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!

Did you find this post helpful? CLICK HERE to have posts like this delivered to your email inbox, then CHECK OUT YEAR ONE: to learn how to build a profitable and sustainable photography business.

Comment

WUNDERKIT REVIEW

I've been using Wunderkit for a few weeks now, and I think I'm in love.  I know that's probably pretty strong language for a piece of software, but no kidding - it's changed the way I work.  It's helped keep me more organized, made me more efficient, and made it simple to collaborate across multiple projects.  Sure, it's still a beta, so there's a few things that I'd like to see better integrated - but I want to share with you my thoughts on using it in a photography business.


 

Before I get into a review of Wunderkit, let me give you a little background.  First - Wunderkit is more than just a task manager, it's really a project management application.  I've used a lot of different applications, trying to find something that offered flexibility, collaboration, and a robust task manager.  I've used "Things," "BaseCamp," and even the task manager in iCal.  As a tool for collaborative task management, Wunderkit is a powerful solution for individuals, or groups of any size. 

Workspaces


Thought, certainly not unique to Wunderkit, I really like the way workspaces are organized.  The idea is that you can create a workspace for every project, job, or area of your life.  I spend my time leading and managing 4 completely different business areas, and Wunderkit makes it easy for me to manage them all.  Each workspace contains all of the tasks, notes, and collaborators relevant to that project.  

On the home screen (above), you see a sort of dashboard that features each of your workspaces on the left, a center section with all of the activity happening in your workspaces, and upcoming tasks.  This high level overview makes it easy to quickly see what's happening, and what you need to do next.

COLLABORATION

Certainly BaseCamp is the gold standard of collaborative project management, but WunderKit has made it much easier for individuals and organizations that are looking for a slightly less prohibitive solution.  I can share workspaces and delegate tasks to anyone I add in my network.  I can have an entire team on a project, and they all have access to the tasks, notes and information they need.  In addition, I'm able to see the activity of each individual as they add and complete tasks and notes.

For me, this is huge.  I was a big fan of THINGS for a long time, but one of its biggest drawbacks was that it didn't allow delegation of tasks to other team members in any meaningful way.  Now, I can keep track of what's happening with my teams, and keep our project coordinated across groups of 5-50.  I simply invite team members to my workspace, and am able to keep track of everything we're doing.

Another unique feature is the ability to make a workspace public, so that people can follow you.  Though this has less practical purpose, it's a fun way to let people see what you're doing.

SYNC


The other major drawback of THINGS was that there was no cloud sync.  Wunderkit is available as a web application, and as a native app on your Mac, iPhone or iPad.  I'm sure it will be available on other platforms as well, but for now I'm covered!  It just doesn't make sense to have an app exist in multiple places without seamless sync, and WunderKit has it down. 

The mobile, web, and desktop apps all have the same feel, and are super simple to use (though notifications don't seem to work on the iPhone quite yet).  I love that I now have a project management tool that syncs across all of my devices.  That was easily the biggest frustration with THINGS, and quite honestly, it was unacceptable in today's world of cloud technology.

USER INTERFACE/EXPERIENCE

The entire user interface is beautiful, and very Mac-like.  Running the native app in fullscreen mode on OSX Lion is gorgeous.  It has custom backgrounds, and I found that it works really well to set a different background for each workspace.  This gives an instant visual cue as to what I'm looking at, and what I should be doing.

I love when a technology company has a passion for the user experience, and creates something both beautiful and functional.  In fact, one of the things I've come to appreciate the most, is that the folks at 6Wunderkinder seem to really get it.  They've shown this by the features they plan to implement in the future (like file sharing - which is a must have for a true project management tool), AND by the fact that they've made WunderKit completely FREE to use!

That's right, it's free.  You can use it on your devices, your Mac, and the web for free.  You can collaborate for free.  You can create as many workspaces as you want for FREE.  There is a PRO level that allows premium support, and additional access to some of the apps, but you can use all of the core functionality for free.  

Ready to take advantage?  Head over to www.wunderkit.com to download and sign up for FREE!  

Have you used WunderKit?  Leave a comment below and let me know what you think!

(I'm not affiliated in anyway with Wunderkit or 6Wunderkinder, and no one asked me to say anything nice or otherwise.  I'm just sharing my opinion on a piece of software that has totally changed the level of productivity in my businesses and my life)

A FEW DAYS WITH THE NEW SWAT DESIGNER FROM KISS

Wow.  I've been playing with the new SWAT album designer from KISS for a few days now, and the first impression I had is still the same... wow.  Now, you should understand that designing beautifully simple albums is a huge part of our business.  It's also a very efficient part of our business - which means it's a very profitable part of our business.

I have used Aperture as not only an image organization and editing tool for the last few years - but I've also taken advantage of it's best in class book designer to create the albums we provide our clients.  

I'm a pretty tough critic of album design tools.  If I'm going to make a change in my workflow it has to make me more efficient and be better at doing it's core function than what I'm already using.  Aperture has been the perfect tool for me, but I've been excited about SWAT ever since I first saw what it can do.

Now, as an Alpha tester, I can't show you much (or anything really!). What I CAN do is tell you this:  It's super simple (surprise, surprise), it's wicked cool, and it's extremely intuitive.  In fact, it will do 90% of the work for you.

Even in this early stage, I love how easy it is to create beautiful books.  I love that even though it's a web based software tool, everything behaves exactly the way you'd expect - even your very first time logging in.  I love that it's fast.  I love that our clients will be able to leave feedback and we'll be able to dialogue with them about their album design. 

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.  

To be completely fair, the only two drawbacks I see, compared to what I currently use (Aperture), are that you 1) can't make instant changes to your native images (processing, b/w conversion, etc) because it's hosted online, and 2) you can't add images to your design after you've started, quite as easily as Aperture.  

It's hard to call these drawbacks though - because it's not a fair comparison really.  Aperture is an application that runs on my machine and already has all of my native RAW files and all of their changes right in it.  

It's also hard to count these against SWAT since 99% of all other album design solutions suffer the exact same issue.  There is no other album design tool that lives natively in your editing software (like Aperture) so if you're currently using ANYTHING else (photoshop, photojunction, indesign, page gallery, etc), SWAT will be a HUGE improvement.

Oh yeah, and FREE!