Business

How to Prepare Your Business for Vacation

How to Prepare Your Business for VacationAs much as we all love our businesses and taking photos of awesome people, we still also love vacation. Everyone needs a vacation, even people who love their jobs. However, it’s really difficult to go on vacation when you’re a business owner. It’s even more difficult when you’re a sole business owner as most photographers are.

I think the most difficult part of going on vacation with your business is keeping up a consistent online presence while you’re gone. There is a delicate balance between ensuring your business runs while you’re on vacation and actually enjoying your vacation. You don’t want to have to work on your vacation, right?

In this blog post I put together a few tips for everyone about what I do to prepare my business for a vacation while I’m gone. My goal is for it to seem like nothing has changed for my clients and potential customers. I want to keep a consistent social media and blog presence. I want my emails to have responses of some kind. Most of all, I want everything to be automated so I don’t have to worry. There’s nothing worse than a vacation where you end up actually working. We all need that time to feel recovered and refreshed.

Automated Email Responses

When you’re gone set up an automated email response that lets anyone know that you’ll be out of town for these dates and when they can expect for you to return their email. There are a few tips for how to create an automated email response that doesn’t annoy your customers. First, only send it once per email address. Do not set up your email response to send after every single email someone sends. If you’re gone for a couple weeks you may often get a couple of emails from one person and it looks careless to send the same automated response to them every time they email. Once is more than enough. Second, make sure you leave enough information in the response so they know exactly what to expect. It’s one thing to say  you’re out of town, but make sure you leave dates.

Schedule Social Media in Advance

Use a free tool like Hootsuite and schedule photo posts, and other social media updates regularly for when you’re out of town. By doing this you are putting out a consistent presence. Your social media dies when nothing is posted. You don’t want to post only vacation photos. Mix in some of your photography portfolio to show people how awesome you are.

Schedule Blog Posts in Advance

My favorite feature in WordPress is the ability to schedule blog posts to publish in advance. When I’m getting ready to leave for a vacation one of my biggest goals is to get lots of blog posts written in advance and scheduled. Whether they’re tips for my clients so their weddings and sessions go more smoothly or they’re posts featuring recent shoots and weddings, it’s always helpful to have consistent content being released on your blog while you’re gone.

You can also write a blog post letting people know that you’re out of town and when to expect responses via email, social media, or phone calls. I love to put this information out in as many ways as possible (email responses, blog, voicemail, etc.) so I feel I’ve done everything possible to ensure people know what to expect.

Change Your Voicemail Message

Finally, the last thing I do is change my voicemail message. This is not just for clients, but also for anyone who calls me. I let them know that I’m out of town for these specific dates and to expect a return call when I get back, or to send me an email if there’s something more urgent.

Finish Editing

When you’re preparing to leave on vacation one of the best things you can do for your clients is schedule enough time to finish all of your editing. Don’t make your clients wait for photos if the vacation extends the time frame in your contract. If you can’t get everything done before you leave it may be good to send out your photos to be edited by someone else so you can meet all your deadlines. I prefer to have all my editing done before I leave so I don’t feel like I’ve got something on my plate waiting for me when I get back. It allows me to fully relax.

There’s usually one thing I still do on vacation once a day because it’s incredibly difficult to escape. That’s answering emails. Even if I have an automated response I still like to respond to inquiries and do my best to get them booked. If they have to wait a couple weeks for a response from me they may lose interest. I’m still a business owner so I like to respond to my clients as often as I can.

If you want to learn more awesome behind the business stuff like this make sure you subscribe to our weekly newsletter below, where we’ll be giving out extra special discounts and a few free products only for subscribers this Winter. You can also join our Facebook group, follow us on Facebook, follow us on Instagram, and even follow me on Pinterest where I love to pin social media, blogging, business, and photography tips from all over the web! If you subscribe to our newsletter you’ll need to head on over to your email after you hit the submit button here to confirm your subscription. If you don’t see a confirmation check your junk/spam!

Announcing Photo Camp 2017 Dates with an Extra Dose of $99 Tickets on Top

shawneeandblue-reception-332Here’s what I know. I’ve been planning my own event now for 3 years (this last year’s just finished). I know what it’s like to try and afford food to feed everyone attending, styled shoots, planners, venues and more. I also know what it’s like to pay huge prices to go to events because I’ve paid them myself. I have a background in teaching, a K-12 Art Education degree and I always struggle with this balance of should a conference profit, or should education be affordable and accessible.

So, today I’m here to say that thanks to some clever planning, sponsors and more, the 4th Awesomesauce conference (now known as Photo Camp) is only going to be $99 a person to attend. That’s all your ticket costs. I want to focus on giving you the education and cutting all the icky stuff that goes along with planning events. Instead of feeling stretched thin trying to coordinate food, shoots and more (although this year I had an amazing planner to do all that for me), I think in the future I’ll be focusing on just the education. That’s what you pay for – just the education.

Here’s something I’ve learned this past year too. When you, as a business owner, focus on doing what you love, not for the money, you end up more abundant than ever (and I’m not just talking wealth here). So 2017 is for you guys. The cost of your tickets pays for the cost of the venue (oh and s’mores). My time is yours. I want you to come not knowing anyone and leave with a huge community of friends.

2017 is also going to change in a big way as in – no more shoots! That’s right, a photography event without shooting. You can go to almost any photography event and shoot. I often find that the shooting distracts from the learning. As photographers we all started this business for the love of shooting and it’s the business end, that most of the time, we need major help with. 2017 is ALL about your business. It’s about branding, marketing, Facebook, social media, Instagram, blogging, Pinterest, snapchat and learning how to connect with your ideal customers. I want you to walk away with actionable tips to put in place as soon as you leave (or even during). I don’t want you to walk away simply feeling inspired. Inspiration and motivation to keep plugging through your business is great, and we all need that, but we need to know how and what to do exactly that can help us, right?

I’m really looking forward to our biggest and best year yet next year and I hope to see so many more of you who are a part of this community in person, meet you, teach you and – learn from you. Every year doing this conference has always been a big part of learning for me and I love that challenge! So let’s rock it in 2017!

Tickets are $99 for a limited time (probably because these are going to run out SO FAST).

6 Ways to Add Passive Income to Your Wedding Photography Business

6 Ways to Add Passive Income to Your Wedding Photography BusinessHow cool would it be if you just got a check in the mail every month with extra money on the side for your business? Sounds too good to be true right? Well, this isn’t any “get rich quick” scheme. It won’t exactly make you rich right away, but it can be a great tool to add to your business if you think it might be a good fit.

This blog post is about becoming an affiliate! Affiliates are usually people like you and me who sign up to be an affiliate with a company, and you get a custom link. When you give that link out to anyone and they purchase something from the company through that link you get a little kick back. I love affiliate programs because they’re great for bloggers to earn a little extra bit on the side.

Here are a few tips you should know about affiliate marketing before I get to the nitty-gritty and tell you some awesome places you can become an affiliate for as a wedding photographer.

  • Affiliate marketing requires that you have a disclaimer on any blog post, email or social media post that you earn money when people purchase through the link. Make sure you read more about how you’re required to provide disclaimers. Sometimes different companies have different rules, and you always need to obey the law.
  • In the US the law really wants you to make it bold and easy for people to find your affiliate disclaimer. That means don’t bury it at the bottom of a blog post or try to hide it. You can put a big disclaimer at the top of the post, or put it right next to the link that you make an income from. Just try to be obvious and honest.
  • Don’t become an affiliate for anything and everything just because you can. Be an affiliate for companies you know you’ll actually promote a lot and actually like. That way it’s genuine when you link to them and suggest them.

Now, before we really really actually do dive into where to become an affiliate I need to tell you something. Truth. I don’t want my clients to print at Shutterfly or Canvas Pop. Obviously, I’d like them to print through me as much as possible. However, my theory is that if for some reason they are going to print through someone else – at the very least I should make money off of it. That’s why I’m an affiliate for companies like Shutterfly and Canvas Pop. At the end of the day I’m a business and I do have to pay the mortgage and eat. I know some of you are judging right now, but don’t worry – I always push ordering through me and my quality labs first.

  1. Shutterfly, Tiny Prints, and Wedding Paper Divas – These are all the same company. In fact, Borrow Lenses is also part of the Shutterfly team. Shutterfly can be good for quick prints for scrapbooking and I love sending clients to Wedding Paper Divas to make save the dates, invitations and thank you cards. How great is it to get a little kickback off each of their paper goods at every wedding? I have done a lot of in person sales in the past and used to design and offer these paper goods as services I could provide, but I just didn’t find joy in it and decided it wasn’t for me and this was a better alternative.
  2. Miller’s and Mpix – Miller’s and Mpix have an affiliate program now! I know a lot of photographers who would suggest Mpix to their clients as a good consumer printer lab. Now you can make money every time you suggest it and they go print there.
  3. Modcloth – Modcloth might not be for everyone, but they have some wedding dresses, bridesmaids dresses, and great shoes which a lot of my clients love!
  4. Artifact Uprising – If clients don’t want to print an album with me, this is one of the amazing places I suggest.
  5. Canvas Pop – If they want to print their own canvases…here you go!
  6. Mixbook – This is a new album printing company. Or at least it’s new to me. I discovered it because one of my brides used it and loved it, so I figured why not promote it too?

Now, I’ve got to tell you how you can make these affiliate sales happen. I do it in two ways. One is through my automated email reminders with my clients and another is through blogging. With automated emails I use both Pixifi and Shootproof‘s systems. I use Pixifi to send email reminders from the moment they book up until the day after the wedding. In those emails I link back to a lot of blog posts and other resources I think my clients would love and I can throw in a few of these links too. Once their photos are delivered I switch to Shootproof‘s email system which is connected to their online gallery. With each email reminder there’s instructions to order through me, coupon codes for ordering through me, and several of these printing options with my affiliates that I suggest as well. It is totally okay to say, “If you appreciated working with me at all I’d love it if you used one of these links when you order because it sends me a little kick back.” If you want to start using Shootproof use my exclusive coupon code to grab 25% off any annual plan. Code: SWAILS25

When it comes to blogging I know I can blog about any one of these companies, and mix them up into various resourceful posts for my clients as well.

This is just how I roll and it’s something I’ve implemented more recently, but I’m already loving and seeing a lot of success from. This isn’t going to be for everyone, but for those who have asked I hope this post helps. Maybe you’ll find it appalling that I’d even let my clients order from Shutterfly and that’s okay too. I get it. We all run our businesses differently and do what works best for us and this has been an amazing way to but a cherry on top of the cake of business income.

If you want to know how to become an affiliate for a lot of these companies you can head right over to Share a Sale, which is a website that can connect you to all kinds of companies to start doing affiliate sales. All of these except Millers are listed on there and you can even use my link to sign up with Share a Sale and hey it sends me a little love too (note the disclaimer)! Here’s a link to Miller’s information about affiliate sales.

How Not to Follow the Photography Masses

Whether you’re just starting out or you’re a seasoned photographer, watching social media and not getting jealous of other photographers is hard.  I’ve done it.  I’ve been there but they are them and you are you.  Remember that through this entire post!

PHOTOGRAPHYAWESOMESAUCE.COM

When I first started out, I’d see all these gorgeous images flowing through my newsfeed, all these photographers with 5000,10,000+ fans on their Facebook pages and them posting that they were booking left and right.  I was jealous, not gonna lie.  I was jealous of someone I didn’t know, jealous of someone that I only “virtually knew” and jealous of someone that wouldn’t recognize me if I ran into them at Target but I would sure as hell know who they were.

You know what?  It didn’t matter.  It didn’t matter at all.  I was all caught up in wanting to be the next best thing that I was losing focus on MY business, on making my brand kick ass, on making my business about me.  It took me a long time to realize that I wasn’t going to be the next rock star and you know what?  I am totally okay with that, TOTALLY!  I’ve met some of the rocks stars and they aren’t all that “rock starish”.  I’ve made some of the best photography friends with like minded people and not trying to be the next best thing.

My clients love me for the crazy things I do, they love me for laying all over the ground to get a shot, for stealing candy from the candy bar, for meeting at the bar for their consults, the list goes on.  My clients don’t hire me for having 20k+ likes on my business page, they hire me for my work and my personality.  My personality.

You are your business.  You are the face that the client sees and the one that they interact with the most.  Be you.  Laugh, joke, hell even cry, I have but most of all…BE YOU! 

12 Tools to Rock Your Photography Business This Year

12 Tools to Rock Your Photography Business This YearDisclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means Photography Awesomesauce receives commission if you make a purchase using affiliate links.

Hey hey! Today I put together a list of some of my favorite tools I use to rock my photography business daily. Everything from gear related tools to business tools. If you’re really looking for a way to level up your business this year and take something that’s a weakness for you (maybe it’s social media) having the tools available to help you make it a strength can make a huge difference in your business.

I’m not saying you need to run out and buy all these things right now. Everyone has a budget for your business, but I strongly encourage each of you to sit down and figure out what you’re strengths and weaknesses are when it comes to business and how you can use one of these tools to make a weakness into a strength. I’ve always been a believer in investing in your business and looking at these types of purchases as an investment that lets me get my life back and do a better job for my clients.

  1. Fundy Designer – Fundy is an album design software program – primarily. The cool thing is that Fundy has also come out with software to help you design wall galleries for your clients, or to help you collage blog posts and more. If you’re going to invest in some software to automate processes like album design Fundy is simply the best there is out there.
  2. Pixifi – Pixifi is my favorite tool for studio management. I run all my contracts and payments digitally through Pixifi, but it also automates my client reminders and communications as well, which means I get to take back my life and let Pixifi do the hard work for me so I can enjoy more time with family or getting out and shooting!
  3. Made in the Lab – If you haven’t heard of my new business venture with my business partners, Rachael and Jason, then you need to get over and read all about it. Made in the Lab is a web design focused company. We’re dedicated to creating affordable website templates for creative business owners like photographers. If you need a professionally designed website but typically can’t afford all the high fees associated with purchasing a template to design one, well look no further. You can grab a template for only $60.
  4. Showit5 – Showit5 is a brand new website design platform geared specifically toward photographers. It’s all about simple drag and drop website creation, no need to know how to code! Right now Showit5 is invite only based, but you can grab an invite for free from Made in the Lab over here.
  5. Lens Flipper – The Lens Flipper might be my favorite new thing I’ve found at WPPI this past year! If you’re a photographer then you probably know exactly what I’m talking about when you want to switch lenses and you just don’t have enough hands, or a place to set down a lens to do it properly. The lens flipper is a little attachment cap so you don’t have to worry about swapping lenses and having extra hands. It’s so cool. I was able to use it at weddings already and I’m in love. It’s incredibly helpful for swapping out lenses on the go.
  6. Holdfast Moneymaker – I struggle a lot with neck and back problems so the Holdfast Moneymaker harness system is the best way ever for me to hold my cameras. Whether you shoot with two cameras at once, or one (you can attach a lens bag on the other side to even out the weight), it’s perfect for keeping your back happy and healthy. Plus you look badass.
  7. Shootproof – Photo CDs and USBs are out for me and I love delivering photos through digital download with Shootproof. If digital download isn’t your thing that’s okay too, you can still use them as an online proofing gallery and sell prints! There are tons of reasons I could go on about why I love Shootproof, but instead you can read about how Shootproof’s automated email system can help you sell more prints, 9 reasons Shootproof is the best, and this review about Shootproof. You can also take 25% off any annual plan on Shootproof if you use the code SWAILS25.
  8. Lens Rentals Membership – For $79 a year you can never pay shipping fees ever again from Lens Rentals. I’ve only rented a few times and it paid for itself multiple times over already. It can cost $25-50 per rental to ship, so if you plan on renting more than once a year – you already save money. Lens Rentals is also Lens Authority, a used gear sales shop. They are seriously my favorite place to buy used gear. Everything is in pristine condition and the customer service is out of this world.
  9. Professional Graphic Designer – If you’re not into templates for web design (as mentioned earlier) and you want something a little more custom then I highly recommend hiring a professional designer. I’m terrible at design myself, and having Rachael Earl on my team to custom design two websites for me this year (among other projects) has been one of the best investments in life ever. Professional design can go such a long way to making your business look professional. After all, if it doesn’t look like you invest in your business, you can’t expect your clients to as well.
  10. Coschedule – Struggle with blogging? Writing and scheduling posts in advance is an amazing way to keep up with blogging and take advantage of all its marketing benefits. One of the best ways to help me with scheduling is Coschedule. It’s a plugin for WordPress blogs that adds an editorial schedule, but most importantly, it adds a box under each blog post that allows you to schedule social media blasts in advance for after your post is scheduled to go live. It means you can automate the blogging process, write when it works best for you, and then not have to worry about remembering to post on social media about your blogs.
  11. Edgar – Speaking of social media scheduling tools, let me tell you about Edgar. Edgar is a bit pricey in terms of scheduling, but if social media is something you majorly struggle with – Edgar can also be a lifesaver. I would say it’s definitely one of the best investments I have spent in the last year. It’s a social media scheduling tool for Facebook and Twitter. Unlike Hootsuite, where you have to go in and schedule posts, Edgar allows you to create a huge library of updates and sort them into various categories. Then you can assign the categories to post at specific times of the week to specific accounts. So Edgar actually does the scheduling for you, by cycling through your library and then making the posts go live. Even though it seems pricey in terms of a monthly investment, it’s WAY cheaper than hiring a social media assistant and it makes your social media basically hands free.
  12. Schedugram – The only thing Edgar can’t do is schedule on Instagram. In fact, a lot of Instagram scheduling programs still don’t fully automate the process. They have to send a reminder to your phone to post something. You have to drop everything you’re doing to post it at the time you wanted it to go live and then who knows…you’re probably off track chasing down weird hashtags on Instagram.  Hours later you’ve lost tons of productive work time. Am I right? That’s where Schedugram is different, it schedules and fully automates the process for you, unlike Latergram. You just schedule everything by logging into your browser on your desktop and then voila – it takes care of Instagram for you and you get your editing done. Between this and Edgar, I do often feel like I’m spending a big investment on social media, but I can’t tell you enough how much I’ve also earned back from that investment in terms of followers, leads, and actual bookings…plus happier clients and a happier husband who I can actually spend time with! Here’s a blog post I wrote about Schedugram and how to actually automate your Instagram posts.

If you want to learn more awesome behind the business stuff like this make sure you subscribe to our weekly newsletter below, where we’ll be giving out extra special discounts and a few free products only for subscribers this Winter. You can also join our Facebook group, follow us on Facebook, follow us on Instagram, and even follow me on Pinterest where I love to pin social media, blogging, business, and photography tips from all over the web! If you subscribe to our newsletter you’ll need to head on over to your email after you hit the submit button here to confirm your subscription. If you don’t see a confirmation check your junk/spam!