Running a photography business sure can be stressful sometimes. It’s not just about booking clients, taking their photos, editing, and sending them off. If only it were that easy! Running a business means keeping track of invoices, updating your portfolio, maybe keeping a blog to showcase your latest work and educate potential clients, rocking your marketing system, trying to get clients through the door, etc. I know you know all of this, but sometimes we need to take a look at everything on our plate at once too see just how much we are taking on. These 10 ways to make your photography business more efficient will certainly get you going in the right direction!
1. Client onboarding process
Having an onboarding process for clients is absolutely essential to the running of a photography business. An onboarding process is basically a set of standard documents that tells your clients in clear detail a) how you work and b) what information you need from them. As soon as you’ve signed an agreement with them, you can send them the document. It should have details such as:
- How you can be contacted
- Your hours of operation
- How you accept payment
- Turnaround time for photographs
- Tips that your client needs to know (ie: anything about makeup, colors, changing outfits, etc.)
- You can consider adding a fillable area for:
- Your client’s contact information
- The location(s) of the shoot
- How they plan to pay you
- Any other details that are relevant for them to tell you as means to ensure you are both on the same page
You can also get really awesome and have an entire care plan to keep them EXCITED about the session so they stay engaged in working with you, i.e. completing those questionnaires fully and with careful thought. F&F Founder, Marie Masse, uses a mix of handwritten notes and automated emails for her photography clients.
2. Using a social media scheduler
You also already know that I love me some Instagram, and I’m a big advocate of using social media for all it’s worth. It’s excellent free promotion and if you use a scheduling tool like Sendible, you can practically put your messages on autopilot. Sendible is the scheduler of choice at Fearless and Framed, because it lets us post to LOTS of social media networks (I’m talking Facebook – groups and pages – even your Timeline Cover, Google +, LinkedIn, Blogger, Twitter, Tumblr, and Pinterest) and it lets us track our statistics on how many people see our posts, click on them, and take action. Our favorite part about Sendible is the Content Library. No more trying to organize your posts on your own computer, you can organize it right inside of the app. This let’s you grab and push out a new post in seconds! So if you have a post that gets a lot of traction every time you share it on your social networks, you can send it out more frequently and drive even more people back to your website!
Check out Sendible by clicking here. You’ll receive 10% off your plan when you use the referral code: 151537 (we receive a free month if you sign up and stick with them… and yes, this truly is Marie’s favorite scheduling tool… and she’s tried several!) Do not be fooled by their pricing plans listed on their site. We actually use the one that is $39/mo (and still available according to Sendible at the time of writing this post). For some reason, it’s not listed on their pricing page.
3. Hire a Virtual Assistant
Maybe I’m a little biased, but I think that one of the best things that you can do for your business is to outsource some of your work to Virtual Assistants (VA). While you’re running the photography side of your business, a VA can be doing some of your other tasks. That social media scheduling? Your VA’s got it under control. Want to put your latest shoots up on your site and maybe turn them into blog posts? Again, your VA’s got that covered. If you need to send things out through a newsletter or you’re confused about how to even set one up, a Virtual Assistant can definitely help you.
Fearless and Framed runs with the help of three Virtual Assistants + a Community Ambassador. Here’s how we currently run:
- I (Erika) focus primarily on content, so that you have rockin’ posts every week to read.
- Jillian is the newest addition and creates beautiful graphics that will blow your mind (and help you get potential clients on your email list, because great graphics can do that!)
- Eboni is a vital part of the team by taking care of the community daily from emails, helping course students, and chatting it up in our groups – like the Goodbye, Posing Guide Facebook group.
- and Angie was the first VA Marie hired through Priority VA (if you go through here, be sure to tell Trivinia F&F sent you!). Angie does a ton of behind the scenes work in developing marketing systems and helps with promotional events/product launches. She’s even branched into a web design and has helped Marie with her personal photography site (it’s in the works… will add the link when it’s ready)
- In addition to VA’s, Marie has contracts with several others – a fabulous brand designer, two super-smart web developers, a savvy accountant, a transcriptionist, and two business coaches. Yes, we really have a lot of people working on this company (just wait til you see our re-brand in mid-2016)
Here’s what Marie has to say about hiring a VA:
“Paying someone to do things I could do myself? It was so hard to say yes! And for awhile, it felt like I was working only to pay for help. However, soon enough, my business was able to grow in ways I never could do alone and the rewards have been plentiful – and I don’t just mean for me. F&F customers reap the benefits when more can get done with better quality. I’ve always had a strong dedication to work (I love this community so much!) and have had a knack for time management. However, I found myself wanting more. I wanted to put more into my products and sessions – a better customer/client experience. I didn’t want to feel rushed anymore. I wanted more time with my family, to get us back to church instead of working on Sundays, and more time to be the photographer (my heart!) instead of the business woman that used to be a photographer.
I’ve done the hiring process enough times to be able to offer some advice, but I’ll save those tips for another post. For now, I’ll tell you that one of the best things I did was work with Priority VA. The owner, Trivinia, has stashed her crew with seriously talented VA’s. One of the mistakes I’ve made in the past was hiring people I felt I would work well with and felt I could train easily. In reality, I need someone with more knowledge and experience for the roles. You want the people you hire to be smarter than you in what they are working on – trust me on this! However, I found it really hard to seek out someone that wasn’t “just looking for extra money” and had the online business savvy skills I needed them to have. Priority VA does the vetting and Trivinia is an incredible VA matchmaker. I’ve been working with Angie since the beginning of September 2015 and have never looked back.
Having this team helps me to create better and more products, mentor, and shoot – meaning, letting me stick to my ‘zone of genius’ while these talented ladies keep the business rocking… finally no more vacations with business clouding the brain. I can unplug without worry, because these ladies + the handful of others contracted that work on my branding and web development have my back. You can totally have that with your photography business! It all begins with understanding what you can and want to pass off.”
Priority VA has a cheat sheet that can help you get started: 50 Tasks You Can Outsource to a Virtual Assistant. Visit their home page here and you’ll see it.
4. Review your sales pages – it should be selling for you on autopilot
Your sales page (or investment page as we often call it in the photography industry) is one of the most important pages on your site. Marie goes much more in-depth on this page in the Mastery Moment-Seekers Course, but the key is not to jump right in and talk numbers. You want them emotionally invested first. When it comes to prices, divide your sales page up into different packages (for example, 1/2 day documentary, full day documentary) with prices listed for each. Even if you provide custom quotes, make sure that you put a starting range on your website. Having a price on your website is essential – it helps you avoid what I call the “Vogue Magazine” principle.
When you open up an issue of “Vogue,” about 95% of the items have a price listed. If you like a skirt or a pair of shoes, chances are, you can figure out how many shoots you need to do to buy them. BUT, there is always a select 5% of the items that say “call to inquire for price.” The message on those items is clear: you can’t afford this item unless you’re renowned superstar Beyoncé Knowles-Carter. Please don’t call.
When you don’t put your prices on your site, or you say “inquire for price list” you’re sending potential customers the same message – you can’t afford me. On the flip side, Marie suggests using your Client Guide Template as means to entice a potential client to opt-in to your email list. You can say something like:
“My rates begin at $500. Click here (<< make this a pop up opt-in box) so I can send you my beautiful client guide with full package details + a quiz to help you plan your best family photo session.”
5. Set a strict e-mail/social media check schedule
Let me know if this sounds familiar to you: You’ve sat down to edit a session, you’ve got Adobe Lightroom open, you’ve worked on about five photos when bing! your mail notification pops up and you see an e-mail that you’re just going to go answer “really quickly.” It turns out it’s a client who’s asked you if you can move up the deadline on the delivery for their photographs. So you feel compelled to answer – no! You’ve got other clients already in the queue patiently waiting for their photos, but maybe you can get them one or two if they’re really in a pinch – and while you’re answering that e-mail, another e-mail comes in reminding you that you need to pay for your domain name for the year, so you do that, and then another e-mail comes in and… you get the point. Before you know it, “really quickly” has turned into three hours and you’re way behind where you thought you’d be.
I now check my e-mail at 9am and 1pm. If anything happens in between, chances are that it’s not that urgent. I’ve never lost business or had a client terminate an agreement because they sent an e-mail at 10am and I got to it at 1:15pm.
6. Use a scheduling calendar to keep track of appointments and tasks
Calendars, calendars, calendars. Seriously. One of the easiest ways to make your business run as efficiently as possible is to use a calendar to keep track of appointments and tasks. I like to use Google calendar because it’s free and it’s easy to use, and as you expand and take on VAs or other team members, you can share it with them really easily. I schedule recurring tasks – like checking my e-mail – first, and then I carve out some time where I do the same thing every week. For example, I work on projects for Fearless and Framed from 9AM-11AM on Mondays and Thursdays, so I have that scheduled into my calendar each week, and I schedule in my work for other clients. Maybe you do client shoots only on Wednesdays and Saturdays, so you’d schedule your usual time chunks in for those.
Use any “free time” to catch up on tasks like accounting, scheduling social media, etc.
Marie uses a variety of business & organizational tools, such as Basecamp or Asana (for working with the team), Slack (for team communication), and her Colorvale Planner for Photographers (something you’ll LOVE if you are a pen & paper kind of person).
7. Create an opt-in and e-mail series to get people familiar with your business
One of the best ways to get you more clients and give them a clear expectation while having to do very little work? Set up an opt-in and e-mail series to get people familiar with your business. The opt-in series starts with a place on your site where people can subscribe to your newsletter and in exchange, they get something for free (a checklist, or a mini-guidebook, etc.), followed by a few follow-up e-mails that end with you offering your services to them.
Here’s an example of how a sequence might look:
Email 1: 5 questions you should ask wedding photographers to avoid stress on your perfect day (they opt-in to your mailing list here and you send them this freebie in exchange)
Email 2: 5 (more) questions you should ask wedding photographers (sent 2 days later)
E-mail 3: My x favorite shoots in my portfolio (sent 2 days after the last e-mail, contains a link to your portfolio and pricing pages)
E-mail 4: Still looking for your wedding photographer? Let’s chat! (sent 3 days after the last e-mail, contains more information about working with you and a link to your sales page)
If you don’t like writing, you can work with a Copywriter or a Virtual Assistant who can help you to put together the text for this, as well as a designer to design the opt-ins for you. Marie teaches a specific course that covers this topic to help drive new clients your way called, Mastery Moment-Seekers. This course only runs 1-2 times a year. See full details & hop on the waiting list by clicking here.
8. Spend one week tracking your time and see where there’s room for improvement.
This was one of the things that changed my business for the better. When I started as an entrepeneur, I was so eager to make my clients happy that I worked any and all hours of the day, I would accept rush projects that left me behind on work for other clients, and switching back and forth meant that I wasn’t using my time very efficiently. I also realized that e-mail was taking up a huge amount of my time, as was client meetings on Skype.
So, most of the suggestions that you’re seeing in this post are me trying to channel my own errors to help you run a more efficient business. There’s still a few kinks here or there, but generally, my business now runs like a well-oiled machine.
9. Implement batching into your work as much as possible.
Batching is a technique to help you stay productive by completing all tasks of a specific type together. So, for example, if you need to do pre-selection for photos, do all your pre-selections at the same time. Don’t do one client’s pre-selection today, another’s tomorrow, etc. Even though you’re working on different clients, your brain still registers what you’re doing as being the same task, so it doesn’t have to shift its mental train tracks to something else. This saves you precious time.
You can batch work in Lightroom, e-mails, replying to people on social media, accounting, etc.
10. Have a TDL that is only three items long.
Science has shown that having a “to-do list” for your day that is only three items long increases productivity. In general, you should have one short task, one medium task, and one longer task. So, for example, your task list might look like this:
- Follow-up with client who inquired about my services on Tuesday
- Transfer photos from yesterday’s shoot onto Macbook
- Edit Caroline & Josh’s wedding photos
If you get through those three items, you can decide how you want to proceed with the rest of your day, but this provides a clear and easy jumping off point for you to be able to feel like you’ve accomplished something with your day.
Which of these tips will you be implementing into your business? Do you have a tip to share with the community that we haven’t covered here? Share your thoughts in the comments section!
Homework: You just spent 5 minutes of your time learning these tips. Don’t let that time go to waste. Take action! Pick 1 efficiency tip and implement it today.