Everybody’s playing catch up at the moment. One effect of the pandemic is that the best part of 2 years of wedding work is seemingly being crammed in to a few short months. Keeping clients content while battling through the edit backlog is a challenge. The risk of burnout is real.
Let’s help you to get on top of the workload.
We’ll look at how you can buy yourself some breathing space by automatically managing your client’s expectations, and also get a clearer view of the work in the pipeline so you can prioritise your energy and spot the bottlenecks before they’re a problem.
As a professional photographer who understands the importance of clear client communication, you may already use a few email templates.
You know the kind: ‘Thanks for getting in touch. I’d be delighted to arrange a chat at a mutually convenient time.’ Or how about: ‘The big day is getting closer! So I thought it would be helpful to confirm a few details.’
But you could feel limited by your current system. Perhaps your set-up is sounding a little too much like a robot stuck in a Groundhog Day of stilted, formulaic replies?
Or maybe you don’t use any templates and spend increasing amounts of time churning out individual emails to clients, saying more or less the same thing?
Here we’re going to explore some of the email template tools available to photographers. And how the very best can deliver a highly personalised, automated and slick experience for both you and your clients.
To share or not to share. That is the question. Deciding whether to include a full price list on your website has been a long-standing conundrum for photographers.
Visit some of your fellow photographers’ websites and you’ll see some take the transparent route: they dedicate a page to detailing precise prices for specific services.
Others keep their charging cards closer to their chest: they simply share a ‘starting from’ price and invite prospects to get in touch for a bespoke quote.
But which approach, if either, is right? And which one will best suit your photography business? In this article, we explore the pros and cons which fuel this controversial decision, and share some ideas about how you can experiment to find the perfect solution for your business.
The coronavirus pandemic is affecting all of us in a variety of ways. We’re a small company and the whole Light Blue team is either currently or previously a professional photographer, so we understand the difficulties that you are going through at the moment.
Being able to measure the impact that the pandemic has had on your business certainly isn’t something that you will want to do, however it is helpful if you are applying for some sort of financial assistance for your business.
This guide walks through how to get the details that could help you.
Using charts to get an overview
The benefit of managing your business with Light Blue is that your data’s all in one place, so the information that you need is already here. So you won’t need to spend ages analysing complicated spreadsheets to get an idea of where you stand.
The charts view is your friend, and here are a few different charts that you could load with a couple of clicks and then present as necessary evidence if required.
Note that I’ve got “cumulative totals” turned on and I’m comparing this year to previous years (feel free to go as far back as you feel is appropriate).
To change the data that your chart is displaying, just tweak the options at the top of the screen.
Enquiries by enquiry date,
As well as taking a look at how things have changed for your business this year, it could be useful for you to take a look at the road ahead so you can take appropriate action.
Identifying bookings at risk of postponement due to the latest restrictions
The lockdown restrictions and rules keep on changing, and in the UK we’ve recently been told that the current restrictions are likely to be in place for six months.
If you’re taking payments for sessions that haven’t happened yet but are at risk of cancelling, there’s a possibility that you may find ourself in a position whereby you need to return some of what’s been paid. We’re not in a position to offer legal advice so if you’re ever in doubt about what you should be doing with regards to cancellations, we recommend consulting an independent legal professional.
Creating custom reports in Light Blue can help to provide the necessary figures in order to manage the potential financial exposure to cancelations of future bookings. That’s a three step process:
1) Find the right records
Use the query tool to search for all of your shoots that are booked over the next 6 months (for example, you can choose another period if you wish).
2) View the list
Then view the results in the List View and customise that view (Window > Customise List View) to show the information that you’re most interested in.
3) Save a custom report
Finally, save the query and list view settings as a custom report so you can view the most up to date information again in the future with a few clicks.
Forecasting your potential income
Getting a clear picture of when you’re going to receive income is very important and helpful at the best of times, but during this unprecedented period of uncertainty your businesses ability to forecast its income is essential.
No forecasting model is going to be iron clad, but the ability for you to look ahead will allow you to remove some of the guesswork from this situation and help you to make some informed decisions.
The money coming in to your business is just one part of the equation and even with a reduction in work you will still encounter a certain amount of fixed costs necessary for keeping the business going.
If you’ve been recording your businesses expenditure within Light Blue then it’s fairly quick to get a picture of the fixed costs that you’ve incurred this year. It may also be helpful to look at the figures for last year in order to establish a trend.
Using the query tool, search for purchases that haven’t been linked to shoots and also haven’t been categorised in a way that indicates that they’re a cost of sales. The advanced options allow you to be more precise in your search.
Then you can customise the list view to show the columns that are most relevant to you, and group the purchases by year so that you can compare this years fixed costs to those of previous years.
What do professional photographers and the world’s biggest music stars have in common?
They all like selling albums.
Terrible jokes aside, a steady income stream from a beautifully curated and printed album will be welcomed by all wedding photographers.
The images will tell the story of an incredible wedding day, a memento for clients to treasure for generations to come. From the nerve-jangling bridal preparations to the joy of the first dance, wedding albums are a truly unique collection of special images.
Some clients will definitely want to order one or a couple. Some may say no thanks and stick to their decision. Others will be unsure and may need to be convinced of their value and charm.
Here we outline Suzanne’s approach to subtly upselling wedding albums to happy couples.
Do you find that you’re ending up with more than one enquiry for the same date, and that you aren’t able to fulfil both of those enquiries? As shoots are being rescheduled and postponed as a result of the ongoing pandemic, it’s very likely that you’ll have more than one client interested in booking you for the same date.
Is there an alternative to losing the booking entirely?
You might consider engaging an associate photographer on a freelance/contract basis to help you to cover the overflow. Alternatively, if you work as part of a lead & second shooter team, you could assign your usual second shooter as the lead photographer on the additional shoot and then contract a replacement second shooter for your original shoot.
For either situation, the approach is similar so we’ll cover both of those below.
Allocating resources to shoots
Light Blue has the concept of “Resources” (staff, equipment, and rooms) that can be allocated to shoots and appointments. Light Blue will warn you if you’ve got more than one shoot happening at the same time, unless you’ve got different staff assigned to each shoot – after all, you can’t be in two places at once!
By adding associate photographers as resources and then linking them to shoot records, you’re able to easily see which jobs have been allocated to which photographers. You can also assign roles within a shoot to each resource, so you know who’s doing what.
The powerful and flexible reporting tools in Light Blue also come in handy here. By setting up some saved queries to show all of your shoots which have been allocated to associates and those which are awaiting allocation, you’re able to easily get an overview without any hassle or guesswork.
Giving your team members the details that they need
Once you’ve got your associate lined up for the job, they’ll need to know the important details so that they can go to work.
It’s possible to give different staff members access to your Light Blue account with a variety of access restrictions, depending on their role. However, giving a freelancer access to your account wouldn’t be a sensible approach.
From the Shoot record it’s possible to produce a PDF summary of a shoot, which contains the important details like the schedule & location(s), requests, notes and contact information. Creating that summary is done by clicking the Print/Send button from the Shoot record. That’s a useful thing to print for your own shoots, too, so that you’ve always got the necessary details to hand.
You can also create some email templates which include the relevant shoot details, so that you can send that info to your associate in an email in a couple of clicks.
Mail-merge tags can be used within email templates to customise the message and make it relevant to the shoot it’s linked to. It’s important to note that where you’re using mail-merge tags in email templates that are added to a wedding, Light Blue will merge the contact information of the linked contacts with roles of Bride, Groom or Partner. That means that if your email starts “Hi %contactfirstname%”, it’ll merge “Hi Sam & Jo” (the wedding couple) not “Hi Tony” (the associate photographer that you’re sending the email to). It’s best to keep that part of your associate emails generic; you have the opportunity to manually personalise further if required.
Handling the important financial and contractual details with your associates
As well as handling your staffing by allocating resources to shoots, you’ll also want to manage your finances. By adding the associate as a contact record – as well as a resource, they’re two different things – you’re able to add the associate as the supplier in a purchase record to note the fee that they’re charging to you. Don’t forget to mark that purchase as paid once you’ve settled up with them.
Light Blue’s online contract signing system can help you to send an associate/second shooter contract so that you are all clear on the terms of your engagement. To do that:
start by creating an Associate/Second Shooter contract template,
then link the associate photographer’s contact record to the shoot record in question (remember that contacts and resources are different things).
Now go to the Activity tab of the shoot and add the contract.
Make sure that your clients (who’ll already be linked contacts) are not checked as signatories to this particular contract. You only want your associate to be the signatory.
You won’t need to include a form or any quote or booking fee information.
Working as a second/associate photographer for someone else
You may also find yourself with available dates which you’re keen to fill, and are able to help a fellow photographer out by working as their associate or second photographer.
Here’s some quick tips on how to manage that in your own copy of Light Blue:
Consider adding a separate shoot type for associate photographer work. This allows you to easily see how much of this sort of work you’re doing.
Create a separate price list for associate photographer work. You’ll be charging different rates as an associate/second photographer, compared to the rates that you’re charging to your own clients. A separate price list means that you can assemble your invoices quickly and easily.
Set up an “Associate/Second Shooter” workflow. You won’t be going through all of the same steps as an associate photographer compared to when you’re managing the whole project yourself (for example you may only perform an initial cull of images and won’t handle any other post production). By adding this workflow to the shoot date, you’ll be able to deliver to the lead photographer in a timely fashion.
While shoots and projects are being postponed, rescheduled or cancelled, you will find that there’s a need to alter existing financial arrangements with some of your clients.
This article covers some of the more common situations you may face for refunding money, cancelling invoices or deferring the date when you’ll be asking for payment. There’s lots of variables here, so if you’re in any doubt, please reach out to us for help.
In situations where your client has given you money that you are returning to them, you are undergoing the process of issuing a refund. The following video walks through the steps to take in that case:
Cancelling an unpaid invoice
There will be situations where you’d raised an invoice which is yet to be paid, but will no longer be perusing the amount at all. To cancel that invoice to show that you’re not collecting that money, you’ll need to issue a credit note. The following video covers the relevant steps:
Asking for an unpaid invoice to be paid later
You may encounter situations where you’d raised an invoice and you’ve agreed with your client that it’ll be due some time later, instead of being due to be paid in the near future.
You can visit the sale record in question and adjust the payment due date so that the sale won’t appear as being overdue until after the new due date.
You might find it easier to issue a credit note for the original invoice and then set a reminder to raise a new one later, however there’s some value in seeing invoices that are outstanding but due in the future so that you can (as much as possible) forecast your expected income. We’ve got another post on forecasting your income, which you can read here.
Schedule an invoice to be sent automatically at a later date
If you’ve prepared an invoice for your client and agreed to send it at a particular time in the future, then Light Blue’s email scheduling feature can help you here.
First of all, prepare the invoice with an appropriate payment due date. Choose to email the invoice as a PDF and write the body of the email but don’t hit send!
Instead, use the schedule button to choose when the email will get sent. Light Blue will send that email automatically on the date and time of your choosing, so you can forget about it and carry on with other things.
Alternatively add a task to the activity tab of the sale to remind you to send the invoice later.
If you’re publishing the invoice for online payment, then you could publish the invoice without sending the publication email (by unchecking the “Send the following email when the invoice is published” checkbox), then copy the invoice URL and paste into an email that you’ll schedule later.
You might need to reach out to your clients to give them an update on your policy regarding the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. We’ve seen some of these emails that photographers are sending out being reported as spam by the recipients, which can damage your ability to get emails delivered to clients’ inboxes. We’re here to help you to ensure that your message gets to those contacts safely.
Using the right tool at the right time
Light Blue is designed to send “everyday” emails to your clients and is very good at doing so: dealing with new enquiries, responding to your clients’ messages, automated appointment reminders, and so on.
However, when you’re interested in sending a message to a large group of contacts at once (I’m defining ‘large’ as anything more than about 20 contacts in this context) then specialist marketing tools are a better fit for making sure that those messages reach your audience. Sending lots of marketing emails from your own email address risks damaging the reputation of your email account, making it substantially less likely that your prospects (or paying clients) will receive your messages, that’s why it’s best to use a tool that’s designed for the job.
Mass marketing tools like Mailchimp & Active Campaign put a LOT of effort into establishing best practices and building a reputation with the major email providers. They’ve got teams of engineers working on this stuff every day. That means that the major email providers know that what’s being sent via a tool like Mailchimp or Active Campaign probably isn’t spam, and that if any of their users report it as spam Mailchimp and Active Campaign will sort it out really quickly.
Some of the major email providers (especially Hotmail, Outlook and Gmail) are getting a lot stricter about what they consider to be spam and even one bulk email could affect your ability to deliver emails to your clients both now and in the future. Using a tool that won’t leave your email address (and our servers by association) on a blocklist is essential!
Setting up Mailchimp or Active Campaign is really easy to do, and worth doing even for sending out a single important message like this.
How to export your client’s email addresses for use with a mass emailing tool
Light Blue’s mailing list opt-in feature and querying tools will help you to make sure that you’re not sending emails to clients who might report your message as spam.
After you’ve found the records that you’re interested in by using Light Blue’s querying tools, you can export a list of those email addresses. Simply click on the Records menu, choose ‘Export’, then ‘Export Email Addresses’ – you will then be able to save a CSV file which can be uploaded into your mass marketing tool of choice to get the message to your clients.
As always, we’re here to help so please get in touch if you need any help from us with contacting your clients.