Photography Business

Case Study in Business Bottlenecks: Clearing the Email Trap

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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 at ShootDotEdit, we know how important it is for you to spend time on things that will help you grow. Along with providing wedding photography edit services for pro photographers, we also share valuable insights and tips for ways to streamline your workflow. That’s why we put together 3 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 have 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.

Related: The Business Solution to Keeping Your Inbox at Zero

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 thousands) 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. Or, download our 49 FREE email templates to streamline the process. See the top 5 you can use today in this blog post.

Automate invoicing. Just like you outsource your wedding photography editing, 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!

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 a wedding photography editing service 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 3 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.

Related: Fast Turnaround Makes You Money – here’s how!

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: 10 Reasons to Outsource Photography Editing to a Specialist

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

By streamlining your processes, and improving your turnaround times, you actually create the 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.

Related: 5 Ways Efficient Business Empowers Your Photography

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 (such as your wedding edit workflow). 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.

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Meet A Business Savvy Artist Every Photographer Should Know

Andy Warhol Quote for Professional Photographers

The archetype of the “starving artist” isn’t just old school. It’s dangerous.

In fact, creatives can be business success stories! Of course, there are plenty of artists who never make a dime. And there are artists who are worth more money after they’re dead. (Wouldn’t you rather enjoy your success in this lifetime?) But it doesn’t have to be that way.

In fact, there are some business-savvy artists who challenged the notion that artists are always broke. These artists all built businesses – even enterprises – around their work.

Let’s look closer at one of these business-minded creatives who challenged the status quo and inspired us to tackle business as intensely as art.

Meet Andy Warhol

“Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art. Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art.” – Andy Warhol

Warhol wasn’t just the “Prince of Pop,” creator of iconic soup paintings, and arguably one of the most important artists of the twentieth century. He was also an entrepreneur at heart.

In the early 1960s, Warhol opened “The Factory,” his New York City studio that operated like a well-oiled machine, consistently creating art. Operational efficiency was Warhol’s fascination. He used silkscreens so he could mass-produce images the way capitalist corporations mass-produce consumer goods. Velvet Underground co-founder John Cale said, “It wasn’t called the Factory for nothing. It was where the assembly line for the silkscreens happened. While one person was making a silkscreen, somebody else would be filming a screen test. Every day, something new.”

An exhibition at the Indianapolis Museum of Art called “Andy Warhol Enterprises” explored his interests in business, commerce and money. The exhibition’s co-curator Sarah Urist Green commented, “I love the fact that Warhol had the corporation Andy Warhol Enterprises – it has always stood out to me as a really fine example of Warhol as an entrepreneur.”

Warhol’s mass-production techniques – techniques still used today to produce t-shirts – made his work ubiquitous. By mass-producing images, such as Marilyn Monroe, Warhol boosted the celebrity’s fame as well as his own. And that’s how “Andy Warhol” became a global brand.

In Warhol’s world, fast really was best.

Ask any photographer if they’re a business owner and they might say, “No, I’m a photographer.” But the truth is: if you are a professional photographer, you’re also a business owner. Embrace business as strongly as you embrace creativity.

In the next post in this series, we’ll talk about a paradigm shift – going from lone artist to business owner.

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5 Ways Efficient Business Empowers Your Photography

Efficiency Tips for Professional Photographers
Image: The International Society of Professional Wedding Photographers

These days, running a wedding photography business that values speed and efficiency is the rule, not the exception. And, running a successful business is a central theme of successful photographers who are passionate about their artistry. Running an efficient, streamlined business doesn’t mean sacrificing your art or producing a poor product. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

Creating an efficient business ensures that you’ll be financially stable and have time to create high-quality, artistic work. And it’s your art that inspired you to go into business in the first place, right?

As a professional wedding photo editing company, we believe that “Fast is Best” and that it can help grow your business. Here are 5 ways that being efficient empowers your photography.

1. It allows you to stay focused on your passion and your strengths.

What is it about your photography that you love? How you answer will likely identify your passion. But as we all know, running a photography business requires much more than simply focusing on your passions. The truth is, roughly 15% of your time is used taking awesome pictures! That leaves 85% of your remaining time devoted and dedicated to making sure the business will allow you to focus on the 15% you LOVE doing 🙂

Setting up efficient business practices will create time for you to focus your passions, on personal projects, on serving and loving your clients. And, this will allow you to stay happy.

Related: 10 Reasons to Outsource Photo Editing for Your Wedding Photography Business

2. It gives you the freedom to be creative.

Photographers all know what “busy season” feels like. There are shoots on the calendar seemingly every day,  a steady stream of emails to catch up on, phone calls to return, bookkeeping to deal with, social media, album design, new client meet-ups, current client management, vendor networking, blogging, editing all of those shoots, and the list goes on!

With so much to do in so little time, it’s easy to lose your creative spark. Yet that creativity is exactly what your clients love about you! To keep them happy and to give you the creative space to do your best work, it’s critical to set up efficient business systems. Efficiency actually allows you to have (gasp!) freedom to keep that creative headspace.

Related: 3 Successful “Fast is Best” Companies – see them here!

3. Efficient business practices make you money.

Although it may sound counterintuitive, investing in services that streamline your business will save you money in the long term. For instance, outsourced services save you money because of the opportunity cost that goes along with the hours they free up. Instead of spending all that time editing (or doing your own taxes), you could take on more shoots, work on your marketing materials, or start doing more in-person sales meetings–all of which are activities that actually make money! Aside from opportunity cost, when you factor in the time that you spend editing, your hourly rate suddenly drops drastically–and you’re actually not making as much money as you could.

Related: Fast Turnaround Makes You Money

4. Faster delivery to your clients = happy clients.

As busy season is in full swing, you’ll start finding yourself getting farther and farther behind with weddings that need to be edited, uploaded for proofing, and blogged and shared. You know that dreaded email could come at any moment – that email from your client asking, “When can we see our photos?” It’s true, your clients (and their happiness with you) are directly impacted by lag time.

By setting up systems that help in the areas you need it most, you’re able to keep your clients happy and exceed their expectations with fast turnaround times. You can share their photographs when they’re still most excited, soon after the shoot. Keeping your clients happy means they’ll turn into enthusiastic referrers and evangelists that will keep you in business for the long haul.

Related: How Fast Turnaround Times Create Client Evangelists

5. Because beating burnout means taking time off.

Entrepreneurs and artists are alike in many ways. They’re creatives, they’re innovators, and they’re thinkers. That means burnout looms like a threatening chasm unless there’s time to breathe, explore new ideas, and wander into quiet thought. That’s exactly why efficiency can cultivate creativity and empower your photography. It gives you control over the tedious tasks of being in business so you can beat burnout by letting your right brain maintain its freedom.

Steve Jobs’ biographer, Walter Isaacson, discussed the many qualities that set Jobs apart from other innovators, including his commitment to Zen Buddhism. Although each entrepreneur and artist practice different forms of “taking time off,” actually taking time to think and explore protect you from burnout.

The bottom line is that the best thing you can do for yourself as a creative is to take yourself seriously as a business owner. When your left-brain puts in the effort to create efficient, streamlined systems for your business, your right brain with see the return! You’ll once again enjoy your business for the reason you started it–your passion for photography.

Image: The International Society of Professional Wedding Photographers shared this smart graph on their blog. To read more, check out their post.

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