It can feel overwhelming to have to wear all the hats that go into running a successful photography business. Accordingly, streamlining your business wherever possible is essential. The more organized and efficient you are, the more time you will have to devote to photography. You are always at your most profitable when you have a camera in your hands. Time saved in other areas, that allows you to shoot more, means growth for your business.
1. Put Your Time Where It Matters: Outsource
Just because you can do it yourself, doesn’t mean you should. It can be hard to let go of something you have built from scratch with your time, sweat and tears. Further, it can be hard to accept that you have reached the point where you simply cannot do it all. You may find yourself facing the reality that the greatest limitation on your business is the amount of time you have available.
Outsourcing can be the answer you have been looking for. Even if you are on a tight budget, outsourcing should still be considered when trying to grow your business. Outsourcing is all about freeing up essential time so that you can put your efforts into the core activities that drive your business, increase your profit, and fulfill you creatively.
From cost advantages, to basic sanity, there are many reasons why outsourcing can be beneficial for your business. When you are looking to outsource, everything is on the table. Further, you can decide to outsource a little or a lot. It’s all about fitting the unique needs for your business. Editing, accounting, studio management, social media management – all of these tasks can be outsourced.
Don’t wait until you are desperate and drowning to think about outsourcing. You can always begin small with just outsourcing some smaller tasks and then work up to more. You may not immediately grow your bottom line, but give it some time and you will. First you have to invest the time you have created for yourself through outsourcing. Put your time where it matters, and let outsourcing free up the space, both in your day and in your creative mind, to streamline your business.
2. Create Efficiencies: Use A Client Relationship Management Program
There are many great cloud-based Client Relationship Management (CRM) programs out there today that are specifically designed for the creative solo business owner. These programs, such as 17 Hats and Honeybook, are robust programs that are designed to help you through every point of contact with your client from lead generation to closing out the sale.
In addition, many of these programs also have a bookkeeping function built right in, or they may integrate with more robust bookkeeping programs such as Quickbooks. You can link in your business bank account, your business credit card and your method of collecting payments so that all of your business data is seamlessly collected in one place.
Further, CRMs designed for the creative solo business owner are workflow-based, making it easy to stay organized and on top of all of your tasks for each job. You can save contracts, booking forms, invoice templates, quotes and email responses all within the program. Most of these programs also have a lead response form that you can integrate right into your website so that from the moment someone inquires, they are brought right into your system.
3. Stay Organized: Create A Standard Workflow – And Stick To It!
Having a standard, streamlined workflow that you follow for each and every client is critical to the success of your business. Customer service is everything, and your workflow allows you to stay on top of tasks and deliver on time to ensure your customer always walks away happy.
Your workflow will vary depending on your business model, and it may evolve over time but it’s important to have a baseline.
Many CRM programs, such as 17 Hats have workflow management built right in. Within 17 Hats, when you create a new project, you activate a workflow for it. The workflow can be as simple as a checklist or it can perform more advanced tasks such as automatically generating an invoice for the session deposit upon signing of your business policies.
Alternatively, a simple dry erase board or Google Sheets document can also serve as a workflow management tool. You can create a grid with client names down the left side and check boxes going across with the status of each job. It’s all a matter of personal preference.
As you create your workflow, use this as an opportunity to build in efficiencies. For example, if one of your workflow items is “Send Client Welcome Email”, this is a great time for you to create a template to be used for all future inquiries. Or if it’s “Send Deposit Invoice”, then create this in your bookkeeping system to have it ready to go (whether something like 17 Hats or Excel/Google Docs).
Schedule work hours for yourself and stick to them. When you are working be fully focused on the tasks related to running your business. Keep social media closed, eliminate distractions, and use your workflows as your guide to help you prioritize and stay on task. Make the most of your working hours, so that you can also make the most of your non-working hours. When you know you got the job done, it’s easy to turn off the computer and fully enjoy your time away from work.
4. Maximize Your Time Investment: Minimize The Back and Forth
When you are a business of one, it is important to automate everything you possibly can. Using a scheduling application has several advantages that help you streamline your business. It can help you sell more weekday session spots, it can help you better manage volume, it can make it easier to manage multiple revenue streams, and it eliminates time-consuming scheduling back and forth.
Many of these applications, such as Callendly, will seamlessly integrate with gmail or other email applications. When potential clients book, this application will send you an email notification that there is a new event and it adds the meeting to your Google calendar. For calls and meetings it automatically adds a Hangout video link to a the meeting request for all participants. Also, the calendar integration feature means that dates will show as unavailable if you have a personal commitment on that date, so you never need to go in an make a change to the application. As long as your calendar is up to date, your app will be too, so there’s no need to go back and forth with your clients selecting a date.
In addition, you can automate the app to take payment right when a spot is booked. This may not be necessary if you already have your workflow set up to bill clients through your client management program, but it is a nice option have. Whether it is through your scheduling application or your project management system, it is important to have an online way of accepting payments. Not only does this save you time, but your clients will appreciate the efficiency. However, accepting online payment results in fees, so it is imperative that you have these fees built into your rates.
5. Know Your Numbers: Perform A Quarterly Clean-Up
Even if you use an accountant to file your annual or quarterly taxes, you must know your numbers. You have to fully understand the financial health of your business. To do this, it is very important to keep organized books throughout the year. Even if you can’t keep up with your bookkeeping every single month, a good time to go through everything is at the end of the quarter when you have to file your sales tax return or when you file your estimated taxes.
Use this “Quarterly Clean-Up” to make sure all expenses are logged and accounted for, file receipts, review open invoices, update mileage log, follow up on quiet leads, and, most importantly, check sales and profits against annual goals
Consider it a quarterly check-up for your business – it’s your way of staying ahead of any surprises that might sting come tax time. Keep your eye on your per session earnings goal and your profit targets. Are you hitting it? If not, is it because you are spending too much or not charging enough? Maybe both? It’s never too late to make an adjustment. The quicker you identify and correct an issue with your spending or your pricing, the quicker you will be back on track to meeting your earnings goal.
For many, owning and managing a photography business is a labor of love. However, it is still a business and it is imperative that you run it accordingly. Workflow, accounting, proper pricing, client service management – these are all essential components of running a successful photography business. Hopefully in streamlining your business wherever possible, you will free up more time and mental space to devote to what got you here in the first place: creating.