As artists, we tend to pour our heart and soul into everything we create. We are busy planning our next shoot and always pushing our minds to be even more artistic. By focusing this energy on being artistic, we often neglect the act of balancing our business and the things we love. The first year I was in business, I was constantly thinking, working, and saying yes, when I should have been saying no. I needed to be creating a healthy process to put boundaries in place for my time for my family and myself.
Over the past two years, I have learned a lot. I have put together five tips to help create time and streamline how to you run your business!
1. EMAILS – I created email templates for every situation that I may come across in my business. Take the time to make each email informative enough to cover questions your clients may ask you. The more information, the less likely your potential client or current clients will email you questions that were already answered. Now, I understand sometimes, you will get the one client that doesn’t read anything and asks the same question over and over. But you can prevent this by having informative and well-written email templates. Once completed, save them in the drafts folder. I include images within the email to make it more appealing. On most email account servers, you can customize your signature to have images at the bottom of each email you send. Some emails to have on hand:
a. Inquiry – for various types of sessions. Include links to online magazines, social media platforms, and your website.
b. Welcome – create a welcome email that has the information laid out step by step of what happens from start to finish. Include links to online magazines, contracts, handouts and social media. (You can also follow up with a welcome packet)
c. Incomplete Items: When a client has booked, sometimes they forget to follow up on certain aspects of the process. For example, contracts, payments, consultation and in-person scheduling appointments.
2. SCHEDULE – I know we have been told several times to create a schedule. Well, it really is simple as that. The first of the year, I sit down and use my planner to get things in order. I take into consideration how many sessions I can shoot a month, and choose dates that are predetermined based on my family schedule. Only schedule session on those days. I became tired of playing back and forth with clients picking up their orders. So, I created one day per week during a certain time period where my clients can come and pick up orders. I also have one day a week of ordering. I don’t meet with clients on that day so I can devote time to design and order products. I also schedule back to back consultations and in-person appointments (on two different days). Think of all the types of appointments you have with your clients and schedule them. Also schedule work hours. This has helped tremendously not only with my clients, but for my family. My family knows that “mom is working from x time to x time”. Communicating with my clients what my hours are, I have found that they are respectful with the fact that I am also a mother and have a family that needs me too.
3. ONLINE SCHEDULING/FORMS – The best thing I ever did to help with client scheduling was to use a management system. I use Brownbook It. I want clients to schedule on my availability. Once it is all set up, use the online calendar to send to your clients to schedule sessions, consultations, and in-person ordering. It incorporates payment portal integration if you want to pre-sell sessions. It is AMAZING!!! This saves time from doing the back and forth communication. I also use online forms to streamline client information. I use Jot Forms for questionnaires to better prepare for each of my sessions. You can gain such insight when you have these. You can later refer back to them when you are creating blog posts, when you want to send out a thank you card and need an address, or want to email a newsletter. Having this information online and ready at your fingertips, rather than massive piles of paper, is incredibly helpful. Trust me, your clients will appreciate the ease of not having to mail back or bring a form to the session.
4. OUTSOURCE – Seriously, take the plunge and outsource. As artists, we tend to be controlling, but not when you can outsource certain aspects of your business. There are tons of services out there: bookkeeping, blogging, editing, housework, and packaging. I started outsourcing blogging and has been such an awesome experience knowing this part of my business is getting done. I incorporate the cost of this service in the cost of goods per session. It’s totally worth it if you can outsource something that will give you more time to be with your loved ones, or keep yourself balanced and healthy.
5. TIMER – I purchased an old kitchen timer to schedule small blips of time to tackle anything. I think since I became a photographer, I developed ADPD (Attention Deficit Photographer Disorder). I have a ton of things going on in my mind that I sometimes feel like the cute dog on UP – Squirrel!!! What was I doing? LOL! Okay, you know what I mean. There are lots of time killers out there. Social media is a huge distraction, as is aimlessly internet surfing. So, what I do is take the timer and set it for 20 minutes, where I turn every distraction off, and I work straight through. Once the timer goes off, I get 10 minutes to do what I want. Usually I check Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. You could do a quick load of laundry; get a snack, or whatever you need to do. Then you repeat the whole process again. This works for me every time! Staying focused will allow you to rapidly complete whole tasks, rather than aimlessly jumping from project to project.
Applying these tips will help gain the time you deserve. We are entrepreneurs for a reason. To create a business that will allow us the freedom to create extra time with our loved ones; this is our ultimate goal. Getting organized and streamlining a few things will change your business for the better. I promise that!