I had a vote on what to write about this week and my workflow won! I'll touch on a few things and elaborate on more...
First, hiring Kate, my lovely assistant, has been the best decision ever. I've been able to simplify my client workflow allowing me to take my 2-3 week turn around time for clients receiving their gallery to ONE week! Not to mention almost immediate responses to client emails, being able to blog, having family time, and actually being able to go up to my bed before midnight!
This is Kate - she's pregnant with number two and lives in Atlanta, GA (right now anyway, lol).
Kate started as my web designer and after hearing me complain about my client response time to emails dropping to 3-4 days, she offered to be my virtual assistant. With Kate's help, not only is my website always up to par, my clients taken care of, but we've also been able to work with a new client management system 17 HATS. It has made her life as my assistant easier! The only common complaint we've had from clients, after working out some kinks/ learning the new system, is the auto-emails that we have set in place. The system bases everything on a project date (your session date). On X day before the 'project date', an automatic email goes out for session reminder and invoice due. Some sessions, like a newborn session, don't work well with this system because there isn't an actual session date in place yet as baby's are a bit unpredictable! We have the system set right now to be the due date; so things are auto sent like invoices - when they haven't even had baby! We would both love to see a flexible date option in 17 HATS!
I use Google sheets to track all my clients, combined with 17 Hats. This helps keep Kate and I on the same page and make sure everything gets done for all clients! What's awesome about 17 Hats is I don't have to deal with "did the client pay?", "did the client fill out the contract?" - nothing, because if I need to know, I just have to look. If they haven't, they can do it at our session super easily or it is a simple email sent after the session.
Here is my start to finish workflow in steps:
1. Client inquiry - If someone inquires on FB there's an auto reply that gives them a link to fill out a contact form. This form, which is also linked on my website, has them select which session(s) they are interested in, as well as a few more pieces of key information. The contact form is directly connected to 17 hats. I look at this for every client. (picture right)
*click here to sign up with
17 hats at a discount!*
2. Reply - Kate will reply to the client and get things set up. This is done directly through 17 hats. The contact form starts them as a LEAD.
3. Schedule the session - Since they are already a lead, as soon as a session date is set and an invoice sent the lead becomes a CLIENT and it becomes a PROJECT. The session date being sent, gets added to my google calendar (automatically through 17 hats). Google Calendar is how I stay in sync with Kate, my husband, the kids daycare, the big kids school, etc...
4. 17 HATS project - Now that we have a project set up, things go quickly (and automatically!) and the client receives emails with my contract, model release, deposit/full payment invoice (it's up to them how much they pay upfront above the deposit amount). It also lets us know when
a client has viewed, signed, or paid. The project is like
the clients home base, it's where I can go to find
ALL the information on the client. (picture below)
5. 17 hats WORKFLOW is assigned. Each session type already has a workflow, Kate will just select which one is appropriate for the client and assign it. Workflows have everything from contract emails, payments, reminders/directions, and also what to add to my to do list i.e. their sneak peak and gallery. (picture below)
6. SESSION DAY - First, I review the client's project: contract, model release, and inquiry - typically while I drink my morning coffee.
Home studio hours are from 10am to 1pm. After that, the sun starts shinning directly into my little studio room and it makes it difficult to block out.
Sunrise sessions start 15 minutes before sunrise and sunset/evening sessions are scheduled within 2 hours of sunset, depending on the location and how many sessions I have.
I work with the client for the time needed. Sometimes we finish early, sometimes we go over.
7. SNEAK PEAK DAY - The day after the client's session, I'll download their images, and scroll through all the pictures and pick out a few to look into as the sneak peak. I typically will rough edit 3 of them before I decide which one is the sneak peak that will go on Facebook for the client to see and share with their family and friends. Yes, there are some clients who decline the model release, and thats okay! I'll shoot them an email with their sneak peak. Sneak peaks have a watermark on them.
8. CULLING - For those new to photography, culling is the selecting of images for edit and client viewing. Every weekday, I have 1pm -5pm set aside for editing. Of course life gets in the way some days and I don't get to edit that day. Once a week, usually on Wednesday, I write my blog. But generally I work in this set amount of time.
My images have been uploaded already into Lightroom. Something I learned at the Imaging USA conference was speed culling- I can cull a session in 15 minutes or less!
Round 1 of culling: Pull up several of the photos that are similar to each other and pick the best one or two and RATE it. Rating it is easy! You just push the number on your keyboard that you want to rate it. Personally, I rate 3 for the ones I am interested in editing. I'll pull up 4-6 in each set. Rate. Then move on. I am only doing a quick judgement here! You can see below some of the pictures that there are little stars. (picture below)
Round 2 of culling: After you've gone through all the pictures, now you're going to click on the bottom right "light switch" to ON, Select the filter of RATED, and click on the 3rd star. This will pull up only the 3 star rated images. Now you'll go ahead and do the second round of culling. Picking which ones aren't actually the best of the bunch and rating them a 2. I will look a them individually or side by side, checking for clarity now. For the best of the best, share with the world type, I rate a 4. Rating a 5 is a competition worthy image for me.
A 2 star is to be saved in case the client wants to see more. 3 star are ones to edit. 4 star are my sneak peaks/sharing ones. Any not rated are deleted after 30 days.
9. EDITING - I hand edit. I just bought my first set up presets last week! They were on a good sale and I've been wanting a good matte black and white. But really, I have my own "presets" of something I do for each picture I touch. I just do every image in Lightroom and if it needs something special done to it - curves, composite, major blanket adjustment, etc then I'll just hit Command + E and it sends it right to Photoshop for me! I'm not a wiz at PS like I am in LR, but I'm learning, exploring, and watching online classes/videos at least once a week to learn the art and magic of PS. Below is a picture of what I can do in PS versus what I can do in LR for a specialty image.
SOOC LR edit
10. GALLERY - Now that I'm done editing, I'll send the gallery to the client. I use Pixieset to manage all of my galleries. Each client has their own collection, and after their first session with me, each additional session just gets a new gallery folder added to their collection.
First, after opening up Pixieset, I have to start/setup their gallery. This includes entering their last name & date of the session.
Second, upload their images.
Third, select the cover photo (just click on the image and then go to the top right and click MORE and MAKE COVER. The cover photo will be the image the clients see in the email sent to them.
Fourth, on the right, change the name of the folder they are in (I change it to whatever the session is).
Fifth, set any additional settings such as downloads to on or off.
Sixth, set up download code. To do this I have to enter the Store tab then Coupon, Create new coupon, Coupon, Free Giveaway Items. I label it the clients name and initials of what the session type is, put in the quantity included, 1 coupon use, digital downloads only, and an expiration date of 30 days later. I use the auto generate of coupon codes and copy it with my mouse.
Seventh, back to the clients collection and click Publish and Share it. I have templates already saved so I just select which ever is fit for the gallery, I add in the coupon code and date it expires, then I grab their email address, paste that in, and off it goes to the client! (easy right!?)
11. CLIENT RECEIVES GALLERY - Clients receive the gallery to the email they have provided. (Clients- make sure you enter the right email- I cannot change it once its entered!) Clients are able to share their gallery via direct link or the just forward the email with friends and family as they see fit. I suggest clients make a favorites folder so they can separate out their favorites early to make their choices for what they will get easier before their link expires.
Clients have the 30 days to use their coupon code, after that, there's a gallery reinstatement fee of $10 for it to be extended. I pay for the largest capacity that Pixieset has, and the more bogged down it gets with galleries, the more I pay. Which is why I like to keep a month rotation for clients.
After the clients select their images, they will add them to the cart as a digital download, but can also purchase prints/products right then too. I will touch more on prints in another post....but I don't do a crazy upcharge for prints. My main business motto is to keep things affordable, and that includes high quality prints and products.
Immediately after they check out, clients are sent an email with the download link. Clients- again- check your email address- I cannot change it once it is entered in checkout.
And thats it! The only other thing that might be added to my workflow is announcement design. I've recently started offering newborn announcements and I'll design them for the client and they can yay or nay them. Occasionally, maybe 1/50 clients, I'm asked for a re-edit or two before they order. I'll do that for them, but I add it to a separate folder in their gallery so they are easy to find. These re-edits also get pushed to the bottom of my edit list. Right now my turn around time is down to ONE week thanks to 17 Hats simplifying client communications, Kate, and tricks I learned with speed culling and my own personal 'presets'.