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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.
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:
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.]
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 …
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.
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.
How 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:
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.
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?
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:
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.
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.
…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…
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.
Here are three channels I use to capture new leads into my SalesForce client database:
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).
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.
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).
Probably the single most important reason to use Marketing Hacks, is to stand out from the crowded field of visual noise bombards our all the time. Social Media, Email campaigns, TV ads, junk mail, pop up ads, the list goes on and on all clamor for our attention – some are specifically focused on your target audience, others aren’t.
How do you stand out? You need a to fire a full broadside at your target market to be seen. A single email, blog post of Facebook status update won’t cut it. It has to be shock and awe marketing, but I’m not talking about content that’s designed specifically to be crude or offensive – I mean your content has to hit your audience on many channels at the same time – Here’s a sneak peek at cutting through the digital clutter from my upcoming blog post I wrote for the American Society of Media Photographers blog strictly business called “How to fire a marketing broadside at your target audience!“:
How do you compete against this onslaught? Go old school (with a twist): send a handwritten post card. Clients appreciate knowing that they weren’t part of an automated campaign, filled in their <FIRST NAME> <LAST NAME> and thanking them for the opportunity to bid on a photography job for <THEIR COMPANY>. A handwritten thanks gets noticed (…) So where’s the twist I mentioned earlier? [Spoiler alert it’s in the cloud] Well on the back of the post card is a link to a landing page on my website, that goes to a web page with the same image, …
You can read about one specific channel I’m using in greater detail now and if that image looks familiar to you you’re right! It featured in Marketing Hack #12 (and you just remembered another shot from my broadside marketing campaign.)
I’m a commercial photographer – which means I only shoot B2B and I’m creating a postcard campaign for my business that’s targeted specifically toward small business owners and boutique creative agencies. I wanted to share how I’m automating my snail mail marketing:
I’d specifically love to talk to you about what happens after my customer receives the postcard. Of course it has my URL on the front of the card – actually the face of the card (minus the tagline) is a copy of the front page of my website.
However the real magic happens on the back (which is where we connect to the cloud) – the normal elements are all there – my address, the award the image has won, copyright info – none of that is anything special, however the last paragraph is:
It includes a link to my blog (in human readable form – blog.depuhl.com/product-photo-story), which leads to a landing page specifically designed for this mailer (it also includes the real review that this client posted on LinkedIn):
That page is the link between the real world and my online presence. The page captures email address, first and last name, automatically adds those to my email mailing list and returns the client to my blog homepage and writes a personalized email series I wrote about this shoot, with links to these three posts:
– how I plan and estimate product photography shoots
– how I scout the locations for a product shoot
– how I actually photograph one of these productions
These posts include, bts photos, descriptions of apps used, recordings of periscope live streams, a short video of the shoot, ect. (I’m still working on building more content for this series). Ok so that’s what it does for my clients.
On my back-end in the cloud, it automatically enters the captured information [email, first name, last name, landing page version] from my email list (MailChimp) to my Customer Relationship Management service (SalesForce) via Zappier automation, which also sends an SMS to my phone letting me know that someone has subscribed via this specific mailer.
In the end my customer gets:
The beauty of this is, that now that this is all set up, it will happen automatically every time a potential customer types that url (blog.depuhl.com/product-photo-story) into their browser and fills out their contact info. This campaign is specifically marketed to current clients I have, who hire me to photograph very simple product photography and need to think about creating photographs that actually tell a story and to small businesses and creative shops that don’t think of me as a photographer, who can create this type of imagery.
The post cards are ordered (VistaPrint is having their semi-annual 50% off sale – one thousand 4 color postcards with b/w print on the back, run about $100.-) the landing page and email auto responder are created and once the cards mail out, it’ll be interesting to see how this campaign performs.
If you want to experience what my customers will see, you can click-through blog.depuhl.com/product-photo-story, and take the journey.
I’d love to hear any comments about how this process worked for you.
I spend about 10% of my time actually taking pictures or shooting video. I spend more time as my own webmaster, SEO specialist, social media advocate, editor, sales person, janitor, shipping manager, equipment specialist, IT manager, driver, in short I’m chief cook and bottle washer. So it’s no surprise that things slip through the cracks once in a while – however when that crack swallowed two To Do items a few years ago (a client phone call I forgot to return and one client I called twice in 24 hours) I decide, that I need some help.
I have a friend that runs a studio with 160 employees – my studio is about 1/160th of that size – yup that’s right I am working by myself. I put together crews for productions, but I am a sole proprietor in my photography/cinematography business, so I don’t have a receptionist that can keep me on task. I started looking around and started reading about CRM (Customer Relationship Management) – in it’s simplest form it is a contact database, an email program and a calendar (so you could do it with mail and contacts and iCal).
I was looking for something that could grow with me over time and one of the biggest and most innovative names I
started hearing about was SalesForce. Some of the biggest companies use this cloud based CRM service, so I figure it will fit my growth requirement. I’ve been using it since 2008 now and it helps me keep track of my accounts, contacts and production opportunities I’m working on – now it’s designed for sales guys, so you need to learn a few terms, but it lets you automate a bunch of things.
Let me give you an example: The contact form on my website, for instance, auto populates my database with all the information a potential client enters online, immediately emails the client a personalized note and sends me a message saying, that someone just contacted me via my website – seamlessly and automatically. So it’s kind of like a receptionist, but I can grab the iPhone app to see all info I need to see on the run. Custom reports, email templates, reminders, … And so much more makes this a great way to help me run the office backend of my business.
SalesForce prides itself on having great security and privacy features and also has different levels of pricing (from $5 to $250 a month) and features to custom tailor to your needs. If you’re interested keep an eye out for some deals that they run once in a while, I got one of those when I signed up 6 years ago and am still paying the same price. Their customer service and support is out of this world and it makes me look a lot bigger online than I really am. And since I’ve used them I haven’t forgotten a phone call or called a client twice in a day.
Check out a short article I wrote on the American Society of Media Photographers ‘Strictly Business blog‘ titled “Automate” about how this automation works.
Pascal Depuhl is a Miami based product photographer and corporate documentary filmmaker. He filmed his first documentary film, “On Wings of Hope“, in Afghanistan 6 months after he got into producing motion work for his clients. It was awarded Best of ASMP 2013. He enjoys challenging still photographers to get into motion by teaching Move2Motion workshops. You can contact him directly through his website at www.depuhl.com.
Photography by Depuhl is cautiously testing the waters of paid advertising. The first ad began running on December 16th, 2009. Although I have been creating photographs for clients since the late 1980’s, the way of selling yourself as a photographer has drastically changed. You used to have to purchase expensive ads in printed annual professional directories to have your work seen, have an agent that had all the connections – a route that I just could not afford as a beginning photographer. Today I can determine down to the $0.01 how much an ad costs, which search phrase triggers it, when and where it is displayed, …
Paid advertising is the logical next step for our online presence. Back in 2007 I made the decision to put a professional website up online. It is created with an awesome photoshop plugin called sitegrinder. This is my first step in a concerted effort to use the web as my primary sales tool for my fashion and product photography.
In 2008 Photography by Depuhl pursues its online network in earnest …Continue reading