Photography Business

How to Define a Fast is Best Business

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As a business owner, it is important for you to develop a workflow that is timely and efficient, allowing you to quickly deliver products and services to your clients. When you are able to do that, you set up a reputation for your clients that you have a Fast is Best business. How exactly can you define a Fast is Best business? In addition to helping you with your wedding photo editing needs, we wanted to share an infographic that breaks down the definition so that you can implement new techniques into your workflow.

How to Define a Fast is Best Business

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Tips for Updating Your Photography Workflows this Off-Season

Tips for Updating Your Photography Workflows this Off-Season

Airlines don’t overhaul their airplanes while they are flying. And that’s for good reason — taking vital systems offline while in flight would probably be disastrous.

The same is true for photographers. While less fatal, changing your workflow during busy season can derail projects leading to late nights and angry customers — thatʼs why off-season is the ideal time to update and improve your workflows.

As you revise your workflow, remember the reason for having workflows in the first place is to improve speed by implementing consistent and repeatable systems.

Here are three tips (and one bonus tip) for updating your workflows this off- season:

1. Check for Updates

Software tools get updated routinely during busy season. Updating software during mid-year can lead to unexpected consequences. Now is finally the time! To make sure your workflows are optimized for best performance, check with your partner vendors to see what updates you missed while you were busy caring for clients. Then make the changes that make sense for your unique business.

For example, you might have noticed that during busy season we updated our Lightroom workflow for Lightroom 5! Now is the time to revisit that announcement and make sure your Lightroom workflow is up to date.

2. Look for Bottlenecks

When work piled up in the thick of wedding season, what was keeping it from moving seamlessly forward? By identifying the bottlenecks in your workflows (and then removing them), you can do your best to ensure that work wonʼt pile up next season.

Here are two articles to consider when looking for bottlenecks in your workflows:

How to Spot (and Fix!) a Bottleneck in Your Business
Case Study in Bottlenecks: Clearing the Email Trap

3. Remove Extra Steps

It’s easy for teams to get caught up in extra workflow steps. When it’s not just you in charge of performing your workflow tasks, it’s easy to create wasted steps. For example, you might find yourself passing images back-and-forth, when one hand-off will do. Duplicate steps might not seem like a big deal. But, when you’re in the thick of busy season, every minute counts.

Removing duplicate steps makes your workflows more efficient, increasing the amount of time you have available to work on the tasks that really need your attention.

BONUS: ShootDotEditʼs Workflows

Have you used our Lightroom or Aperture workflows? They make processing your images with ShootDotEdit even faster and more simple. Most of our photographers find that its best to set up their workflow in the off season. Get them set up now, so they’re ready when you submit your next events. For help setting up your workflows, check out our Help Desk workflow tutorials.

Ready to start updating your workflows? Now is the time! You (and your clients) will be much happier next busy season because you did.

Photo by Flickr User  kevindean






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How to Audit Your Busy Season (and Prepare For The Next One!)

How to Audit Your Busy Season (and Prepare For The Next One!)

If you find yourself slowly starting to exhale as busy season winds down, you’re not alone. Wedding season can challenge the sanity of even the most organized photographers! And after you celebrate making it through the crazy season in one piece, it’s time to evaluate what worked – and what didn’t – so you’ll be prepared for next year.

The end of the 2013 wedding season is a great time to evaluate the past year and use that information to make productive changes in your business. These six questions will help you perform your own busy season audit, and help you prepare for a successful 2014.

1. Did I deliver photographs to my clients by the deadlines I promised?

This is one of the most important questions to ask yourself about 2013. As a service provider, it’s your job to meet (and hopefully exceed!) your clients’ expectations in every area. Not only does that mean delivering an exceptional set of final photographs, it also means delivering those photographs to your clients in a timely manner. After their wedding, your clients are naturally excited to see the photographs. So the longer they wait, the more impatient and potentially frustrated they’re bound to become.

But it’s not only good for your clients to get their photographs as quickly as possible after a wedding, it’s good for you too. By delivering photographs to your clients when they’re still excited, they’re more likely to purchase photographs and share the gallery with friends and family. Plus, they’re more likely to order additional products. Capitalizing on their excitement is an important part of the sales process, which means time is of the essence!

If you didn’t consistently deliver photographs to your clients within the timeframe you promised, it may be time to outsource your post-production to a specialist. By letting an expert handle it, your time is freed up to take care of other important things. Plus, you won’t have to worry about many weeks (or months) passing before you’re ready to deliver photographs to your clients.

2. Was I able to spend time building vendor and industry relationships?

Spending time on activities that keep you connected with other vendors and contacts is critical when you’re in a referral-based business. Aside from spending time at networking events, shooting weddings provides an opportunity to give back to other vendors and forge relationships. Reach out to vendors and ask whether they’d like images from events you worked on together. Stay in touch with planners, and work with other vendors to get your images published. Building these relationships, like other income generating activities, is a key ingredient to a successful business.

3. Were there any areas of my business that consistently caused me to fall behind?

Spotting a bottleneck in your business early will help you address problems before they start to domino and affect other areas of your business. Whether you’re consistently falling behind because of album design, getting lost in a black hole of emails, or struggling with editing, take a look at these tips for how to fix a bottleneck in your business.

4. Was I working out of control hours – even scrambling to get stuff done – or did I find a healthy balance?

Running a sustainable business means you have systems in place to ensure that you operate efficiently – not necessarily 24/7. Though there are always some exceptions, even during busy season, you should be able to rest up and take time off.

If you’re constantly working to keep up, and don’t remember the last time you took a day off, it’s time to decide what activities you can hand off to someone else. Chances are, there are areas where you could partner with a specialist in order to stay focused on tasks that you need to be doing yourself.

5. Did I follow a set process for all my clients, and deliver a consistent experience?

If you want to ensure that tasks aren’t falling through the cracks, having a set process for your shoots – from start to finish – is important. Map out each person or partner’s role throughout the process; then automate as much as possible. If you haven’t had a consistent process for your clients, check out software like ShootQ that helps you manage shoots from start to finish. Or, get a white board with your clients’ names and tasks – that’s just one way to get started!

6. Did all my clients who wanted to purchase for the holidays meet their deadline (and allow me to deliver on time)?

At the end of the season, it’s likely that clients will want to order albums, prints, and other products in time for the holidays. If you were buried under a pile of last minute orders and facing deadlines you couldn’t meet, now is the time to fix this issue for next year. It may be as simple as giving clients an earlier deadline for placing orders. Or, you may need to evaluate the simplicity of your ordering system, how many options you’re giving clients, or what your album design process is like. Easy to understand processes and clear communication ensure that your clients have a smooth experience placing orders and have a great impression of your business.

After you complete this audit, write down your takeaways and start brainstorming ways to implement solutions. By taking time to evaluate your systems and workflows this busy season, you’ll set yourself up for success (and sanity), next year!

Our Free Guide: How to Grow Your Wedding Photography Business is packed full of over 50 pages of tips and tricks to help you manage and grow your business! Download the guide today!

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The Professional Photographer’s Core Competencies

Professional Photographers Core Competencies

“Do what you do best. Delegate the rest.” That phrase is often heard around businesses, big and small. It sounds so simple, but it’s a driving force behind the concept of core competencies. And big businesses aren’t the only ones that benefit from identifying their core competencies. Professional photographers can create more sustainable businesses if they identify and leverage their own core competencies.

So, what’s a “core competency?”

A unique ability a company has that can’t be easily imitated. Core competencies give a company one or more competitive advantages, in creating and delivering value to their customers. Remember, a core competency is not a product or service.

The term was originally coined by Gary Hamel and C. K. Prahalad and published in their book, Competing for the Future. They challenged business leaders to view their organizations as a “portfolio of competencies,” as well as a portfolio of products and services. That portfolio of competencies actually provides a competitive edge for truly innovative businesses.

How can professional photographers apply this principle to their businesses? First off, you’ve got to identify your own core competencies. Then, you’ve got to fearlessly follow their lead, and delegate the tasks that don’t fall into the category of your “core competencies.”

Let’s look at two real world examples. Apple’s core competency is design. That core competency is the underlying strength of their hardware and software. For Netflix, it’s all about providing the best content delivery. They work hard to deliver content to their customers quickly, in a highly-personalized way.

Put on your business hat for a few minutes, and dive into these questions:

  • • What specific skills set you and your business apart from other photographers?

  • • What unique knowledge, or experience, do you bring to the table that makes you stand out from the crowd? (This is the stuff that your competitors can’t imitate!)

  • • What assets do you bring to your business that enable you to add perceived value to your clients’ experience?

Now, see if you answer “yes” to these questions:

  • • Is this competency unique to you and your business?

  • • Does it help you improve your client’s experience, and also pay off in dollars and cents?

  • • Can it contribute to some new services and products that you could offer?

The best part of identifying your core competencies is that they are almost always things you LOVE doing. That’s because they often grow out of your unique skill set and life experience. Since core competencies become one of the hallmarks of your business, they can be the driving forces of your competitive strategy – and that puts you on a path to long term success!






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ShootDotEdit Review: How Partnering with a Specialist Empowers You to Grow Your Business

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If you’re spending lots of late nights editing, it seems overwhelming to take on new clients and shoot more weddings, because what you’re doing is creating more work for yourself.

That kind of stress takes the joy out of what you love to do–shoot!

This is the situation wedding photographers Jason and Gina Grubb found themselves in before deciding to partner with our post-production specialists.  The Grubbs had their workflow as dialed in as possible, but they knew that with every minute they edited images, they took time away from client building and marketing.

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How Professional Photographers Can Simplify Sales

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Sales is both an art and a skill. In fact, many of the world’s best salespeople take an artistic approach to their customer’s buying process. They intuitively understand how to put themselves in their customer’s shoes, and anticipate their pain points. Sales guru Zig Ziglar wisely observed, “people don’t buy for logical reasons. They buy for emotional reasons.” So, you don’t have to dread doing sales pitches. Instead, think of sales as an opportunity to be creative, by providing a solution to a problem. And entrepreneurs love solving problems, especially since solving problems is essential to building a profitable business!

Why is sales simplification important?

It’s important to simplify your product sales for one big reason: confusion stalls sales. If your client doesn’t know what to order, when to order, how to order, or just gets confused, you might lose the sale or undersell to someone who wanted to purchase more. If you want your clients to buy products, you have to make it easy and fast for them! Make your sales communication – emails, phone calls, and in-person consultations – simple and succinct so clients can quickly find everything they want to order.

Not sure how to keep it simple when it comes to your product sales? Here are three important tips.

Tip #1: Integrate the sales conversation throughout the experience with each client.

Since sales is equal parts artful psychology and tactical skill, you should plant sales seeds in your earliest communications with clients. Think of it as educating your client throughout their entire experience with you. Then, sales becomes about helping your client solve a problem. Give examples of which products will work best for the type of photographs you’re shooting and—especially if you’ve gotten to know your clients well—what will work best for their taste and style.

Tip #2: Be Prepared! Do the sales work upfront.

A surefire way to cause confusion when educating clients on the products you sell is to be unprepared. Before you start explaining your products to clients, make sure you too have a clear understanding of your pricing, turnaround times, product details and–most importantly–benefits for your clients!

If you don’t know these details, you’ll come across as erratic or unprepared, ultimately causing confusion and slowing your sales.

Tip #3: Try easy-to-use product sales tools.

If you don’t enjoy the sales side of your business, gain confidence by leaning on easy-to-use product sales tools. There are a lot of great sales tools out there for professional photographers, but that doesn’t mean you have to use them all. Keep your sales process simple, by choosing one or two tools that work for you.

We recently partnered with ShootProof, a tool that offers an easy and efficient way to proof and sell your photos online. Plus, you can now send your images straight from ShootDotEdit’s photography editing services into your ShootProof account, instantly making your product sales process more efficient. For more information on how ShootDotEdit can help your business and introduce you to other helpful partners, download our free guide.

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Taking the Lead and Choosing a Partner For Your Business

Taking the Lead and Choosing a Partner for Your Photography Business

So you’ve decided to partner with a specialist for your photography business. Now what? Whether you’re looking for help with album design, post-production or bookkeeping, there are a few necessary steps between deciding you need help and fully integrating a partner into your business.

Step #1: Finding the Right Fit

There are so many great specialists out there ready to partner with your business. So how do you know which of those experts is the right fit for you? The key to finding the right partner for your unique business is looking at both what they do and how they do it. The how will be the best indicator for whether or not each partner is the right fit.

To get an idea of how each partner will help, ask questions:

  • • Are their systems simple and easy-to-use?
  • • Do their systems fit well with yours?
  • • Are you happy with their customer service?

Step #2: Defining Roles & Responsibilities

When you bring a specialist into your business, it’s important to have clear systems for responsibilities so nothing falls through the cracks. Once you find a partner who is the right fit, you’ll want to take time upfront to define clear roles. Make sure to identify clear points of delineation between you and your partner–-knowing where you’ll pass things back and forth and where their responsibilities end and yours begin.

Step #3: Invest in the Process

Consider the setup process for your new partnership as a long-term investment. It will take time and work upfront, but it’s worth it to fulfill a need for you and your business. To get the most out of it, make sure to fully invest in the process and understand not everything will work perfectly at first. By putting in the work, you can build a solid foundation to improve your partnership over time.

For more help in choosing a partner for your business, download our Free Guide: How to Grow Your Wedding Photography Business.

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ShootDotEdit Review: The Decision to Work with a Post-Production Specialist

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Making the decision to work with a post-production specialist can be a daunting leap to make, especially if you’re not confident that in an outside partner’s ability to edit your images as well as you can. But while it’s tempting to let this fear hold you back from partnering with a post-production specialist, giving in to that temptation may come at the expense of growing your business.

Corrado Amenta is a wedding photographer who worried that the decision to trust a partner with his post-production would mean that his images wouldn’t look as good as when he edited them himself. Here’s Corrado’s take on how to successfully navigate the process of working with an outside post-production specialist and the surprising truth about editing that he learned along the way.  Instead of editing all of his wedding images, he found that he needed the time to focus on other areas of his business in order to grow as he envisioned. Since trusting ShootDotEdit, his business has grown significantly, including:

– Image and Album Design Delivery in 5-7 days
– Doubled Profit while working same amount
– Hike Mt. Kilimanjaro

Download this ShootDotEdit Review to learn more about how Corrado advanced his business through the help of ShootDotEdit.

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How to Simplify Post-Shoot Production

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Post-shoot production is crucial for your business, but let’s be honest, it can also be tedious and overwhelming. When you use photo editing companies for photographers, like ShootDotEdit, to take care of your post production needs, you can transform a seemingly unending chore into a streamlined series of processes. Simplicity will get you back to what you do best, quickly—shooting!

Why is simplicity key?

There are boatloads of moving pieces in your photography business making it dangerously easy for important tasks to slip through the cracks. As a photography business owner, you’re juggling a lot of responsibilities and wearing many hats. When any one of those responsibilities slips by you, it hurts your ability to take care of your clients. And that hurts your client relationships, your reputation and your ability to grow your business.

Simplifying your post- production helps you streamline the process for managing these moving pieces, adding an extra layer of defense between you and damaged client relationships.

Here are two tips for keeping your post-shoot processes and production SIMPLE:

Tip #1: Map Out Your Post-Shoot Workflow & Remove Excess Steps

Taking an individual job from shoot to client might be easy to do when you’re only working on one shoot at a time. But, it immediately becomes more complex and confusing when you’ve got multiple shoots in various stages of the process, on your plate (and on deadline). It’s at this point that tasks can easily slip through the cracks!

Make it as simple to manage a growing list of shoots as possible by mapping out your workflow, identifying each individual step and task, when they need to be done and who needs to do them.

Once you’ve mapped out your workflow, keep it as simple and concise as possible by cutting out any excess steps. After all, why have two steps when one will do?

Tip #2: Find Partners that Prioritize Simplicity Too

Partnering with outside specialists is supposed to make your life easier not more complicated and confusing! Make sure you choose partners that prioritize simplicity instead of overcomplicating your already complicated workflow. Here are two ways we’ve prioritized simplicity for our clients:

Dot Tracker 2.0

We created Dot Tracker 2.0, our newly-improved and awesome job management tool, entirely to make it even simpler for our clients to submit and manage their jobs. Take a tour and see for yourself!

Workflows

We partnered with Industry Leaders to design top notch workflows that are readily accessible for our clients. When you submit a job through Dot Tracker 2.0, you can simply choose which workflow you want to use to process that job. Lightroom? Aperture? Legacy workflows? We’ve got ’em all, and they’re all at your fingertips!

Get hundreds of tips to implement right now in our free guide titled How to Grow Your Wedding Photography Business.

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Finding Time to Do it All: Tips for Managing Your Time

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Think you can do it all? You can’t. The idea that you can manage the seemingly never-ending amount of to-do items by yourself is a myth. If you want to create a sustainable business and consistently give your clients a killer end product, chances are you’re going to need some help.

But regardless of who’s doing these tasks, the fact remains that it takes a lot to maintain a profitable photography business. And when you’re in the thick of a busy shooting season, you have to find ways to get it all done in an even more limited amount of time.

So how can you possibly stay on top of everything to ensure that things don’t start slipping through the cracks? Check out our three time management tips to save you time and enhance your profit margin.

1. Prioritize tasks that must be done by you versus those someone else can do.

Think about what makes your business unique and stand out from your competitors. Likely, it’s the unique way you interact with people, your shooting style, and the experience you give your client from start to finish. That means that tasks like meeting with leads, networking with vendors, and (of course) shooting are all tasks that you can put your unique handprint on. So they should definitely go on the list of tasks that must be done by you.

Tasks that aren’t generating profit and can be handed off to someone else probably should be. These activities include post-production, album design, accounting, and studio management. These tasks are important but they can be done by someone else.

2. Streamline the systems that you and your partners use

Whether you’re using an in-house employee to take care of client mailings or an outside partner to take care of your editing, make sure you have clear processes in place. The responsibilities belonging to you and your partners should be clearly delineated.

Having streamlined systems with clear deadlines for projects will ensure nothing falls through the cracks. If you’re using a wedding photo editing company like ShootDotEdit, it doesn’t have to be an all or nothing process. You can still be responsible for culling and doing special edits on a handful of images. Or, if you prefer to be completely hands off, ShootDotEdit can take care of everything for you from start to finish. Whatever you choose, be sure to set up a system that you’ll be able to use consistently.

Also, make sure that your day-to-day business processes are set up for maximum efficiency. These daily systems such as how you backup images, your process for downloading cards, and scheduling for blogging all contribute to how efficiently you can do your job. It’s worth the extra time to outline these systems and make sure there aren’t needless redundancies or any holes in your system. Once you have streamlined systems in place, it will be easy to replicate the process for each and every shoot.

3. Set boundaries on your time

Though it may sound counterintuitive, you’re usually most productive when you have a limited amount of time. A limited time frame will force you to work most efficiently and stay focused. (No surfing the web or taking extended breaks when you’re under a tight deadline!) Setting deadlines and specific hours for particular tasks will make you more efficient with your time.

Try an experiment: For a few days in a row, set short, specific deadlines for particular tasks. You’ll most likely find that with deadlines in place, you’re able to get the same tasks done in a shorter amount of time, simply because you’re more focused when you work.

Training yourself to work in more focused periods of time like this will help you accomplish more during the day, which will (hopefully) mean less late nights in front of your computer. You’ll also be able to clearly see the areas where you’re consistently running out of time. Are you finding you never have enough time to complete all of your studio management tasks like mailing and print fulfillment? Or perhaps you’re never able to get your editing or album designs done in the set period of time you give yourself. Seeing this will enable you to find ways to get help in those areas so that you can maintain set hours for your business and enjoy some time away from your office!

Photo by Flickr User:  john.schultz

For more information on what ShootDotEdit can do you for your business, download our free guide, How to Integrate ShootDotEdit into Your Workflow.

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