Happy Thursday friends! I don’t know about you, but I don’t know where this week went! I mean, actually I sort of do. We shot a wedding in WV and then drove to Philly to teach our J&M Lighting Intensive PLUS and then drove home yesterday. That will eat up a lot of time right there. And it used to be that these sorts of trips would throw off our entire week, but over time we’ve put into place a LOT of automation & outsourcing in our business that keeps things going even when we’re not here. For example, next week we’ll be heading back to Nantucket with some friends for our second trip of the Summer, and while we’re there I’ll know that our albums are still being designed thanks to our amazing album design company Align. And our weddings that we just shot will still be getting edited thanks to our editor, Emily!
It’s SO great having assembled that kind of team around us to know that we can take a break, take a summer vacation and still know that our clients are being taken care of. Still there are those things that WE have to do. Things that we haven’t found a way to outsource yet. And for those, that’s where the automation comes in. We want to make those as quick & painless as possible, and do them in a way that saves us the most time so we can get back to living our lives. So here they are, 5 Business Hacks That Save Us a TON of Time!
1. The Best of Gallery. One of the things that Justin & I were noticing over & over was that we were getting a LOT of requests for images to accompany various things. Whether we were speaking at an event, being written about in a blog post, writing a guest post, or being featured in a magazine, they always needed some of our images to accompany whatever it was. And we knew that we wanted to 1) make sure those were always the best of the best of our images out there representing us 2) make that super easy on the event coordinator or editor writing the piece who we know are really busy people and 3) find a way to automate that in email so we weren’t always re-creating the wheel. The first step was to pull a “J&M Best 50” folder of images that I always had on my laptop with me that I could choose from. But that still required me sending multiple emails to send the high res images over.
That was when we realized that we could make a PASS gallery of these images and just put the link to the gallery in a pre-written email signature called “Best 50” that they could then go choose from. And we’ve taken it a step further and also created a gallery of our “J&M Best 5” too because we noticed a lot of times they only requested/needed 5 images total, and now there was no additional work for them in choosing from the 50. And we also ensure that our favorite 5 are used! Now you may be thinking that that’s nice for us, but you aren’t in a place in your business where you are speaking or being featured yet. But every photographer out there should have a Best 50 gallery that they can send people. Here are just a few reasons why: 1) It’s an instant portfolio that you have on your phone and can always show people no matter where you are. 2) As a photography business, people WILL be asking you to send over images that represent you even if that’s just a small local feature to begin with. 3) It allows you to pull all your favorite images together in one place and look to see what they have in common. It will be a huge step forward in helping you define & hone your style.
2. The Headshot & Bio Email. Going along with the above, we get requests for our headshot & bio pretty much weekly at this point. So rather than re-creating the wheel every time, I just created an email signature with our updated bio (plus my bio alone & Justin’s bio alone) and headshots of us together, and one of each of us. Now when we get a request for a headshot & bio, I can just go in and quickly delete what doesn’t apply and send it out in a matter of seconds. And going along with what I said above, even if you haven’t started getting requests like this yet….you definitely WILL as your business grows.
3. The Pack List. This weekend Justin & I had to pack with gear to shoot a wedding, gear & props to teach a lighting workshop, clothes to wear for the week, and everything we need for the dogs. That’s a LOT. And when you have that many moving parts, it can create a lot of anxiety getting out the door to make sure we have everything. And you photographers know, the same is true even for just getting out the door with everything you need for a wedding. And if there is one thing that we’ve learned over the years, it’s that you have to get stuff like that out of your head and on to a list somewhere. There is NO sense in wasting good mental energy on trying to run through everything in your head and remember everything, when you know you pack the same things every time and could just make a list that you reference every time. Now some of you are probably pen & paper people, in which case you could just print out the list every time and mark it off. But some of you are probably digital people who love having the list on your phone. In that case, we have found (and Justin is loving!) the Packing Pro app, where you can save multiple lists on your phone & go through them each time before you head out the door.
4. Packing Cubes. Ok, so this one is probably more of a travel hack than a business hack. But we feel like so much of our business IS travel, so it’s still one of our top 5! Earlier this year, based on the recommendation of our good friend Kat Schmoyer we invested in “packing cubes” (we have the ones called e-bags) which are essentially these soft zippered cases where you can get all different sizes. And it’s essentially like creating drawers within your suitcase. If you have ever experienced the “suitcase explosion” that happens when you travel, where everything starts off all organized but then turns into a tangled mess at your first stop & you can’t find anything….then this is for you! You can either organize them by type (all short sleeved tops go in one bag, all skirts in another) like a drawer….or if you are really on your packing game, you can organize them by outfit & day. So now each day you just pull out one cube and everything you need for that day’s outfit is in there, while the rest of your suitcase stays organized! Genius!
5. Trello. I don’t know about you, but I am in favor of ANYTHING that keeps emails out of my inbox. And working with a team like we do, that could turn into a LOT of emails really fast going back and forth tracking projects. But now we do ALL of that communication right in Trello. For those of you who don’t know, Trello is essentially an online to-do list. But because of the ability to share “boards” with other people, it has really turned into a workspace for us and our team. So for example, with our Editor Kristin who handles all of the Black Tie Bride & Well Groomed Groom stuff for us, I can go in and list an approved submission and then she takes over moving it through the blog prep, published, and social media. And rather than us emailing back & forth about where a post is in the process, I can go in and immediately see where we are. But let’s talk about how this can help YOU! How many of you use your inbox as your “to-do” list and then it never gets to zero? Well now rather than keeping those emails in your inbox, you can list the to-do on Trello and archive the email until you’re ready for it. You could also use it to track where you are with your album orders, editing jobs, vendor image delivery & more. So at any second, at a glance, you can know what needs to be done next. And that clarity- the clarity of an empty inbox & the clarity of what to do next- is definitely a shortcut we can’t live without!
PS: Do you want to see all of the “Pancake Session” posts we do for photographers? You can check out ALL of our past posts by going HERE!