10 TOOLS EVERY PHOTOGRAPHER SHOULDN'T LIVE WITHOUT

Running a photography business can be a challenge, for sure.  From managing your clients, to keeping track of your finances, there's a lot to do!  Fortunately there are some really great tools available to make life just a little easier.

Here are 10 of my absolute favorites:

 

1. ShootQ

[www.shootq.com]

ShootQ is easily the most valuable tool available to photographers, when it comes to managing your client relationships, booking process, and workflows.  It helps keep everything organized, from lead generation, handling invoicing, keeping track of workflows for various jobs, and tracking client communications.  It frees up so much time that it's like having a part-time employee working for you.  Clicking on the link above will get you 4 months for free - so now you have no excuse not to check it ou!

2. Kashoo

[www.kashoo.com]

I wrote a pretty extensive review of Kashoo here, so I won't go into the whole thing again.  What I will say is that if you're looking for a better way to manage your business finances - this is it.  It's so much easier, and more elegant than Quickbooks - AND they have a killer iPad app.  You can sign up for free, or there's a level for $10 a month that's perfect for small businesses.

3. Wunderkit

[www.wunderkit.com]

Another product I've written about before - and absolutely LOVE.  This is my favorite task management system out there - and it's great for mananging multiple projects, especially when they involve multiple people.  You can use it online, as a standalone app on your mac, or on your iphone, and it syncs beautifully.  There is a completely free version that is probably perfect for most photographers.  I have the premium version only because of the enhanced sharing capabilities.

4. Evernote

[www.evernote.com]

You can read the 5 Ways I Use Evernote to Run A Creative Business, or you can believe me when I tell you that Evernote is probably the most helpful way to organize pretty much everything.  I use it for saving receipts, composing and archiving blog posts, conference notes, and more!  Oh yeah, they have a free version :)  (noticing a trend yet?!)

5. Dropbox

[www.dropbox.com]

There are certainly other options out there, including Google Drive, Box.net and more - but I still think that DropBox is the most elegant, simple way to keep your files sync'd across multiple computers and all your devices.  I use DropBox for ALL of my non-image files.  That means that DropBox basically replaces my Documents folder.  Oh, and it's also free to sign up.  If you click on the link right above, you'll actually get an additional 500MB of storage when you sign up (disclosure, that's an affiliate link and I get a little extra free storage too.  I don't get paid for any of these links though, and wouldn't recommend them if I didn't use, AND believe in them).

6. SWAT Designer

[www.swatdesigner.com]

SWAT Designer is simply the BEST way to share, and get feedback on your album designs with your clients.  It also happens to be a simple, and beautiful way to design albums.  Though I don't use it for that purpose, it's great for people who want a really easy way to design, present and sell their albums.  I use it to get client feedback, and then to submit their designs to KISS.  It's also free :)

7. Gmail

[www.gmail.com]

With google apps for business, you can have your business email through gmail, meaning you'll get to take advantage of all of the benefits of gmail, with an email address @ your business domain. Let's face it, Gmail is the best email service out there, and the fact that I can use it for my business, makes this a no-brainer.

8. Square

[www.squareup.com]

Square is probably the simplest - easiest way to process credit card payments, especially in person.  It does have limitation, meaning there's no shopping cart integration, or web-processing.  Even with that, the fact that I can build orders using the Square Register App on the iPad, and process payments on the spot when clients order - makes this a MUST HAVE.   They've also just revamped the website to make tracking and managing payments and deposits much easier.

9. MadMimi

[www.madmimi.com]

There are a lot of email list management and design options out there, but for me, MadMimi is still the simplest way to create beautiful emails and manage my newsletter.  I love the analytics reporting, and the ease of use.  It's also really reasonably priced (yes, there's a free level too!) 

 

10. Hootsuite

[www.hootsuite.com]

Hootsuite is a really powerful social media management tool.  It allows you to post to, and monitor all of your various social media feeds (twitter, facebook, linkedin, etc), and it gives you really robust reportings and analytics.  It helps you track engagement and response to your social media efforts, and I really like that in addition to the web interface, there are ipad and iphone apps.

 

Tell me what you think.  What are some of the tools you can't live without?  Leave a comment below!

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START #5: SYSTEMS CREATE MARGIN

Ever feel like this guy?  If you're a wedding or portrait photographer - and running your own business, chances are - you have.  The truth is, most of us can be easily overwhelmed by the things we have to do on a regular basis: edit photos, meet with clients, track our income and expenses, purchase new equipment, fulfill orders, manage our clients information, and more.

Most of us operate with very little margin in our business - or our life.  I like to think of margin as the difference between all the things we're doing (our responsibility), and all the things we're capable of doing (our capacity).  For many of us, we have little or no margin - and end up feeling like our friend above.  If you scroll down, you'll see this post, where I share results about how photographers spend most of their time.

The fact is, most of us spend much of our time on things that don't necessarily help us grow our business - they just help us barely keep our head above the water.  So, what if we were able to create systems that helped free up some of that margin - so we could spend more time on things that really helped us build our business.

So what do I mean by "systems?"  Everything you do on a regular basis should have a system: a repeatable process to complete common tasks.  In my business, I have systems in place for our accounting, our workflow, client relationship management, sales, and ordering.  Each of these systems is designed to be efficient - saving me time.  

For example - I block 2 hours, one day each week for entering information in quickbooks.  I block time each day for responding to email and other communication that needs my attention.  My image editing workflow takes me about 4 hours on Monday, and my album pre-design takes about 1.5 hours on Wednesday.

I'm not saying you have to follow my schedule - but by having a system in place - that I know I can repeat, time after time, I'm able to save myself time for things that are critical for building a business.

Taking the time up front to put in a system that works, can save you time - and margin - later.

image from istockphoto.com