Getting to grips with the Task Manager in Light Blue

In any photography business, you’re going to have things that you need to get done in order to deliver great service and pictures to your clients. Running a small business means that you’ve got to do everything from responding to new enquiries through to handing over finished products to your client, and all of the steps in between!

Light Blue helps you to make sure that you’re keeping on top of your to-do list with tasks. Tasks are reminders for the things that you need to get done, and once you’ve set them up then you can concentrate on other things until Light Blue shows you that you need to start thinking about them again.

One of the first things that we recommend to customers when they are setting up Light Blue is that you create some workflows. A workflow is a series of tasks, emails, text messages, and appointments that walks you through all of the steps that you want this type of shoot to go through. You can keep it really simple with just a few key milestones, or you can get more detailed and even include automated messages that will be sent out to your clients.

If you’re not familiar with setting up workflows, this is a really handy tutorial: Setting up workflows

The tasks you create as part of your workflows can be viewed in the activity panel of the shoot:

The Task Manager on the home screen gives you a handy overview of tasks from all of your shoots:

You can create your own customised view of the Task Manager by grouping by Due Date, Categories, Staff member, or Linked Record. e.g. if you choose to group by Categories you can see all the image editing that you need to do.

The Task Manager also lets you filter by Due Date. This is a really handy way to not get overwhelmed by your to-do list, because you can choose just to view the tasks you need to do today.

While workflows are great for creating tasks that you do regularly, sometimes you may have one-off tasks you want to do. For example, creating a new wedding brochure. It’s not a task that would be linked to a shoot but it’s still something important that you want to remember to do. You can create tasks from the Task Manager.

To create a task in the Task Manager, you click on the green + button at the top.

For each task, you can choose a due date, assign member of staff, link a record, and select an optional category.

By adding all the things you need to do both with shoots and the other areas of your business, you get a clear idea of your workload. Light Blue helps you stay on top of all of those tasks, without them getting out of hand.

For a full run-through of task management within Light Blue, we have this handy webinar.

Customer stories – Lynne Kennedy

Lynne Kennedy is based in the far north-west of Scotland, next to the Isle of Skye, where she specialises in photographing elopements and small weddings. The majority of her shoots are on Skye but she occasionally travels a little further afield to another island or remote part of the mainland. She’s been photographing weddings since 2007.

“I wish I’d started using Light Blue years ago. It really would have made such a difference but I’m just glad I am (almost) utilising it fully now and feel so much more organised in my business. “

“I was using Excel spreadsheets and a paper diary! Until my friend Suzanne Black visited and said she wasn’t leaving until she taught me the basics. Since then, I have never looked back!”

So what is it that Lynne loves about Light Blue?

“I am pretty bad at time management and even though Light Blue has helped me so much since I started using it, I still don’t know what I’ve done with the time! But I love how organised I am now – I feel much more on top of my business and a lot more disciplined about sending out correspondence to clients and making sure I get paid.”

“It’s really handy to be able to send a text to enquiring customers to say I’ve emailed them my information because my emails tend to go in the junk all the time.”

Lynne can be out of the office a lot with her shoots, so finds Light Blue’s iOS app very handy because she can use it even when she doesn’t have phone signal.

“It’s worth having as sometimes you might be out of the office for a few days and not otherwise have access to that information.”

She will happily tell people that she is not the most “techy” person and says she has found the support from Light Blue a great help.

“I’ve spoken to Ian a couple of times and he is really incredible and helpful. I realised I’d been doing something wrong with my invoicing and he was very kind and patient and explained it so thoroughly for me. I feel now that no matter what it is I can’t figure out, even if I think it’s not worth bothering him, I really should, rather than trying to work it out myself, because he can point me in the right direction much more quickly.”

We asked Lynne what other tools have helped her business.

“I love Todoist and that is definitely an app that is worth the money and I’ve been using it every day to keep on top of projects and things I don’t use Light Blue for. Also, QuickBooks is fantastic and my next project is to learn how to integrate that with Light Blue.”

“Once you start using Light Blue, you’ll not be able to understand how you managed without it.”

Lynne Kennedy

Lynne Kennedy Photography

Using Light Blue to follow up enquiries

Do you follow up on enquiries? You could be missing out on work. We loved this tweet from Graham Carruthers.

It can be difficult to keep on top of enquiries, but with Light Blue you can set up a workflow that automatically follows up enquiries. Workflows can be used to add a series of tasks, emails, or text messages to a shoot.

A really simple enquiry workflow might include a task to respond to an enquiry, then an automated email for 5 days later to follow up.

When you’re setting up your workflow you can choose to create a task, appointment, email, or text message. Select the email template you wish to use and decide how long after your initial response you want to follow up. You can choose the time of day you would like the email to send.

Once you have created your enquiry workflow, go to your preferences and set this as your default workflow for enquiries.

When you receive an enquiry and create a new shoot click on the add workflow button beside the enquiry date.

This lets you add your enquiry workflow to the shoot. It will automatically select the default enquiry workflow you selected in preferences along with the enquiry date.

Any workflow items will be added to your activity panel.

If you also look in your Outbox you’ll see any scheduled emails and text messages ready to send.

We’d love to hear how following up on your enquiries has lead to more bookings. Get in touch and tell us if it’s helped!

Using quotes to forecast income in Light Blue

We know that one of the most important parts of your business admin is being able to forecast accurately. Being able to know exactly what is happening in your business at any time helps you to plan for the future.

With Light Blue, you can run various reports to check your business finances, one very useful one is the ‘Income Forecast’ report. This uses the quotes function in Light Blue so will be really handy for wedding and commercial photographers (who often use quotes when confirming a booking with a client).

To run the report select Reports > ‘Custom Reports’ > ‘Income Forecast’ to create an income forecast. This will bring up all quotes with a status of “Accepted” or “Awaiting Invoicing”.

The information from these searches and reports is displayed in the list view, where you can see all of the records that meet your given criteria. The default view shows a list of all future income due grouped by the date the quote was created.

You may want to preview your projected income from a particular type of work over a given period. In that case, you can use Light Blue’s powerful querying tools to find the information that you need

Maybe there’s a month you’re not very busy with weddings and want to run a portrait promotion to fill the shortfall for that month? Without planning you don’t know where your income gaps are.

You can use the query function to search for your expected income over a particular period. In this example we have run a query for quotes where the shoot type is “Weddings” and the start date is “In Next Calendar Year” and the status is “Accepted”. This will show us all next year’s wedding where the client had accepted a quote.

You can adjust the columns within the list view to show whatever you find useful. By going to Window > “Customise List View” and you’ll see this dialog. To view the balance due each month, simply add the “Balance Due”, “Shoot Title” and “To Invoice” fields to the “Columns” section, then make sure they are grouped by “Balance Due Month”.

By using the “To Invoice” column it takes account of the booking fee already paid so this will give you a really clear idea of your monthly wedding income forecast for next year.

How do you use the reports in Light Blue? We’d love to hear how you find Light Blue helps you to keep track of your business!

Using Light Blue to handle large numbers of leads

As a wedding or portrait photographer, there are times you need to handle large numbers of leads. You might attend a number of wedding fairs throughout the year and need an easy way to handle all the contacts from that, or maybe you run a busy portrait studio and need to manage lists of leads sent to you. Light Blue can help!

Let’s look at each situation separately.

Wedding fair leads

A popular way for a wedding photographer to get leads is to take a stand at a wedding fair. Some of these can be big multi-day shows, so you need an easy way to get the details of all the couples you chat to and be able to follow up with them afterwards. You may also want to check leads against a date to make sure you are free.

A really simple way would be to set up a form in Light Blue, then get couples to fill in their details using an iPad or your laptop. These leads would then appear in your inbox. You can manage them in the same way that you would any other lead that you get in your inbox, by importing as a new shoot record.

A typical workflow you might add could include an email to remark on how nice it was to meet the contact and send them some information, then a follow-up phone call a few days later, and possibly a reminder text message to reach out to them as well.

Portrait studio leads

Whilst they may also attend fairs like school or summer fairs to get portrait leads, a lot of portrait studios need a way to handle large numbers of leads that they either purchase or gather through promotions.

With large quantities of portrait leads, we recommend importing these as contacts rather than shoots. These leads are often termed ‘warm’ or ‘cold’ and you won’t convert as many as you would a ‘hot’ lead that you have already spoken to. Rather than having lots of these leads as unconfirmed shoots, it’s easier to add them to Light Blue as contacts.

Quite often you’ll have these in a spreadsheet, and it’s really simple to import these into these straight into Light Blue. Make sure they’re saved as a .csv file then go to the Records menu and use the ‘Import Contacts From CSV’ command.

When importing contacts into Light Blue from a spreadsheet, it will automatically create a quick query that allows you to find the information. Quick queries are saved searches of your current data. You can create your own quick queries using the query dialog. To find out more about quick queries, have a look at this blog post:

Using Quick Queries to find information in Light Blue

Once you’ve imported your leads into Light Blue, you’ll want to call them to get them booked in for a shoot. You could use workflows to apply a series of tasks to a set of records.

First, make sure you have selected the saved query from your leads and then select ‘Add to Found Set’ from the Records menu. This gives you the option to add workflows, send text messages, or add tags to the set of leads. A typical workflow you might add could include a task to make an initial phone call to the lead, then a follow-up phone call a few days later, and possibly a text message to them as well.

When the contact gives some indication that they are interested in booking, then you could create a shoot record linked to the contact to help to convert that into a confirmed shoot and manage things as you normally would.

How are you using Light Blue to run your marketing promotions? We’d love to hear how you find Light Blue helps you to keep on top of successful promotions!

Light Blue 8.1.2

We’ve released Light Blue 8.1.2, which is another free update to everyone who subscribes to our online services or has bought Light Blue 8. This is a minor update that adds new features and fixes bugs that were reported after the launch of Light Blue 8.1.

  • Using “partner” as a contact role now supports all of the same features as using “bride” or “groom”. For shoots with a type of “wedding” or “weddings”, this applies to automatically setting the title, automatically selecting contract signatories when you add a new contract, mail-merge tags that use the couple’s details, and the “wedding couple” section in your forms and questionnaires. The default role for wedding couple controls on forms is now “partner” rather than “bride”. We’ve also added %ShootPartner1FirstName%, %ShootPartner1LastName%, %ShootPartner2FirstName%, and %ShootPartner2LastName% mail-merge tags, which use the first and second contacts with roles of “bride”, “groom”, or “partner” (or their localised equivalents) linked to a shoot.
  • Flagged more mail-merge tags as being available in workflow messages.
  • Added a “Mark As Unread” button to the Inbox and in the incoming email dialog.
  • When accepting a contract with a linked form, the form import dialog’s “Import” button is no longer disabled if there isn’t any updated information to import. This makes it simpler to get forms from repeat clients who haven’t changed their details off your Inbox’s pending list!
  • If you’re password protecting your copy of Light Blue, the staff login dialog is now displayed immediately after your initial data download or a client app reset sync.
  • On Windows, the “Check For Updates” command now downloads the installer much faster. n.b. this will apply to updates that you download from Light Blue 8.1.2 onwards, so downloading this update won’t be any faster.
  • When renaming the “Ungrouped requests” shoot requests group, default the name to that rather than “New group”.
  • Our QuickBooks export now includes separate rows for any percentage discount that has been applied to an invoice.
  • %EventX% tags in a workflow email preview could show the wrong value when linked to an event other than the shoot’s start date.
  • Fixed a rare crash that could occur when generating picture thumbnails.
  • Fixed a problem with the “Issue Refund” button on fully paid invoices, where the credit note would be created with the wrong sign.
  • Fixed some timezone irregularities with displaying incoming emails’ received dates.
  • Fixed a glitch where the calendar resource view includes column titles at top of timed section as well as the all-day section.
  • Fixed a problem where multi-date calendar notes linked to specific resources don’t show the note description on any day other than the first day.
  • Fixed an encoding problem that could occur when exporting a tax report to CSV.
  • Fixed unexpected quits that have been reported to us.