advice

What to do about Facebook's 2018 newsfeed announcement

What to do about Facebook's 2018 newsfeed announcement

So, fellow entrepreneur, you've heard about the newsfeed algorithm change that's rolling out soon - and you're FREAKING OUT that this is the end of organic Facebook reach for your small business. Here's how to take action and keep reaching customers!

3 Reasons to have an Unplugged Ceremony

 
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Thinking about having an unplugged ceremony? Make sure to consider these three reasons why you should opt for an unplugged ceremony before you say "I do!"

1) Your guests can be present in the moment

I bet you hear of lots of photographers complaining about people getting in their shots. Yup, that happens more than we’d like it to. However, I personally think the saddest thing about a wedding day is watching the couples’ closest friends, family, moms, dads, and siblings watch the event through their phone screens.

With an unplugged ceremony, the most intimate and anticipated part of the day can be enjoyed by everyone in the moment. Your mother can look you in the eyes when she tears up, and you can wink at your best friend and actually see her unobstructed face.

 
 

2) Your photographer can get the best photos

This is almost as important as your guests being free to be present. Everyone wants the perfect shot… and in doing so, many people lean into the aisle at all parts of the ceremony - especially when the bride is making her way down the aisle. I have had a LOT of close calls when guests jump out of their seats and block the precious moments the professional was hired to capture. During the ceremony, I like to photograph the guests reactions - which is impossible when their face is covered by a Samsung Galaxy. If you don’t want to jeopardize your professional photographs, have an unplugged ceremony.

 
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3) No distractions

Have you ever been at a wedding where someone’s embarrassing ringtone goes off during the vows? I have. Get rid of all accidents and distractions by banning phones altogether.

 
 

WORTH NOTING:

If you’re having an unplugged ceremony, put out a sign AND have the officiant make an announcement. Some guests may miss the sign or blissfully ignore it, so a verbal announcement works like a charm. After all, it's only for the 20 minute ceremony - they can go camera crazy for the rest of the night!

XOXO, Lena

 
 

Bet You Can't Guess My Best Sales Strategy!

 
 

Clients want - and NEED - to trust their vendors. Nothing can turn a relationship sour like one party feeling like they've been taken advantage of.

This is why my personal sales strategy is honesty. When I meet with prospective clients, I aim to be totally transparent and treat them like PEOPLE, not dollar signs - because if you value dollar signs more than you adore your couples, then the wedding industry is probably not the best fit for you.

Listen to your clients' needs, and craft your services around them.

 

Couple A's timeline is teetering between cutting 30 min off dancing and upgrading their package to the tune of $500, I will always suggest trimming the time a bit. If I stay an extra few minutes, that's fine! But if I know in my heart my clients really don't NEED to purchase extra time, I'm not going to suggest it.

Couple B is paying for the wedding themselves, and really liked that I include a print release and album company recommendations in all my packages, because they didn't budget for a professional album. Am I missing out on an album sale? Sure, but I'd much rather my clients be secure with their decision then stressing out because they blew their budget on something I pushed.

Couple C is having a small wedding and getting ready in the same hotel - they definitely do NOT need a second shooter, and I'll be the first one to tell them that!

Don't get me wrong, I'm over the moon when someone orders an a la carte album or an additional hour. Still, you never want a client to doubt your integrity or advice for any reason. Just go back to the golden rule - treat others as you want to be treated!

 
 

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Are You Making These Website Mistakes? Especially #3...

Are you guilty of any of these website mistakes? Here's how to fix those problems TODAY!

1) Have your contact info instantly accessible

Everyone has a contact page. BUT, you need to have your email address, phone number, and social links on your HOMEPAGE or even better, the FOOTER of your entire website so that someone can connect with you and your social channels in less than 5 seconds.

If your contact form has mandatory wedding questions on it, be sure to separately list your email address. Nothing is more irritating then trying to send an album of wedding photos to a florist, and I can't contact them without inputting my "wedding date" and "venue". Don't ignore the other people trying to contact you - press, fans, photographers, and people trying to do you favors or give you MONEY!

2) Write an about page that makes you proud

If you could substitute your name on your about page and the copy could apply to someone else, you're missing something HUGE. Speak in the first person, not third, and make sure to include minimum THREE unique facts about yourself. This could be your story, favorite things, family, etc. Make sure that a client could tell someone three unique things about you and your personality before ever meeting you.

3) Give your clients a clue about pricing

Imagine you're shopping for a new couch. You're looking online and found an AMAZING, adorable sofa. But the price isn't listed ANYWHERE... on any of the products! Not even a ballpark. However, there's another great sofa online that DOES... buying that couch is much easier than sending the company an email and waiting for an answer, just to find out it may be out of your budget in the first place. Frustrating, right!? Lesson: ALWAYS INCLUDE A PRICE POINT. I'm not a fan of listing your complete collections, but you should want to make your prospective clients' lives easier by including a section on what to expect when it comes to pricing. This can be phrased as "Most couples invest $X for their wedding day" or "Portrait collections start at $X" In turn, you're saving time answering emails to people who's budgets are way off from your prices in the first place. Win win!

4) Go mobile, ditch the Flash player

If your website is Flash based or not mobile optimized, remedy that immediately. The numbers don't lie - when I look at my analytics, 50% or more visits to my website are on mobile. If your website is looking less-than-perfect on tablets and phones, you're missing out on impressing clients! Switch to a website platform with integrated optimization, like Squarespace or Showit.

5) Fix slow load time

Let's admit it, we really do have short attention spans. Artists have very image-heavy sites, which slow down load time. Remember to always downsize images before uploading them. Check your site's load time on free websites like GT Metrix or Pingdom - and they'll even give you suggestions on how to improve!

Let's banish the bad website - and set yourself up for success!

 
 

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3 Quick Hacks to Make Your Daily Tasks A Breeze

Hey everyone! It's been a year since I last shared some must-have assets I use every day for my business. I've been introduced to new products, and after months of using all of these, I wanted to share with you! So - 3 more things that give me precious time of the day to spend doing more AWESOME things:

 
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Later.com

Nessa Kessinger introduced me to this amazing Instagram post scheduler at a workshop in NYC this fall. 

You drag and drop on your calendar and preview your grid on the website or app. You can schedule the time and write the caption, and when it’s time to post, it pushes a notification, photo, and caption to your phone to post on Instagram. I never have to worry if a picture “fits” in the grid anymore. Once a week, I schedule all my Insta posts and I save tons of time and headspace!

Price: 30 posts/month FREE - and if you sign up with my referral link, we both get an extra 10 posts free per month!

MileIQ

Amy & Jordan turned me on to the ingenious Tinder of mileage trackers. You download the app, and it automatically senses and logs all your drives. Like a fairy godmother in the background. Every few days, I’ll open the app and swipe LEFT for business or RIGHT for personal! You can export monthly reports and even annotate the drives. Every penny counts when you can deduct $0.56/mile on your taxes.

Price: 40 drives/month FREE or unlimited $59.99/year, but get 20% off if you sign up with this link!

StudioNinja

You know it’s time to get client management software when you have a sinking feeling that you’re forgetting something. Keeping track of email leads, who needs to set up a meeting, who you need to follow up with, if you’ve sent that booking gift yet, who has paid their retainer, who hasn’t signed their contract yet, which questionnaires go with which couple… IT’S MIND BOGGLING! Luckily, there are CRM systems for that!

I tried out a whole bunch of programs. Honeybook, Tave, ShootQ, 17hats… the list goes on. They were great, but none of them did exactly what I needed. I tried StudioNinja and loved it! Everything from the moment an email lead comes in, to quotes, invoices, contracts, questionnaires, online payment, scheduling, income statements, and workflow management. Hallelujah!

Price: 30 day free trial, $215/year but 50% off your first year!

Want to find out 7 more INCREDIBLE assets I use for my business? See Part I HERE!

 
 

Note: I'm not sponsored by any of these companies, I'm just a coupon queen and love PASSING ON referral discounts!

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The Best $11 You'll Spend This Year

 
 

Today I wanted to share how I get dreamy macro ring shots… WITHOUT a macro lens.

In 2010, I learned a very valuable lesson.

I purchased a 50mm and 85mm on the same day.
MISTAKE.

I clung to the 50mm, and used the 85mm maybe twice before selling it off six months later.

When you're a wedding photographer, you NEED to be able to photograph the sparkly rings and all the gorgeous details. But, most lenses have a minimum focusing distance of ~2-3 feet.

The Canon 100mm macro is a gorgeous lens - with an $899 price tag.

I knew the lens would just collect dust, so paying $900 to use for 5 minutes at each wedding didn’t seem like a smart investment.

But of course, I needed SOMETHING to capture my clients’ beautiful rings, earrings, and details. The solution? AMAZON (aka the solution to EVERYTHING)

 
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For $11, you get four filters - +1, +2, +4, and +10. You can choose your filter size for any lens (I use on my 50mm) and even stack them. Crank the f stop to 4.0-8.0 - the background will still be creamy, but the diamond will be sharp as a tack. I love these! So if you’re in a pickle and need to get closer… $11 could save your life <3

If you don't know what size filter to get, Google your lens and add "thread size" - ex. Canon 50mm 1.4 thread size and it should pop right up! Then you can purchase the right size.

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Why It’s OK To Raise Your Prices

 
 

One of the biggest, confusing, scary things about being an entrepreneur is figuring out what to charge for your services as an artist. Once you’ve decided on your pricing, and hit that sweet spot, it feels comfortable. You’re booking, and you’re happy. Well, it’s time to get out of your comfort zone, because we all know comfortable is not a productive state of mind. As a basic business principal explains, the more something is in demand, the higher the price is. The more people who want you, the more your time and talent is worth.

It’s time to raise your prices.

It’s normal to increase your prices yearly as the cost of living (and everything else) also increases. 

But then, your mind starts running. What if people don’t book? I’d rather have lower prices and lots of bookings versus higher prices and lots of no’s! But I promise you - there will always be a market for $100 portrait sessions, and $500 portrait sessions, for $1,000 portrait sessions, and $5,000 portrait sessions. It’s all about what type of client to which you choose to market.

If you raise your prices by $X, that means you can book 8 less shoots per year, which means tens of hours spent with family and friends when you would normally be traveling, shooting, and editing. If you raise your wedding packages across the board by $X, you can now give your clients a welcome package with champagne and send Starbucks cards before the big day. You have more room to improve the client experience, which is what we all want to do! 

Value your time and your skill. If you've had the same prices for over a year, it's time to re-evaluate, take the leap, and raise your prices. Raised prices = more value = less work = more funds for client spoiling = more time with family = happier you = a better business all around.

Next week, I'll be sending out PART II - how to market to your new ideal client and take the work you've always wanted to. Stay tuned!

 
 

7 Money Saving Tricks for Entrepreneurs

 
 

Being an entrepreneur means a lot of things - creative freedom, constant decision making, total responsibility, and of course, being our own bosses.

But how do you cut company spending when YOU'RE the company!?

Think frugal!

Prepare for the hunt, and promise to never pay full price again.

Here are seven money saving tips to keep your hard earned cash in the bank!

1) Coupons are your BEST friend

When shopping online for your custom thank you cards, or renewing your Adobe account, if there is a little box to insert a coupon code during checkout, USE IT! That's your golden ticket! Look for sites like RetailMeNot and Coupons.com to find codes that work. Never pay shipping, my friends, and never settle for full price when purchasing online. Use the Honey extension for Chrome / Safari - it finds the lowest price of the product you're buying and adds coupon codes automatically.
 

2) Pay attention to price patterns

Before almost every major holiday, Zazzle will mark down their products to 50-75% OFF - that is HUGE! So instead of getting 10 thank you cards for $25, you get them for $7 + free shipping. Sometimes, you have to restrain yourself from buying them at full price, but you know you will save lots of money. Take advantage of Black Friday and big retail days, and watch prices of things you buy often.
 

3) Comparison shop

Find the cheapest deal by price shopping between stores. Often one will be having a unique sale when others are not. The best places to buy are B&H, Amazon, KEH, and eBay - if you shop new on eBay for big ticket items such as lenses or bodies, you get 3% cash back every quarter, which pays for extra batteries and new memory cards. Don't forget to check the prices a week later, as you can get a price adjustment within 14 days from most retailers if the price drops (there's even an app called Paribus that automatically tracks this and gets you a refund!).
 

4) Buy in bulk

Strike when a major sale is happening, buy in bulk! There’s nothing worse than running out of ribbon while trying to package an order or buying batteries for your flash at - GASP - the drugstore! So the next time your favorite client gift goes on sale, buy two dozen of them and save.
 

5) Reallocate your advertising budget

Stop paying to boost your Facebook posts. Instead, go for organic reach. Tag your clients, post beneficial content, and rely on word of mouth advertising from your clients. Take what you would have spent on a traditional advertising budget and use that money to treat your clients with gifts, and they will be referring you to everyone. Don’t forget to show your love for past clients, not just future ones. Go above and beyond in service and you will never have to pay a dime in advertising. 
 

6) Protect your gear

Be proactive and buy lens hoods ($10, not only to reduce sun flare, but to have a bumper if it gets knocked around), UV filters ($5, to protect the actual glass if dropped), memory card cases ($5 for 25 of them to avoid dust and prevent all around damage) and a durable bag (but not necessarily the cutest $400 leather one). The more you take care of your gear, clean it, and treat it right, the longer it will last!
 

7) Prioritize

I would love to take every potential client to dinner, but that isn’t cost effective for a very small business (25 clients/year = ~$1,800). For meetings with clients that haven't been booked yet, opt for a coffee shop to keep costs down (but of course, always treat them to whatever they want). Save a more upscale dining experience for clients that have already booked you.

 

BONUS favorite tricks:

CVS app - they send me 30% off my purchase every Thursday, good through the weekend. I pair this with coupons directly on the app to get free makeup, my favorite Kashi cereal for $1, and earn more Extrabucks.

When buying gear or purchases over $500, use a good cash back rewards credit card.

If you travel, getting a credit card with your airline is key - they usually have opening bonuses. I charged $1,500 to my new AA card, paid it off immediately, and used the miles for a free roundtrip ticket to California. Even just having a free Jetblue TrueBlue account gives me at least 1 free flight per year - and I don't even have the credit card!

Pay attention to rebates when buying cameras and lenses on B&H - remember to mail in that $200 rebate! Then, you can take the gift card and deposit it into the bank.

 

Do This To Boost Your Engagement TONIGHT!

As the precocious Olivia Bee once said,

“Promote yourself, because no one's going to do it for you”

If you are an artist, and people have no opportunity to view your work online, fix that immediately. Whether you’re a fine artist, graphic designer, or a commercial photographer, showing your work is key. And what better way to do that than with free marketing platforms?

 
 

FACEBOOK

  • Create a business page on Facebook and start posting your work.

  • Don’t overload your audience - once a day is plenty.

  • Invite your friends to like your page.

  • Post behind the scenes, in-progress drawings, photographs, sketchbook pages, and photos of you in action.

  • Tag your clients in their photos to extend their reach to their friends + family

  • Post between 4-7pm, after people are out of work and online. Peak time gets 10-20x more reach than a morning post. Weekends receive less traffic than weekdays.

  • Post on your personal page. Facebook has totally different algorithms for personal vs. business post reach, because they want people to pay to boost their posts on business pages. Make use of the organic reach of your personal page!

  • Time saving trick: use Facebook Post Scheduler to schedule and auto-publish your posts for you.

 
 

INSTAGRAM

  • Post once a day or a few times a week, but whatever you choose, be consistent about posting.

  • Speaking of consistency - approach your feed like you would approach a gallery of your work. Think of your brand’s color scheme, message, and aesthetic.

  • To preview your grid and schedule posts for FREE, use Later.com

  • Post Instagram stories!!! Let people get to know YOU.

  • Use Later.com's library to drag photos from your computer to your phone, wiping the timestamp so you can upload ANYTHING to your Instagram story.

  • Think about what your ideal client would want to see on your Instagram feed and how you can post something of value to your clients.

  • Utilize hashtags… but not too many. Choose accounts that fit your work, and tag wedding work strategically with big wedding blogs that all your brides visit. Features and getting your work out is the point, but don’t be too obnoxious about it.

  • Save those hashtags in a note on your phone - then copy and paste into the caption when you post a photo!

  • Combine personal + business accounts, but always keep your brand in mind. Be down to Earth, real, and connect with your audience, but all your followers don't need to see your dinner every night or your dirty laundry.

 
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TWITTER

  • Post your favorite quotes, photos from your personal life, and behind the scenes

  • Retweet photography + marketing content from your favorite artists + business gurus to create a resource page that helps other creatives

  • Twitter generally has less of a general audience than Facebook + Instagram, but it is important for creatives to be on every and all platforms they can. Fun fact, I got signed to my second stock agency because one of their editors found me through Twitter, and then went to my website. It pays to be on all platforms!

 
 

Bottom line -

The more people who see your work, the better. 

Organically build your following on all platforms. Don’t be tempted to pay for Facebook boots or Instagram followers… real people will become real clients. Slow and steady wins the race.

Be the real, authentic you and let your personality shine.