When I started my business in 2003, I had never taken a business class in my life. I looked on the business majors at college with pity, thinking they must live very boring lives. Me, well I was living it up in the philosophy department. Yep, I know. Super-cool. Tons of exciting action there.

Most photographers -- me included -- start their businesses out of a love for photography, not for business. Photography is what most photographers are passionate about. And as well we should be. As a client, I wouldn't want to entrust a photographer with the most important moments of my life unless they displayed a great deal of passion for their work.

But as we all quickly learn after jumping feet first into the small business photography world, we are forced to spend the majority of our time working on our businesses -- at least 80% of our time -- vs. only getting to spend 20% of our hours at most, on photography. Either that, or we're stubbornly out shooting constantly and wondering why no one is hiring us and our businesses are tanking.

Thankfully, just as quickly as I realized how vital business is to the success of my photography, I also realized that I really enjoyed it. I attended workshops and conferences, read business books and sought out mentors and coaches who were further along the path of business than I was. I devoured knowledge about how to build a successful business and I quickly found I had a new passion.

Ten years later, I can confidently say that I enjoy the business side of what I do as much or even more than the photography side. I love to talk business with other photographers and I love to see young photographers ignite their passion for their businesses at my workshops. But I know that many photographers out there continue to struggle with the business end of things. Because they're wired as artists and not as business owners, they struggle to enjoy the business side and don't give it the attention it deserves and desperately needs.

Today I'm starting a series for photographers who find themselves in this boat. Over the coming months, I will be sharing tips for organizing and systematizing your workflow. And when I say "workflow," I don't mean it in the narrow sense of post-processing. I mean the entire customer experience and set-up of our businesses. In this series I will be sharing what has worked for me in bite-sized pieces and leaving you with action points to implement each month. Fun homework, if you will :).

So, my first task is to try to convince you that systematizing is cool. It truly is. And all the cool kids are doing it :).

Systemizing everything you do is SO important to giving your clients a consistent experience, being able to stay efficient with your workflow, making sure nothing falls through the cracks and creating a business that is scalable and able to handle growth. It doesn't sound cool or important early on in your business when you don't have a ton of clients. I remember the early days of my business when I knew in my head exactly where I was with each client and what I needed from them or what they needed from me. But the goal is growth. 2013 will be my 10th year in business and my studio is projected to shoot nearly 50 weddings (15 for me; 35 for our associates). In addition, I will be speaking at WPPI, teaching three workshops, coaching dozens of photographers one-on-one and running my fledgling album design company servicing hundreds of photography studios. I have a lot of balls in the air. The me of 10 years ago could never have imagined this kind of growth. But thankfully, even though I couldn't in my wildest dreams imagine where I'd be today, I was unknowingly preparing for it by building a foundation that could sustain the growth that was to come.

Eventually you want to be busy enough that you won't be able to keep track of everything in your head. The first time you drop the ball and miss something that impacts your client negatively, you will wish you had systematized your business. And as soon as you have the opportunity to expand from shooting 10 weddings to 20 weddings in a year, you will need to be organized in order to be able to accommodate this growth. So even though it may not seem super-important now, now is exactly when you need to start laying the foundations of your business in a strategic and organized manner.

If you're reading this and you're already shooting 20+ weddings per year and dying a slow death at your computer -- wishing you had time to work on your business rather than for it -- never fear -- there's hope for you too. But it's not going to be as easy for you. You have to make some changes. And those changes require that you extricate yourself from your computer and the urgency of what the next client needs long enough to take a critical look at the big picture of your business and make some changes.

I need you to buy into the concept that systematizing is cool -- and necessary -- in order for anything else I share in this series to make sense. So your challenge before my next post is to read The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Business Don't Work and What to Do About It.
Read it and then read my review of it here and let me know what you think in the comments. This is vital reading for all small-business owners. Make it a priority.

In the coming months I will be sharing more tips and action points for you to implement that will allow you to take your business to the next level and offer your clients an experience that they will not be able to stop raving about. Stay tuned!

Click here to read Part 2 of this series -- Culling Efficiently.

To find out about more resources I offer photographers, click here!
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