Over the last couple years as I’ve talked to new photographers and mentored some that are starting out, the question often comes up abut what some of the best business decisions are that I’ve made. This list was actually quite easy to make, because they are 5 areas that have been game-changers for my business. The things that make my life easier, allow me to serve my clients better, and have been key to business growth. So, I give you….
I signed up for ShootQ within 6 months on opening my business. I can’t sing their praises enough. ShootQ has allowed me to keep tabs on all contracts and payments in one location. It allows me to pre-script emails and questionnaires that automatically get sent to clients through the duration of their engagement, which is a HUGE timesaver. It also automatically send clients invoice reminders, and allows them to pay online via credit card. Prior to using ShootQ, I would have clients email me and say “I’m so sorry I forgot to send your payment out!!” and, honestly, I didn’t have a clue. Excel spreadsheets are not my thing and, for the most part, I trusted them to pay. 5 years, and a lot of clients later, I am so glad I made the decision early on to utilize ShotoQ’s studio management software. There are also features in there for workflow and other management capabilities, but I don’t use those.
Prior to using Showit, I had a template website – one that looked identical to so many other photographers. When I found Showit, I realized I had hit the jackpot. With Showit, I am allowed to customize my website 100%. If I can dream it up, I can likely make it happen. In addition to being fully customizable, I can do it all myself! For this non-techy person who has zero knowledge on web design coding, it is a such a huge relief to be able to change anything on my website whenever I want. Lastly, a Showit subscription comes wit the bonus of unlimited “plus sites”, sub sites that I can make for clients, vendors, other secret pages for my website, etc. A plus site is anyextension.aliciaannphotographers.com and is, also, fully customizable.
3. Learning my gear
There is a huge trend in the industry to be one of the firsts to buy all the latest gear, accessories, actions, presets, and other things for your business. In almost 6 years of being business, I can probably count on one hand the times I’ve made a purchase of something that I didn’t end up using. For me, it has always been key to learn and know the gear I have very well before adding any additional gear. I worked my 5D and 50mm unlike any other and it wasn’t until I really felt like I was ready for an upgrade that I got the 5D Mark ii, and eventually the 5D Mark iii. The same goes for lenses – I only added one to my collection when I felt like it was absolutely necessary and I had a specific purpose in mind for it. I often see on forums, blogs, ad Facebook groups how photographers ask “what lens/camera did you use for that shot???”, as though purchasing that specific lens or camera will guarantee their images looking as nice. The bottom line – know your gear. I’ve seen plenty of photographers produce beautiful, incredible work, on a basic SLR with a basic lens. While professional gear definitely helps, knowing how to make the most out f that gear is most important
4. Hiring an accountant/bookeeper
Lord. This one. Similarly to how I adore ShootQ for studio management, I am head over heels in love with my accountant/bookkeeper. Maybe not literally, but close. Working with a general business manager who takes care of my finances, taxes and bookkeeping has literally allowed me to sleep so soundly at night. Every year, April comes around and I get so stressed about having to meet with her, but she always say “Alicia, just keep making money. I’ll handle the rest for you”. It is SUCH A RELIEF to have someone you can trust to handle tax payments, quarterly statements, etc. I mail her all my receipts, and she does the rest. She sends me quarterly P&L’s so that I can see where I am compared to the previous year and, in general, keeps me sane.
5. Learning SEO
This has been absolutely pivotal and instrumental for my business. When I was new to the industry, I had a lot of extra time on my hands and I used that time studying SEO as much as I could. Currently 75% of my leads come from SEO. My go-to for a lot of SEO related stuff has been Lawrence Chan of Tofurious. The majority of what I have learned has come from his brilliant techniques.