Moving from adhoc organisational systems to a centralised system

This is the first in a series of articles written by photographer & Light Blue customer, Nick Church, about how Light Blue has helped him to grow his photography business.

Do what you do best, outsource the rest

To be a successful photographer, your business needs sound marketing, PR and sales strategies as well as outstanding organisation. The chance of one individual excelling at all of the above is low, and the reality is that we are distracted by admin tasks that eat into the time we spend on taking pictures and improving our creativity. In this series of articles I share the various ways how Light Blue Software ring-fences valuable creative time.

When I started Nick Church Photography I had a demanding full time job. Any time spent on business development was snatched in lunch hours and evenings.

With a handful of bookings and occasional consultations, I was on top of the admin. I had a spreadsheet noting wedding dates, another for finance, a calendar for appointments, and booking forms for clients detailing information about the shoot. All very organised, what could go wrong…?

The problem is that all these systems are unlinked. When the calendar prompted a wedding, I’d have to refer to the other spreadsheets, re-read emails and Facebook messages to get the full picture. I’m sure that some clients thought I looked a bit vague in meetings. The truth is that I was often “winging it”!

A spreadsheet set-up is a passive data store so it must be manually driven with a routine process. If you get a text message while you’re out and just once forget to copy-paste this information when back home you will have major problems and a lot of stress. With bookings, email and Facebook enquiries and appointments I felt like I was drowning; having no chance to come up for air before the next wave crashed over me. My creativity and business development was stunted, just at the time I needed it most.

Then two incidents last year made me realise I had to work smarter. Firstly some good friends got engaged and asked me to shoot their wedding. Thrilled, I gave dates I was free so they could book their venue in the knowledge I’d be available. When they contacted me with their confirmed date, I was not available. The new booking was from Instagram, the one system I had not checked.

The second incident was the nightmare we all dread… Mid-way through a call at work a text  came in… “Hi Nick, just checking all is ok, we’re all at the venue and waiting for you. Hope you’re on your way!”.

I had no idea who the message was from or what venue they were at. Eventually when the call finished, in a cold sweat I ran through my systems to find out which clients would be having their day without a photographer… and wondering whether I’d be facing my own day in the small claims court. It turned out not to be wedding I’d missed, but a venue visit. But I’d still been disrespectful of my clients’ time and I’d lost faith in my ability to run my business in this way.

As with all small businesses, photographers need a return on investment and so when I found a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system that had a free tier I gave it a go. This was an improvement, but it would need a lot of customisation time, and it’s true: time is money.

I heard about Light Blue Software’s platform via my professional network and saw that it had the huge advantage of being written by and for photographers. They know what we need and with the free 30 day trial – you’ve got nothing to lose!

After entering two weddings into the system I saw this was the holy grail I’d been looking for. Light Blue automatically sets workflows, gives meeting reminders, there are sections for wedding day agendas, shots requested, contacts, notes, finances, Social Media etc. Critically, all this information is in a single place and linked together logically. Overnight it replaced all my disparate systems and out of the box it was up and running in 10 minutes.

Yes, it is an extra cost to my business, but along with the likes of Adobe Lightroom it is something that I now see as critical to Nick Church Photography. The time and the stress saved by having this ‘second brain’ is priceless.

In following articles I will be discussing other parts of my growing business and how Light Blue Software allows those parts to develop effectively and smoothly.

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