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.
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!