Migrating Google Sheets to Airtable w/Zapier’s Help

June 1, 2023

If you have a Google Sheet pregnant with worksheets, rows, colors, and
formulas, then you’re not alone. I’ve used Google Sheets as a starting place
for so many operations. I’ve also seen it grow and radically expand. You know
that a move to some other tool is long past due. But change is hard and you
and I both avoid it.  
So today I’ll make it easy for you. I’m going to teach you the signs that
moving from Google Sheets to Airtable is a good idea and how you might use
Zapier’s pickup truck to help you make the move.  
Most people fail at moving from Google Sheets to Airtable because the thought
is overwhelming.  
But at some point, whatever operations you are running out of Google Sheets
is going to become unmanageable. It'll need  to give birth to something that
can grow.

I’ll tell you when to call the midwife.  

Signs Your Google Sheet is Pregnant

First you must learn the signs that the data in your Google Sheet is ready to
move through the digital canal towards a relational database like Airtable.  
Duplicate Data or “Twins”
Google Sheets grows through worksheets (tabs), rows, and cells. The problem is
that if you have someone’s name in one worksheet and then you need it in
another worksheet, you’ll likely end up copying and pasting the name. When
this happens, your data is duplicated which means more room for error and more
time spent updating. Duplication of data is sign numero uno.  
10+ Dropdown Select Options or “Designer Baby”
It starts with a simple dropdown in Google Sheets to show something as not
started, in-progress, and done. Then we get cocky and create a dropdown with
every possible location for a particular event and end up with 50 options.
This is when your Google Sheet starts doing the Cha Cha Slide after one to
many from the bar.  
Colors Are Everything or “Craving Rainbow Sorbet”
Colors in Google Sheets can be helpful, but you’re probably not an artist. If
a newcomer sees GoldenEye’s paintball mode instead of your Google Sheet, it’s
time to make a change. Chances are if you have tons of color, you are using
color instead of data as a shortcut. But colors should be helpful cues tied
with actual data to enhance the data or distinguish it. They should not
require a legend. “Not started” has a red background, “In-Progress” a yellow,
and “Done” a green. Never just red, yellow, or green.

Airtable’s One Big Advantage

Airtable is a relational database. In Google Sheets it’s a room full of
strangers. In Airtable it’s a family reunion. The thing about families is that
the healthy ones can grow the family name.  
And if you’re running a business, you’ve got a bunch of data underneath your
business name. Just like family. A relational database will help you grow.  

Zapier as Delivery Room

However you decide to structure your Airtable, you’ll likely need Zapier to
help you get data from one place to another.  
Zapier isn’t going to be best for simply copying and pasting data from Google
Sheets into Airtable. Airtable has plenty of import options that take care of
that. Zapier will help if you need to take new or updated data from one source
and get it into Airtable cleanly. Since Airtable is relational, the data that
goes into it will need to be told how it’s related to other data.  
That’s where Zapier comes in.  

To recap:

  • Starting with Google Sheets is okay… until it grows wildly out of control
  • There are signs you are ready for Airtable: duplicate data, large dropdowns, colors
  • Use Zapier to get data cleanly from your source into Airtable

That’s it for this week!  

Happy Building,  

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