How To Build Your First Zapier Automation (the RIGHT Way)

Today I'll show you how to build your first Zapier automation.

I'll use Zapier as the model support for all our course tutorials.

Later, I'll also share some alternative tools you could explore and try out if you’re curious. But if you just want to start automating your business quickly and without headaches, Zapier is your best bet.

Why Zapier?

I've tried all the popular automation tools on the market, and I truly think Zapier has the perfect balance of powerful features and a friendly, easy-to-use interface.

Don’t get me wrong, Make (formerly Integromat) is a more powerful tool and allows for more complex automations. But, Zapier is what I recommend if you’re getting started with automation.

Zapier benefits and features:

  • Easy to use and learn
  • 100s of pre-built templates
  • Super friendly for non-technical folks
  • Can transfer existing data between apps
  • 5k+ integrations (more than any other tool)

You can think of Zapier as a swiss army knife for any mindless task.

Now, before I dive in, I'd like to share a quick tip that will save you hundreds of hours of wasted work:

Before trying to automate anything, ask yourself:

“Do I need to do this in the first place?”

After all, automation can also become busy work if you automate the wrong things.

Not sure what to automate in the first place? Check out the cheat sheet below:

Now, onto the tutorial.

Use one of the tasks you outlined with the cheat sheet I shared with you, and get ready to build!

(If you haven’t completed the exercise yet, no worries. You can still follow along with this lesson using one of our examples in the cheat sheet. But make sure you block out some time to finish the exercise later so you can automate one of your tasks!)

Since this is a beginner automation tutorial, I will only cover single-step Zaps.

Curious about Multi-step Zap?

“A single-step Zap has one trigger and one action. If the Zap has more than one action or includes filters or searches, it is considered a multi-step Zap. Multi-step Zaps are only available on paid plans.”

Step #1: Create your Zapier account.

If you already have one, skip ahead.

If not, that’s the first thing you need to do. You can use this link to sign up.

💡 Zapier Tip: Stick with the free plan and avoid starting your free trial until you’ve run out of tasks. Unsure what a task is?

Zapier Official Definition

Step #2: Create a new Zap from scratch (or use a pre-built template!)

Another cool Zapier feature:

They have plenty of pre-built Zap templates. (Zap = Zapier automation)

So once you’ve picked the task you’re going to automate, you can use the search bar on the top right corner to look up one of the tools involved in the automation. When you find the tool you’re looking for, click on it and you’ll find a page full of pre-built Zaps you can use.

Click here to get a step-by-step walkthrough on creating your first Zap!

Step #3: Name your zap and add a description.

Whether you’re starting from scratch or using a template, naming your Zap is the first thing you should do.

A good rule of thumb for naming your Zaps:

Make it easy to identify and if it starts with a verb or unique identifier, the better!

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Step #4: Add a trigger to your Zap.

A trigger is an event that will initiate your Zap. Every automation needs a trigger - no matter the tool you're building it on.

As I explained in the previous chapter exercise, every automation in the world follows the same formula:

“When X happens, then do Y.”

X is the trigger.

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To add a trigger to your Zap, you need to complete these 5 steps:

  1. Choose your trigger app
“The heart of any automation boils down to a simple command: WHEN and DO. "When this happens, do that."

Even the most complex automation can be broken down into this simple command.

1. Select your trigger event

2. Select your app account

3. Set up your trigger

4. Test your trigger

Step #5: Add an action to your Zap

After adding a trigger, you'll need to add an action.

Remember the universal automation formula?

“When X happens, do Y.”

Y is the action. This is what your Zap will do any time the trigger event happens.

To add an action to your Zap, you need to complete the same 5 mini-steps:

1. Choose your action app

2. Select your action event

3. Select your app account

4. Set up your action

5. Test your action

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But, wait!

Most people will move on after adding and testing a trigger and an action to their Zap. But as you start creating more of these, your dashboard will get messy and you’re going to have a hard time finding your automations. To avoid this problem, I encourage you to organize your Zaps in folders.

So, before turning your Zap on and moving on with your life, click on the settings wheel icon on the right panel and then choose or create a new folder for your Zap.

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Step #6: Document Your Zap

Keeping a list or a database of all your Zaps is extremely helpful when you're working with a team, a virtual assistant, or a client.

It's also vital for scaling, troubleshooting, and improving your Zaps over time.

That’s why I also encourage you to document your Zaps.

I'll show you how to do this like a pro in one of our next lessons. But if you do the cheat sheet exercise and map out all your automations before building them, you would have already done 80% of the work.

Step #7: Turn your Zap on

You're finally good to go!

Turn on your Zap and say goodbye to doing this task manually ever again!

After turning it on, you’ll see a little popup asking if you’d like to share your Zap. Follow the instructions to grab the link to your Zap. If you’d like to share it with me, send me an email.

That way, I can check if you did it right and give you feedback on it. (And no worries - when you share a Zap, people can only see the specific apps and steps you added but none of your credentials or personal information!)

Additional resources:

Need help outlining an automation? Read this

If you run into trouble, check out this article on How to Troubleshoot The Five Most Annoying Zapier Bugs