14 TOOLS I COULDN'T LIVE WITHOUT IN 2014

There are so many aspects of running a photography business, and sometimes it can be a little overwhelming.  If you’re like me, you’re probably always looking for anything that can make it a little less overwhelming.  That’s where this list comes in.  These are the tools I use every single day, and they help me manage my business, instead of letting it manage me.  

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(disclaimer: a few of these are affiliate links, which means I may be compensated if you click on them and sign up.  That said, I wouldn’t recommend anything - affiliate or not - if I didn’t totally believe in it.   If that bothers you, you can simply google each, and sign up that way.)

For Keeping Track Of My Clients
ShootQ
ShootQ manages the three aspects of a photographers business that can totally suck the life out of even the most organized among us.  It combines a booking/contracting tool, with workflow management, as well as integrated client communications (automated emails/etc).  It's still the very best in the business when it comes to managing your clients and workflows, and it's honestly the one tool on this list I don't think I could run my business without.


For Image Processing
ShootDotEdit

I know that photographers sometimes get confused and think that processing their own images is a part of being a photographer.  It certainly is true that processing our images is important, but I don’t think it’s true that sitting in front of a computer monitor for hours, correcting white balance and exposure, is a valuable use of your time as a photographer - or a business owner.  

Instead, I'd much rather let the pros take care of that part of my workflow.  And my friends at ShootDotEdit have launched what might be the most important service for photographers in the last 5 years - unlimited editing for a fixed monthly cost.  
 

For Websites/Blog

Squarespace

I've built, and hosted, about a dozen sites on the Squarespace platform, including this one.  I know that WordPress is all the buzz, but honestly, Squarespace does 3 things better than just about anything else. 1)  It's SUPER easy to build fantastic-looking sites, even if you don't know how to code. 2) It offers far more robust tools than almost anything else - meaning that you can expand and customize a site to do just about anything (they even feature a best-in-class storefront), and 3) their customer service is better than anyone else - in pretty much any industry.  No kidding - they are pretty much the Zappos of website platforms.

For Designing and Selling Albums

KISS Designer

The two reasons most photographers aren't making what they should on their albums is that they don't have a simple tool for creating beautiful books, and they don't have a good way of presenting their albums to their clients to allow for feedback.  

There are some solutions that at least partially solve one of these problems - but this is by far the first to solve BOTH for photographers!  It takes the stress out of designing albums, and makes it super easy to present them and SELL THEM to your clients. It's a robust, yet simple tool that makes designing albums easy, fast, and cool.  In fact, the designer will actually design your albums for you - or you can have a human do it for you, and handle all the changes, at a really affordable price.


For Client Sales
Preveal
Figuring out the best way to do in-person sales with your clients, is easily one of the biggest struggles that photographers face, and I can't tell you how excited I am that the smart people over at Preveal, created such a great app.  It makes showing your clients their photos, in actual size, on THEIR walls, super simple.  It's beautifully designed, easy to use, and is a great tool for increasing your print sales.  These guys have really figured it out - and they're top-notch people!


For Keeping Track of… well, everything else
Evernote
If you've ever heard me speak, you know what a fan I am of Evernote.  It's where I create blog posts, where I save ideas, thoughts, and start projects.  I use it to take photos of receipts, so I can search and find them later, and it's pretty much where I save just about everything - including articles and interesting things I find online.  The best part - it's FREE.  I use the Premium subscription because it makes your content searchable, faster - and it allows you more storage, but for many people, the free plan is perfect.


For Keeping My Files Wherever I am
Dropbox
At the same time, Dropbox has become the perfect tool for me, when it comes to organizing files.  In fact, I use it instead of a "Documents" folder on my Mac.  In addition to creating a backup of my files, it also syncs them across all of my computers and devices.  I can share files, or folders, with my team, and it lets us all work on the same files (instead of sending revision, after revision).  

The best part is - you can get a 2GB account for FREE!  Or, if you click the link above, you'll actually get a little extra bonus space for free.


For Managing Social Media
Hootsuite
Hootsuite has always been a go-to tool for managing your various social media feeds, including twitter and Facebook, but now it's getting even better.  The "hootlet" plugin tool, allows you to easily share content from across the web, including Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube, Twitter, Flickr, Google Images, and even Yelp.  It makes it easy to schedule, post, and monitor your social media accounts and feeds, and the paid accounts include really useful tools for social media analytics.


For Managing My Business Finances
Kashoo
I wrote about Kashoo about 18 months ago, but the gist of it is this: it rocks.  It's as if they actually designed something based on how small business actually need to use it - and then made sure to program it in a way that makes your accountant happy too!  And the iPad app is gorgeous and easy to use.  It actually makes your accounting software something you look forward to using!


For Organizing Blog/News Feeds
Feedly (chrome plugin)

When Google Reader died, a lot of people started looking for an easy way to keep track of the various news/blog feeds that they read everyday.  Feedly is an elegant and simple way to import your old google reader feeds, into a super intuitive user interface.  I literally use this every morning as I read through the news and articles that are interesting to me.

For Simple To Do Lists
Any.Do (iPhone)

It’s true that I can be a little OCD when it comes to task management/project management software.  I probably spend more time trying to find a perfect "list" tool, then I actually do on the tasks on my lists!  That's why I'm really glad I found Any.Do.  It's perfect.  It allows me to get stuff out of my brain, and into a list that increases the chance I'll actually do it.  Of course, a ton of apps do that.  What Any.Do does so well, is that each day, it invites you to plan your day - helping you organize tasks, and schedule for the future, things that don't need to happen today. 


For Traveling
Tripit + FlightTrack Pro

If you travel at all, whether for weddings, work, or even just for fun, these two apps are MUST HAVES.  Tripit allows you to forward all of your travel arrangements, and then be able to access all of your travel plans in one place.  You can manage them online, or via the iPhone app.  It keeps you updated on changes to your flights, and keeps things like rental car reservations, hotel reservations, etc - all in one place.  It’s even smart enough to organize them all for you - you literally just forward the confirmation emails and it does the rest.

In addition, it syncs beautifully with FlightTrack Pro - which is the best way for tracking your flight information.  Often, when I’m at the airport, FlightTrack Pro will notify me of a delay, or gate change, before the airline even has it posted.  It will send you notifications for gate changes, delays, cancellations, etc, making it an invaluable tool for frequent travelers.

For Email Marketing
MadMimi

Your email marketing strategy is easily one of the most important aspects of how you grow your business, and MadMimi is by far the simplest way to do just that.  There are a lot of great email marketing services out there (MailChimp is a popular one), and some of them offer more robust features, but I still find that MadMimi is the easiest way to design really beautiful emails, as well as build and manage your contact lists. 


How about you?  What are the tools you couldn't live without in 2014?  Leave your suggestions in the comments below!

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