The most limited asset any small business owner has is time. The only way to free up more of your time is to create systems for managing the various parts of your business. This allows you to focus more of your time on what’s most important: doing what you love and generating revenue.
In collaboration with Staples and Make Mentors, we have pulled together a list of effective systems you can set up today. These are all simple changes you can make to your business that will leave you with more time and more income.
Save time searching for important documents by creating a system for labeling and organizing your files. Set up a Dropbox account and organize your important files into clearly labeled folders. Next, create a master document outlining how you label and organize your files. This will make it incredibly easy for you to share documents with clients and employees.
Dropbox allows you store up to 2GB of files in the cloud for zero cost, while you can earn another 16GB of free storage by inviting others to sign up. This tool sits neatly on your desktop and keeps your files in sync across your devices, saving time when emailing documents back and forth.
You probably spend quite a bit of time answering the same questions from customers or clients over and over again. Create an FAQ page on your website where you answer common questions. You can also design a private FAQ page to share with employees.
If they haven't found an answer on the FAQ page, set up a support system for managing questions. Especially if you sell products or manage a large portfolio of clients, using a support system like Zen Desk is a great option for organizing inquiries.
Lastly, you can create canned email scripts in Gmail. This will save you from having to write the same message to your clients all the time.
Social media is a time consuming process when you don’t have a great system in place. Gone are the days when you have to create each Facebook post and tweet just seconds before you publish it. Today, you can schedule your updates and create systems for managing your various channels. Develop a social sharing strategy that determine how often you’ll promote content each week, and create an editorial calendar that outlines when you’ll craft content.
Buffer is a very effective social media management tool where you can share content and automatically schedule the distribution to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google Plus. You can also use the IFTTT app to create systems for managing your social media updates. This tool allows you to create ‘recipes’ that automate your social media workflows. For example, whenever you publish a new blog post, IFTTT will be ready to automatically share it via Twitter and Facebook. This way, you can build audience and engage your customers all week without thinking twice about it.
Stop spending all of your time answering the same questions, designing business templates from scratch, and creating a new process for each new client.
Instead, implement a system for managing clients. Review how you have worked with clients in the past and break your process down into steps. This will become your system for managing new clients. Design Aglow has tons of templates to help you manage your clients. Purchasing a template can literally save you hours, so you can spend even more time growing your business.
Do your clients email you lots of questions after you've finished working with them? Although you're happy to help them, this process probably takes up a lot of time. To stop receiving so many questions, create a client area on your website. Your client area could include all the common questions clients ask you, plus tutorials and/or videos.
Technical issues can bring your photography business to a screeching hault. Even small technical problems can take hours of frustration to fix, and most people don’t think about these issues until they have them, especially when it’s too late. A smart solution to this problem is to set up a monthly subscription with Staples technical support so you can have instant access to technical support any time you need it.
There are some parts of running a business that takes tons of time and never go away. For example, handling invoices and managing meetings can take eat up your time if you don’t have an efficient system for managing these processes.
Tools like Harvest allow you to track your time, manage invoices and remind clients when it’s time to pay, and costs less than $12/month. Apps like Calendly allow you to seamlessly manage your calendar. Clients can can book a meeting through the the app, and they'll receive confirmations and reminders without you lifting a finger.
These are just a few ways you can boost your business’ productivity through implementing systems. With the help of Staples and Maker Mentors, we hope you find these tools as a valuable business resource. Remember, you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars to create a productive workspace. By following these resources, such as making a quick trip to Staples, you’ll be able to create a happier home office and a productive business.
Want to kick-start your business systems today? Share your best business tip in the comments below for your chance to win a $50 Staples gift card!
Do marketing, social (and live!) networking, communications and public relations leave your head spinning? Do you have 1,001 ideas for the New Year but have no idea where to begin? Do you start, but never finish, projects? The Marketing and PR Calendar is a 49 page guide that has the answers to these questions that will help you plan, organize and act in a way that will ensure success in the upcoming year. This start to finish primer is another exceptional business product that will educate you on marketing and social media, provide you with worksheets so you can apply concepts immediately to your own business, and includes a Calendar to keep it all on track (and give you daily ideas and inspiration for those days when the well is dry!). If that's not enough, read up on how industry leaders manage their marketing and social media campaigns using everything from traditional marketing and PR campaigns to quick and easy social media hits! Think of this as a quick and easy version of "Marketing, PR and Social Media 101."
The Marketing and PR Guide & Calendar at a Glance:
• Overview of Marketing & Public Relations
• Tools for reviewing past and current performance and planning for the future
• A recap of Social Media tools and how to quickly and correctly put them to use
• A Cleaning House action plan that will quickly get you on track
• Advice from Industry Experts on Marketing, Public Relations, Networking & Social Media
• Worksheets to help you follow along with the guide and apply it directly to your own business
• A Marketing & Social Media Calendar with easy-to-follow, no cost, quick and easy tasks and projects for every day of the week!
*Special thanks to Terra Lange Photography for the lovely images throughout our guide.
“Thanks for your email. I’m vacationing in Fiji for the next two weeks.”
Translation: Because I’m successful and awesome and sleeping in a house on stilts. Not that I’m bragging.
“Thanks for your email. Please note that I only respond to emails between the hours of 12-2 pm EST. Any emails received outside of these times will be returned the next business day.”
Translation: Really, I can’t be bothered. But I would like you to know how efficient I am, by clogging your inbox with yet another useless email.
"Thanks for your email. I will get back to you as soon as I can. In the meantime, please check out my Facestagramtwitterest feed."
Translation: Your email has landed in my inbox. Congratulations.
"Thanks for your email. I’m on vacation, but if your message is urgent I’ll get back to you ASAP." Translation: If you don’t hear from me, you’ll know that your email is of no consequence.
"Thanks for your email. I’m taking some time off to be with my family over the holidays."
Translation: Which is what you should have done instead of emailing me on Christmas. Loser.
If your email autoresponder is phrased like any of the above, the answer to our question is yes: your autoresponder is hurting your business.
When a potential/present/past client or another photographer or vendor emails you, they want information or encouragement or connection. What they don’t want is to be reminded how they’re not on vacation, or how you’re so on top of email that you’ll answer them within 24 hours.
For some clients, your email autoresponder could be their first impression of you and your business. So make it a professional one, sent only when professionally necessary:
Thanks for your email. I am out of the office from April 24-30. Please contact yourassistant@yourstudiophotography for assistance.
Or: Thanks for your email. I am out of the office from April 24-30, and will answer your message upon my return. Like it or not, your emails could be turning clients off without you even knowing it. (The Fiji note landed in our inbox one rainy, cold Monday. We threw something at our computer.) When you’re actually out of the office and truly can’t return messages, a simple, direct autoresponder is the best way to let the world know.
Need some help presenting polished communications in every situation? Check out our best-selling Studio Email Assistant or our Studio Success Guide: Flawless Communications to help your correspondence hit the right note.
~ The F Stops Here is an exclusive collection of articles by Design Aglow, designed to be used and shared by photographers. Look for this column twice monthly here on the Design Aglow Blog and feel free to grab & share on your site, blog and/or social media pages with a byline and link to DesignAglow.com.
Did you know Pinterest users are among the most coveted audience in the marketplace? Why? Because they spend almost 50% more than the average Facebook user. Pinterest generates 10 million unique visitors every month in the U.S. Pinterest drives more referral traffic than LinkedIn, YouTube, and Google+ combined. That’s an entire universe of potential customers whom you don’t want to ignore.
Our guide shows you how to leverage Pinterest to get repeated attention from your audience in a easy to understand and and implement approach. Once complete, you’ll have a fantastic Pinterest presence you will be proud to promote with increased exposure on the hottest social network. Click here to snag it for half off for a limited time only (no code necessary), before it retires from the Design Aglow Shop forever!
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If someone approached you right now and said, “Hey, your photos are amazing. How would you like to close up shop and come work at my studio? I’ll pay you minimum wage!” Not a &*#%ing chance, right?
But many photographers do exactly that -- to themselves. By letting their guilt dictate their pricing, they’re charging far less than they’re worth and ultimately walking away with minimum wage or less.
We realize there are a million reasons photographers feel guilty. Do any of these sound familiar to you?
Wherever the guilt is coming from, it needs to stop. Here’s why.
You’re not running a charity.
We’ve heard too many photographers justify their rock-bottom prices with some variation of this statement: “I believe everyone should have access to amazing photos, and I’m willing to make a little less money so I can share my gift with those in need.” Yes, it’s a nice sentiment. On the other hand, everyone should have access to running water, but a plumber will still charge you to install a sink. It’s okay if you occasionally offer a free session to someone whose story tugs at your heartstrings, but don’t give every client access to bargain prices. (If you do, you’ll quickly start resenting those clients who roll up to their $75 session in a shiny new BMW.) If you’re not making enough to cover your overhead costs and compensate for your time, your business model isn’t sustainable, and pretty soon you won’t be serving anyone. If you truly want to use your talents for the greater good, volunteer for a charity like Fotolanthropy or Magic Hour Foundation. But selling your work on the cheap isn’t charity. It’s just bad business sense.
You won’t get the gratitude you expect.
You might feel like clients will be eternally grateful to you for making your services affordable. But if someone is truly on a shoestring budget, even a heavily discounted session will still be a splurge, and there’s a decent chance they’ll expect the world in return. Take an informal poll of photographers you know, and many will tell you their most demanding clients were the ones who got the best deals. The psychology is simple: When you stretch your budget for something, you expect to have your mind blown. Of course you know you’re offering an amazing discount, but from their perspective, it’s still more money than they’ve ever spent on photos. And it can be a cold shock when, instead of showering you with thanks, they ask for a reshoot or extra images or extensive editing. Remember that all clients want white-glove service, and you need to charge enough to feel good about the energy you put into your work.
You work hard. Really hard.
While your artistic vision may be a gift, your knowledge of photography is something you worked for. Think of the tens of thousands of hours you’ve invested into learning your craft and building your business. Think of the tens of thousands of dollars you’ve put into having the gear required to do your job properly. Think about the weekends you’ve spent at workshops, or the late nights you’ve spent editing photos or designing business cards or tinkering with your website or blogging sessions. It’s a rewarding job, but don’t be lulled into thinking it’s an easy one.
No matter how much you love your job, it’s still a job, and you still need to get paid. Do your 9-to-5 friends feel guilty about cashing their paychecks each week? No, and neither should you. Like any skilled craftsman, you deserve an income that reflects your expertise. So don’t preface your pricing with an apology. “I’m sorry” isn’t a sales pitch. State your pricing guilt-free. You’re a luxury brand -- own it.
Want to master the pricing formula? Our Pricing Guides for Wedding and Portrait Photographers will show you the way to pricing for sustainability and profit.