I remember when I first started my business. I was living in an apartment in Hoboken, NJ, and my office consisted of a 6 square foot area in the corner of my bedroom. My client management system was a file box under my bed, I tracked my miles in a notebook my mom gave me for Christmas as a stocking stuffer. I backed up all my clients’ images on DVDs (hahaha!), my task management “system” was a notebook that said “to-do, urgent, and someday”, and I was editing pictures INDIVIDUALLY in Photoshop (OH.MY.GOSH) … and I had noooooo systems. At all. Nada. Not for culling. Or editing. Or blogging. Or backing images up. Or Social Media. Or managing clients. Or managing my life.
A lot has changed since 2013. And now there are programs, software and tools that my business would honestly be a chaotic mess without. And I’d probably cry of anxiety daily. So I’ve compiled a list of the top 10 things my photography business can’t live without and can’t wait to share them with you! Enjoy!
1. HoneyBook* (Psst! ← That link will give you 50% off too! WHOA!)
Essentially, ALL of my client management is in this wonderful software. Here are the highlights:
- All of my contracts are in HoneyBook! Signed digitally! SO EASY.
- All of my invoices and payment schedules are in HoneyBook. For every client. With automated email reminders to clients.
- All of my clients’ projects information, as well as personal information, is in its designated project (Wedding or project date, venues, addresses, phone numbers, birthdays etc.)
- All of my workflows are in HoneyBook, so as soon as a client books, they go right into the proper workflow and HoneyBook has a task list for me every day, for every client, based on their project date! It’s LIFE CHANGING. You can also automate certain emails and questionnaires to send if you have your templates in place! AMAZING and such a client-experience GAME CHANGER.
- You can infuse your brand EVERYWHERE. On every document you send to a client, you can either have your logo on it or even better, you can customize it with their picture as a header image! (Example if you send a travel invoice for an engagement session or wedding, you can put their engagement or wedding picture at the top!! So cool!)
- They have a creative community where you can connect with other vendors and creatives all over the world to post opportunities or reply to opportunities and it’s incredible! You can grow your business so quickly with this tool!!
- I can input all of my email templates into the program so I never have to type an email out again! (Currently sitting at 167 different email templates!) WHOA.
- The contact form is linked on my website as a widget, so all my inquiries go directly into HoneyBook. There, they are automatically applied to the correct workflows, so I immediately know to call inquiries, send them their welcome email with pricing, or follow up if they don’t respond!
- They have a pipeline that shows you ALL of your projects at a glance and shows you where they are in the stage (inquiry, follow-up, meeting, retainer paid, proposal sent, planning etc.)
- You can get reports of where all your inquiries are coming from and how you’re doing with bookings so you know where to continue advertising.
- If you’re using another system and want to switch, their concierge team WILL TRANSFER ALL YOUR PROJECTS OVER FOR YOU!!!
- Their customer service is the best in the business. Period. They treat you like you’re family and it’s just amazing.
- They have a huge heart for philanthropy and collectively with the Rising Tide Society, helped us raise over $60,000 to build a school with Pencils of Promise!
Remember how I said I used to save all my client’s photos on DVD’s? Yeahhhh. Well, can’t get those pictures anymore! Oops! I use a DROBO 16TB stationary hard drive to store ALL of my backups. This, so far, has held all of my pictures from 2014 on and I still have space!
It uses a RAID System to prevent data loss from a single drive failure and there are slots for 4 drives- you can get different size drives depending on what you need! I love it and it’s so easy to use! They have a bunch of different storage size options. It’s definitely not cheap but I can sleep so much better at night knowing all my clients’ photos are backed up! Hallelujah!!
And if you’re wondering…inside I have it organized like so:
Year (Ex: 2017)
→ Year + Event type (Ex: 2017 Weddings)
—-> YYYY-MM-DD Clients Names + Event type (Ex 2017-06-17 Sara and Josh Wedding)
——>MAIN GALLERY (JPEGS)
——>BLOG (STOMPED IMAGES)
Convertkit is my email marketing provider of choice! It came highly recommended to me by so many people. I started out with Mailchimp (which is free if you’re just starting out) but it had a major downfall of not being able to segment my newsletter list.
Convertkit allows you to do all sorts of segmentation and automation and split testing and stuff like that! So if you have a few different client types you email to (Brides, Creative brands, photographers, entrepreneurs, etc.) you can segment them differently so people are only getting emails that pertain to them! It’s pretty awesome and it’s relatively inexpensive and they have different plans based on your list size. If you’ve been thinking about starting a newsletter or email list (which I think literally everyone should have) then I highly recommend Convertkit! Honestly, it was a bit of work to move everything over from Mailchimp so I wish I had skipped that step altogether now!
Okay, so like I said, I used to record my miles in a little paper notebook and I used to forget to do this ALL THE TIME. Then, come tax time, I’d have to go back through my calendar and find all the dates that I was traveling for work and then I’d sit there and Google map my house to that location. Do you know how many hours I WASTED?!
Then, I heard of this little magical app, Mile IQ that ran in the background every time you drove (and only uses 1% of my battery!). Once a week, it sends you an email (you can also do this in the app but I never remember) to categorize, or “classify” your drives. You choose whether it’s business or personal and what type of category it falls under: Client meeting, photo session, wedding, networking event, office supply run, etc. (you can set up your own categories) and then come tax time, you just download a PDF of your annual report and send it to your accountant and you’re DONE. It’s the easiest thing ever.
I literally probably spent an hour total all year classifying my drives vs almost an hour every week classifying drives by hand and mapping everything out myself. At just $60 for the whole year, I’m saving probably a good 50 hours a year tracking my miles (and getting so many more business miles because I used to just track my photo sessions but now I remember to track Tuesdays Together meetings and Staples runs and everything in between).
At the end of the day, I’m making that $60 back and then some on my taxes because of all the miles I’m no longer missing for my tax write-offs.
This link will get you 20% off too! (It’ll happen automatically!)
I often joke that my entire brain is literally in Asana. But I’m not actually kidding. Everything I do that isn’t client related is in Asana. (And my client work used to be in here too, until HoneyBook launched their workflow and task management tool!)
So now, everything else is in Asana. This is my task management software of choice, and there are so many capabilities! I’ll be sure to write a ton of posts on Asana in the future, but here’s the basic rundown:
I have my:
- Workflow Templates
- Course Ideas and Outlines
- Content Calendar and Ideas
- Podcast Pitch Workflow
- Guest Blogging Workflow
- Weekly To-Do’s
- Personal To-Do’s
- Tuesday Together Workflow
- …and so much more in there!
And the best part? It’s completely free!!
Planoly is an Instagram scheduling and grid planning app and it’s so so easy to use! I upload all of my images into “draft” categories and then I can drag and drop images until the grid looks the way I want it to! I’m then able to write out my captions, save my hashtag groupings, and schedule it on a calendar all in one place!
They have a free and paid version depending on how often you post, and it’s a saving grace for people like me who are OCD about my grid looking nice haha!
Here’s an example of what it looks like!
7. A Consistent Workflow
Okay, obviously workflow is my jam. And now I have no idea how I ran a business for almost 3 years without a consistent workflow that I apply to all my clients.
Especially now that I’m running two businesses, workflows are essential for me to keep my life on track and my business running efficiently.
I have workflows for:
- Wedding Inquiries
- Booked Wedding
- Portrait Sessions
- Brand Photography
- Mentoring Clients
- Custom Workflow Clients
- Engagement Sessions with and without weddings
- Wedding Album Design
- Systems Strategy Calls
And then once I created all of these workflows, I put them into HoneyBook so I could apply them to all my clients, and have HoneyBook do the heavy lifting and task management for me.
Now I can just log into HoneyBook every day and see what tasks I need to do across every single project. IT IS AMAZING! (And my secret weapon for managing 70+ projects at a time!)
8. Lightroom Photoshop
Okay, obviously I could not run my business without Lightroom and Photoshop. Lightroom is my software of choice for editing all my pictures, and then I bring select images into Photoshop if they’re going to be in a wedding album, or printed by my clients large scale.
When I started my business, I had no idea that BlogStomp was in existence. I bought a bunch of Photoshop templates off of Etsy and I used to collage my photos in Photoshop for blog posts. It used to take me HOURS AND HOURS AND HOURS to blog images.
Now? I just upload my favorite images from a session or wedding into Blogstomp and I can quickly and easily collage everything with my SEO keywords, image titles, at the right pixel length and quality for the web. I can get through an entire wedding in about 10 minutes and I think it may literally be the best $50 I ever spent for my business!
10. Memory card reader*
I used to sit and wait for each memory card to load when I’d get home from a wedding when all I wanted to do was go to bed! Now, I use a card reader that reads four cards at a time and it’s amazing! I only use four cards for a wedding, so I just plug them all in and go to bed and get back to them in the morning!
I suggest getting the Lexar Hub card reader. You can plug four memory cards into the card reader hub at one time. Note, you’ll also need to get the actual card drive to plug into the hub, you can get CF readers here or SD readers here.
These are my top 10 — what do you rely on the most in your business?
*Disclaimer: This post includes affiliate links and I would love if you decided to use them. Affiliate links + referrals programs help educators like me to fund the free content that we provide on our blogs.