I am not an organized person. I am a tornado. I have a mind that bounces from thought to thought, and wants to be constantly moving, not stopping to plan or analyze. Which is why I LOVE systems, organization, and efficiency. I know, that doesn’t really make sense right? Why would a messy person love organization? Well, I learned in the early years in business that I was not good at managing my time and keeping track of all of the various aspects of my business. So, I decided that I needed to put systems in place that would manage me. I needed lists and schedules and rules to keep myself from destroying my business.
The following are some of my best organization and efficiency tips that will save you time and keep your business running smoothly:
Make a Plan
To start, I recommend doing a purge and reorganization of your physical workspace. Get everything clean, organized, and if possible, pretty. As photographers we crave visual inspiration, so put something in your workspace that inspires you. Having a clean organized workspace will help to keep your thoughts organized as well. Next, you need to start planning ahead. Determine what work needs to be done and when and how you will do it. We’ll start that by creating some To Do Lists And, yes, I absolutely have a system for creating my “To Do” lists.
Get it All Out – Start by getting every single idea that is written on notepads or sticky notes or are just in your head, out and down on paper, or your computer. I prefer the computer to make it easier to do the following steps. I love using Wunderlist for this, so that I can create different to do lists and then drag and drop different items into each list.
Organize It – I next take my enormous list and I put them into separate category lists (i.e. Marketing, Business Admin, Business Planning, Client Work, Bookkeeping, Education, etc.). Everything on my list goes into a different category.
Prioritize It – Next I prioritize which order these categories need to be tackled in. Which is most important or needs to be taken care of first. For me, it’s Client Work, Marketing, Business Admin, Design Work, Business Planning, Pricing & Sales, Bookkeeping, Education, and Long Term Projects.
Schedule It – Break each item large item down into the individual tasks that need to be done to complete it, give it a due date, and then put each task on your calendar. Try to be realistic about how long each task will take you and how much you can get done in a day.
At the end of each day I create my “to do” list of essential tasks for the following day. To create this, I look at my lists, as well as what I have scheduled on the calendar. If I have something scheduled for that day, it goes on the daily to do list. And then I review, in priority order what needs to be done, and I put the items that need to be done right away on my daily “to do” list.
Some items you have to do every day, like email and social media updates. For those tasks I block out specific times of the day to get those done. I like email to be checked first thing in the morning, mid-day, and last thing of the day. That keeps new inquiries and clients, from waiting more than a few hours to receive a reply. I give myself 30 minutes and then, when I’m done I close down my email. The same goes for Social Media, Facebook can be a HUGE time suck, so I schedule my 30 minute check-ins for a couple times a day, and keep it closed outside of those times.
To get these daily tasks done more easily I recommend automating as much of your work as possible. Use templates for all of your emails, so you’re not writing the same email to different clients over and over again. Create a list of FAQ answers so that you don’t have to rewrite your answers every time you get the questions. Use scripts for answering phone inquiries, session planning calls/meetings and sales sessions. Doing everything the same every time will allow you to both do everything more quickly and create consistency for your clients.
Another part of automation is the use of a Workflow. If you don’t already have one, I want you to make it now (And I have one in my shop if you want to save some time and see the steps I go through with my sessions). Create a list of every single task you do for each and every session. If you shoot multiple genres you’ll want to create multiple workflows. Use these lists to ensure that you never miss a step with a client and that every client receives consistently great service from you.
To keep track of email templates and workflows, I recommend using a good studio management software. It will save you so much time and keep you organized. I love ShootQ, I’ve used it for years. One of it’s most useful features is the ability to schedule emails to go out in the future. So when a client books you can schedule all of their session prep and reminder emails right then. You won’t have to remember to do it when it’s due to go out. And those emails can be edited and custom written, not just an auto-template that you can’t change. This alone changed my business dramatically. There are a number of other programs out there, Tave, Pixifi, Sprout, etc. I hear good things about most of them. When you start looking, the features that I think are most useful are Workflows, Session Scheduling, Invoicing with the ability to integrate with an online payment provider, Client Database, and the ability to pre-schedule custom emails (not just automated templates) to be send in the future. I would suggest looking for a software that has all of these or at least one that offers the features that would be most useful to your specific business.
How to Get it Done
Once you have your system of templates and workflows set-up you can get to work. I love the Pomodoro Technique, especially in the summer. The technique is based on use of a kitchen timer. I use an app instead, but the way it works is to set yourself a 25 minute timer ( I do 30 minutes) and work on a single task for that period, then when your time is up, take a short break. If you need more time for a task, you’ll set another timer for yourself. This technique helps you to plan your day and get work done more quickly. BUT the key to this is to Mono Task and avoid distractions. Keep Facebook, your email, and any other program that you might be tempted to switch over to closed while you’re working. And just do one thing at a time. A lot of people brag about being able to multi-task, but studies have show that because we are quickly switching back and forth from one task to another rather than actually doing them simultaneously, our concentration is diminished, which causes us to take up to three times longer to get each of our tasks done, than if we had just worked on one thing at a time. So instead, I want you to block off bits of time throughout your day when you can get specific items done.
I hope all of these tips help! I know it’s a lot, but if you add each tip to your workday bit by bit, it will be more manageable and your business will be running more smoothly in no time!