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The ultimate guide to learning Zapier

The ultimate guide to learning Zapier
September 24, 2020

Zapier allows you to connect over 2000 different apps and services together.

This means there are millions of potential combinations, ready to automate repetitive tasks in your business or personal life.

Best of all, you can access this powerful tool without writing any code — making it much easier to get started.

But this limitless potential can seem a little...daunting to a newcomer, so we've put together this ultimate guide to help you get started with Zapier.

In this guide, we'll walk you through learning Zapier step-by-step, covering:

  • Debunking the key terminology with our jargon-free glossary
  • A collection of our favourite Zapier tutorial videos, helping bring Zapier’s potential to life in visual form
  • What it’s possible to automate (you'll be surprised at how advanced workflows can be!)
  • How to plan your automation build
  • A range of case studies and Zapier automation examples to inspire you
  • Where to get help online
  • When you should hire an expert

If you do have questions while reviewing this guide, we'd love to help. We're Zapier Certified Experts, which means we know our stuff! You can email us here or tweet me (@AndrewJDavison).

Right, let’s get started.

A list of key Zapier features and terminology

Before you jump into Zapier, you need to know a few key terms and concepts:

  • Zap: This is the workflow you create, connecting various services. Zaps are made of a Trigger and an Action.
  • Trigger: A trigger starts a Zap. For example, if you want to send a Slack message each time you make a sale, the sale acts as your trigger.
  • Action: An action is what happens as part of the Zap. For example, sending an email.
  • Zap Editor: This is where you create a new Zap. No code is required — you can make Zaps using the simple drag-and-drop Zap Editor.
  • App: In Zapier terms, an app is something that you connect to, such as Slack, Google Docs or PayPal. You can search all apps that Zapier supports here. You’ll see that some apps are 'Premium', which means you'll need a paid plan to use them.
  • Tasks: Each time an action does something, a task is used. It's important to understand this — and make your Zaps as efficient as possible — as Zapier charges per task completed. Up to 100 tasks per month are free, then you'll need a paid Zapier plan

For simple workflows connecting 2 apps, that’s all you need to know to get started — honest! 

When you’re ready to get more advanced, you'll need to understand the terms below. 

To use these features, you'll also need to upgrade to a paid plan (starting at $19.99 per month for 750 tasks):

  • Multi-Step Zaps: If you want to have more than one action, or use filter/search functionality, this is called a 'multi-step Zap'. 
  • Filters: Filters can be added to a Zap so that actions are only run when certain conditions are met. For example, you might want to send a thank you email only to customers who purchase a specific product. If a customer buys another product, the Zap won't send the email. Filters are powerful. But they can get complicated, too. So check out the tutorial on Zapier University before you get started.
  • Paths: Paths let you run different actions if different conditions are met. For example, if A is true, do B. Otherwise, if A is false, do C. This will be familiar to programmers, but it can take a bit of practice for newcomers to get right. Thankfully, Zapier has an in-depth branching logic tutorial available. To use this feature, you'll need to be on a Professional Zapier plan or above. 
  • Syncing interval: This is how often your Zap will check for new data and therefore be 'triggered'. This is why there can be a delay between making a sale and receiving the notification email. If you are on a professional plan or above, the delay is 5 minutes. On the Free and Starter plan, the delay is 15 minutes. Regardless of your pricing plan, if a trigger is 'instant', there will not be a delay.

10 amazing Zapier video tutorials to help you get started 

Now that you know all the key terms, your next step will be learning how to build Zaps. Zapier has an amazing online community — one that’s created a wide range of tutorials, covering everything you need to know.

Learn the fundamentals of Zapier

Do you like to learn by watching and then doing? Us too. We've collected our favourite Zapier tutorial videos below, and ranked them by experience level. 

Basic: How to build your first Zap

This entry-level video from Buildapreneur will teach you how to build a Zap that sends an email to everyone listed in a Google Sheet. It shows each step on building the Zap clearly and is a great general introduction to Zapier. 

Basic: Getting started with triggers and actions

In this video, Paul Minors explains the "trigger-action" system in a jargon-free way. Once you understand this system, you'll be able to create Zaps that connect 2 apps easily. 

Basic: How to automate tasks

In this 13 minute video from Hey Jessica, you'll learn how to use Zapier to make yourself more productive. We love this tutorial, as it teaches you how to find tasks that can be automated. Jessica shares how she uses over 20 automations to run her business.

Intermediate: How to using Multi-Step Zaps

Now you understand the basics of Zapier, you can move to the next level and start making Zaps with multiple steps.

The main difference between multi-step and single-step Zaps are that you can include filters (which allow you to run actions based on conditions), searches (which let you get data from somewhere) and formatters (which let you transform data into another format).

In the video above, Blake Bailey explains Multi-Step Zaps using simple language and shows an example of a real multi-step Zap for doing personality assignments.

Advanced: What to do when Zapier doesn't have an app you need

Zapier has thousands of apps, but occasionally your app won't be supported. This video from Zapier shares a few workarounds, including using RSS, scanning incoming email from the app, sending email to an app, using 3rd party apps or even building you own Zapier app:

Tutorials to help you get more done

Even advanced fundamentals are the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Zapier’s powers. If you really want to get value from the platform, you need to start automating workflows in the apps you use every day. 

Below, you'll find a list of tutorials on how to build Zaps for the most common apps, along with step-by-step examples.

How to integrate with WordPress

According to the WordCamp site, there are over 75 million sites using WordPress. No wonder this is one of the most popular Zapier integrations!

In this tutorial from Elegant Themes, you'll learn how to automate 10 WordPress tasks with Zapier, including:

  • Posting your new blogs to social media automatically
  • Posting your latest YouTube video to your blog automatically 
  • How to use Google Docs to draft new WordPress posts
  • How to make a content calendar

How to integrate with Airtable

Airtable is an incredible productivity tool, combining the flexibility of a spreadsheet with the power of a database. 

If you need to organise data in your business, Airtable is a great choice. We've seen it used for CRM systems, tracking projects, event planning and even inventory management. At Luhhu, we use it as the central database that powers many of our Zapier automation projects.

In this video from Gareth Pronovost, you'll learn how to use Airtable and how it can serve as the central hub for your business. 

How to integrate with Trello

Trello is a collaboration tool that tracks projects via cards on a board, in a Kanban-style. This helps keep projects organised and on-track.

In this video from Zack Weiss, you'll learn how he uses Trello to run his digital marketing business, then connects it to Slack with Zapier to automatically keep his clients informed.

How to integrate with your eCommerce platform

If you are selling online with Shopify, WooCommerce or Webflow, you know how much tedious admin work is required to keep things running smoothly.

This video from Catching Clouds Academy shares some useful automation workflows for eCommerce sellers — no matter what platform you are using. As Patti is a CPA, they have a unique perspective on automation that focuses on accountancy.

How to plan what to automate

When you’re juggling multiple tasks, and spending working days jumping from one call or project to the next, it can be hard to step back and recognise issues in your workflow. 

But, chances are, there are plenty of opportunities to smooth out your process — every day. 

When we meet a new client at Luhhu, we start with a discovery call. In this call, we map their existing processes and identify opportunities for automation by following a step-by-step process:

1. Track your working day

Start by keeping a record of what you do over several weeks and how long it takes for you to do it. 

To do so, you'll need a time tracking tool — one that works well for you and doesn’t slow you down! Try a few options until you find one that fits, but if you’re looking for a free option to track your hours, try Toggl. For tracking a whole team, we'd recommend Harvest. 

2. Identify repetitive tasks

Once you've collected a few weeks tracking data, it’s time to assess your findings. Look for tasks which fit into one of the categories below:

  • Frequent: These small but important tasks might take just 15 minutes each morning, but over the course of a year this adds up — to over 2 days. Examples include billing customers, chasing invoices or copying data between systems.
  • Repetitive and time-consuming: These large tasks might take you several days to complete each month, but involve lots of repetitive work. For example, onboarding new customers or creating proposals.
  • Blockers: A blocker is a red traffic light. Your business stops until it is solved. By removing or reducing this blocker, you'll increase productivity. 

All these types of tasks are ideal opportunities for automation. Perhaps they can’t be automated entirely, but any reduction in time spent will help send your productivity through the roof.

3. Break the tasks down and identify automation issues 

Take the tasks from the previous step and break them down into simple blocks that someone new to your business could do.

For example, if you need to send weekly reports to your customers, a process could be:
  1. Check that the customer is eligible to receive a weekly report
  2. Call Jeff to get all the data required to produce the report
  3. Put the information into a document
  4. Send the document to your customer
  5. Note that the weekly report has been sent
In this process, asking Jeff for data is not something that could be automated. So how do we overcome that? You could:
  • Ask Jeff to put all the information into a Google Sheet, Airtable or your CRM
  • Find out how Jeff collects all this data and try to automate it

4. Check if Zapier can automate the tasks

Once you've removed the most obvious automation issues, your next step is to jump into Zapier and try to build a Zap. Most workflows are possible with a bit of creative thinking!

Let’s see a few in action…

3 Zapier case studies to show you what's possible

Automating Client Onboarding with Zapier

Each time Squiggle Consult received a lead, hours of repetitive administrative work was required to onboard the new client. We worked with them to automate this process, saving the team 35 hours per week.


How Automation Speeds Up Shipping for TinySuperheroes

Order fulfilment is the most critical part of any eCommerce business. Unless you can get the right product to the right customer at the right time, you'll disappoint your buyer and make sustainable growth impossible.

TinySuperheroes provides capes to kids dealing with sickness and disabilities. Making sure the capes arrive fast is a top priority for them.

Learn how they use Zapier to automate key parts of this process to save hours and scale up their efforts:


Build a Startup with Zapier

Dom Marrone built two apps using Zapier, Drip and Jest. They work like YouTube but are specialised for athletes and comedians respectively. This case study shows that you don't need to know how to code to build a technology business in 2020:


The best communities to discuss Zapier and get help

We hope this ultimate guide has inspired you to explore all that Zapier has to offer. But Zapier is a complicated tool, and at some point you’re bound to get stuck.

Thankfully, avid Zapier users have built fantastic like minded communities — here’s where you should go for help:

  • Zapier Official Community: Zapier runs an official forum, and it’s a great place to find assistance in all forms. As of July 2020, there are over 2,740 posts, covering everything from basic Zaps to custom code.
  • Twitter: There are dozens of conversations daily about Zapier on Twitter and lots of people willing to help out. Mention me in your tweet and I'd be happy to help, too. (@AndrewJDavison)
  • Reddit r/zapier: The Zapier community on Reddit has over 2,000 members, all ready to answer your questions.
  • Indie Hackers: Built for entrepreneurs to discuss novel ways of working, the Indie Hackers community is a perfect place for all things Zapier. Just use the site’s search feature to find useful tidbits and resources.
  • Stack Overflow: When you start using code steps or building custom integrations, Stack Overflow is where the real Zapier nerds hangout. Be sure to follow the community rules when posting and if you do find a solution yourself, update your post to help others in future. 
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