Spring is here, so we’re sharing a series of Best Business Practice posts featuring the team of ACEs. Get to know them and learn tips and tricks that will streamline your studio this season! As any ACE will tell you, you can’t do it all. Successful photographers understand this, which is why they are masters of time management.
When building your business systems, use these time management tips:
1) Automate: Don’t waste time on monotonous tasks! Automation is as simple as creating template email responses to FAQs, automating invoice reminders, or setting up a standard workflow that you follow for each shoot. If you’re wondering how to start automating your studio, ShootQ is a great tool to help! It automates client correspondence, aspects of your workflow, and your other administrative processes.
2) Create a Set Schedule: Rather than reactively doing tasks as they pop up during your day, set certain times for different types of tasks. Not only does this establish accountability so that you stay on track, it allows you to batch similar tasks together to maximize efficiency. It may be an adjustment at first, but setting aside specific days for tasks or times of day for certain activities will help you implement business systems!
3) Choose the Right Team: Part of implementing systems is building a dream team of people and companies that you work with to build and manage your business systems. The people and companies whom you rely on — bookkeeper, accountant, studio management software, online lab, website company — affect your brand and the experience that you provide clients. So choose carefully!
4) Keep Measuring Results: Even after you implement business systems, continue evaluating your progress. Are your systems enabling you to maximize profitability? Are you utilizing your time efficiently? When you measure results, you can make changes and improvements. One easy way to measure your success is to use the Analytics features in Pictage & ShootQ. Check out the Analytics and Reporting in ShootQ under the business tab and view various reports. Learn how to use Pictage’s event statistics by watching this tutorial.
Get a head start with ACE Sarah Esther who shares her tips below!
Q. What’s your primary area of photography and when did you start shooting full-time?
Sarah: My primary area of photography is weddings, though in the next two years (and with much practice!) I would love to shift into focusing on Boudoir portraits. I spent most of the past two years photographing families and kids, and with the exception of a few clients, I’m at the point where I’d be fine if I never worked as a family photographer again 🙂 My interest in photography began in college and after two years assisting, I jumped head first into working full-time for myself. At that time, I’d just graduated from college, so I’ve never known another form of employment …other than a few fast-food opportunities!
Q. What was your biggest challenge when starting your own business?
Sarah: I was a little naive when starting my business (aren’t we all?). I’m probably still naive, but now I call it “optimism!” Since I was fresh out of school, I was already poor and accustomed to making next to nothing. The lack of income during the initial stages of my business wasn’t a shock. In fact, I didn’t think I was supposed to make money at all! My real challenge was creating clients out of my network. I had to find people willing to pay me to create images for them. My network at the time consisted of poor college students and poor college professors. Those whom I tried to convert to clients still saw me as a hobbyist, only now I was a hobbyist trying to rob them! My first ‘paid’ gig was actually a free session that wowed my clients into voluntarily handing me money. When I realized people were trying to make me take their money, I created my first pricing sheet and haven’t looked back.
Q. What are your favorite five tips for keeping track of client communication?
Sarah: I’m a sucker for lists, hopefully my list can help someone…or maybe they’ll relate!
1) I practice “Universal Capture,” a productivity technique that works by ensuring that all of your ideas, notes, tasks, etc are in one place so that you can easily access and act on them. It can be as simple as having a designated notebook with you at all times, an app on your phone, or a voice recorder. It can exist on a more in-depth platform like ShootQ. Honestly, this might be the #1 reason why I love ShootQ! By having all details and correspondence in one place, my communication with clients is guaranteed to be helpful, knowledgeable, and consistent.
2) The previous answer might have sounded like a slight soap box, so my next tip is – use labels! Labels show you where you are in client communication without having to sift through thread after thread of emails. The types of labels you set up will depend on your individual business workflows. Here are a few examples of my labels: ‘Pending Confirmation, ‘Call’, and ‘Send Calendar Dates.’ I also label the type of client they are (wedding, portrait, boudoir) so that my correspondence is tailored. Labels can easily be set up within most email platforms, but ShootQ also has a wonderful labeling system (read: lead tracking) for clients before they are booked!
3) Automatic emails are my third favorite way to track client communication. Having emails scheduled to send automatically helps my clients and me keep in touch with each other consistently. Clients occasionally forget about a shoot they’ve scheduled with me, so my automatic email containing clothing tips will make the lightbulb go off for them! The constant communication that results from automatic emails not only ensures that my clients and I keep track of each other, but it reassures them about working with me.
4) Be ABLE to communicate. Do you have the ability to communicate with your clients when you need to? When they need to? Make sure you have access to avenues of communication with your clients. It doesn’t matter how much relevant and helpful info you have for clients if they cannot get in touch with you! Do you have email on your phone? I recommend getting it. You can turn the notifications off, but being able to answer and initiate conversations is a major way to keep up with your clients. In today’s text and email age, phone numbers are still important. I often have to ask for my client’s phone number, and I still forget to include mine (I should set up an email signature for that). You never know what you’ll need or when you’ll need it, but being prepared helps!
5) Actively answer your clients. Ok, this is an add-on to #4, but seriously…you can’t keep up with your clients if you aren’t answering them at all! Letting your inbox fill up doesn’t mean that you’re popular, it means your relationship with clients leaves something to be desired. I’ve missed opportunities, sent clients into a panic, and damaged otherwise wonderful relationships by neglecting my inbox for as little as two days (not proud of it!). Keeping up with your emails should be the first thing you do (can I make this #1?).
Q. What’s the most interesting or funny thing you’ve been doing while ShootQ booked a shoot for you?
Sarah: Wouldn’t you like to know 🙂 Kidding, probably trying and failing at every ‘Pinterest’ recipe that you can imagine. I’ve made some gems, though! Last week I successfully made and devoured a batch of cinnamon donuts!