It’s officially September and that means we are WELL into the year and approaching Fall and the holiday season. Ahh! For wedding photographers, that means we are about to spend a couple of months shooting some gorgeous weddings before a little break kicks in during off season. It’s a fun but BUSY time of year. It is far too easy to put everything that isn’t urgent on our to-do lists on the back burner for the next few months! 12 weeks is a long time. I once read that if you can figure out how to do in 12 weeks what most people do in 12 months, you’ve found the golden ticket. So as challenging as it may be, we need to be at our most productive during our busy seasons. These next few months of Fall wedding season don’t have to feel like you’re treading to keep your head above the water. I want you to feel far from that!
There are a few practical wedding photography workflow tips that I’ve incorporated and found to be incredibly helpful, especially in the midst of wedding season. You don’t have to feel like it’s sink or swim all the way up to Christmastime. I want you to have time to ENJOY this amazing time of year without the worry of backlogged weddings hanging over your head and to have a highly profitable and highly efficient year. As a business owner, you deserve that… but only you can make it happen!
9 Wedding Photography Workflow Tips For Busy Season
1. Import and cull every wedding or shoot within TWO DAYS of putting your camera away! Don’t let your memory card sit in your camera body or in its little carrying case for longer than this. You don’t have to stay up late after getting home from a wedding (I actually never do that because, hello, I wanna hug my husband and spend some time with him!) but the next morning or afternoon, start importing cards and getting ready to cull through your images. I’ve found that culling can feel a lot more tedious the more time goes on. I have so many culling tips (and I even made a tutorial once for how I cull using PhotoMechanic!) but the most important one is cull as soon after the event as possible! Just sit down and make yourself do it.
2. Foster productivity and focus by minimizing distractions while you work. This means leaving your phone in another room, turning off your wifi and getting in the zone! One thing that’s helped me stay focused throughout my workday is thinking about how excited I am to close my laptop at 4:30pm and be done working for the day when my husband gets home. Even if you’re not married, think about making some fun evening plans a normal part of your routine so that you’re motivated to get work done during the day when most of the world is working, too. This business feels far less lonely when you’re working (for the most part) the same hours as everyone else! Do yourself a favor and be productive during the day so that you can enjoy the free evening hours that you have!
3. Be realistic about your MAX capacity. In business school we had our fair share of input/output equations and figuring out just how efficiently a machine or factory line could work. Something a lot of business owners don’t realize that gets them into trouble is that they have a MAX capacity. That means that you literally can only handle so many hours of work a week, and depending on how quickly you are able to work and how much stress your body and mind can take, how many clients you can take on. It is vitally important to figure out what your comfortable capacity looks like… not your MAX. I see so many business owners that mean well and want success, so they fill their calendars either because they’re really wanting that much work or that’s what looks cool and keeps them looking “in demand.” Whatever it is… it is not fair to your clients to only give half of yourself and your creative energy because you reached MAX capacity months ago. At some point, you have to make a decision between what is ethical, what is healthy, and what is financially “enough.” Set your number – shoots per week, weddings per month, salary per year – and don’t let yourself go above it. It’s not worth it.
4. Under-promise over, and over, and over again. Years ago someone told me the best thing I could do for my business and my brand would be to always under-promise and over-deliver. That means setting your clients’ expectations within a range that would NEVER be difficult for you to follow through on. If you typically deliver weddings within 4 weeks, your client should be told 6-8 week delivery. WHY are we not telling them what we can REALLY do upfront? Because then it takes away the INCREDIBLE opportunity you have to WOW them later. Successful businesses don’t just meet expectations, they EXCEED them. You need to figure out how to exceed your clients’ expectations in every area of your business and throughout their experience with you. One way to do that is to set delivery frames that you know you can for sure meet and then SURPRISE them by getting it done early! Ask yourself, is there anywhere in my business I am solely meeting expectations… or over-promising and under-delivering?
5. Be a friend to your clients. I always want my brides and grooms to feel more like friends than customers. I don’t want our relationship to solely be transactional… I don’t want them to see me as just a hired service on a wedding day. I want them to genuinely be excited about spending time with me like I am excited to spend time and celebrate with them. It takes a lot of pressure off of the feeling like I need to perform to a certain caliber when the bride gives me a hug when I walk in the door and asks how my recent trip was. When that pressure is taken off, it frees up my mind to be even more creative and shoot more efficiently because I’m under less stress! So you don’t need to text your clients every day or be their best friend, just let them know that you’re a person that cares about them as a person, and you genuinely want the absolute best for them. Keep yourself accessible, humble, and kind. That’s it. (Oh, and business is a LOT more fun when you form real, live-giving relationships with your clients.)
6. Start using a studio/client management software. From our initial consultation, I’m able to tell my clients about their personal online portal where we will be planning all of the important parts of their day when it comes to wedding photography. I tell them that’s where they will be able to access their proposal, sign their contract, make online payments, fill out questionnaires, and touch base with me about any part of their wedding day (or engagement session)! I can’t tell you how much having a system like this in place has revolutionized my business. I’m no longer creating contracts in Microsoft Word, exporting as a PDF and waiting for the signed copy to come in the mail with a check. I’m also no longer keeping a paper workflow to-do list for each client because Honeybook reminds me when I need to send questionnaires, timelines, etc. and will even do that part for me if I set up a workflow! If you’re wanting to check out what I use, you can get 50% off Honeybook here.
7. Take care of your mind, body, and spirit. This means many things but here are a few steps to get you started. Don’t sleep with your phone in the same room (so it’s not the first thing you reach for in the mornings). Limit your time scrolling on social media. Start your day with a devotional (whether you’re a Christian or not, there’s a devotional for you!). Center yourself several times throughout the day with just a moment of quiet. Spend time in prayer. Keep a journal. Go for a walk. Exercise. Join a fitness group or class. Try a new sport. Stretch, and stretch some more (especially before and after wedding days). EAT WELL. Make sure you’re getting all of your food groups in every day. Reach for juice every now and again instead of just coffee. Drink your water (I keep a gallon jug beside me throughout the day). All of these things sound so simple, and are really easy to start, but are actually pretty difficult to commit to doing. Just keep following through and reminding yourself that you are your best friend and you deserve to take care of yourself. You need it!
8. Make plans for YOU. I think my #1 productivity tip has to be making plans that you’re excited about. Whether that’s a day date with your spouse, an evening out with friends, or a weekend trip to the beach, whatever it is, make sure it keeps you on top of your to-do list. Idle time is the devil’s playground, and if your calendar is looking a little too sparse, all that idleness only feeds into lack of productivity because “what’s the rush?” If you’re mentally clinging to that question, that lifestyle, you’re in a dangerous mindset when it comes to being efficient in your business. If you need to put a few FUN plans into your calendar each week to give yourself a little more rush, I don’t see the harm in that. You’re not only making your life more fun altogether but you’re also (hopefully) motivating yourself to get your work done SOONER & QUICKER! You will only be able to incorporate this tip if you’re on top of your game and rocking your workflow. I can’t think of anything more motivating to make sure I am streamlined and running my business as efficiently as possible!
9. Consider outsourcing parts of your business that someone else can do faster than you but just as well as you can. For a lot of wedding photographers, this looks like outsourcing the editing part of your wedding workflow. After you’ve imported, culled, and edited a few images for the blog post, you export your catalog to your private editor and they send you back your full edited wedding gallery ready to be delivered to your client. If that sounds like the dream to you, you might be ready to outsource. Other areas of business you can consider outsourcing include emails, bookkeeping, tax filing, etc. The first area of my business that I outsourced was taxes and it’s been amazing only having to send my income and expenses to my CPA and he does ALL the rest! He fills out all of the papers, submits everything, cuts my quarterly vouchers… all I have to do is send him my Excel spreadsheet with a list of detailed income and expenses and mail in a check to the IRS with my vouchers four times a year. It’s well worth the cost to me to never have to fill out a single form. Is there an area of your business that’s eating up a lot of your time that someone else could do JUST as well as you (if not better) and FASTER than you can? (By the way, if that’s editing, I have a few more spots open for editing clients for the year if you’re shooting at least 20 weddings annually and consistently blogging your weddings. I’d love to hear from you!)
You Can Do This.
Which one of these tips are you thinking might revolutionize your business this busy season? Which one do you need to incorporate immediately in order to live the entrepreneur lifestyle you always dreamed of? This business doesn’t have to cost you your health, your mental well-being, your every ounce of free time. You CAN make it work FOR you, not the other way around! I believe in you and I know you can do this. You can buckle down and get it done so that you can live the kind of life you love, the kind of life that frees you from worries of under-delivering, not performing up to par, not meeting expectations. These nine tips are WORTH your time and extra effort because you are doing them for yourself. You can do it… and once the right systems are in place, they are a lot easier to keep running smoothly!
Enjoy this wedding season AND all the fun Fall activities, too! You can have the best of both worlds… you just have to choose to want them badly enough. You’ve got this. Go make Fall 2017 your best and most efficient wedding season yet!