business

9 Ways to Practice Self-Care as a Photographer

9 Ways to Practice Self-Care as a Photographer

Busy season is still going STRONG, so I'm sharing nine ways to practice self-care as a photographer!

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!

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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The Photographer's Spring Cleaning Checklist

 
 

Happy Spring everyone!

You clean your home in the spring, throw out items you don't use, and organize the things you love - why not treat your business the same? Here is a spring cleaning checklist you can use to energize your business before busy season hits!

Physical

  • Order new album samples

  • Update your business cards

  • Stock up on stickers, ribbon, boxes, mailers, tape, batteries, misc supplies so you’re not making runs to Target during busy season

  • Send camera gear in for yearly cleaning and maintenance

  • Buy new memory cards and chuck the oldest ones

  • Make sure your bag and straps are working well, if not purchase better ones

Facebook

  • Update cover photo + profile photo

  • Update about and contact info

  • Schedule posts every other day, if not daily

Instagram

  • Update bio + profile photo

  • Save time and plan out your grid - I plan using Later.com

Website

  • Update all portfolios and DELETE any portfolio photo or blog post that isn’t vital to your brand

  • Update copy on your bio, contact info, links, etc

  • Add new testimonials

  • Blog at least once a week to keep traffic steady

  • Revisit SEO keywords

  • Hyperlink all phone numbers + email addresses on footers, contact page, etc

Email

  • Create a new email signature

  • Get than inbox to ZERO and vow to reply to all client emails within 24 hours

Misc

  • Make sure your copy and branding is up to date on any sites like WeddingWire, The Knot, Google+, etc.

  • Send thank you notes and surprise gifts to vendors if you didn't over the holidays

  • Schedule some coffee dates with photographers and vendors in your area

 

HAPPY CLEANING!

 

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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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7 Ways To Energize Your Creative Business In the Off-Season

Winter blues got you down? Are you BORED out of your skull, cursing the snow under your breath every morning? Sounds like off-season syndrome! Turn off Netflix and get excited for your upcoming season! It's gonna be a great one! Here are SEVEN ways to energize your business in the winter... leading to a SMOOTHER season and a HAPPIER you!

 
Wedding season is over... WHAT NOW!?

Wedding season is over... WHAT NOW!?

 

1) House Cleaning Checklist

Physical

  • Order new album samples

  • Update your business cards

  • Stock up on stickers, ribbon, boxes, mailers, tape, batteries, misc supplies so you’re not making runs to Target during busy season

  • Send camera gear in for yearly cleaning and maintenance

  • Buy new memory cards and chuck the oldest ones

  • Make sure your bag and straps are working well, if not purchase better ones

Facebook

  • Update cover photo + profile photo

  • Update about and contact info

  • Schedule posts every other day, if not daily

Instagram

  • Update bio + profile photo

  • Save time and plan out your grid - I plan using Later.com

Website

  • Update all portfolios and DELETE anything that isn’t vital to your brand

  • Update the copy on your bio, contact info, links, etc

  • Add new testimonials

  • Blog at least once a week to keep traffic steady

  • Revisit SEO keywords

  • Hyperlink all phone numbers + email addresses on footers, contact page, etc

Email

  • Create a new email signature

  • Get than inbox to ZERO and vow to reply to all client emails within 24 hours

Misc

  • Make sure your copy and branding is up to date on any sites like WeddingWire, The Knot, Google+, etc.

  • Send thank you notes and gifts to vendors if you didn't over the holidays

  • Schedule some coffee dates with photographers and vendors in your area

2) Submit to wedding blogs 

I use TwoBrightLights to submit to wedding publications in the winter. If you’re not familiar with TwoBrightLights, it’s magical - you upload ~100 photos to a wedding album, choose colors / themes / keywords, tag the vendors, then hit SEND to submit to a publication. Not a fit? No worries! Just press “resubmit” on that album to send it to a different publication. No more time wasted submitting all the information over and over again, resizing images, etc!

I take ~45 minutes to gather 100 photos from the day, input the vendor data on the TBL album, and research publications that would be a good fit for that wedding. By doing this, I’m marketing my work across 2-15 magazines and blogs AND building a reputation and a stronger press section on my website. 

3) Review years expenses & make changes

It’s tax season anyway, so reviewing my profit and loss statements is key. I update spreadsheets with my final cost tallies for the year and analyze the data. Wow, I spent $594 on postage? How can I cut that cost by at last 10% by using different shipping materials? Looks like I was a little short on my projected portrait session income, why was that the case and how do I market my portraits as much as my weddings? Where did I overspend, and how can I cut costs? This is a great year to re-calculate your expenses, as running a business gets more expensive every year. From here, work to lower your operating expenses and raise your prices as needed.

4) Plan your goals

Tell me what you want, what you really really want... SORRY, that song seemed very appropriate to sing while making a goals list. Take a few minutes to write down your goal list for the year. Look at last year’s list, and see how many you accomplished. Why didn’t some happen? Were they based more off luck / the actions of others, or did you fall short in some area? If you’re achieving more than 80% of your goals, you need bigger ones!

5) Dig for inspiration

Stop digging snow and start digging for inspiration. I use this time to become better at shooting indoors with natural and studio lighting. I let the artistic side of my mind wander a bit more, and plan out either indoor winter shoots or outdoor spring shoots as the weather improves. Take a look at your portfolio and try to see what’s missing, and fill the gap.

6) Get schooled

I’m reading educational blogs all year round, but winter is a great time to make some cocoa and start taking notes on educational blog posts (like this one!). Sign up for webinars (there are many free ones!) and look at workshops for the upcoming year. Some of my current favorite educational blogs and email lists are Ashlyn Writes, Shanna Skidmore, Cat Coquilette, Psychology for Photographers, and Ben Sasso.

7) Make some passive $$!

Have great shots from your last road trip? Flowers in the garden? Outtakes from your last ocean session? Might as well capitalize! Set up a print shop on your own website, or if you want life to be even EASIER, just create a Society6 site! It's FREE! Take 1 hour to gather images, create an account, post your products (you simply upload the photo, tag it, then click all the products you want to sell from that image!) and make some passive income. If you’re into making your own presets, put them up for sale!

Do you have more ideas to bring some life into your business in the dark winter months? Comment below!

 
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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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How to attract your ideal client

 
 

Close your eyes. I want you to imagine your dream client. What are they wearing? What does their home look like? What kind of food do they like? Are they savvy shoppers at Marshall’s, or do they love a splurge at Anthropologie? What kind of art do they enjoy? Are they silly and funny, or serious and passionate?

Construct your ideal client. This is the person (or type of couple) to which you are marketing.

You attract what you put out.

If you’re a bubbly, outgoing football fan who loves grilling and running and has two kids… your friends probably have kids, like football, and run with you in the morning. The same goes for business! If your online presence (and natural personality) is cosmopolitan / city chic, you mention that you love shopping at West Elm, and you have a soft spot for French cuisine, the clients who actually book you would have already connected to your personality and likes, and are more likely to be a potential friend as well as a client.

You can scatter little tidbits about your personality and likes on your about page as well as on your blog to give your potential clients bridges to connect to you.

So how can I get the chance to shoot at my dream venue?

Go through your portfolio and show only what you want to shoot. If you’re done shooting mid-range hotels and want more barn weddings, then take down everything shot at a hotel. Showcase your barn weddings on the home page and throughout your website. Give your website and portfolio a big revamp. If city shoots give you a headache and you love shooting on the beach, remove all city shoots and only showcase beach shoots. Yes… it’s that easy!

My challenge to you:

clean up your website, do a bit of social media marketing, and see how your inquiries change.

 
 

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!

 
 

Can you take the challenge?

 
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Sometimes we get wrapped up in editing photos, mailing prints out to clients, slaving over our inboxes, and keeping a rigid “To Do” list organized, and we forget why we are doing all these things in the first place.


Today’s challenge is to formulate your “Why?”


Why do you love photography?

What made you choose to specialize in weddings, or newborns, or seniors? Physically make a list of the first ten things that come to your mind when you think about what makes you fall in love over and over again every day with your craft.

Think beyond preserving people’s memories, and capturing the moments -  steer clear of the common cliches and brainstorm why your personality clicked with your chosen niche, and branch into what makes you unique as an artist. 

Your why is your anchor. It should be part of your branding - your “Why” should be mentioned in your about page, and sprinkled throughout your entire online presence, from your Instagram captions to your Facebook posts. Let your future clients into your world and your passion, and you will attract clients who share your vision.

 
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Five 5-Minute Hacks to Conquer Your Inbox

Tackling your inbox can be a huge headache.

The more emails that pile in, the more you want to procrastinate replying to them. Sometimes, one will slip between the cracks, and all of a sudden it’s been three days… and now you’re profusely apologizing to your client in the first sentence. #meltdown

Prompt communication is key for being professional and booking clients, especially wedding clients. Here are some top tips to keeping your inbox manageable and never miss anther email.

 
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1) Use templates

For years, I found myself writing the exact same email over and over when a bride introduced herself and asked for pricing info, as well as for my gallery delivery emails. So, I saved those responses as “Welcome wedding,” “Delivery families,” “Wedding meeting locations,” and so on. You can do this in Notes or Word, or save them as Gmail templates (how do to that here!) It’s a serious time saver. Of course, add in personal details that fit with each client (talking about their venue, specific questions, etc), but your base reply is already there. Wedding inquiry emails take thirty seconds to personalize and send!

2) Create a FAQ section on your website

What does this have to do with your email? It's another time saver! In addition to your pricing guide, make sure to have some kind of basic Q&A on your website. Take the most asked questions from brides + clients in their emails, and answer them online. That way, most of their standard questions are already answered before they contact you, and you save time typing out responses over and over.

3) Stick to the 24-hour rule

No matter what, make it your #1 goal to reply within 24 hours. Timeliness is important - I love when I email someone and get a super quick response back. It puts me in such a good mood! Brides and new clients are eager for your reply, so when you reply to them within a few hours, it puts you in a great position (and above all the other photographers/vendors they’re emailing).

4) Flag

I flag my client messages to easily identify them from other emails. When they reply, the conversation remains flagged. Keep different folders for brides, portraits, and all your different categories. It helps bring your eye to the important stuff, instead of a sea of subject lines!

5) Set boundaries

Reply to emails during acceptable business hours. If you don’t want a client to expect you to reply to their messages at 11:30pm, then don’t answer your emails at that time. I answer my emails anytime between 7am and 9pm, but never later than that. If you happen to be awake and on a roll at 2am, use an app that automatically sends your emails at certain times, such as Boomerang.

 
 

P.S. -

It is okay to use smiley faces and exclamation marks in your emails. Be professional, but if you're a bubbly super excited wedding photographer like me... you would sound angry and weird if you didn't throw in a smiley face here and there. Let your personality shine!

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.