Systems in your Business
Business systems are such a sexy topic. Just kidding. Although it’s not sexy, it does make me “Tom Cruise jumping on Oprah’s couch” level of excited.
Somewhere along the line, I took my business by the reins and went on an obsessive journey to save time and simplify. [for perspective] I asked myself- if I died, how easy would it be for someone to jump in and understand my business and complete the tasks at hand? If you have created a business where you are truly irreplaceable (other than shooting), you may want to re-think. This is an exercise in objectively looking at your business.
How do you manage your workflow?
I love tracking my workload with Airtable. I keep a record of potential leads and booked clients. I keep track of the progress of each project there and have it broken down for every step: questionnaire > timeline > back up photos after wedding > send previews > deliver wedding > blog. I can quickly identify exactly what I need to do first and I’m never caught in the land of in-decision.
How are your files organized?
I would say this is probably the biggest struggle for most photographers. Shooting 30 weddings a year, your own personal work, and the occasionally family shoot can leave your hard drive look like a war zone of your client names and random titles. For me, a date is basically a barcode and everything is broken into categories. To break it down: Each year has a 500GB - 1TB hard drive and all years are backed up on a giant 8 TB Drobo. On each drive exists that year’s catalog and every selected RAW image. For me, I have 3 categories: weddings, portraits, and personal. Within those folders is every shoot with the date and client’s name. This organization system carries over to my LR catalogs where I make collection sets for each category and create collections for every shoot. The other day, I literally thought of a specific photo from 2014 and was able to find it within 3 minutes. Imagine the time you’ll save!
Do you have canned responses?
I used to think it was a sin to dare send a human a canned response. Then I sat down and I thought through a response that was thoughtful, to the point, and also communicated my interest in them. It also saves time to inform them before they have to ask questions. Being to-the-point saves everyone time. My approach is to use a standard canned response and I mention something personal that I can gather from their inquiry, such as “I really love that venue and have been dying to shoot there”, etc. Here is a portion of my canned response that I have sent out for the last few years:
I feel honored that you're considering having me photograph your wedding day. With wedding photography, my hope is tell the story of your wedding day and be more than just a wedding vendor, but rather- your friend. Most couples need about 8 hours of coverage and that is $_,___. That includes telling the story of your wedding day and 500-700 edited images 4-6 weeks after your wedding day.
How are your presets organized?
Do you name your presets “amaze edit 22” or “dat right BWW” and have nooooooo idea what is what? What I do is every time I create a new preset is I label it with the date it was created on. This way, I can quickly look back and see how my preset has changed and see if I’m getting crazy off-track.
I think it’s important to answer these questions honestly and ask: is there a better way? I can say confidently that their almost always is. Some people use all-in-one client management systems like Honeybook, Tave, or 17 Hats. I personally used stand-alone programs for different tasks because I’m very specific about presentation and simplicity (from our side and more importantly, clients).
As a business owner, you have to cover so many different tasks and as one person you only have your 24 hours in the day. Having good systems buys you back some time. Just having a simple systems for tracking leads and booked weddings could save you hours and hours every year. Before you’re ready to take the leap of hiring someone, get your systems tightened down so that you are maximizing your time and can also plug someone else into your already built systems.
Hope this is helpful and saves some people time!!