Outsource! That’s the solution everyone will tell a photographer when they say they don’t have enough time. However, I think there’s a step we’re missing between doing it ourselves and outsourcing. That step is automation. When you don’t have enough time on your hands to run your business sending your editing out to someone is helpful, but what about managing all those behind the scenes tasks that come with being a business owner?
Think about it. Editing is probably one of the number one time sucks we have as photographers. If you can’t afford to outsource it and you’re still suffering, or maybe you really like doing your editing yourself (like me), there are still tons of amazing ways you can save time in your business.
My biggest struggle with business was ensuring that all my clients got the same experience. I wanted to do things like email them the day after a wedding to let them know I had a great time and when to expect their photos. Every time a client asks that one question I’ve heard for the hundredth time, I always wished I had beat them to the punch with that information. Or what about social media? Don’t get me started. On top of editing, emailing, booking, and other marketing endeavors, we’re supposed to also have a consistent presence on social media. The keyword here is consistent. With everything else you’ve got going on in business, having a consistent social media presence or consistent communications with clients almost always falls on the back-burner as you scramble to spend time with your family and edit photos in a reasonable amount of time.
The solution for that isn’t always to outsource, instead the best solution I’ve found is to automate! Outsourcing work to an assistant can actually be a lot more expensive than simply automating various tasks in your business. I’ve spent years teaching photographers how to manage things behind the scenes and most photographers forget how easy business can be if you automate things. In this post I’ll share a few business tips that can save you time!
You’ve probably heard that you can schedule posts in advance for Instagram using tools like Hootsuite and Latergram. These sound great in theory, but the problem is you schedule a post and then your phone sends you a reminder when it needs to go live. You have to stop everything you’re doing and get on Instagram to post it. The next thing you know, an hour later, you’ve wasted time following hashtags to various accounts on Instagram and completely forgot to even post that image you wanted to share. If you really want to automate your Instagram posts you need to use Schedugram because it automates 100% of the process. There’s no reminders sent to your phone, it just posts automatically for you. When I first started using Schedugram, the consistency it created for my Instagram followers helped increase my followers and engagement overall. That consistent presence on Instagram, and any social media account, will help ensure you gain your clients’ trust too. In my experience, securing a client’s trust in the beginning allows me far more creativity when I photograph them.
Carrie's weekly Schedugram dashboard
One of the things I know about Instagram is that you get what you put in. If you simply post, use a few hashtags, and expect people to start following you, eventually you will find your following plateau or decrease. Outreach is where you spend time reaching out to new people and engaging with their accounts. The more you engage with other people, the more followers and engagement you receive in return. I’ve found engagement is integral to my success on Instagram. First, I go through my newsfeed about 5 days a week and like the photos of the people I follow. I usually like about 30 photos and comment on 3-5 of them. Second, I go through my notifications and when someone likes one of my photos I go and like one of theirs. If they comment on one of mine, I comment on one of theirs. If they follow me, I follow them back or like and comment on a few photos. Third, I spend time responding to all the comments people leave on my photos. Last (and perhaps most important), is spending time going through hashtags and locations people have tagged and liking photos of people I don’t follow. This probably sounds like a lot of work to do on a daily basis, and it is.
Luckily, One of the cool things you can have now is a “likebot” which goes through and likes hashtags, posts with locations, and various users you set. That little robot does a lot of outreach for you. If you’re interested in having a little robot do some outreach for you, try out Likestagram. It’s a pay-as-you-go structure and I’ve been receiving about 10 new followers a day by having my robot go out and like other people’s photos. They’re not spammy followers either, they tend to be great potential clients with shared interests because I spent a lot of time setting up hashtags and locations that I knew my potential clients would use. It even goes through and likes photos in your newsfeed so it cuts back on a lot of the outreach work you do.
Facebook and Twitter Posts
The ability to schedule social media in advance will create a level of consistency that completely changes your business for the better. Hootsuite and other similar services are a great way to schedule social media posts in advance on these platforms. I highly recommend Hootsuite if you’re unable to invest in a fully automated system. However, if you’re ready for that next step up and truly want to automate a social media schedule every week, then Meet Edgar is going to be your new best friend. Meet Edgar is unlike any other social media scheduler. Where other programs require you to go in and schedule each individual post, Edgar has you create a schedule first, then assign various categories to specific times. From there, you go and fill up those categories in your library with updates for Edgar to cycle through. Once you’ve built up your library you can sit back and let Edgar do the posting. You don’t even have to worry about doing the scheduling yourself because Edgar will cycle through all of the posts you have in your library according to your set up.
As an example, I have my Edgar set up to post a photo from my portfolio 5 days a week, once a day. I enabled Edgar to do that by creating a category and assigning it to post 5 days a week. Then I filled up the library for that category with enough photos so that each photo only posts once per year. If you have something you’d like to post once a week, you can create a category and fill up the library with 52 options and Edgar will cycle through. The whole premise with Edgar is that we often post something on social media and people miss it, so we should be re-using that content to reach the maximum amount of people over time. This is perfect for photographers because we tend to only post photos once, when they’re a sneak peek, and then never touch them again. Now you can re-use your best portfolio shots automatically and you’ll look busy even in the off-season. Edgar is a bit pricey for an investment, but I’ve found the time it saves me and the consistency it provides has helped my business more than words can say and that’s made it worth every single penny. That said, if you can’t afford Edgar, I would consider scheduling a day each week where you’ll plan what you post on social media and load it into Hootsuite.
When I talk about automating emails people often think it means I have a few templates laying around on my laptop and I copy and paste them into email responses when I get a photography inquiry. That’s not it at all, in fact I like to give each inquiry a personal response. My email communications are automated from the moment a client goes through the booking process. This is one of the main reasons I use Pixifi, because their automated email system is the best I’ve found (and I’ve tried a lot of studio management systems). The idea of this email communication system is to prepare my clients for their photoshoots or weddings and ensure they’re getting all the information I can possibly provide in terms of resources so they know what to expect. A happy customer is one who knows what comes next and feels like they are given a lot of tools in the process and that’s exactly what these emails do. The emails suggest what to wear, link to blog posts that will help my clients select a location, or resources for planning for their wedding. There are also additional resources for buying wedding invitations or other stuff I know they’re planning to purchase. I am usually an affiliate for other vendors, so I can get a little kickback when they order wedding invites, or their bridesmaids’ dresses, based on my suggestions.
The emails have reminders, questionnaires, and anything I can provide that helps my clients through the wedding planning process. I’ve timed them to coincide with the planning process timeline. Some of the emails are reminders with rehearsal tips a couple weeks before the wedding. There’s also an email that follows up the day after the wedding, wishing them well on the honeymoon and reminding them to check various linked social media accounts for sneak peeks until their photos are edited. Honestly, I was hesitant at first to implement a system. I thought clients would not be impressed with the automated emails and information they may not need, but they rave about the reminders, tips, and appreciate help along the way - even if they don’t use it. It cuts down on so much work when sending questionnaires, invoices and other business management stuff. I think the automated communications make me appear more organized than I actually am behind the scenes.
One of the last amazing places you can automate your business is with blogging. Often times people forget they can schedule posts in advance when you use a service like Wordpress and that’s been the key to staying on time and consistent with blogging for me. I am always writing posts in advance so I’m ready to market them and bring in as much traffic as possible. One of the key tools I use in this process is Wordpress’s built in publishing tools that allow you to schedule a post in advance. However, there are also tools that work together with Wordpress to blast out a blog post to your social media too. Coschedule is my favorite Wordpress plugin for automating a social media update with a scheduled blog post. In addition to allowing your scheduled blog posts to have a unique scheduled social media blast to go with it, you can also use it similar to Hootsuite. You can schedule any social media posts, not just ones directly linked to specific blog posts. Regardless, the best feature is allowing you to schedule social media updates for a blog post inside where you write the blog post itself. It’s convenient and easy. You can do that with new blog posts or past posts you’ve written as well. Since blog posts age and end up archived, it’s easy to take an old blog post and send it some traffic with Coschedule’s social media tools built right into your blog. So that really old blog post you wrote, with some great newborn preparation tips for your clients? Don’t let it sit there and age, repost it regularly so your clients can find the information again and again.
These are just a few places you can start with automating your business and I hope to follow up with more in-depth posts here with even more information! Remember that the key to a successful business and marketing strategy is consistency and automation. It can completely rock your world and your clients will love you for it. As I said earlier, consistency creates a lot of trust. That trust for photographers is priceless because it’s what allows us to do our jobs in the best way we know how. Trust has given me so much more creativity with each client and let me enjoy my job even more than I imagined. A large part of receiving that trust is being consistent when communicating and marketing my business online!