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How Small Businesses Can Think Like an Enterprise

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When was the last time you referred to your business as an enterprise? Probably never. After all, when we think of an enterprise, we think of household names like Apple and Google–worldwide corporations that are grossing billions and employing thousands.

But, your business is an enterprise if it’s a systematic, purposeful activity.

Consider these two tips for running a systematic, purposeful business:

Don’t Underestimate the Power of Purpose

The obvious goal of any for-profit business is to make money. But there’s also something powerful (and profitable) about a business that stands for something bigger than the product they’re selling.

Your company’s purpose, or mission, is powerful because it’s something that leads can buy into and clients can share with their networks that goes beyond your products and services.

A unique purpose also helps you stand out in a saturated market. While everyone else is focusing on details like their wedding coverage, you’re messaging the way your business aims to change the world (or at least a small portion of it).

Why are we so infatuated with Apple? Because the company consistently improves our lives by transforming technology. Not because it created the iPod.

The purpose for your photography business might not be to change the world. But it doesn’t need to be, in order to be effective in your business. It just needs to be something that both you and your client care about and can genuinely buy into. For example, you might stand for simplifying weddings and bringing focus back to the people. Or you might stand for documenting family history for future generations.

Whatever it is, your purpose is a way to stand out in a crowd, connect with leads over a common ideal, and give client evangelists something to talk about. All of these benefits will eventually lead to the growth and sustainability of your photography business.

Invest in Systems to Make Ideas Happen

Identifying what you stand for as a business is a big step, but following through on that pledge in all areas of your business is a whole other challenge. It takes a lot of time and creative space to take such a big ideal and integrate it into even the smallest of details in your business.

The best way to do it is to establish systems throughout your tasks and activities. When you invest the time upfront to develop systems that stay true to your purpose, those systems will provide the consistency you need to gain momentum from that message.

What are systems? Systems are set methods for getting things done in your business. Think of the way you communicate with leads, edit images, and design physical products. Is there a method to the madness? Or, is there just madness? Establishing systems for these tasks means creating a list of steps for how you’ll execute this task every time. Partnering with a photo editing company to work on your images will begin to ensure consistency and increase efficiency throughout your business.

Here are some areas of your business that need systems and some ways you can use those systems to remain consistent in your purpose (using the same examples as above):

  • Lead management Keep your pitches simple, just like the weddings you want to simplify.
  • Client correspondence Include messaging throughout client correspondence that reinforces the importance of sharing memories. Creating template emails using an app like TextExpander will ensure consistency.
  • Post-production – When you partner with ShootDotEdit, you can lean on us for expertise and efficiency. We’re here to help you improve your post-shoot workflow – to ensure that it’s consistent with the overall purpose of your enterprise. After all, your client bought into (and is excited about) your commitment to fast turnaround times!

The underlying systems that create consistency and efficiency in your business are what set you apart from your competitors. In fact, systems set the stage for businesses to grow steadily – and steady, sustainable growth is the hallmark of a successful enterprise. Download our How to Integrate ShootDotEdit into Your Workflow Guide to find out what else we can do for you and your business!

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Announcing our newest Integrated Partner – ShootProof

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Today, ShootProof joins ShootDotEdit as the newest integrated partner!

ShootProof is an online photo proofing service for event photographers to upload, share, and sell photography online. Best of all, with no commission fees!

Why ShootProof?

We partnered with ShootProof for the following reasons:

Easy and efficient way to proof and sell your photos online.

Zero
Commissions

Partnered with four fantastic labs for printing.

We can now send your images straight from ShootDotEdit into your
ShootProof account! Fast is Best!!

Do you get special benefits? YES!

ShootProof has offered 20% off the first year with Promo Code: SDE20

 

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Three Business Blogs Every Photographer Should Read

Three Business Blogs Every Photographer Should Read

As a photographer, you probably have a long list of photography blogs you follow for inspiration, practical tips and, let’s be honest, eye candy.

But if you’re running a photography business, it’s just as important to stay up to date on strategies – and inspiration – for your business. Topics like tips for efficiency, guides for dealing with client relationships and other common issues facing entrepreneurs are all areas that will help your business.

That’s why we put together this list of three business blogs that every photographer should read. If you haven’t checked them out, go for it! You’ll be glad you did.

OPEN Forum

Created by American Express, the OPEN forum is a platform where entrepreneurs can exchange advice. It’s a well-organized wealth of information. You can find posts on nearly every business topic you can think of – from leadership, to marketing, to technology, hiring, finances and everything in between.

All of the articles published on the OPEN Forum are full of practical, substantive content. It’s a must-read for business owners who are navigating the day-to-day challenges and practicalities of running a business.

Recent articles from the Open Forum:

Tiffinbox

This blog, created and curated by photographer Seshu, is a treasure trove of practical and inspirational guidance for photographers. Tiffinbox features a mix of product reviews, time management tips, business advice, and inspirational posts. Geared specifically to photographers, you’ll find helpful business posts that address topics like managing your finances, tools for powering your business, pricing your services and running a studio.

Recent articles from Tiffinbox:

Harvard Business Review Blog

For any business owner, the HBR blog is full of relevant, practical and thought-provoking posts. The writers and curators are experienced business leaders and fantastic wordsmiths who tackle topics like leveraging your company’s strengths, managing sales and increasing productivity.

When digging into these articles, it’s guaranteed you won’t find any fluff. While they’re easy to read, they’re also extremely substantive and will leave you pondering ways to apply the principles to your own business.

Recent articles from the Harvard Business Review Blog:

What other business blogs do you love? Share your favorites below!


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Case Study in Business Bottlenecks: Clearing the Email Trap

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In a previous post, we talked about finding and fixing bottlenecks. Bottlenecks are activities that cause work to pile up and stall your workflow – and profitability! But sometimes the productivity pipes get so clogged that you need help digging your way out.

A common bottleneck for photographers is email. It’s like a giant hairball that clogs your workflow. According to the McKinsey Global Institute, the average person dedicates 13 hours per week to reading, deleting, sorting and sending emails. That’s nearly 30 percent of your workweek! It’s time to stop the insanity and clear the email trap.

Here are three tips for clearing the email trap:

1. Track Time

The first step in fixing a business bottleneck is recognizing that it exists. Email is an essential part of doing business, but it shouldn’t be a bottleneck. To clear the trap, you’ve got to dig into the numbers – start by calculating the time you’re spending on email. It’s like a reality check. Seriously, get a stopwatch, notebook, or spreadsheet – whatever works for you. Then track time and review the total hours you’re dedicating to email. You might be shocked by what you discover! Are you spending 13+ hours a week on email? Is that time productive? Sure, keeping in touch with partners and clients can be legitimate marketing work, but it isn’t profitable if eats up too much time.

So, break free of the bottleneck by building boundaries around your time. Block off windows of time to manage email. Be specific! For example, check and respond to email twice daily. Set a timer and stick to your rules! Don’t deviate. Soon, you’ll be using bullet points and short paragraphs to communicate more efficiently.

2. Set up a System

Now that you’ve disciplined yourself to track time, set up a system to make managing emails efficient. First, don’t check email when you wake up! Instead, complete a higher-priority task or project. Then, two or three hours into your work day, check email. And then check once more before the end of the day, but always wrap up your day by completing things that are actually priorities.

Remove action items from emails – tasks like placing client orders and sending out vendor discs. Systematically put these action items into your to-do list. This way you don’t keep revisiting the message every time you look at your inbox. (Of course, make sure you actually do what’s on your to-do list!)

Archive emails after you’ve responded or transferred the actionable tasks to your list. This keeps your inbox from filling up with hundreds (or thousand) of emails. It also ensures that important tasks don’t slip through the cracks!

3. Identify what’s Repeatable and Automate it

Think correspondence isn’t easy to automate? Think again. There’s a lot that can be automated. Here’s what you can automate now.

Create pre-written replies for frequently received messages – inquiries, FAQs, instructions for viewing images online, what to expect after the wedding, etc. Templates can be created in your mail program (or if you use a studio management system like ShootQ, in the email template section.) This saves time by avoiding tedious repetition. And if you really think about it, there are a lot of templates you can create.

Automate invoicing. Just like you outsource your wedding photography post processing needs, you have to find an appropriate system for your emails. You’re a photographer, not a bill collector. So, spend your time shooting and building your business, not sending invoices. There are plenty of programs that allow you to automate invoicing; they’ll save time and ensure that you’re paid promptly.

Finally, get comfortable with the fact that email isn’t your top priority. Your business – and your life – will go on, even if you don’t answer every email. Dmitri Leonov, the VP of growth email management tool SaneBox, sums it up like this, “Treat email as one of your priorities, but not your number one priority.” After all, your priority as a wedding photographer is improving your business systems so serving clients is efficient and fun!

Are you interested in more Case Studies to help your business? Check out the ShootDotEdit Review post that we put together for you, with business case studies from professional wedding photographers.

Download our free Guide: How to Integrate ShootDotEdit into Your Workflow to learn about the services ShootDotEdit will offer your business!

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How to Integrate ShootDotEdit into Your Workflow

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You know the familiar feeling. You’ve just finished shooting an amazing wedding. After celebrating over late-night dinner with your second shooter, you start backing up cards and scrolling through images. And that’s when excitement and anxiety start dancing the tango in your tummy!

Even though you’re on a post-shoot high, you’re starting to think, “ugh, this is going to be a long edit!” The images look great – but there are A LOT of them!

All professional photographers face this situation. But handing over your images to a specialist can still feel daunting. That’s exactly why we created this simple guide for integrating ShootDotEdit into your wedding workflow. Think of it as an anti-anxiety remedy for Monday mornings after weddings.

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Learn the insider tips to getting the results you want from a partnership with ShootDotEdit, including how to:
– Receive consistently awesome images using the 90/10 model
– Use DotPreview to guarantee our editing matches your style
– Utilize the Color Wizard to set up custom color profiles for your images
– Maximize your experience with Lightroom workflows
– Make more money from every wedding with Extra

 

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3 People Who Give You Permission to Partner with a Specialist

3 People who Officially Give You Permission to Partner with a Specialist

As creatives and business owners, it’s hard to accept help in our business. We can feel like it’s cheating our clients when we aren’t hands on with every image we shoot – from start to finish.

But when your time is limited, it’s not always possible to be involved in every detail – from start to finish. When you reach that point, the best thing you can do for your clients, business and craft might actually be partnering with a specialist who will help you deliver the best results to your clients, while also enabling you to stay creative.

You’re not at your best when you’re maxed out on time and running on empty. Trying to manage every aspect of your business likely means longer turnaround times for your clients and sacrificing on client service. By partnering with specialists who help manage particular areas of your business, you’ll find the the focus you need to be successful.

Here are a few areas that are prime candidates for entrusting to a partner:

• Post-Production (Of course!)
• Image Fulfillment
• Bookkeeping
• Studio Management

The first step in setting your business up for success using partners is to give yourself permission to do it. You may be accustomed to trying to manage everything yourself, so it’s a paradigm shift to trust specialists to manage various aspects of your business.

But you’re not the only one who will reap the benefits of working with specialists to manage certain areas of your business. Here are three people who will not only give you their permission, but will also thank you for partnering with a specialist:

1. Your Client

Your client is giving you permission to partner with a specialist for two reasons. When you work with an editing partner to do the bulk of the heavy lifting, your clients see the benefit of getting their images faster (which makes them very happy).

But time isn’t the only benefit your clients see first-hand when you work with a specialist. There’s also a chance that there are other people who can perform tasks in your business better than you can (gasp!). When you bring those partners into your business, your clients enjoy the benefit. Just as your client trusts YOU to be their photography specialist, you can trust a partner to be your specialist in specific areas. It’s like creating custom cabinetry for your home – you play an important role in envisioning the final result, but a specialist can help you make your vision come to life efficiently and beautifully! It’s the best of both worlds: a superior product in less time.

2. Your Bank Account

Ok, so your bank account isn’t actually a person but nonetheless, it will reap the benefits when you partner with a specialist. Outsourcing aspects of business that don’t directly make you money allows you to focus your time and brainpower on the parts of your business that do make you money! By entrusting others with tasks that aren’t increasing your bottom line, you’ll have more free time to build new industry relationships, talk to leads on the phone, or work on marketing materials – activities that directly increase your profits.

In addition to allowing you to focus on profit-generating tasks, outsourcing also allows you to enlist help that can scale your business without having to hire additional in-house staff.

The time you save on every project by partnering with outside resources will give you more capacity to bring on new clients without having to hire additional staff, which increases your profit margin and the balance in your bank account (making you and your bank account very happy.)

3. Your Hobbies & Loved Ones

As a small business owner, you’re well aware that your time is a finite resource. Every hour you spend on your business is time not spent outside of work doing personal things you love – with the people you love!  No matter how much you love shooting, working with images, and running your business, the reality is that you’re on a path to burnout if you don’t take time away from work to do other things that you love. Being stuck at your computer for countless hours is only sustainable for a short time. So it’s up to you to get a long term plan for managing the demands of running your business, while still living a life you love outside of work. Trust us, your loved ones (and your dog) will thank you!

If you’re ready to scale back on the tasks that don’t make you money and can be done by someone else, it’s time to find some trusted partners who can help you. If you’re not quite ready, here are a few more cases for making the transition to partnering with a specialist:

• 5 Ways Efficient Business Empowers Your Photography
• How Fast Turnaround Times Create Client Evangelists

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How Fast Turnaround Times Create Client Evangelists

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When it comes to delivering images to clients after their wedding, the faster you do it, the happier your clients will be. Although you know that there are thousands of images to sift through and edit, your clients are only concerned about one thing: when do they get to see their beautiful images?!

That’s why fast turnaround times matter. And although it may mean making some changes to your post-production workflow, like using an outsource photo editing company to work on your images, it pays off because it’s an area that your clients care about – and they’ll directly benefit from! And happy clients make great client evangelists (which means you’ll be in business for the long haul).

Here are three reasons why fast turnaround times matter when it comes to creating client evangelists.

1. Sharing images with clients soon after the wedding capitalizes on their emotions.

In the weeks following their wedding, couples are still buzzing about their day and replaying the great moments in their minds. When you’re able to turnaround their images shortly after the wedding, they’re still on a wedding high. That means that they – and their family and friends – are more likely to share on social media, as well as face-to-face over coffee or cocktails! Your images will have more momentum with your clients, and with your prospective clients, when they’re shared soon after the event.

2. Fast turnaround times often surprise clients. And surprises make people talk!

Many clients expect you to take time to process their images after the wedding, and they’re prepared to wait. But by throwing that turnaround time of “6-10 weeks” out the window, and replacing it with a quick turnaround time of a few days or weeks, you’re exceeding expectations.

Nobody talks about when their expectations were met – it’s expected after all! But they DO talk about surprises that exceed their expectations. So when you surprise clients with faster turnaround times, you become remarkable. And THAT is what people talk about.

Related: How to Spot (and Fix!) a Bottleneck in Your Business

3. Fast turnaround times empower you to work with more happy clients.

By streamlining your processes, and improving your turnaround times, you actually create capacity to take on more work! Photography businesses that are bogged down with editing aren’t set up to perform the tasks necessary to:

• Proactively bring on new business. Most businesses aren’t lucky enough to have a steady stream of new business showing up at their door without having to work for it! Instead, bringing in new leads and clients requires time spent blogging, on social media, on the phone with potential clients, or corresponding via email. When your workflow is optimized for fast turnaround times, you’ll reap the reward of more time to focus on proactively bringing in new business.

• Manage those new clients when they come. When editing for one client is sucking up all of your time, how can you possibly bring more clients into the mix and still meet their expectations, let alone exceed them? When you prioritize fast turnaround times and eliminate excess editing time, your streamlined systems create the capacity you need to bring on the workload associated with new clients.

But WHY are happy clients so important to your photography business? Sustainability. Businesses with happy clients receive more referrals and more sales, keeping them in business longer. Happy clients are invaluable to your business – and a sure-fire way to make your clients happy is through fast turnaround times.

What changes can you make to your workflow to improve turnaround times and make clients happy?

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How to Spot (and fix!) a Bottleneck in Your Business

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If you’re like most photographers, there are probably a few specific areas of your business that eat up a lot of your time and cause you to fall behind in other areas. It’s critical to eliminate these bottlenecks because they have a domino effect: one area of your business is affected by the bottleneck, which affects another area, which delays another project and so on.

A business bottleneck can be an area that takes up so much time that it causes you to fall behind, or a task that’s simply not profitable because it costs you more money than it’s worth.

Bottlenecks are a huge hindrance to scaling your business. If you want to continue growing and managing your workload, then these bottlenecks must be eliminated. Otherwise, they’ll keep you from taking on more work. Even if your business is, for the most part, running like a well-oiled machine, just one bottleneck can wreak havoc on your scalability.

But don’t panic! Bottlenecks are a problem all photographers face.  Thankfully, there’s a fix for finding productive ways to manage bottlenecks! Spotting big bottlenecks in your business starts with asking one simple question: “What is the most time-consuming task that keeps coming up again and again?”

There may be one stand out task, or there may be a few. Perhaps answering emails and managing inquiries is a bottleneck that consumes tons of time? Or maybe it’s editing and handling all of the images from shoots? Whatever it may be, you’ve got to identify which recurring activity consumes your time.

How much does a bottleneck cost?

For photographers, bottlenecks may not seem like they cost you money. But bottlenecks DO cost you time. And your time is very valuable. So in order to understand exactly how much each bottleneck costs, it’s important to identify your hourly rate. Aside from the cost of your time, you should also consider opportunity cost: the loss of potential income that could be coming from the time spent doing that task.

You’ll use the benchmarks of time and opportunity costs to evaluate alternate solutions. At the end of the day, a sustainable solution to the bottleneck is one that ensures you’re no longer losing money by doing a specific task.

Now, here’s how to fix the bottleneck:

• Write down your procedure for that task. By putting it into writing you’ll be able to work out a more streamlined process for that task.

• Then, create a step-by-step list of actions required to complete that task.

• When you’re done documenting, it should be easy enough for almost anyone to understand.

• The goal is to delegate this task to someone who can do it for less than what it costs you. For example, using a photo editing company like ShootDotEdit for your post production needs will save you money AND time!

By putting systems (and partners) in place to eliminate bottlenecks, you’ll set yourself and your business up for increased scalability, profitability and success. What bottlenecks are holding your business back?

Photo: Flickr User Differentieel + JeeeM = DailyM

To find out how ShootDotEdit can help you and your business, download our How to Integrate ShootDotEdit into Your Workflow Guide today!

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