Think about the way your business runs. You attract prospective clients, convert them to customers, earn money, cultivate repeat business, and encourage customers to refer other prospective clients.
Each of these steps entails specific challenges, and one of your goals as an entrepreneur should be to automate as many of these steps as possible.
Automation – implementing systems that perpetuate your business without your involvement – can be the key to generating income while you sleep.
As you begin to automate processes and delegate tasks to your staff, don't forget to ensure your defining characteristics are preserved.
One way to think about it? You’re putting your business on auto-pilot.
Here are nine ways you can set up your business to earn a profit while you focus your attention elsewhere.
1. Turn yourself into a product.
Once you've found success – or even while you're on the road to it – consider looking for opportunities to promote yourself as a brand.
If you have the authority in your space, position yourself as such by writing a book. The beauty of a book is that once the hard work is over – it's written and edited, and a marketing plan is implemented – then you simply collect proceeds while you move on to your next project.
In addition to generating income directly from a book, you may also find that your book can dramatically improve the visibility of your brand, which can translate to more sales for your company.
Not only will you have created a new revenue stream, but you're widening your existing stream. Win-win!
2. Do fewer things.
It's impossible to automate any part of your business if you insist on doing everything personally. It’s not always best to go it alone. It’s often a good idea to delegate.
As you begin to automate processes and delegate tasks to your staff, make sure to invest some extra time to make sure your presence is still felt.
A good example is fast-food restaurants. Think of ones that produce a few things: burgers, fries, chicken, salad, and soda. They package these things differently and sell them in different combinations, but the simplicity is what allows the company to reproduce the menu in locations all over the world and sell products without requiring highly skilled labor.
Identify your strengths and streamline your offerings, focusing on the items that you can train your staff to replicate. As you cull products or services, it may prove wise to retain the most profitable ones. Streamlining so much that you eliminate the big moneymakers in your company can be a risk.
The right solution may be as simple as refining your product to a few basic options, with additional choices for customization. Think about cars, for example: many are the same basic model, with tons of add-ons to consider.
3. Create continuity.
Billing for each product or service you supply can be volatile – both your revenue and your client's expenses can vary wildly.
By selling a subscription at a flat rate, you may be able to establish a reliable income for your company and provide your clients with predictable expenses. Both parties likely prefer maximum efficiency – maximizing quality and minimizing hassle. It's another great win-win for both you and your clients.
It's easier than ever to take advantage of cloud-based billing and accounting services that integrate all aspects of your company in a way that's far more efficient and cost effective.
4. Make money on refills.
In this instance, we're talking primarily about businesses that produce tangible goods.
Two examples of this business model are single-serve coffee makers and printers. While the devices themselves are relatively inexpensive, the profit is in the individual coffee refills or ink cartridges.
If your machine makes a great cup of coffee or high-quality copies, once consumers own your brand of device, you're practically guaranteed to retain their business. People love to feel like they're getting a deal, and by offering discounts on your system, you help ensure that happy customers will stay loyal and reorder refills for years to come.
5. Become the middleman.
Consider securing a way to broker business and let other folks do the work for you. Becoming an affiliate is a great example of this.
You link to, say, an e-commerce site, and when they sell something from your links, you make money. You can also find success in consolidating and coordinating the transportation of goods. Options like drop shipping – where you take orders for products you don't personally produce – or reselling on online marketplaces can be great opportunities to participate in profitable industries without the overhead of manufacturing actual products.
Always be on the lookout for the opportunity to broker the goods and services you sell.
6. Become a teacher.
I'm not talking about taking a job with summer breaks and back-to-school nights.
Take a look at your business and you can probably find ways to teach other entrepreneurs how to acquire the skills necessary for opening their own business.
Say you own a successful pizza shop. You might think you can't cash in on the educational aspects of your expertise, but you may have valuable insights to offer. You could write a book or create a series of instructional videos about your family's recipes, or you could market a consumable version of your plan for opening a profitable pizza shop.
An additional benefit of this strategy is that you're positioning yourself as an authority and your name on a book enhances your brand. This can be a useful side benefits when creating your educational product to generate greater consumer awareness for your business.
7. Become an investor.
Money makes money, but it's important that you're careful about how you invest as an entrepreneur.
Here's my tip: look at your clients and assess their needs. Find a company (in addition to yours) that addresses those needs and invest there. Not only will you be forging a bond between your company and others that focus on enhancing client relationships, but you're also cementing your position in your customers' minds as the business that caters to their desires.
Once you've done the groundwork, you may make money without much effort. An added bonus of thoughtful investing is that you may end up forging relationships with other entrepreneurs who can end up broadening your perspectives, giving you insight into different ways to approach running a profitable business.
There's no one right way to do everything, so learning from the people you invest in makes good sense.
8. Think global.
Maybe you're a small retailer who caters to members of your community or perhaps you're that successful pizza shop owner.
No matter what your industry or area of expertise, there is sometimes an entire world of folks interested in what you’re selling. If you’re not using one already, consider adding a website where your goods and services can be purchased online. That means you could literally have orders rolling in while you're sleeping.
9. Focus on what makes you unique.
As you begin to automate processes and delegate tasks to your staff, don't forget to ensure your defining characteristics are preserved. Part of making money while you sleep depends on your existing customers remaining loyal, and the best way to ensure they do is to continue offering outstanding products or services.
A version of this article was originally published on January 7, 2014.