Jan 232017
 
How to make your work flow through your Workflow

Workflow, what is it?

Workflow is about as individual as your small business. It’s a series of processes that begin the first time a potential client contacts you to the point where you delivered your goods or services and are on to the next job. Actually it starts a bit earlier, if you want to including marketing and branding.  Or maybe you’re running a couple of jobs concurrent, in which case it’s even more important to understand your workflow. A plan on how all your business processes work together makes your work flow smoothly.

work·flow ˈwərkflō/ noun 

the sequence of industrial, administrative, or other processes through which a piece of work passes from initiation to completion.

Work-flow solutions: 2 schools of thought

There are more than one way to skin a cat and the same is true for your workflow. There’s really not only one right way that workflow works. They are as personal to you as many other decisions you make in your small business.

In my mind there are two schools of thought when it comes to working with a workflow solution:

1) Make the solution fit your workflow
2) Make your workflow fit your solution

Shotflow – making your work fit someone else’s workflow

Solutions like Shoot Flow fall under the first. They are solutions specific to one type of photography. In the case of Shoot Flow, it’s for wedding photographers. Zach and Jody Grey took their experience at shooting weddings and built a workflow solution around it. They basically let you duplicate the way they work a wedding.

The upside – especially for the inexperienced wedding shooter – is that you get a step by step roadmap to how to work a bride and grooms day. Zach and Judy do a fantastic job, not just on shooting weddings, but also in how they work with their client before and after that day.

In my mind the downside is that you are going to workflow weddings just like they do. I’ve never used shootflow (I don’t shoot weddings) and I know you can customize some of the way it works, but it’s not like what I use.

[Please don’t misunderstand me here. I am not dissing shootflow or other solutions like it. In fact I believe it’s vital that we all have a well-integrated solution of our own.]

Creating a custom workflow solution to fit your workflow

My customized solution follows my business processes. This doesn’t make it necessarily more expensive, but it does make my workflow solution match my workflow. I use a Customer Relationship Management system as the backbone of my workflow solution. It’s called SalesForce and is one of the largest CRMs in the world. SalesForce aggregates all information I have about a clients, accounts, jobs, ect into one place and since it’s this huge service it integrates with pretty much everything. For instance I use Evernote to … 

Jun 232016
 
Productivity with a Post-It note

Productivity is a must as every Small Business Owner wear many hats: sales rep, customer service rep, accountant, ect. Fortunately there is a ton of great software to help us do all those jobs, but we still have to create all the digital assets necessary to use these apps, services and websites productively.

The Problem with Productivity

Setting up a digital workflow is only as good as the information you put into it and -especially when things get hectic- it’s easy to miss setting things up correctly.

In my workflow as a product photographer is use
Evernote to organize and store all digital documents – creative briefs, model releases, estimates, permits, notes, ect.

SalesForce is my Customer Service Management service of choice. It keeps tracks of accounts, contacts, leads, opportunities, expenses, ect. and links automatically to Evernote, Expensify and Trello.

I’ve just started using
Trello to give me a clear picture of all current projects and tasks and Expensify builds expense reports easily and quickly, that I then import into QuickBooks.

Solving the Productivity Puzzle

Productivity via Post-It notesHow do I remember to add a Note and Tag in Evernote, that will help you organize a new job? Then there’s the opportunity that I have to setup in SalesForce if I want a bin, that will collect and correlate all information I need to have at my fingertips; a new list needs to be created on Trello and the expense report need to be created in Expensify.

Don’t laugh, but a little Post-It note does all that for me. Automatically.

I use Evernote to get this process rolling:

  • Pink Post-It’s are leads. That’s potential clients who have reached out to me and are inquiring about having product photography and/or video creates.
  • Yellow Notes are opportunities. These are the projects where I’m meeting with clients, pitching ideas and creating estimates.
  • Green Sticky Notes are jobs. Deposits are, production has started and we’re creating amazing visual content.
  • (There’s a blue note as well, but I don’t use that for my business)

The yellow Post-It kicks it off

As soon as I capture a yellow Post-It note, Evernote saves it in my opportunities notebook automatically (Evernote lets you assign notebooks based on the colors of the notes). All I do is save the note named with the job number associated with this opportunity.

Zapier takes over

As soon as that note gets saved, Zapier takes over and creates a SalesForce opportunity with the job number (which it gets from Evernote), builds a new Trello list with the same job number, captures an expense in Expensify tagged with that identifier (I hope that soon it can create a report), creates an Evernote tag – which will be used to be able to search all documents about that job and finally sends me a SMS to my phone. Done. That was not hard.

At the end of the day one photo of this Post-It Note creates all the digital assets I use in my day-to-day workflow.

How do you solve your productivity puzzle?


[Wanna learn more about how I use apps, web services and applications to run a more productive small business?]

Jan 222016
 

Master your productivity with 11 amazing tools

With every passing year, it seems clients are expecting more and more from their photographers, which means we may need a lesson in productivity. Kat Dalager (@3etheLTAgency) goes even further and foresees the change of the very word photographer in her “Predictions for 2016“:

“The word ‘photographer’ will change. Maybe it will be ‘image maker’ or ‘content maker’ or ‘capturer.’ Whatever it is, it will reflect the expanded capabilities of the role.”

I agree with her and believe that in order to embrace the ever-increasing roles we find ourselves pushed into, we must become exceedingly efficient in our productivity. 2016 will be the year, where I take that productivity to the next level, integrating the technology, cloud based services, apps and automation software I use in my business.

Here are 11 tools that help me, solve my productivity puzzle:

Salesforce & Evernote

The backbone for this virtual productivity is SalesForce – the CRM that’s been running my business for over 7 years now. Every account, contact and job lives in this cloud based service [learn more about SalesForce here: “I got my head in the cloud (along with all my data)“].

This year is the year where this automation will get flushed out. I’m already using the amazing integration between Evernote and SalesForce, which allows me to attach all job related records automatically. Now any creative brief, handwritten note, job estimate, permit, release, receipt, rental agreement, … is tagged with a job number in Evernote and appears in the digital job folder in SalesForce as if by Magic.

Asana, Zapier & IFTTT

Every job, event and task that get entered in SalesForce automatically creates a counterpart in Asana, via Zappier. Asana is my project management software, where I can split up a job in an actionable To Do list. Every contact that’s added on my phone is automatically entered in SalesForce via IFTTT (IfThisThenThat). Zapier and IFTTT are two amazing automation softwares that enable you to use apps and cloud based services to stay productive.

Dec 302015
 
9 great gadgets for 2016

9 great Gadgets for 2016

There are tools, apps, gadgets that make our life easier, more productive and better organized. Let me share 9 gadgets that are (almost) always on me:

  1. Skeletool – Leatherman’s multi-purpose tool has only a few functions, but this analog tool is a thing of beauty. I’ve rarely seen an instrument that is so well thought out and put together as this one is. The Skeletool gadget is always in my pocket (unless I’m flying). It’s masterful design is a beauty to behold, but it’s very simplicity belies the real usefulness: a solid set of multi function pliers, a strong blade, a set of 4 screwdrivers (you gotta see how the one you’re not using is stored – it’s amazing), a bottle opener / carabiner is worth carrying around 5 oz of steel.
  2. iPhone 6s – Apples phones carry an insane amount of customizable apps on them, that I can almost not imagine working without one today. From shooting photos for scouting and live streaming directly from the phone, to integrating the mobile side of my business, the gadget is truly my virtual assistant.
  3. Lifeproof case – has protected my iPhones since I bought the first iteration of this case for my iPhone 4 years ago. These cases are waterproof, they protect your phone from drops (the physical ones and the ones made from any liquid) and help you ensure that your phone survives the rigors of working in some pretty crazy environments. It’s the analog armor, that keeps my digital life protected. A gadget that protects another gadget, who knew.
  4. 9 gadgets 500LIV watch – in this digital world I love an analog time piece, that’s tough and stylish. Being on time is part of producing excellent work and there are so many other things I need to time (from long exposures of night shots to duration of time lapses) that this beauty keeps me punctual. Actually I feel bad calling this a gadget – it’s more a practical piece of Art (and one of my clients).
  5. Evernote – is my digital memory. It holds electronic copies of my contacts, notes, creative briefs, ideas, … and so much more. It lives on my iPhone, when I’m not in front of the computer and is connected to my digital brain SalesForce, that also lives on my mobile device. Yup, gadgets can be digital as well.
  6. Moleskine notebook – I’m a fan of writing, theres something to be said about putting pen(cil) to paper; actually there are studies out there that say you’ll remember something you wrote, better than something you typed. Drawings, sketches, scribbles, outlines, notes and so much more live in this paper notebook. Much of it is digitized and synced with Evernote. That app keeps on surprising me, especially when it actually can read my handwriting – it’s an old school gadget that’s actually quite brilliant.
  7. GoalZero Switch 8 – power is something we never seem to have enough of and often we need to top off another power hungry gadget, that’s where this little USB chargeable battery comes in. It allows me to carry an extra charge for my phone or GoPro in my pocket.
  8. Swiss Army cable – You gotta be able to get that power into your phone/camera/device though and carrying around a handful of charging cables kind of defeats the purpose. Here’s a cool USB charging cable, that bridges the digital generations: from the old 30 pin connection, via USB micro and the modern lighting adapter, this gadget can charge pretty much anything you throw at it.
  9. BeastGrip – Ok. So this one’s not always on me, but it’s always in my bag. The beastgrip is the best gadget for your iPhone as it let’s you shoot stable video, add accessories like a monitor and an external mic, if you want to get serious. It also has a dedicated depth of field adapter, that let’s you film with your DSLR lenses. You wanna up your mobile video game? Look no farther than Beastgrip. It’s spring loaded clamp lets me use my iPhone inside my lifeproof case – a gadget inside a gadget inside a gadget – almost sounds like inception to me …

Analog and digital gadgets

I love both worlds – the break neck pace of digital, with all the productivity it offers and the old school analog world of notebooks and knives. What are the gadgets you can’t live without?

Nov 242015
 
Prospects to Hot Leads

You’re at a _________________________ (trade show, conference, business meeting, fill in the blank) where one of a few prospects hands you their business card.

You know that in order to turn prospects into hot leads you need to follow-up with them. Soon, which means you have to …

  1. enter their contact info into your address book, so you can email or call them later
  2. put their business card into your (physical or digital) Rolodex, so you can find it
  3. create a reminder in your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, so you remember to follow-up with them
  4. send them a LinkedIn invitation

… but who has time for all that, especially if you’re meeting a couple of new prospects.

Then you look at the card and notice, that is only has the prospects company name and website, a ‘info@’ email address and a phone number, but nothing else. You’re gonna tell me that you remember the name of all the prospects you met at the event, if you wait to enter their data until that evening?

Make your prospecting bullet proof

What if there was a way, where you could have the business card scanned and read by an app? That would be pretty cool. How about an app that could go and find the missing info (name, job title, personal email address, …) automatically? Now we’re talkin’, right? What if all this info is entered into your address book with a simple click? Still not good enough? What else would you like it to do? Make a LinkedIn connection? Schedule the CRM reminder? Put the business card into your Rolodex?

I’d pay good money for the ability to go back to the office and have all that happen automatically – you can’t get much better than that, right?

Hang on to your hats, ladies and gentlemen, it’s even better than that. I’d like to introduce you to Scannable, Evernote‘s smart scanning app. Not only does it do all this (well almost all of it), but it does it in real-time.

Convert prospects into hot leads with SannableBack to that business card you got handed to you by one of the new prospects you were talking to. Just this time you pull out your smart phone, launch Scannable and you’re pretty much done. The app finds the card in front of the phone, scans it, reads the information, goes to LinkedIn, pulls the missing information from the prospects LinkedIn profile, and places all the info into the right fields of your address book, which you can save in your address book and Evernote with a simple click. All this takes about 60 seconds and remember all you did was launch an app and hold the card in front of your phone’s camera.

While Scannable does all of this, I can go on chatting with the prospects, learning more about how I can help them create great visual content for the project they’re working on. I finish the conversation with one simple question “Would you mind, if I’d send you a LinkedIn request?” and thanks to Scannable, I can do that as they say “Sure, why not.

Oh, I forgot to mention the price of this service, although by now you’d agree that it will save you not only time, but also convert your prospects into hot leads (which is a little hard to put a price on): it’s free. I know, right?

Nov 242015
 
Cloud based business

How much more productive would you be, if you could …

…automatically answer every online contact request with a branded, personalized email from your company and get an alert to new inquiries via text, email and SMS from the cloud?

…enter each business card you’re handed into your cloud based address book and automatically pull in data from the card owner’s LinkedIn profile?

… see the last activity you had scheduled with that person, the client account associated with him or her and have the personal contact info from your cloud based client database on your screen when you look up a client on LinkedIn?

… automatically trigger the creation of a digital job folder,  add a customized to-do list (based on how you go from prospect to client) to your calendar and create a blank production book in the cloud when a client sends you a job request?

… store all emails, call notes, marketing efforts, past invoices, payments and briefs pertaining to a client account in the cloud, accessible from anywhere in the world?

… control image delivery to your client from your smart phone?

… create an expense report in the cloud just by photographing a receipt?

Sounds to good to be true? Welcome to your business in the cloud.

Def: Cloud based business, means that your data is stored in with an online service. That can be a photograph you are delivering to your client via Photoshelter, contact information for a prospect stored in SalesForce or your production book from the last job including all releases, insurance info and crew details in Evernote

There are lots of systems you can choose from.  Here’s how I use mine…

Cloud based SalesForce CRMMy day begins with my head in the cloud (literally)

The first tab that opens in my web browser is my SalesForce Customer Relationship Management (CRM) System: the heart of my cloud business. It aggregates all client info – some automatically, some from other applications or web services – into one place.

More than just a calendar and address book app, it links everything together, so my client’s personal cell phone number from last year is at my fingertips and I can easily see the last estimate I sent them while I’m on the phone talking about our upcoming project. The digital documents don’t have to be stored in SalesForce – in my case, I use Evernote. 

SalesForce – the center of my cloud universe

SalesForce leads the cloud based CRM space.Here are three channels I use to capture new leads into my SalesForce client database:

The contact form on my website

When a prospective client fills out the contact form on my website, they are actually entering their data into SalesForce, which then sends them an automated personalized email response and notifies me that I have a new lead. All this info is accessible via the web interface or an app on my phone (Read more about it on this Strictly Business article: Quick Tip – Automate).

The subscription button on my blog

I use a MailChimp plugin on my WordPress blog to send all subscriber information straight to SalesForce. That plugin also sends email updates to my subscribers when I publish a new blog post and maintains my mailing list. All day, every day. Don’t have to think about it.

Business cards

I take a photo of the card, Scannable reads the card, saves it to the address book on my phone (pulling in any information that’s not printed on the card from the person’s LinkedIn profile) and adds my new contact to SalesForce. All in about 30 seconds. (Find a link to watch a real-time business card scan at the end of this post).

This photo lives in my Evernote cloud