.

  • Scalability. Speaking of, just because you're starting by doing your email marketing for free, it doesn't mean you won't grow out of it. The best free email marketing software can grow with your business—from free to paid when necessary, adding more features and higher limits as you go.

  • Full email marketing features. There are plenty of capable apps designed for one particular type of email (like newsletters, for example, or transactional emails), but for our purposes here, I focused on full-featured apps you can use across your email marketing operation.

After narrowing down the list based on those criteria, I ran each of the remaining contenders through an extensive testing workflow that included:

  • Creating an account and completing any onboarding offered by the app.

  • Looking at core features like the drag-and-drop editor, template library, and overall campaign creation flow.

  • Testing out additional features like automation, customer segmentation, and alternative editors (like HTML or plain text), along with determining any applicable limits for these features on the free plan.

  • Where available, I tested out niche features for eCommerce, universal branding, broader marketing automation, and AI, among others.

  • Lastly, I looked into how costs for each app scale as you outgrow the free plan and move to paid.

Along with each step, I considered the ease of use for core and ancillary features—because with all the options available today, "free" shouldn't have to mean hard to use.

With those criteria in mind, here's the best free software for email marketing.

The best free email marketing platforms at a glance

Best for

Standout feature

Free plan

MailerLite

Advanced email marketers

Dynamic content blocks

Up to 1,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails per month

HubSpot

Segmentation

Well-rounded marketing features

Up to 2,000 emails per month and 1,000 static lists

Brevo

All-in-one marketing & sales

Full-featured CRM

Up to 300 emails per day, with unlimited contacts

Mailchimp

Growing email marketing

Lots of advanced features included for free

Up to 500 contacts and 1,000 sends per month

Sender

A generous free plan

40 templates

Up to 2,500 subscribers and 15,000 emails per month

Loops

Email marketing automation

Unlimited automation workflows

Up to 1,000 contacts and 2,000 email sends per month


Best free email marketing software for advanced email marketers

MailerLite 

MailerLite, our pick for the best free email marketing software for advanced email marketers

MailerLite pros:

  • Pre-built content blocks make building emails super quick

  • Generous allotments for segmentation and automation

  • Affordable upgrade for unlimited users

MailerLite cons:

  • No pre-made email templates on the free plan

MailerLite doesn't offer pre-made templates for its free newsletter service, but the dynamic, pre-designed content blocks more than make up for the lack of templates. With blocks for highlighting multiple articles, videos, RSS lists, products, apps, events, and more, MailerLite helps experienced email marketers make quick work of building new campaigns and custom templates.

Your emails can include more than just text and images, too. There's a countdown timer that dynamically shows the time remaining until you launch a product or before a sale is over. You can add product details, embed a video, pull in your most recent blog posts with a dynamically updating RSS block, and more. It's a great way to send interactive emails instead of just digital letters.

Beyond email content, MailerLite also includes robust automation and audience segmentation features in the free plan. An intuitive builder makes quick work of mapping out automation workflows—or you can hit the ground running with one of the 15 new pre-built flows. Create both persistent and one-time segments and view aggregate statistics by segment, too.

Plus, MailerLite integrates with Zapier—meaning you can automate things like adding new MailerLite subscribers from Google Sheets and sending Mailchimp subscribers to MailerLite.

MailerLite pricing: Free for up to 1,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails per month

Deciding between MailerLite and Mailchimp? Read our showdown: MailerLite vs. Mailchimp.

Best free email marketing software for segmentation

HubSpot

HubSpot, our pick for the best free email marketing software for scalability across teams

HubSpot pros:

  • Generous free plan

  • Great for segmentation with HubSpot CRM features

HubSpot cons:

  • Sub-par email templates

  • Expensive upgrade and the full suite can be overwhelming

HubSpot has everything you need under one roof. The email marketing features are well-rounded and offer a lot for free: up to 2,000 emails per month, 10 active lists, and reporting. When you're ready to scale, you can add additional HubSpot tools for CRM, full marketing automation, customer service, sales, and more.

The email tool throws you into the editor as soon as signup is finished, so you can get moving quickly. For those new to HubSpot or email marketing more broadly, the next stop is the user guide, detailing everything you need to know to build beautiful, effective campaigns in HubSpot. With HubSpot's new AI features, things get even easier.

Included in the free plan are 1,000 static lists and 10 "active" lists, which include super quick options to segment, say, hard-bouncers or recipients who open but don't click.

While HubSpot offers a generous free plan, costs can scale quickly as you outgrow it. Pricing for the full Marketing Hub starts out reasonably at $18 per month, but if you need a lot of contacts or features like omnichannel marketing automation, A/B testing, or custom reporting, you'll need to be prepared to pay up.

Plus, HubSpot integrates with Zapier, so you can do things like automatically create and update HubSpot contacts from your contact management tool and copy new leads from your ads into HubSpot. Here are more ideas for how to automate HubSpot, plus some pre-made workflows to inspire you.

HubSpot pricing: Free for up to 2,000 emails per month, 1,000 static contact lists, 10 "active" contact lists, and 1 automation workflow

Deciding between HubSpot and Mailchimp? Read our showdown: HubSpot vs. Mailchimp.

Best email marketing tool for all-in-one marketing and sales

Brevo (formerly Sendinblue)

Sendinblue, our pick for the best free email marketing software for all-in-one sales and marketing features

Brevo pros:

  • Pre-built, goal-oriented email automation

  • Generous automation limits on the free plan

  • Broad marketing and sales feature set

Brevo cons:

  • Strict 300 email/day send limit

If you're looking for one tool to handle all your marketing and sales needs, Brevo is a great option. Since rebranding from Sendinblue to Brevo, they've added several new features like a full-featured CRM, centralized solutions for sales meetings, calls, and chat, and streamlined deal tracking.

On top of these, the app still offers a variety of templated automation flows, based on your goals. You can choose your workflow to improve engagement, increase traffic, grow revenue, or build relationships.

You can get from account setup to actually editing emails in just a few clicks, and the streamlined campaign creation flow keeps the breadth of available campaign types (Brevo supports email, SMS, WhatsApp, web push, and Facebook Ads campaigns) from feeling overwhelming. From there, you can build your emails with dozens of pre-made templates and a drag-and-drop editor. Then, either send them as email newsletters or use Brevo's automation workflows to send them on a schedule.

You can't send as many emails at once as you can from other free email marketing tools, but you can manage more contacts—the free plan comes with unlimited contacts—and split them into focused lists. Brevo also lets you buy pre-paid credits to send more than your daily email limit and offers an affordable $12 whitelabeling add-on that's available with any plan.

Expand Brevo's capabilities by integrating it with Zapier to automatically create new Brevo subscribers from new Google Contacts, Mailchimp subscribers, Facebook Lead Ads leads, and more. Discover more popular ways to automate Brevo with Zapier, or take a look at these ideas to get you started.

Brevo pricing: Free for up 300 emails per day and unlimited contacts

Best free email marketing service for growing email marketing programs

Mailchimp

Mailchimp, our pick for the best free email marketing software for growing email marketing programs

Mailchimp pros:

  • User-friendly UI with helpful tips and best practices

  • Includes customer journey mapping, list segmenting, A/B testing, and more

  • Scalable pricing

Mailchimp cons:

  • Relatively limited free plan compared to the other options on this list

One of the most popular email marketing apps thanks to its friendly branding, Mailchimp is a great place to start your email marketing program if you're planning to scale it quickly. The app includes a landing page builder, customer journey mapping, list segmentation, retargeting ads, and even A/B testing—all in its free plan.

An approachable editor that includes helpful tips and best practices along the way makes Mailchimp an accessible option for both new and experienced email marketers. For example, when setting up a subject line, a sidebar reminds you about recommended character length, emoji use in subject lines, and more.

Once you're ready to move beyond what the free plan offers, Mailchimp makes scaling accessible with three different paid tiers. Plus, Mailchimp can handle email programs of any size: if you can afford to let it grow with you, you'll never have to switch to another app.

Mailchimp integrates with Zapier, allowing you to do things like automatically subscribe new form responders, leads, or spreadsheet entries to a Mailchimp list. Learn more about how to automate Mailchimp, or get started with one of these pre-made workflows.

Mailchimp pricing: Free for up to 500 contacts and 1,000 sends per month

If you love Mailchimp but just need a super simple, bare-bones option for email newsletters, the brand also offers TinyLetter.

Best free email marketing software for a generous free plan

Sender

Sender, our pick for the best free email marketing software for a generous free plan

Sender pros:

  • Super generous subscriber and send limits

  • Full access to automation and segmentation

  • Reasonable upgrade costs

Sender cons:

  • Clunky drag-and-drop editor

If you're looking to get a whole lot of value for free, Sender is your best bet. The ultra-generous free plan includes 2,500 subscribers, 15,000 emails each month, and full access to more advanced features like automation and audience segmentation. At a time when most email marketing apps are reining in their free plans, Sender's really stands out.

You won't get a lot of fancy email templates here, but the app does offer nearly 40, most of which are of passable quality. The drag-and-drop editor isn't my favorite, but it works. The automation feature doesn't include any pre-built workflows, but it's easy to use and includes 11 standard triggers. You can build audience segments based on all the standard dimensions you expect, along with a number of eCommerce-specific ones.

Speaking of which, if you're looking to use Sender for eCommerce, you'll probably have to upgrade eventually, but the paid plans are super affordable, too—just $47.50 per month gets you 10,000 subscribers, 120,000 email sends, SMS features, whitelabeling, and up to three users.

Plus, you can use Sender together with Zapier to automate even more of your email marketing workflow, like syncing new Sender subscribers across other apps and publishing emails to other channels. Here are some ideas, but you can connect Sender to thousands of other apps in your tech stack.

Sender pricing: Free for up to 2,500 subscribers and 15,000 emails per month

Best free email marketing software for automation

Loops (Web)

Loops, our pick for the best free email marketing software for automation

Loops pros:

  • Generous free plan

  • Lots of pre-built automation templates

  • Scalable upgrade

Loops cons:

  • Rich text editor only

  • Plain text templates

Loops is an email marketing app built, from the foundation on up, for automation. The app calls automated workflows "loops" (hence the name), and they're unlimited—even on the free plan.

Loops is designed for SaaS companies, and many of the features reflect that. With 17 pre-built loops to choose from, you can make quick work of building out automations for common subscription use cases like welcoming new paid users, inviting users to upgrade, and encouraging engagement.

The app also includes audience segmentation that's on the basic side but easy to use. As a whole, Loop's user interface is simple, clean, and supremely easy to navigate.

Now, this recommendation comes with one big caveat: Loops only includes a rich text editor and a few plain text email templates. If that works for your email marketing strategy, this is a great option—just know that you won't be building out highly-designed visual-laden campaigns.

You can also use Loops with Zapier to broaden the automation horizons by sending events to Loops, adding new subscribers from other apps, and more. Here are some examples for you.

Loops pricing: Free for up to 1,000 contacts and 2,000 email sends per month

What about a free eCommerce email marketing tool?

You may have noticed I don't have a "best for eCommerce" category this year—that's intentional. While I tested a number of apps with useful eCommerce features, it turns out there isn't really such a thing as a free lunch in this space.

Apps like Mailchimp and Sender offer features like eCommerce-specific audience segmentation dimensions and online store integration, but the subscriber and email send limits on their free plans won't get you very far when it comes to eCommerce.

As for an email marketing tool that's tailor-made for eCommerce, Klaviyo and (my former pick) Omnisend are both super capable options. Both apps severely limit their free plans to just 250 contacts and 500 sends per month, though, so I can't recommend them if you're looking for a free email marketing solution—they won't be free for very long. That said, if you're willing to pay for niche-specific features, free plans will enable you to briefly test out both Omnisend and Klaviyo before you have to open your wallet.

Other email marketing tools with generous free plans

In addition to the picks above, I tested a number of other tools that offer exceedingly generous free plans. For example:

  • ConvertKit (1,000 subscribers and unlimited emails)

  • EmailOctopus (2,500 subscribers and 10,000 emails per month)

  • Mailjet (1,500 subscribers and 6,000 emails per month)

  • SendGrid (2,000 subscribers and 6,000 emails per month)

  • Systeme.io (2,000 subscribers and unlimited emails)

  • Zoho Campaigns (2,000 subscribers and 6,000 emails per month)

These apps didn't make the cut based on lack of certain features or certain usability issues, but they definitely offer a long runway before you have to start paying for your email marketing. So if your main concern is getting the most bang for your (lack of) buck, test these out and decide for yourself.

Email marketing services FAQ

Still have questions about choosing an email marketing service? Here are some common questions people have about how to pick the right app.

What makes a good free email marketing software?

While different platforms will suit different people best, you'll want to keep an eye out for features like email templates and customization, audience segmentation, automation, scalability, and how many subscribers and sends are included in a free plan.

Why use an email marketing software?

Email is one of the most effective ways to market your business. Why? Email is universal, as almost everyone has an email address. Plus, email is widely recognized as having a high return on investment (ROI) compared to other mediums. Email marketing software streamlines the entire process, ensuring you're getting the most out of the time you put into it.

Can I start email marketing for free?

Absolutely. Each platform listed in this article is free to get started with, and as long as you don't exceed contact limits for the free plan, you can send emails to your email list for free.

Automate your email marketing tool

Once you've picked your free newsletter software, here are a few ideas for how to automate your email marketing tool. Then take a look at more ways to use marketing automation to grow your business.

Related reading:

This piece was originally published in February 2015 by Matthew Guay and has also had contributions from Jessica Greene. The most recent update was in December 2023.

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Kiera Abbamonte Fri, 15 Dec 2023 05:00:00 GMT https://zapier.com/blog/free-email-marketing-software
What does link in bio mean? And how to make a link in bio page https://zapier.com/blog/link-in-bio .css-12p6n7x{overflow:auto;}.css-12p6n7x >*{margin-bottom:20px;margin-top:20px;}.css-12p6n7x >H2{margin-top:60px;}.css-12p6n7x >H3{margin-top:40px;}.css-12p6n7x>[id]{scroll-margin-top:20px;}@media (min-width: 660px){.css-12p6n7x>[id]{scroll-margin-top:100px;}}

Multiple times a week, I write some variation of "read at the link in bio" for the Instagram account I manage. I bet you see the phrase mentioned all the time on social media, too.

With your favorite Instagram and TikTok accounts using their links in bio all the time, maybe you're inspired to create your own. Or maybe you've seen the phrase all over the place and are too afraid to ask what it is at this point. Either way, I've got you covered.

What does link in bio mean?

In the most general sense, a link in bio is the link in a social media profile. It's especially important on Instagram and TikTok, where you can't include a clickable link in your caption.

You can put whatever page you'd like in your link in bio, but many folks create a dedicated link in bio page. These pages usually share links associated with posts or a list of the user's most important links, like their homepage or shop.

For example, the animal rescue Rags to Riches uses its link in bio page to showcase various ways to donate to and fundraise for them.

Rags to Riches' link in bio page

How to put a link in your TikTok bio

Before you can add your link in bio page to your profile, you'll need to know how to put it there in the first place. Let's start with TikTok.

TikTok only lets Business accounts put links in their bios, but it's free and simple to switch. Follow these steps:

  1. When you start up TikTok, it lands you on your video feed. Tap the Profile icon at the right end of the bottom menu to get to your profile.

    Tapping the profile icon in TikTok

  2. From there, tap the three lines at the upper-right of your screen to pull up some options.

    The hamburger menu icon on TikTok

  3. Tap Settings and privacy.

    The Settings and privacy option on TikTok

  4. Tap the first option, Account.

    The Account option in TikTok

  5. Choose Switch to Business Account. You'll choose your industry and get asked a few skippable questions.

    Choosing Switch to Business Account on TikTok

  6. Now that you have a Business account, go back to your profile, and tap Edit profile.

    The Edit profile button on TikTok

  7. Under Business information, tap Website to add the URL to your website.

    Put a link in bio on TikTok by tapping Website

How to put a link in your Instagram bio

Instagram lets any account type add a link to bio—multiple links, in fact. Here's how.

  1. Go to your profile by tapping your profile picture at the bottom-right of your screen.

    Tapping the profile picture on Instagram

  2. Tap Edit profile near the top of your profile page.

    The Edit profile option on Instagram

  3. Tap Add link under the Bio option.

    The Add link option in Instagram

  4. Choose Add external link to add up to five websites to your profile.

    The Add external link option in Instagram to put a link in bio

4 ways to make a link in bio page

Since you can include any URL in your bio, you technically have unlimited ways to make your link in bio page. But here are four of the easiest and most effective methods.

1. Your social media management tool

Popular social media management tools like Later, Sprout Social, and Buffer have built-in link in bio page features.

Some of the paid tools' link in bio pages display a copy of your Instagram feed that features the links you connect with each post. Generally, you include the link when you schedule the post, and the platform then sends out the post and its link in bio counterpart at the same time. From what I've seen, these pages only work with Instagram, but you'll get to refer your followers to a unique link for each post.

You can see Sprout Social's tool in action in the game site IGN's Instagram bio.

A link in bio page on IGN's Instagram bio

Buffer, meanwhile, has its Start Page channel that you can use to make any landing page you want, although its origin lends it well to use as a link in bio. You can learn more about it in this overview of helpful Buffer features.

2. A dedicated link in bio tool

There's a huge selection of tools out there specifically made for building a link in bio page. Due to their focus on links in bio, they tend to have simpler interfaces and lower prices than landing page builders and website builders. There are quite a few that are free or have feature-heavy free plans.

Here are some examples:

  • Linktree creates an aesthetically pleasing list of your most important links. Free users can add unlimited links, and you can pay for a monthly plan if you'd like more customization or analytics options.

  • Milkshake is a mobile app that creates a website structured on "cards" that you swipe between. It's completely free.

  • Beacons combines elements like links, content, and media into a mini-website. It integrates with other tools in the Beacons suite, but in exchange, you'll have to pay to upgrade the full app family if you want to use a paid plan.

And that's just the tip of the iceberg—you can dig further to find even more link in bio tools, like Shorby and Campsite.bio. Fashion brand Lazy Oaf, for example, uses Linkpop for its Instagram link in bio.

Lazy Oaf's link in bio page

3. Your preferred landing page builder

There's nothing saying that you have to make your link in bio page with a specialized tool. If you'd like more creative control over your page without dealing with the scale of a full website, why not give a landing page builder a shot? You'll still have only one page to deal with, but you'll have more freedom.

Here are a few landing page builders that could work well for building a link in bio page:

  • Carrd offers comprehensive landing page-building features at an incredibly affordable price. The free plan lets you build up to three one-page sites, and you can upgrade for $19/year to add capabilities like analytics and custom domains.  

  • Leadpages can work especially well if you're developing your link in bio page as part of a full conversion funnel. It only has paid plans, but it comes with a range of other tools to help you convert visitors.

  • Zapier Interfaces brings your Zapier integrations to a landing page that can include forms, tables, chatbots, and other interactive elements. If you want your visitors to do something when they click the link in your bio, this tool will do the trick for free.

Illustrator Mary Cruz used Carrd to make an eye-catching link in bio page with room for commission info.

Mary Cruzs

4. Your website

In a similar vein, nobody said you had to use a separate website for your link in bio page, either. You can create a page on your existing website and leave it off of your navigation, then link to it from your bio.

At Unwinnable, that's the method we use. We have a lean budget, but we wanted to provide links for each of our posts, which is usually a feature for paid tools. Our vice publisher, Sara, brought up the idea of creating a page on our website featuring images of our posts linked to their corresponding links. We update the page around the same time that our Instagram posts are scheduled to publish.

And since we can decide what order the images can go in, we can "pin" important posts by keeping them at the top of the list. It's simple, yet versatile.

Unwinnable's link in bio page

Sara got the inspiration from making their own link in bio page when they wanted some of Linktree's premium features without having to pay for them. Their page is a list of links to their work hosted on their website.

Use a link in bio as part of the customer journey

Whichever method you choose for creating your link in bio page, consider what part it will play in your customer's journey with your brand. Choose what you want your customers to do after they get to know your brand through social media, and design your link in bio page around it. And don't forget to make things even easier by automating your social media management.

Related reading:

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Melissa King Fri, 15 Dec 2023 05:00:00 GMT https://zapier.com/blog/link-in-bio
New and noteworthy apps: December 2023 https://zapier.com/blog/new-noteworthy-apps-december-2023 .css-12p6n7x{overflow:auto;}.css-12p6n7x >*{margin-bottom:20px;margin-top:20px;}.css-12p6n7x >H2{margin-top:60px;}.css-12p6n7x >H3{margin-top:40px;}.css-12p6n7x>[id]{scroll-margin-top:20px;}@media (min-width: 660px){.css-12p6n7x>[id]{scroll-margin-top:100px;}}

We're closing out 2023 with a handful of new AI integrations, plus new actions for Facebook Custom Audiences and OpenAI. 

Here's the latest Zapier integration news for December:

Jump ahead 

  • Updated integrations

  • New integrations

Updated integrations

New app integrations: Fundraise Up, Cody, Financial Cents, Deal Buzzer, Easy Broker, Slite, Datacruit ATS, Vext, InsurGrid, and Gryffin.

Facebook Custom Audiences

Good news, ad managers: Facebook Custom Audiences has a new Remove Email From Custom Audience action, so you can retarget ads with precision to get the most out of your ad spend.

OpenAI (GPT-3, DALL-E, Whisper)

Text-to-speech is here! OpenAI's new Convert Text to Speech action generates an audio file from text. Unlock new ways to use text-to-speech capabilities with automation and AI.

Eventbrite

Plan for last-minute attendee changes faster with Eventbrite's new Updated Attendee trigger. Automate follow-ups for specific registration and keep attendees engaged before your event.

Google Contacts

Our Google Contacts integration now has a New Contact trigger. Update contact lists across multiple platforms, send outreach to new contacts, and keep communication flowing.

Zoho Invoice

Level up your invoicing workflows with Zoho Invoice's latest update. Three new triggers and two new actions support retainer invoices, customer payments, and credit notes.

Appointlet

Appointlet's latest update covers your scheduling needs with five new triggers: Meeting Scheduled, Meeting Canceled, Meeting Rescheduled, Meeting Approved, and Meeting Declined. Automate follow-ups for last-minute cancellations, create agendas for scheduled calls, and come prepared for any situation.

MyGadgetRepairs

Stay organized during busy seasons thanks to MyGadgetRepairs' latest updates. Now, you can automate workflows from updated customer records, automatically tag projects and tasks, as well as search for existing tags.

OnePageCRM

OnePageCRM has added lead capture to their Create Contact and Update Contact actions. Automate personalized nurtures based on the lead source and level up your sales workflows.

EasyFTP

File management is even easier with EasyFTP's newest action, which lets you download files from an FTP server.

Copilot

Copilot's updated integration enables you to retrieve internal users and search for users by ID. Automatically keep track of internal users and improve the client experience.  

TalentLMS

TalentLMS has added a new action that lets you remove a user from a group. Keep course groups organized as students finish lesson paths and more.

PassKit Membership

Scale your loyalty programs with PassKit Membership's newest triggers: Pass Updated, Pass Installed, and Pass Uninstalled. Automate onboarding for new members, kick off re-engagement campaigns, and track changes in your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools.

Cobot

Cobot has added a new External Booking Created trigger, letting you automate processes from bookings outside of Cobot. Plus, Cobot's Zapier integration is now open source!

New integrations

Cody

Cody is an AI-powered assistant you can train for internal business operations using your own knowledge base. Build AI-powered assistants for internal business operations, employee onboarding, and more.

Fundraise Up

Fundraise Up is an AI-assisted giving platform that helps nonprofits engage donors and increase revenue.  

Financial Cents

Financial Cents is a project and customer management software for accounting firms.

InsurGrid

InsurGrid is a verification platform for insurance agents to vet policy data and documents for prospective clients.

EasyBroker

EasyBroker is a real estate platform for buyers and sellers. 

Slite

Slite is an AI-powered knowledge base that simplifies knowledge-sharing for teams.

Vext

Vext helps you build custom AI and large-language models (LLM) with your business data. 

Datacruit ATS

Datacruit ATS is a comprehensive recruitment software solution for hiring managers. 

DEAL BUZZER

Deal Buzzer is an employee engagement tool for celebrating and sharing team successes.

Gryffin

Gryffin is digital marketing software that helps companies grow organic traffic and automate digital marketing tasks.

SimplyBlast

SimplyBlast is a cloud-based SMS marketing and communication platform for schools, businesses, and governments.

New to Zapier? It's a tool that helps anyone connect apps and automate workflows—without any complicated code. Sign up for free.

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Krystina Martinez Thu, 14 Dec 2023 13:00:00 GMT https://zapier.com/blog/new-noteworthy-apps-december-2023
Microsoft To Do automation: 5 ways to streamline your task management https://zapier.com/blog/automate-microsoft-to-do .css-12p6n7x{overflow:auto;}.css-12p6n7x >*{margin-bottom:20px;margin-top:20px;}.css-12p6n7x >H2{margin-top:60px;}.css-12p6n7x >H3{margin-top:40px;}.css-12p6n7x>[id]{scroll-margin-top:20px;}@media (min-width: 660px){.css-12p6n7x>[id]{scroll-margin-top:100px;}}

Microsoft To Do checks the most important boxes for a to-do list app. From granular task management to scheduled tasks with reminders, it's a power app that stands out for its user-friendly and flexible features. 

And because Microsoft To Do is part of Microsoft's wider ecosystem, you can sync it with other Microsoft apps and carry out actions between them, like flagging Outlook emails as Microsoft To Do tasks or using Cortana to automatically add items to your to-do list. 

But this can only take you so far—especially if you have a whole network of different apps you use for work. You might want a faster way to save Slack messages as tasks, for example. Or you might want to automatically block out time on your Google Calendar for your to-do items. If that's the case, Zapier is your best bet. 

You can create automated workflows—what we call Zaps—to streamline your task management. Take a look.

New to Zapier? It's a tool that helps anyone connect apps and automate workflows—without any complicated code. Sign up for free.

Table of contents

To get started with a Zap template—what we call our pre-made workflows—just click on the button. It only takes a few minutes to set up. You can read more about setting up Zaps here.

Create tasks from other Microsoft apps

Like we mentioned, there are some native integrations between Microsoft To Do and other Microsoft apps. But if you're finding the things you'd like to do aren't built-in or you're looking for more flexibility, setting up Zaps can help you take control of your to-do list.

From porting Microsoft To Do tasks to Microsoft OneNote to creating or updating tasks in Microsoft To Do when a Microsoft 365 file is updated, Zapier brings more utility to Microsoft To Do when it’s used alongside other Microsoft apps.

You can also use Zapier to build your own custom workflow between Microsoft apps, like Excel or Office 365. On these pages, you'll want to use the drop-down menus to select the trigger—the event that kicks off your workflow—and the action you want to have happen automatically, then click the blue button to connect the apps.

Streamline team projects

Project management apps—like Trello, Asana, and Notion— can be more powerful than you need from a to-do list tool. For this reason, you may find yourself using an app like Microsoft To Do separate from your team's project management tool to stay on top of your own tasks.

Zapier can help you connect those tools and create a system that supports team-level and individual-level work. You can set up Zaps that let you turn your duties on team projects into tasks in Microsoft To Do to ensure your contributions to a team project never fall through the cracks.

This works the other way, too. For example, you might jot down tasks as notes in Microsoft To Do, but then you need a way to add them to your team's official project management tool (like Notion). That way, you can easily assign specific tasks to other team members, or collaborate with them in the comments section of your project management tool. 

With these Zaps, you can add your Microsoft To Do tasks to your project management tool of choice—automatically. 

Collaborate and communicate with your team

Communication is crucial for collaboration and team productivity. On its own, Microsoft To Do isn’t a very strong team communication and collaboration tool. However, you can use Zaps to integrate Microsoft To Do with a designated team communication platform like Slack or Discord.

Of course, your team might communicate solely via email. If that's the case, you can use these Zaps to turn requests sent via email into tasks, or notify them when you add new tasks to Microsoft To Do. 

Manage your schedule and calendar

Although you can assign due dates and reminders to your tasks, Microsoft To Do isn’t the best tool for actually managing your schedule, at least not on its own.

Instead of relying on Microsoft To Do to manage your schedule, let Zapier ensure your Microsoft To Do tasks are added to your calendar by automating with your preferred schedule management tool.

This works the other way too: Use Zaps to add tasks to Microsoft To Do when an event is created or changed in your schedule.

Supercharge your sales process

With Zapier, you can boost your customer service and sales support skills by connecting those customer-oriented platforms with the tool you use to organize your personal work.

Most sales teams invest a ton of time and energy into warming leads. With Zapier, you can set up new tasks to be created in Microsoft To Do whenever a new Lead is added to your customer relationship management (CRM) program. This is a great way to capitalize on a prospective customer becoming interested in your product or service.

Lost deals usually mean another hands-on process. Fortunately, there are Zaps that you can use with Microsoft To Do to minimize lost deals and sales. One example is to create new tasks in Microsoft To Do when a deal progresses to a certain stage in the process (or meets some other criteria).

Let automation boost your productivity

Like other to-do list apps, Microsoft To Do is great for what it does, but has its limitations. Zapier helps flip the script and expand its capabilities.

Whether you’re looking for better integration with other Microsoft apps, to boost your customer support capabilities, or for a way to bridge the gap between personal task management and team communication, let automation do the work for you.

And this is just the start of what you can do with Microsoft To Do and Zapier. What will you automate first?

This article was originally published in July 2020. It was most recently updated in December 2023 by Elena Alston.

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Dane O'Leary Thu, 14 Dec 2023 08:00:00 GMT https://zapier.com/blog/automate-microsoft-to-do
How to easily send Webflow form responses to Google Sheets https://zapier.com/blog/send-webflow-form-responses-to-google-sheets .css-12p6n7x{overflow:auto;}.css-12p6n7x >*{margin-bottom:20px;margin-top:20px;}.css-12p6n7x >H2{margin-top:60px;}.css-12p6n7x >H3{margin-top:40px;}.css-12p6n7x>[id]{scroll-margin-top:20px;}@media (min-width: 660px){.css-12p6n7x>[id]{scroll-margin-top:100px;}}

Capturing customer or lead data in a form on your Webflow page is a great first step in your marketing journey. But what you do with that data is most important. 

Webflow makes it easy to capture customer info with an easy-to-build, no-code website. But if your data is siloed, it's basically useless. Use a Zap—Zapier's word for our automated workflows—to easily collect your Webflow form responses in a Google Sheet. That way, you can seamlessly share important customer info and slice-and-dice your data for better analysis. Here's how.

New to Zapier? It's a tool that helps anyone connect apps and automate workflows—without any complicated code. Sign up for free.

Before you begin

You'll need to have a Webflow form already set up. Make sure it has at least one form response, which will be used to set up your Zap. If you don't have any responses yet, just add a fake one that you can delete later.

Then, create a new spreadsheet in Google Sheets. For the Zap to work correctly, you'll need to make sure to add headers in your first row. 

What headers you use will depend on the details you want to capture in your form. In this example, we're creating a simple newsletter signup form, so we'll add two column headings: Name and Email.

A Google Sheet titled "Webflow Form Data" with two columns for Name and Email.

Send Webflow form data to Google Sheets

Zapier lets you create automated workflows called Zaps, which send your information from one app to another. You can create your own Zap from scratch without any coding knowledge, but we also offer quick templates to get you started. 

If you'd like to start with a template, click on it below, and you'll be taken to the Zap editor. You'll need to create a Zapier account if you don't already have one. Then, follow the directions below to set up your Zap.

Set up your Webflow trigger

Let's start with the trigger—the event that starts your Zap. If you're using the Zap template, this will be selected for you. Otherwise, search for and select Webflow as the trigger app and Form Submission as the trigger event, then click Continue.

A trigger step in the Zap editor with Webflow selected for the trigger app and Form Submission selected for the trigger event.

Next, connect your Webflow account, if you haven't already, then click Continue.

Next, select the Site Name and Form Name you want to use in your Zap. Then click Continue

Webflow form fields in a trigger step in the Zap editor.

Now, it's time to test your trigger step. This will gather information from Webflow that will be used to set up the rest of your Zap. Before clicking Test trigger, make sure there's at least one submission in the form (you can add fake testing data if you don't have any submissions). 

Select the record you want to use in your test, then click Continue with selected record to move on to setting up your action step.

A set of test data that shows responses to a Webflow form.

Set up your Google Sheets action

Now it's time to set up the action—the event your Zap will perform once it's triggered. If you're using the Zap template, these will already be selected for you. Otherwise, search for and select Google Sheets as your action app and Create Spreadsheet Row as your action event. Click Continue.

An action step in the Zap editor with Google Sheets selected for the action app and Create Spreadsheet Row selected for the action event.

Next, connect your Google Sheets account, if you haven't already. Then click Continue.

Now, it's time to customize your action step. First, choose the correct drive in the Drive field where your Google Sheet is stored. Then select the Spreadsheet you created for the landing page. And finally, choose the appropriate Worksheet (by default, it's "Sheet1").

Google Sheets fields in an action step in the Zap editor.

Once you do that, Zapier will automatically pull in the column headings you added to your sheet. 

Now, let's map the data from our Webflow trigger step to your action step. Depending on what info you're collecting in your form and what columns you added to your Google Sheet, you'll map different info. In our example, we're going to add customer names and emails from the form by clicking in the Name field and selecting Data Name from the Insert Data dropdown and Data Email in the Email field.

Fields for Name and Email in an action step in the Zap editor.

Once that's done, click Continue.

Click Test action, and Zapier will send the test data to Google Sheets. Check the results to make sure the right data is mapped to the appropriate columns.

Here's what the successful test results look like for us.

A Google Sheet with details added in the Name and Email columns.

If everything looks right, you're now ready to use your Zap. Now, every time someone fills out your Webflow form, the information will automatically show up on your Google Sheet.

Related reading:

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Khamosh Pathak Thu, 14 Dec 2023 08:00:00 GMT https://zapier.com/blog/send-webflow-form-responses-to-google-sheets
MailerLite vs. ActiveCampaign: Which is right for you? [2024] https://zapier.com/blog/mailerlite-vs-activecampaign .css-12p6n7x{overflow:auto;}.css-12p6n7x >*{margin-bottom:20px;margin-top:20px;}.css-12p6n7x >H2{margin-top:60px;}.css-12p6n7x >H3{margin-top:40px;}.css-12p6n7x>[id]{scroll-margin-top:20px;}@media (min-width: 660px){.css-12p6n7x>[id]{scroll-margin-top:100px;}}

Email marketing tools are rarely as different as MailerLite and ActiveCampaign: MailerLite prides itself on ease of use and caters to small businesses, while ActiveCampaign includes advanced automation features and a fully capable sales CRM.