GENERAL WORKFLOW + TIME MANAGEMENT

INTRO
Really understanding your own workflow is the thing that going to help you be as efficient as possible, and helps you deliver to your clients what they expect and, hopefully, more. Knowing step-by-step how you work means you don't cut corners, you know where you're at with which client and helps you stay organised. I'm going to show you how I work but, like I say for every trick, different photographers work in such different ways; you can pick and choose your own workflow to suit how you work best.

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I've broke 'workflow' into two separate sections - any workflow directly involving your clients is deadline-tight, and other tasks within your wider workflow are usually less constrained. Of course, it's balancing the two and working out how to prioritise and manage your time are two valuable skills when you're self employed and there's no-one to watch over how you work but yourself.

CLIENT WORKFLOW + CLIENT EXPERIENCE
Your basic workflow for a wedding is:
CLIENT ENQUIRY - YOUR REPLY - BOOK/NO BOOK - PREP FOR THE WEDDING -
SHOOT THE WEDDING - EDIT IMAGES - DELIVER THE WEDDING

Of course, an advanced workflow is initially more work to set up, but it gives your clients a better experience, reassurance in your abilities, trust, managing expectations and increases overall levels of client satisfaction. Yes, it's the images that you deliver that matter, but if you're charging for a luxury service (which wedding photography is, at the end of the day), then you need to be giving your clients good client experience too. Below is what I aim to do for every client that enquires and hopefully books me:

CLIENT ENQUIRY
They enquire through a website contact form that allows them to give a bit of personality - they get to tell you about themselves and it's the first step to building a rapport with the couple.

I log and date all enquiries, and make a note of the date of the wedding. This means I can follow up with people, and give some clients who seemed keen 'first refusal' if someone else later enquires for their date. It also helps me keep track of how many enquiries I'm converting into bookings, and where people are finding me so I know which marketing works best for my business.

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YOUR REPLY
You can use anything they've written in the form to open the conversation and get to know them, and you can research their venue or say "I've shot there before!" if you have an example gallery at the same place you can share with them. If you''ve never visited, then Google-stalk it and comment on it, e.g. "Wow! Your venue looks right up my street - I love a barn wedding!". Ask them questions, offer them a Skype meeting or a phone call. Engage and be excited in their wedding and care about them as a couple. Consider your tone and how you speak to them - I try to be friendly and sincere but not so OTT excited that I seem unprofessional. Leave emojis for WhatsApp.

You could send them a PDF brochure as an attachment telling them about yourself and what you offer (more on this in Marketing Materials) or you could send them information within the email - you want them to have enough information that they know about your style, what sort of photographer you are, a little personality, your pricing and packages, how to book and your contact details. 

SKYPE / PHONE CALL / MEETING
Whether you schedule time to physically meet a couple depends on location and whether you want to - I try and avoid physical meetings now because I have a young family so my flexibility has changed, and also people typically tend to be more concise when they chat over Skype or the phone (I've had some meetings in person go on for 2+ hours.. and, before they book you, you're not getting paid for that time..). I always offer Skype because a direct contact and chatting 'face to face' carries on helping to build the relationship between you and your clients. Ask them how they're getting on with wedding planning, what they've ticked off the list so far, what they're excited about.. tell them how you work, ask if they have any questions about anything they've seen in your brochure.. Be genuine and care about what they care about - show that you're enthusiastic about potentially working with them and try and demonstrate how you can be a good fit for them and their day. When you hang up, email them and say it was lovely to talk to them - communicate sincerely and promptly. And if you're Skype-ing, for goodness sake, tidy up what's behind you in the room because they'll see it all on camera!

BOOKING
If it all goes well, they'll book you. At this point you'll need to send them a booking form, contract or T+Cs, and details about how to send the deposit over. I keep my booking process all digital, and they simply bank transfer the deposit over. As soon as I get their booking details through I email a confirmation that I've received everything and that their date is in the diary. I log their booking digitally and take the date out of the calendar, and print out their booking form for a physical record too.

WEDDING GUIDE
I send a 'Guide To Your Wedding Photography' booklet to every client that books. It is a great way for me to answer lots of different FAQ and also helps manage clients' expectations. I send it through the post (there's something lovely about holding a physical product), and it's a good quality booklet that is adding to the experience of working with me. Clients rest assured that I have a lot of weddings under my belt and know what I'm talking about, it helps them know what to expect on their wedding day, and it politely but firmly tells them things like "more than eight added group shots will impact the rest of your photographic coverage" and reminds them things like "your final balance is due by XXX" and "expect to wait 6-8 weeks for your photos after the date of your wedding". It's also something they'll hopefully keep out and flick through so by the time the wedding comes round they are completely sure of what to expect from me and my services.

"KEEPING IN TOUCH"
I encourage all clients to keep in touch with me throughout their wedding planning. I tell them that I can recommend suppliers and be on hand for any advice with wedding timings. By offering you are placing yourself in their minds as something of a wedding expert, helpful and caring. You can recommend suppliers that you've worked with in the past or like, then message those suppliers and say "I've sent XXX your way!" and it adds to you building relationships with them too - people trust word of mouth more than anything, getting people to care about and be aware of your business is hugely important. A bit of casual chat here and there with clients goes a long way, I'm not suggesting you message them asking how their weekend went, but being on hand if they need you and engaging with them if they comment on anything on social media makes all the different when it comes to building relationships.

TIMINGS FORM + FINAL INVOICE
As standard, I send out a timings form with the client's final invoice. I make it so that their final balance is due the 1st of the month before the month of their wedding - i.e. if a couple are getting married on June 26th, their final balance would be due 1st May, and I would send out their timings form and invoice mid April. This system also means that I only sit down once a month to send invoices out in batches. 

The timings form I send out is actually a link to a secret page with an online form on my website - when they submit this form it gets emailed directly to me and I print it out from my inbox to take on the day. You could also send them a timings form as a word document and ask them to fill it in and email back to you. On this form I ask them to go over all the final details of their day, mobile numbers, re-confirm the date of their wedding, addresses and postcodes for pre-wedding, ceremony and reception, ask them if they want to add a few formal shots, ask about any family circumstances I need to be aware of, timings for ceremony, meal and first dance.. I try to be as prepared as possible so I know what to expect from their day, and I can plan logistics and travel at my end well in advance too. 

FINAL CONFIRMATION
After I've received their final balance payment and their timings form, I confirm that payment has been received, and confirm the first part of the timings of their day by saying something like "I can confirm I will be with you at 123 Street Lane at 10.30am on Saturday and I plan on leaving for the ceremony from there at 12.15pm". At this point too I give the couple my mobile number just in case. 

SHOOT THE WEDDING + GO FURTHER
There's not much left to do at this point apart from shoot the wedding! Turn up - take tips from the 'Working Responsibly' trick, shoot amazing photos, cover the group shots, be friendly and professional, if your feet hurt don't say it, if you don't get fed in good time and you're feeling hangry then don't be a dick about it, look after your kit and have fun.

Go above and beyond. Chat to guests as the day goes on (even if they're being a pain in the bum - kill them with kindness and stay professional), turn up on time at the latest - earlier is better, if you said you'd stay for the first dance then stay for a few more songs, care about your couples all day - stay in tune to how they're feeling as the day goes on, recognise when they need a break from you or everyone else or if they're getting restless during couple portraits.. be sensitive to their needs and recognise that you should be adding to their day not controlling it.

BACK UP IMAGES
Get home, back everything up twice before you even think about starting the edit. Simple.

PREVIEW PHOTOS
Put a small 'teaser' selection of images up on social media and your blog - regular content is great for SEO (more on that in another trick), keeping your social media up to date with recent content is great for potential clients, and the people at the wedding you've just shot are very likely to engage with the previews you put up. Tag whoever you can in it from the wedding (including other suppliers) and hopefully they'll' share your images, which should lead to likes and engagement with your business social media pages.

FOLLOW UP EMAIL
Message your couple thanking them for having you - talk about how amazing their wedding was and that you hope they like the preview photos that you've posted. Remind them that their photos will take X weeks to arrive (again, managing expectations and it'll hopefully stop them asking you in three weeks time..) and that you'll keep them posted if their expected postage week changes.

EDIT
Edit the photos! You can see more about how I edit in my trick Lightroom Workflow. As a surprise for couples (adding to client experience), I create a quick slideshow of 100-150 favourite images set to a 3-4 minute track and include it on their USB. 

UPLOAD TO CLOSED ONLINE GALLERY
Upload all the high resolution files that you've edited to their online gallery, and back everything up before you posted anything out.

CHECKING ADDRESS EMAIL
Send an email when you have finished the edit and double check their address before you post anything. SO many couples seem to move in the same year that they get married, and they could easily forget to tell you. Also I'd suggest you send everything recorded delivery too and therefore some people prefer having parcels delivered to work as it'll need a signature. Build anticipation by telling them you're so excited for them to see their photos, and encourage them to let you know what they think - it shows you really care and they'll be excitedly waiting to relive the day all over again.

PACKAGING + 'CHRISTMAS MORNING'
A lot of photographers have started going 'full digital' in that they send clients their images as a digital download link. I guess it's better for the environment and saves a few expenses but I still prefer to send a lovely little package out to my couples. There's only so much you can do to make a USB and a note card look pretty on their own, I use tissue paper and shredded filler in my boxes and include their USB, a thank you card, a card with info about albums, an 'about your photos' card (going over printing rights/copyright/encouraging them to back up), a small jar candle, a black chalkboard love heart ornament, a bar of Green + Blacks chocolate and five Instax prints of a few favourite images from their wedding (I use an Instax printer than connects to my phone, I'll link it a the bottom). 

On the note card I say:
" Hi X + X!
Here are your wedding photos! Before you go through the entire set, sit down together with a glass of fizz and watch the slideshow on the USB first.. I can't wait to hear what you think! Thanks again so much for having me, your wedding was right up my street and it was such a pleasure to be part of your day. When you're ready to share your photos with the world, let me know and I'll open up your online gallery over at sallytphoto.shootproof.com. 
Thanks again and love to you both!
Sally x

Pretty often, my couples will Instagram or send me a photo of the box they've received with every little element laid out - they love it. It's a box full of little surprises that adds to their experience. It builds excitement before they've even plugged the USB in and (shh..) it costs so little to add this intangible value to what you're giving the couples. Flyers cost very little, the candles cost £1-2 each, the chocolate costs less than £2, the chalkboard hearts cosy about 50p each.. but putting together this little experience is more than the sum of it's parts. It's about the care and consideration you've put into it.

I want them to receive the box and hold it like it's Christmas morning, they wonder why it's a little heavier than they expected, one of them will be waiting for the other to get home so they can open it together.. they eventually open it and they have something tangible immediately with the small prints I've included and they look at these first (and then place them somewhere special around their home). They read the card and say "Oh go on then, it's only Tuesday but if you can't drink prosecco on a school night while you look through your wedding photos, when can you?", they light the little candle, open the chocolate, they clink glasses as they plug in the USB, they laugh and 'ahh' and maybe shed a little tear as the slideshow plays then have a hug and say 'shall we watch it again?' once it's finished. They go through the full set of images and finish the prosecco and.. well whatever they get up to at this point is up to them.. but it's suffice to say it's been a lovely evening and opening their wedding photos is an experience that they'll remember. Now you tell me that people feel the same clicking a button to do a digital download.. 

CHECKING IN + BLOG FORM
Usually, a couple will email pretty promptly saying that they've received their photos and usually give you a lovely rough testimonial in that email if they feel passionately about what you've given them. You can use their words as a quote for social media - it's basically a recommendation of you from them, and it's what people considering your services want to hear. 

I send out a blog form as standard to couples now, saying that I'd love to feature them on my website and show off their wedding, and possibly submit it to one of the wedding inspiration blogs too. The blog form asks for their favourite memories of the day, their suppliers, if they have any favourite images and why and asks again for any comments on their photography. This form is gold dust - it provides you with content and quotes for social media, and a list of new relationships ready to be built with other suppliers. Tag other suppliers everywhere you can - share the love and they'll share your name with others. Later when I blog their wedding this form means that they've basically written their own blog post - just tweak it for SEO and off you go.

ALBUM / PRINT OFFER
Annually, usually October/November time, I do a big album and print push 'in time for Christmas'. I offer a small discount (but not selling myself short) and push album sales to couples who I've worked with in the past year or so. I don't hard sell, but I do put a date limit on it which makes sense, because the album companies themselves determine their final ship dates in time for Christmas.

RECOMMENDATIONS + THANKS
If your past couples recommend you, then thank them. Stay loosely in touch - if they feel appreciated for passing your name on then they're more likely to do it again. If you see them or know you'll be seeing them at a wedding that they're recommended you for, brush up on their wedding and remind yourself of things you can talk to them about. Be genuine and care.


WELL THAT WAS A LONG LIST.. IS IT THAT IMPORTANT?
I think so. And this is a target - if you miss some of the smaller steps it isn't the end of the world. In creating the best possible client experience you're making yourself memorable and valuable. People are more likely to feel passionate about what you offer and, when you are the face of your brand, everything you can do to add to the experience and service you provide all counts. Couples don't know exactly what to expect when they book you - most of them will never have booked a photographer before, they're booking you blind and are trusting you to know what you're doing. You owe it to them and yourself to do your best for them to reassure them that they've made the right choice.


WIDER WORKFLOW
Your wider workflow usually comes with fewer time constraints and it isn't deadline heavy. You need to make room for other things in your business too - some things will need to be 'little and often' and some things you'll need to set a bigger chunk of time aside for at some point in the year.

 

other things to consider in time line - blogging/marketing/correspondence/accounting/web update/blogging/social media

managing time and not overworking

time out for creativity

the power of personal work and self care

managing expectations and communication

 

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TAKE AWAY - WORKFLOW CHEAT SHEETS. OTHER THINGS TO CONSIDER CHECKLIST. MONTHLY CHECKLIST - WEEKLY / DAILY. 


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