The 80/20 rule will change your business and your life. You don’t have to be an economist to be a believer. In the early 1900s, Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto observed that 80 percent of income in Italy was received by 20 percent of the Italian population. The rule simply states that, for many events, 80 percent of the effects come from 20 percent of the causes.
The 80/20 rule applies to many things; for example, 80 percent of your sales come from 20 percent of your clients and 20 percent of the population has 80 percent of the wealth.
The rule also applies to professional photographers. Only 20 percent of our business involves shooting photographs; the other 80 percent is spent running our business. Email, editing, bridal shows, sales calls, client care, bookkeeping, and marketing are just some of the tasks that can start to overwhelm us.
Since photographers are creative, we’d usually rather be behind the lens than behind our desks! Yet running a photography business requires a balance of left-brain and right-brain roles. In order to succeed, we must excel at both artistry and business, so it’s time to stop hiding behind labels we use as excuses! “I’m an artist, therefore I’m messy, disorganized, a procrastinator, or a control freak.” It’s time to…Get it Together!
Here are some tips for getting organized to ensure your time is spent on worthwhile tasks that will help grow your business:
1. Don’t be a Robot – Automate Your Email
Spending too much time answering emails doesn’t benefit our business or our clients. If we don’t implement a system for automating day-to-day correspondence, we can easily waste time replying. Our studio receives the same questions over and over (and over) again. Here are some of our FAQs:
- Are you available for my wedding?
- What is your pricing?
- When should I schedule my engagement session?
- What is your album design process?
- What gear do you use?
- Are you hiring?
We shouldn’t spend our days robotically answering the same questions a million different ways, so our studio created a series of email signatures that answer FAQs quickly. Using this method, everyone wins! We save time and our clients get prompt replies.
A signature is a pre-written sign-off at the end of an email that saves you from typing your name and contact details every time you send a message. You can take this a step further and use signatures to craft pre-written responses. Most email systems enable you to create an unlimited number of signatures or ‘ready replies’ in the Settings or Preferences menus. Google calls them “Canned Responses,” while Mail and Outlook call them “Signatures.”
It’s easy to create multiple signatures that you can select and send with just a few clicks. Sending canned responses to your clients doesn’t mean that you have to sound impersonal! We use pre-written signature responses as templates and then personalize them for each client so that our studio’s emails don’t seem contrived. We add details at the beginning or end of messages so they each seem like personal replies.
2. Use ShootQ
You can’t manage something that you don’t track and measure. We have a great system for tracking our studio’s sales leads so that we can effectively grow our business. We use ShootQ, an online studio management system designed by photographers for photographers. They don’t pay us a dime to say this, but we’re still going to tell you: ShootQ is amazing! We try not to think about life before ShootQ. It was a flurry of Post-It notes! We didn’t have a formal schedule for following up with sales leads and we tried to just remember as much as we could. It was a challenge to keep up with our lead correspondence, remembering details from conversations with both leads and clients, and memorizing which vendor was working on which shoot. It wasn’t pretty.
Like any software or online system, the initial set-up requires an investment of time. But once you’re set-up, tracking leads and bookings is a breeze. Since this is not an infomercial for ShootQ, we encourage you to discover it on your own.
Here’s an overview of benefits we get by using ShootQ to manage our studio:
3. Lead Tracking
ShootQ integrates with our website, so any lead from our online contact form is automatically sent to ShootQ. ShootQ creates a unique email address link for that specific lead so that we can can copy the link into the blind copy field (bcc) when communicating with the lead. All correspondence is stored in their ShootQ “file” and we no longer have to search through our “Sent Items” folder. All associated correspondence for each job is now stored in one place! Following up with leads is simple because we can easily view when we last made contact with a lead (i.e. 4 hours, 4 days, or 14 days) and we can follow up and reply to a lead using our own pre-written email signatures. If someone inquires about a date that’s already booked or conflicts with another lead’s inquiry, ShootQ alerts us automatically.
4. Logistics Management
Itineraries, worksheets, and other documents pertaining to a booked shoot are stored online so we we can easily access this information from any computer, wherever we may be in the world!
5. Tracking Referral Sources
ShootQ keeps track of the referral sources collected in ShootQ and then translates this information into cool charts and graphs. These analytics allow us to see which bridal shows work for us, and which ones don’t. We also track which vendors send our studio the most business.
6. Smarter Sales
We use ShootQ to catalog why leads don’t convert to paying clients. When changing a lead to “dead” status, we choose a category such as “hired another photographer,” “outside client’s budget,” or “studio is unavailable.” ShootQ generates reports that reveal the percentage of dead leads and a breakdown of percentages for reasons why those particular leads didn’t convert. These reports help us make smart adjustments to our sales strategy.
7. Online Contracts
Moments after a client decides to book a shoot with us, we email a link to a contract that can be signed easily online via electronic signatures. ShootQ even links to our credit card processing system, enabling clients to pay us online using a credit card at the time they sign their contract. The entire booking and billing process is quick and easy so that when a client decides to book, we can send a contract and invoice within minutes!
About the Author
Millie Holloman is a photographer based in Wilmington, NC. She opened Millie Holloman Photography in 2005 after graduating from Regent University with a B.A. in business. In five years she’s transformed her studio from a one-woman operation shooting 15 weddings a year to a staff of five photographers shooting 90 weddings a year locally and internationally. With her innovative visual style, breakthrough business and marketing strategies and inmilfectious enthusiasm she’s taken the industry by storm. Her reputation continues to grow and her work has been featured in Professional Photographer, The Knot, Southern Weddings, Weddings Unveiled, and Our State magazines. Millie’s blog and website attract more than 100,000 unique hits a month and her Love Affair Photography Workshop, a venture she created in partnership with three other female photographers, sold out in the first three minutes. A testament to her passion, talent and success, Love Affair Workshop has a waiting list of more than 900 photographers across the world. Millie says the keys to her success are few: faith, hard work, passion and an uncanny ability to foster lasting relationships with vendors and clients.