Do you struggle to keep your head above water sometimes? Do you often begin the workday with no idea where to start; feeling overwhelmed and like the inside of your photography business is a disorganized mess?
This is a common experience for photographers in the early-mid years of business.
At first, you are flying by the seat of your pants, trying to get as much work as possible. You get to that point where you have a lot of work (YAY!), and at first it’s a great feeling-it's what you've worked for.
But after a while, dread begins to set in. You aren’t really sure how to organize all this work that needs to get done. You are swamped with emails and phone calls from anxious clients, wondering when their images will be ready. Sound familiar?
I get so many questions from photographers who are struggling to keep up with the workload, stressed because they are constantly behind and just overwhelmed with the demands of the production workload. It's a very common experience.
In terms of keeping organized, as you know, I cannot recommend Shootq enough. It's like having a studio assistant who remembers to send out email reminders, client education and invoices for you. No more waiting for the contract to arrive-you get it the moment the clients sign it. Plus it keeps a list of each task associated with each shoot (as well as the tasks related to projects). So you create your workflow once, and it populates each session with your workflow, so you don’t forget steps when things get busy.
Develop Your Production Workflow
If you don’t have a workflow developed, take time this winter season and do that now. What you do is write out each and every step of the workflow for each type of session. Estimate a realistic amount of time it takes to finish each step.
Once you have an understanding of the time involved in your typical workflow, you can get a much better handle on the workload created by any number of sessions or weddings. Now you are in a position to reasonably estimate a timeframe for session deliverables (wedding gallery online, album predesign, etc.) and can move on to the next step in meeting deadlines.
Set Client Expectations
Managing client expectations is a key part of the deadlines puzzle. You wouldn’t feel stressed and pressured if clients weren't constantly contacting you about their pictures, right?
Estimate a reasonable amount of time it will take to get your deliverables to the client, and then give yourself some cushion time for the height of busy season. For our studio, we decided we would have all weddings processed and to clients by 4 weeks from the date of the wedding. We tell clients (about 5 times in various communications) that they can expect images to be ready in 4-6 weeks
If you manage your client's expectations, you will not be bombarded with emails and phone calls from anxious clients. They don’t need to contact you because they know when they are going to see their images. Your time is better spent working on their images than answering emails about when images will be ready.
Create a Production Schedule
Now that you have set a timeframe for completing each job, you can set up your production schedule, and this is the critical piece of the puzzle that's going to make all the difference for your workload and ability to meet deadlines.
What I recommend is to schedule each wedding or session's release date at 4 weeks from the date of the event (or the timeframe that you have committed to). Those dates pretty much create the skeleton structure of your production schedule. Any other projects, including albums, editorial submissions and other marketing gets worked in around that schedule. Once we began scheduling our session releases in this way, the workload problem began to clear up pretty quickly. Now this is not addressing a backlog of albums to design and order, but we have to take it one step at a time.
We actually use a wall calendar to schedule each wedding and the deliverables date. This system has been the secret to staying organized.
So there you go, follow these easy steps and you will be well on your way to being organized and meeting your production deadlines. As I always say, it's a process. And special thanks to Jamye who inspired this post!