As I’ve grown in my business, I’ve had some pretty kick-A opportunities to talk to budding photographers. After countless conversations over coffee, quick talks on wedding days, or late night heart-to-hearts sipping wine, one struggle consistently comes up in each conversation:
Think about it. Growing your wedding photography business is so much more than shooting weddings! Tons of work happens behind the scenes that most beginning photographers don’t realize until they’re in the thick of it. And by the time you’re overwhelmed to the point of tears (yeah, it happens), you might feel like giving up.
Don’t! While creating your career as a wedding photographer is tough, it’s so rewarding if you have the right tools and make the right decisions at the foundation of your business. One of the greatest pieces of advice that I was given as a budding entrepreneur was “you can’t do it all.” That sounds super basic and obvious, but it was something that I desperately needed to realize. You have to accept help whether it’s in the form of outsourcing, coaching or investing in tools that give you piece of mind. And you have to seek out the right help.
We’ve all read the posts circulating on Facebook. As a wedding photographer, you’re not just a photographer. You’re a bookkeeper, customer service rep, marketing strategist, advertiser, blogger, planner, accountant, social media guru, therapist, and so much more. That’s a lot for someone to take on!
So over the years, I’ve added an arsenal of great organizational weapons that have allowed me to keep the calm and focus on giving each one of my couples and clients a great experience that they can’t help but rave about. Not only do these programs make me look much more professional, they give me SUCH peace of mind and clarity in how my business is operating.
1. Up first, Honeybook.
Y’all, this is one tool that I signed up for at their beginning, and I’m thankful every day that I did! If you’re unfamiliar with Honeybook, it’s an organizational tool for streamlining your client workflow. Honeybook combines pretty much everything I need on the backend of my business that makes so many things possible for me and my clients!
Before Honeybook, I used good old-fashioned Word documents to send contracts. My clients had to print, sign, and mail or hand deliver it to me with a check in hand to be officially booked. Then I would have to sign, scan and send it back to them so they could have a copy. On average, that process took about 7+ days. People are busy, so asking someone to print a document and snail mail it to me was a lot to ask for! Also, people run out of things they don’t use daily. So unless they’re always sending snail mail, they’re out of stamps. That makes sending in the contract and their check impossible until they can make it to the Post Office. And who’s a fan of the Post Office? Nobody.
After bringing Honeybook onto my team, this process went from 7+ days to just a couple of hours, sometimes minutes! Not only are my clients able to view their contract and sign online, they’re also able to pay by credit card and get those rewards points! That right there is a huge perk in my opinion. It’s also super convenient for them!
Through Honeybook, I can create templates for contracts, emails, questionnaires and set reminders or automate when anything needs to be sent to my couples. I used to spend at least an hour putting together contract a client contract alone. Now? It takes me 5 minutes. Needless to say, Honeybook is the structural backbone of my business.
Now let’s look at cost! Honeybook is definitely an investment, and there are many other programs out there that can do very similar tasks to Honeybook for less. However, if you’re like me and you crave community, creativity and appreciate beautiful design and UI/UX, Honeybook is the one you need. They just launched their own community in collaboration with The Rising Tide Society that allows creatives to post opportunities and connect on another level. Pretty freaking awesome.
If you’re interested in making Honeybook do magic for you, *I’ve got a 50% off link right here for ya! Enjoy, friend!
2. Mile IQ
If there is one tool that I absolutely could never live without, it’s Mile IQ. Let me walk you down memory lane…
Years ago, before The Best Decision I Ever Made, I kept a spreadsheet of all of my events and sessions. Excel was my homeboy, and in that spreadsheet, I dated each wedding/session I photographed, what I made from that session, where it was located, and how many miles I drove getting there. I also had to keep a detailed written calendar that had all of my dates and meetings where I met with clients or went to a networking event – anything that had to do with my business.
When tax time arrived, I had to go back through my calendar and double check or add travel that I missed (and believe me, I missed a lot), add up all of my mileage and multiply it by however much the IRS allowed for tax deductions.
That was rough, y’all. Now? I have Mile IQ.
Mile IQ is an app that automatically detects your drives. Each time you get in the car and go somewhere, it picks it up and adds it to your driving log. Every few days (or whenever you want), you can go back in and swipe left for personal drives or right for business drives, and you can specifically mark each drive for it’s purpose and add any necessary information. For example, I shoot a lot at Piedmont Park, and I’ve found that a super simple meet up spot for me and my couples is in the shared parking garage at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens. It costs $5 to park there, so each time I have a session, I add that $5 to my Drive for that day, and it’s automatically marked as an expense. Boom.
Now when tax time arrives, I can easily download my annual report and send it to my CPA. It takes less than 5 minutes, as opposed to the days it used to take me.
Worth. Every. Penny.
You’re probably thinking, “Gosh Laura, I love your website so much!” Kidding! But if we’re being totally honest, I love my website! But I love it for more than it’s look and feel. I love the flexibility that I have to update, refine and set up new posts in my blog.
Basically, Showit is the website builder + hosting tool that gives the control in design of Wix but in a MUCH better platform. Trust me, I used to have a Wix website on a budget. And I can’t count the number of issues I had with that platform on my hands and toes combined because there were just so many! Each day, it was like some new catastrophe was happening with my website, and the headache never went away!
I knew that I needed something just as easy, if not easier, that I could rely on confidently. I also needed it to integrate well with WordPress for SEO and blogging purposes.
And that’s Showit. They get my vote in creating an outstanding website that you have complete control over, is mobile responsive, can be paired with WordPress, and has a great team behind it.
This one is for all my travel junkies out there! When I travel, I want to be absorbed in some local culture. I also don’t want to pay crazy amounts of money for a small hotel room with no kitchen and really thin walls. My opinion? Yep. But I’m sticking to it!
I’ve used Airbnb to travel to all sorts of places in and outside the country. Tybee Island, Cinqué Terre, Charleston, Asheville, and Salt Lake City are among some of the places I’ve used Airbnb, and I’m one of their biggest fans! Through my travels, I’ve met so many great hosts, gotten awesome recommendations on restaurants and things to do in each city, and saved money for what I’ve gotten. We’re even using Airbnb to book our accommodations for our wedding in Hawaii! How cool is that?
Airbnb hosts also offer great prices and amenities for people traveling on business (holla for super fast WiFi!), and sometimes, they leave you treats like a bottle of wine when you arrive. True story!
5. Quickbooks for the win!
I despise dealing with money. If I could work as a photographer and live off hopes and dreams and sunshine, I would! But in order to do this wonderful passion of mine as a career and give my couples the experience they deserve, I have to be able to make a living.
Quickbooks makes the menial task of cataloging my expenses and income so much easier to deal with. You can connect your bank account directly to Quickbooks (oh, and Honeybook can integrate with Quickbooks, too!) which makes it so easy to categorize your expenses and income. No more Excel spreadsheets necessary!
When tax time arrives, you can add your CPA so they can view your earnings and do all your taxes for you. You can prep and send 1099 forms for your second shooters and anyone you pay over $600 during that tax year (yeah…that’s a thing). It makes all of the money stuff so easy for me, and that’s something my business can’t do without!
Each one of these tools and apps have been instrumental in building my business to full time status. I invested in these early on while I still had another full time job footing my passion’s bill, and if I could do it over, I’d do it the exact same way! Right now, I’m not floundering around trying to fix problems or streamline my workflow. I’m not spending countless hours attempting to keep my business afloat because I’ve already created a strong foundation.
Instead, I’m able to use my time to build my business in other areas, to create and meet new couples. I’m able to travel. I’m able to give my clients an amazing experience that is stress free and so simple it’s ridiculous. More than all of those reasons, I’m able to shut the computer off at 5p when Garrett gets home.
So if you’re struggling in your business or your just beginning and you don’t know where to start or what you need to make it in the long run, I encourage you to seek out these platforms (especially those that keep your money straight!), and possibly add them to your arsenal, too.
*Yes, the starred links are affiliate links! However, I’m not promoting these tools because they gave me affiliate links. I’m promoting them because I’ve been using them for so long and I love them so dang much that I had to write a post to share! Also, I get asked about these tools A LOT.
Here are the links again!
Other tools I love?
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This page contains affiliate links. But, I was going to recommend them anyway, so I may as well get paid for it! Enjoy!