The rise of artificial intelligence has spurred fears of future job losses in an array of industries as the tools improve and more companies integrate them into their operations. But for entrepreneurs and others who are self-employed, learning how to use today’s AI tools to better run their own businesses can be like adding a full-time employee they don’t have to pay.
“The general theme with small business owners is there’s always too much to do and never enough time,” said Katie West, who owns a wedding venue in Austin, Texas, that she purchased in 2018, renovated, before opening in 2021.
She comes from a tech background and started using AI — specifically ChatGPT in earnest for her business earlier this year for a variety of functions, including writing blog posts to generate better search engine optimization (SEO) results and clicks to her venue’s webpage.
She’ll prompt ChatGPT by telling it that it’s a marketing expert that knows everything about the local wedding industry, then ask it to write a blog post on the 10 things clients should consider when choosing a venue. While the original prompts are her ideas, West will use the output ChatGPT provides and do a light edit, then publish on her site.
She also uses it for advertising as she prompts the language model to pull all the online reviews of her venue, analyze which positive words and phrases are most commonly used, then write several versions of advertising copy based on those reviews.
“I literally took the words of my customers using that language and put it in my ads,” she said.
That prompt took her about 10 minutes to come up with, and those ads performed notably well, “far better than anything that I was actually able to write,” she said, without providing exact figures to illustrate.
Some entrepreneurs are even using AI to build their own AI-focused businesses.
Jacqueline DeStefano-Tangorra runs her own technology consulting business, Omni Business Intelligence Solutions, to help other small and mid-sized businesses to incorporate AI into their operations.
“It just really takes a little bit of time and dedication to find the gaps in your business to know what’s out there and what could solve it,” she said.
AI has helped DeStefano-Tangorra run her own business more efficiently and helped it grow over the past six months, she said.
“I don’t want to always be focused on every detail in my business, and this technology enabled me to do that,” she said.
Some AI use cases she’s helped companies integrate include writing and automating professional communications, building custom chatbots and finding other ways to streamline repeatable processes. For many self-employed workers using AI, though, creating marketing content is the biggest use case.
Ade McCray, CEO of Pilates King in Phoenix, AZ, learned how to use ChatGPT earlier this year to help create ads for his personal training business, which he’s owned for the past eight years.
Using ChatGPT to write copy and other generative AI to make images, among some other use cases, has made his job probably 80% easier, he said.
He took training courses through GoDaddy, and uses resources available to other small business owners, like the website hosting platform’s prompt library.
Another key benefit for self-employed people using AI is having someone — or something — to bounce ideas off of.
“It’s like a coworker, a really smart coworker that doesn’t complain,” McCray said.
AI can also help fill the void when you don’t have co-workers. In West’s case, she’s used ChatGPT to brainstorm.
“I’m used to being surrounded with brilliant brains and tons of experts and people to bounce ideas off of, and now as an entrepreneur, I’m working alone,” she said.
Today’s AI tools are still imperfect, and prone to generating falsehoods and face obstacles in biased outputs and privacy issues. But entrepreneurs using it now feel more optimistic than fearful about its potential.
“The benefits at this point really outweigh a lot of the risks, I think for the use cases of small business owners,” West said.