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:
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 … [nextpage title=”more”]
… collect all my documents electronically. Scanned model releases, emailed insurance certificates, google maps for location information, photos of rental gear invoices, production books, ect. all live in Evernote.
SalesForce backstops my workflow solution
SalesForce automatically integrates with Evernote, so that when I’m in a one of my jobs in SalesForce, Evernote actually finds documents related to that job, puts them into the Job record and asks me if I’d like to link them to the job folder. It’s like magic and almost unreal the first time you see it happen.From the job folder I can click on the account for more information, or the client to send off a quick email (using pre-written templates of course) or to my calendar or To Do list to jot down something I need to do for this job.
Integration is key
On the flip side SalesForce integrates with Expensify, the solution I use to take snapshots of my receipts to have an automatic expense report created (again – like magic). Expensify reads the receipt and enters amount, payee, category, and a bunch of other data automatically. And since it’s linked with SalesForce, it knows which client has which job open and which expense report goes with that job. After I’m finished with the report, it gets imported into QuickBooks.
There’s a few other things I do, but I basically took my workflow apart last year and said – ok, someone just filled out the contact form on my website [it’s driven by SalesForce and has already send a customized email back once they hit “submit“]. What happens between that online click and the delivery of the finished images, the client has paid me and I send the client a thank you card?
Then I started automating that process. Now I have a workflow solution that build around my workflow and not the other way around.
I actually use a Post-It note to automates my Productivity? (It’s amazing how many things happen automatically, when I take a photo of the post-it note with my phone – check it out…
- Which tools to you use to make your work flow smooth?
- How do you make sure that your user experience blows away your clients?