So you are working hard on your business. You want it to be the best it can be. You've been following this series and see the value of systematizing so you can give your clients a consistent experience, stay efficient with your workflow, make sure nothing falls through the cracks and make your business scalable and able to handle growth. Despite your best efforts something goes wrong. A client is upset about something that wasn't they way they expected it to be. You forgot to send an email at just the right time so that you have the information you need from the client to meet the next deadline in your workflow. You're struggling to get any response from your client and as a result you are backed up on album orders for years. AHHHHH! SO FRUSTRATING!! What now!?
So here's the thing. No matter how good our intensions are, no matter how hard we work to make our businesses the best they can be -- to manage our client's expectations, to make our workflow speedy and efficient, to set up our systems so that nothing falls through the cracks -- things inevitably will. Problems arise, and they will continue to do so for every business until the end of time. And while this news is an incredible bummer for those of us who are recovering perfectionists (finger pointed at self), it helps me to realize this truth so I don't spiral into a pit of despair every time something goes wrong. Instead, I try my best to take a more constructive approach to problems.
There's an analogy I like to use to help me explain systematizing a business, and help paint a picture of this effort as an ongoing process. Let's pretend for a moment that you and I are for some reason out in nature and we're each trying to build a dam. The dam is in a dry river bed, but we know the water is coming. The goal is to build the dam super-strong with sticks, rocks, debris -- anything we can get our hands on -- so that when the water does come, it can't penetrate our creation. We do our best to build it strong, and to fill in any holes we can see with our naked eye. But we don't really know how well it will hold up until it is put to the test. When the water finally comes, we stand on the other side and wait in expectation. It does a pretty good job holding back the bulk of the water, but guess what? There are leaks. The water has found a path through at points that we didn't even notice before.
Since this isn't a remarkably sophisticated analogy, you've probably figured out that the dam is the system we build for our business. We build it to the best of our ability, attempting to anticipate issues that might arise, but problems, or leaks, are bound to happen. Part of the process of systematizing is plugging those leaks when we find them. And because problems are bound to continue to arise throughout the life of a business, plugging these leaks will be an ongoing process. The goal is to plug the leak or solve the problem by tweaking the system so that that specific issue does not arise again.
For instance, when a client is upset about something that wasn't they way they expected it to be, rather than writing them off for not paying attention when you so clearly explained it during your initial client meeting, add additional client education for future clients. In addition to telling them verbally, add a clause to the contract and add it to an email template you send out as a reminder of what they can expect from you.
If you forget to send an email at a specific point in your workflow process, don't get mad at yourself and simply determine to try harder to remember next time. Add a reminder to iCal and make putting this reminder on iCal a step on your workflow checklist.
If you're struggling to get a response from clients and as a result you are backed up on album orders for years, instead of getting increasingly frustrated with them, evaluate what the obstacle to their response might be. Is it possible you are asking too much of them and that could be causing their paralysis? Could you simplify the task or even remove it altogether? Is there a deadline or incentive you could add to your workflow to encourage them to reply? (Incidentally, I have had to plug A LOT of leaks in my album workflow. I haven't talked much about albums in this series so far, but I will be starting a series on album sales and workflow on Align's blog here -- so stay tuned for that!)
If you take this constructive approach to problems in your business, and commit yourself to continually improving your system, you will greatly improve your client's experience over time, become super-efficient, and create a business that can scale and grow.
I hope you have found this tip helpful!
Up to this point in the workflow series, I have been sharing workflow strategies and resources that I consider vital to a basic wedding workflow. I've shared them roughly in priority order and with the conclusion of Part 20 today, the basics are covered. I'm going to continue it the coming months to share what I like to call, "The Bells & Whistles". These are additional components I have added to my workflow over time as I've increased my prices, in order to improve my clients' experience. They aren't vital to a wedding workflow, but they are fun extras that can set you apart from other photographers. So stay tuned for more goodness soon!
In June I get to pack up the car with Dixie, my office manager, and a stack of workbooks and sample albums, and drive the five and a half hours out to Rancho Cucamonga, California for the next MJ2Day workshop.
Workshops out of state are always fun. They're a chance to see another place, to meet new people and try new food. They're always a little more challenging than the ones I host in my home in Phoenix, but I love the challenge and the newness. And this one is extra special because my friend Promise Tangeman is hosting!!
Promise and Brian are allowing us to invade their beautiful home in Rancho Cucamonga, California for two non-stop days of learning goodness on June 2nd and 3rd. (Next 3 photos by Promise.)
Do you think it's ok if I teach the whole workshop from that Eames chair?
I can just imagine the conversations that will take place here:
I'm guessing Dixie-dog will be camped out right next to Parker on that top of that sofa come June! (Photos by Janelle Marina.)
Since Promise is an expert on branding and teaches photographers how to customize their websites for optimum impact, I invited her to do some guest speaking at the June MJ2Day and I'm SO thrilled that she said yes! The attendees are in for such a treat!
The workshop location is just 12 miles from Ontario Airport (ONT) so that makes it easy to hop on a plane from anywhere in the country to get there. And with this waiting for you, you can't go wrong!
I wanted to share all this with those of you who may be undecided as to whether or not to sign up. DO IT!!
We only have a few spots left!
For those of you from California, we likely won't be coming back your way for a few years. We only do one out-of-state workshop per year and try to go to different locations each year. This is your chance to attend a workshop in your neck of the woods! And if you're not from California, this is an amazing excuse for a vacation. We have a Facebook Group where you will be able to connect with other attendees to find roommates and share cars if you want to minimize travel costs.
As most of you know, I also own an album design company called Align Album Design. We serve professional photographers around the world, taking the arduous task of album design and revision off of their hands, so they are freed them up to spend time growing their businesses and doing what they love.
Today, I'm so excited to finally be able to reveal to you an exciting new development for Align that has been in the works for over a year!
Align helps photographers serve their clients with FAST album designs. Align typically turns around initial album designs in 1-2 business day. So we thought it was only fitting to partner with the industry's fastest image-processing service -- ShootDotEdit. ShootDotEdit is the first choice post processing partner for the wedding pro, and everything they shoot. We use them for many of our weddings at MJP and love them! They make our images look consistently awesome based on our chosen color profile. ShootDotEdit provides turnaround times as fast as 48 hours.
Fast is Best, and this partnership allows photographers to streamline their entire post-processing workflow for optimum speed.
Photographers -- Imagine how happy your clients would be, how fast your business would grow, and how much time would be freed up if you used ShootDotEdit AND Align to crank out your wedding workflow in one week flat!
In celebration of this exciting new partnership, ShootDotEdit is offering a special discount to those of you who might want to try them out for the first time! Sign up for either of ShootDotEdit's Annual Plans using code: align2014, and you'll get your first month FREE!*
*Offer valid through March 24, 2014
I'm so excited about this new partnership and hope you take advantage of this amazing opportunity to free up your time AND grow your business!
The other day Dixie and I were taking our daily walk with our neighbor friend and her pup. This friend has been married for about three years now and I didn't know her and her husband when they were married. We were talking about photos and she mentioned that she had no idea where the thumb drive of their professional wedding photos was. A wave of nausea hit me and I asked her if she had them backed up anywhere. She sheepishly admitted that she didn't. Then I laid into her (with love), encouraging her to find them and get those babies backed up somewhere in the cloud ASAP! Yikes! SO scary.
I know my friend is a bride and not a professional photographer, but this encounter reminded me of how important it is for us professional photographers to have our clients' digital images archived.
When it comes to this very unglamorous part of my workflow, I have a few competing emotions. One is fear. Besides Dixie dying or my business failing, I have no worse fear than losing a client's images. (Ok, maybe a few more would beat it out, but not many.) The other emotion is a sense of dread and overwhelming anxiety. There are so many options out there and so many competing opinions about how images should be archived that I feel immobilized. You see, this is just not an area of strength for me. I don't get excited about hard drives and problem-solving a back-up solution. In fact, when I start thinking about these things, my head starts spinning and I feel slightly queazy. I've looked into the options and opinions, and I've tried a number of solutions over the years, but this is an area of my business in which I'm not passionate about spending a lot of time. Nevertheless I know it's important and it needs to be done.
Like with anything that I know is not my strength, I turned to an expert to help me come up with a good archiving solution. I paid a business consultant and an IT expert to recommend a solution and install it for me. Like I mentioned, there are a number of options out there, so what I will share with you today is just one way to get the job done. But, at least for the moment -- until technology changes on us yet again -- I feel fairly confident in it. Because I know there will be questions about how I prevent image loss before the archiving process, I'm going to also share how I protect my files from the moment they are shot forward. This is what I do:
1 -- Keep CF Cards on My Person While Shooting I use a GoBee Bag (unfortunately these are no longer sold) around my waist to carry my CF cards with me at all times during a wedding. That way, if any of my gear gets stolen, the mean and evil thief will not get away with stealing the client's memories.
2 -- Off-Load Images Right Away All of my images are off-loaded onto my computer the night of the wedding. I don't reformat my CF cards until the images from each event are uploaded to Pictage, my online lab (usually within a week).
3 -- Use a Server with Mirror Technology We use a Network Attached Storage device by Synology with 5 removable 3TB hard drives as both our working drives and our archive drives. So when I off-load the CF cards the night of the wedding, the images go onto this server. The way it is set-up, if one of the hard drives fails, the info is still protected within the others. We keep our working files in one folder of the server and then, when all of the products are delivered and our workflow for that wedding is done, we transfer the client folder (complete with RAW files, high res .jpgs, contract and even album files) to an "Archive" file on the server. One of the other great things about this server is we can access it from any of our three computers in the office, and even remotely when I'm traveling. So that eliminates any file transfer headaches. It's also nice to have all of our files archived in one spot that is accessible without having to track down a hard drive in a closet and plug it in.
4 -- Archive High Res JPGs in The Cloud We use Pictage as our online lab. A week after the wedding, we FTP the images to Pictage and then release a gallery for our clients to view their images and order prints online. Pictage is great for a number of reasons, but one of them is that they archive our images indefinitely. We've been using them since 2003, so all of the high res .jpgs from all of the weddings I've photographed are archived on Pictage's servers. Whenever I need an image, I can have it FTPed to me at no cost. So if my house burns down, at least I have all of the high res .jpgs stored in the Cloud.
That's our solution! The server is definitely a financial investment, but SO worth it as it's an option you can grow with and feel confident in.
Photographers -- if you are interested in possibly bringing associate photographers on to shoot for your brand and are seeking knowledge on how to build a successful program, I would love to help! For the past two years I have been coaching established business owners on this very topic and I just got back from WPPI where I spoke for 90 minutes on Developing a Successful Associate Photographer Program. I have packaged all this content up into what I believe is a great tool for any photographer seeking to expand their business in this way, and today I'm excited to roll it out at a special discounted price!
My Associate Photographer Program Coaching Package includes all of the following:
A One-Hour Instructional Video An instructional video of me sharing my story and EVERYTHING you need to know to build a successful associate photographer program. I'll share what I've learned, my profit, three keys required for success, and how I've dealt with issues that arise. My philosophy of teaching has always been very open book -- nothing is off-limits -- so I share it all in this one-hour video.
Three Downloadable PDFs Packed with Content Two .pdfs with our complete pricing for each of our two budget ranges for associate weddings, and one 5-page .pdf containing all of our policies & procedures -- a manual of sorts – which also serves as the agreement that all of our associate photographers sign.
A One-Hour Follow-Up Coaching Session A follow-up 1-hour one-on-one coaching session with me over Skype or phone where I will answer any remaining questions you have or help you work through any issues that may arise.
This coaching package is regularly priced at $699, but I'm making it available through the end of March for the discounted price of $499!
While I would recommend the entire package, I am also making the 5-page Policies and Procedures Manual available as a stand alone product for $399 (discounted to $299 through the end of the month).
If you are interested in taking your business to the next level and possibly adding an additional stream of revenue to your brand, click below to sign up!