You’ve got your camera. You’ve got some clients. You want to build a successful photography business. So how do you do it in the simplest way possible?
There is some really great content out there centered around marketing your photography business and growing your clientele. But as you grow your client list, you need to stay organized so you can take on as many of these clients as humanly possible. Not to mention, you want to continue giving your clients high-quality service as well, and not gum up because you forgot about an appointment, or you were late, or you blanked on the specifics of the job, or you simply forgot to invoice. This sounds like both a daunting and tedious task – “organizing your business” – but there are incredibly simple and straight forward tips for you to follow, and free technology to adopt in order to help your business grow into something awesome.
Easily Accessible Client Information
If you’re in the early stages of building a photography business – or even if you’re already a few years in – the first step in creating a scalable and efficient operation starts with your clients. It sounds simple, but it’s true.
First off, simply separate out your clients from your friends / family in your phone book. Or get a tool that keeps all your client contact information in one place. Trust me – this will save you a ton of time. When you want to find that client to call or email, don’t dig through a huge library of contacts of friends in order to find that single customer. Combine this with a tool that facilitates easy note-taking as well. Every client has his or her idiosyncrasies, so you want to make sure you have some efficient note taking capabilities where you can jot down and reference important info on every client. Do they have peculiarities? Job parameters? Are they high maintenance? Making all this information available to you anytime at the drop of a hat will be huge.
Keeping communication records organized and close to you is also crucial. You want to be able to reference past conversations, and you also want to be able to look back and see when initial job requests were sent and details around each. This is especially relevant when it comes to new clients – How was the inquiry initiated? Where did the client find you from? How did you respond to them? These little pieces of information build up to add a lot of value in the client-facing world of photography. Keeping all this client information in an organized and easily accessible location will pay huge dividends to serving your client better.
This is where you make your money! Your primary goal as a photographer: to efficiently gather and track as many of these on your calendar as possible.
You’re not always around to answer your phone or immediately respond to an email. That’s just the reality of life. Make sure that when individuals are interested in actually booking you, you give them the ability to do so extremely conveniently. Allow clients to browse your availability online, the photography services you offer, and send you booking requests immediately – straight from your website, or Facebook page, or auto-reply email signature. The technology is out there allowing you to set your own business hours and automatically block timeslots that are already busy – use it! When a client feels like he or she is actually “booked” for something (even if it’s still up to you to officially confirm), they won’t go shopping around for competitors – they’ll sit back, know they got an open time slot with you, and just wait for you to confirm. A lot different than sending an email with nothing back. Technology these days can be your very own personal assistant, without the personal assistant salary drag. Use this to your advantage!
On the flip side, you can actually save yourself time (and make yourself look a lot more professional too) by setting up client appointments yourself. Actively adding them to your calendar, all the while delivering your client each appointment summary (for reference) and automating friendly reminders to ensure your client doesn’t forget. This trumps any type of emailed “We are confirmed”, or end of phone call “So, see you next week!”. Look professional and re-assure your client that your appointment is 100% confirmed.
As you land more of more appointments on your calendar and your schedule fills up, you want to make sure no appointment slips through the cracks, and that you’re on time for each and every job. Every Sunday you should know what the week ahead looks like. Every morning you should know what the day ahead looks like. You want to make sure you maximize your capacity 100% – get as much of that calendar filled as realistically possible. Then have a smooth roadmap every day of where each job is, how you’re getting there, and ensuring you’re timely and giving the best service you possibly can.
Trackable and Speedy Payments
Now the good stuff. Getting you paid!
In order to keep growing, you want to make sure you get paid on time, you get paid for each job, and you never let a payment slip through the cracks. To guarantee this, never let yourself go into any job without protection – some sort of deposit paid or credit card on file. Have a payment solution that requires customers send upfront deposits when confirming all appointments with you. Or at least collect their card information somehow so you can institute and enforce a cancellation policy if that client cancels last minute. The term “opportunity cost” comes to mind – you want to make sure your time is never wasted because that time slot could have been filled with a full paying client.
For photographers who prefer to invoice, stop manually trying to keep track of each paid and unpaid invoice – we are only human and an invoice here and there is bound to slip through the cracks! Follow-ups and payment check-ins on unpaid invoices are pains as well. Leverage technology to invoice clients automatically, track paid and unpaid bills, and have professional reminders be sent on a regular basis so you don’t have to remember to follow up and so you don’t have to act like an annoying business when checking in on client payment. And don’t give your clients the opportunity to be lazy! All invoices should be due upon receipt – none of this flexible “due in 30 days” or “due in 60 days” nonsense. You’re running a business, you’re trying to grow your business, and you shouldn’t have to wait around for a check to arrive.
Quite possibly the most important part of gaining efficiencies as a business owner is running your operations in an increasingly mobile world.
Every day you’re on the move, going from job to job, seeing client after client. All the efficiencies previously discussed relating to customers, appointments, and payments are meaningless if you can’t do everything while you’re on the go. You need to be able to glance at notes or contact info while walking to another appointment. You need to be able to reference the location of your next event and directions to get there. You need to be able to get notified in real-time while you’re grabbing a coffee that a new client is trying to book you. You need to know that your appointment across town has been reserved with a credit card so if they don’t show up you’re not out extra gas money and hours of your day.
Organization Leads to Success
Now I admit, most of these best practices are not as “sexy” as winning new clients, learning new marketing techniques or building brand strategies. But by following some of these very simple recommendations, the above ensures every one of those new clients you win, you’ll be able to bring them on in the most efficient way possible, increasing your ability to give them the best service possible – All the while making your day-to-day a lot less stressful.
PocketSuite is a new mobile app for photography professionals helping them run and build a better business. PocketSuite empowers photographers with the ability to schedule appointments, invoice customers, collect payment, track income, and communicate with clients… All from a single app.