By Emily Hancock
Getting your workflow right can be a hard task. As creatives we love to jump from one thing to the other… what looks exciting right now? I’ll do a bit of that or I’ll do a bit of this- it goes on and on. And you know what- it’s rarely productive.
Running your own business is exciting, but tough. But there are ways you can make your life easier, your working hours more productive, and in turn, create more time to spend on either progressing your business or having down time.
My top 5 strategies for simplifying my workflow are:
Leveraging in business is key. You can’t do it all. You can’t be working 80 hr weeks and keep on top of all things. You aren’t superman! Providing your clients with the highest level of service when your run into the ground just doesn’t work. Outsourcing is your friend.
Grab a spread sheet and for the next week, document all the tasks you do for your business. I bet your list will be endless. Emails, phone calls, ordering prints, editing, accounts, marketing, social media posts, personal projects… the list will go on and on.
Now go through that list and work out the tasks that YOU should be doing and the tasks that SOMEONE ELSE could do.
Firstly, I have always outsourced my accounting. The money I spend on having a book keeper/accountant I make back in time I spend on marketing. My time is NOT best spent working out where the receipt for £13.38 that was actually ½ personal and ½ business should be allocated in the accounts package… A book keeper can do that far more efficiently than I can, and hey presto- I now have an extra 4 hours a month to market my business. Selling just one shoot can pay for the book keeper- trust me, it’s worth it!
It’s not only accounts that can be outsourced. For many years I outsourced my editing, my album design and social media marketing. I had a college-age student doing my admin, including inputting data after shows, sending out emails and scheduling Facebook posts.
Just remember that outsourcing allows you more free time to do thing things that will push your business forward and allow it to grow. Leverage your time efficiently.
2)Select the right software
I have always been the girl who followed the rule “Keep it Simple Stupid”. There are so many all singing, all dancing software options out there… many of which do WAY more things than we even need.
It can get overwhelming, confusing and downright frustrating when you are being pulled left right and centre every time you see an advert for the next new best piece of software on the market.
My advice would be to pick 1 piece of software that does as much as you need and stick with it. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it- and the grass is rarely greener. You will need various pieces of software for your business, accounting, editing, viewing images, database etc.
Take a moment to jot your jobs down on a piece of paper and make sure you have a piece of software to address this. But ensure you’re not doubling up in any area. Cut back on needles apps and software- you’ll feel a huge weight lift off your shoulders!
3)Start one task and don’t stop till its complete
It’s really important to try and stay focused on one task at a time. The more you jump from task to task, the harder it is to get things done and the longer it takes to complete.
I make sure I prioritise my tasks at the start of every day. I’ll admit it now- I HAVE to have a list in front of me in order to get stuff done! I’ll list my MIT’s (most important things) to achieve that day- usually between 3 and 5 jobs. If I complete those things, the satisfaction that I’ve succeeded in being productive is amazing.
I prioritise longer lists by adding a letter A B or C next to the job. Start with all the A’s then work your way down.
Complete 1 before moving on- this will make you the most productive you can be!
Before I implemented this system, I would start an email or a print an order at 10am and somehow it would still not be complete by 3pm.
To create optimum productivity set about your tasks with laser sharp focus and remember to prioritise.
4)Work ON your Business- not just IN it.
Your efforts should be focused on gaining new business, promoting you, your work and the services you offer, and attracting the clients you want to work with.
So, let’s say you’re in the studio for a day, you have a huge list of things that you need to get done before you have to dash off to pick the kids up from school. You have between 10am and 3pm to complete all these tasks. How to best plan your day? Well in my experience, the most important thing to get done is growing the business. I hear you saying, “but Emily, I’ve got an order to send…I’ve got a client to ring…I’ve got an album to design” …
Well yes, I understand this. I have been here many times. However, all of these jobs do not actually GROW your business. Allocate a few hours of your day to complete all the admin, including confirming orders, calling clients and editing images. This allows you the remainder of your time to work on marketing and pushing the growth of your business.
This has been the biggest turning point for my business in the past 10 years. Before I used this strategy, I was spending all my time working in the business and not on the business.
5)Add white space to your diary
Too often I hear photographers saying to me they have 4 or 5 shoots booked in this week, they have a wedding at the weekend and they have client meetings left right and centre. It’s crazy, it’s foolish, it’s point blank madness. I mean I was there once and I get it, you get caught up in the hub of the business and more bookings means you’re more successful, right?
You can work like this for so long, then you will notice your business becoming more stressful than enjoyable. Adding white space to your diary (whether these are down-time or studio days) allows you to stay calm and collected, keep on top of all your jobs and to keep many high-end clients happy at once. If you over-book your diary, you run the risk of burn out, unhappy clients and a business that is spinning round in circle.