Do you have set systems in your business? Or, are you flying by the seat of your pants and simply spending day after day trying to get as much done as you can and going to bed stressed because you “didn’t get enough done”?
As creative entrepreneurs, we make our own schedules, which is a beautiful thing. But, if we aren’t careful, our days can turn into nothing more than putting out fires or getting distracted by whatever we’re excited about at the moment.
In order to serve your clients well and prioritize the things that actually move the needle in your business, you need to have systems in place to make sure that what’s most important is getting done as efficiently as possible.
So, in this episode of Priority Pursuit, I want to share what my post-wedding process or system looks like with you in hopes of inspiring you to create concrete systems in your own business. Because, friend, systems can alleviate a lot of stress AND improve your customer experience.
Now, if you aren’t a photographer, please don’t tune this out. While I’m using a photography example, chances are, a system can be created around every facet of your business. And, we’re going to break things down so you know exactly how to create systems within your creative business!
First of all, what is a system?
Within your business, a system is simply an organized way of completing what’s usually a large task, especially tasks that have to be completed more than once. For example, while the couple changes, I have systems for onboarding clients and shooting, editing, and delivering weddings, because these are tasks that I have to complete on a regular basis.
While I have lots of systems in my business, this is what my post-wedding system looks like as a wedding photographer.
On Saturdays, I typically shoot a wedding. When I get home, I backup all images onto my external hard drive.
On Sundays, I edit approximately 15 photos for social media previews. I share these previews on Facebook, in my VRP Bride Facebook group, on Instagram, and via Instagram stories. I use Canva to create Instagram story graphics.
On the Monday after a wedding, I cull the wedding (sort the wedding photos) using Photo Mechanic. I choose the images I want to keep to deliver to the client and mark the images I want to feature on the blog.
I then begin editing the blog photos. Typically, I can’t finish all the photos in a single day simply because Mondays usually also include answering a lot of emails as most couples work on wedding plans over the weekend.
Before the end of the day on Tuesday, I also submit the Lightroom catalog to Photographer’s Edit. While I edit all photos that are blogged, Photographer’s Edit uses my edited photos as samples to complete the rest of the gallery. In other words, I outsource the bulk of my editing.
On Wednesdays, I write the couple’s blog post first thing, and I begin preparing the copy and graphics needed to share the couple’s blog on social media.
In the meantime, Emma puts the finishing touches on the couple’s album. Once complete, I email the album preview/slideshow to the couple.
When I send the album mockup, I don’t tell the couple that this is a mockup of their wedding album. I simply share the album as a preview and add music. Shaun Gordon of KISS Books argues that making the mockup the first thing that’s shared with a couple makes them more likely to want to upgrade their wedding album, which leads to more profit. After making this step part of my system for more than a year, I can confirm that this is true!
Before the end of the day, Emma adds the blog (both the copy and images) to my website so that it’s ready to go live first thing Thursday morning.
On Thursdays, I share the blog post. This includes:
As a general rule of thumb, the sooner you can blog a wedding, the more excitement it will generate. Many photographers recommend blogging weddings on the Tuesday after a wedding, but with the boundaries I have in place (e.g. working as little as possible on Sundays), I’ve found that blogging on Thursdays works best for me.
Between Thursday and Friday, Emma pins the wedding via Tailwind and submits the wedding for publication via Two Bright Lights. As a result, all marketing aspects of the wedding are complete within six days of the wedding being photographed.
I, then, use Thursdays and Fridays to batch review other shoots and weddings after receiving them back from Photographer’s Edit.
After I’ve received the Lightroom catalog from Photographer’s Edit and approved the images, I create the couple’s Pixiset gallery, and Emma puts all images in a slideshow via SmartSlides so the couple can watch the images play instead of having to push buttons as they look at their photos.
When everything is set, I let the client know that their gallery is ready via email and schedule their “viewing party”—a time when the couple can sit down and look at their wedding photos together. I encourage couples to schedule an at-home date night, get cuddled up on the couch, and enjoy looking at their wedding photos together for the first time.
When the couple gives me a time and date, I schedule the gallery and information to be released to them at the designated time via Gmail so no one is tempted to peek before their viewing party.
Then, I prep the couple’s flash drive and mail them a gift with a thank you note. While I do include information about their wedding album in the email when I share their gallery and slideshow with them, I follow up with the couple about a week later if I have yet to hear from them.
I know that’s a lot of information, but when you can get specific, you can set reasonable deadlines, block out time, and give yourself peace and confidence knowing everything is being taken care of.
With this in mind, let’s talk about how you can create systems within your creative business.
Go ahead and pick one task or project that you have to complete on the regular. For example, maybe you own a boutique and you do regular product launch posts on social media. Or, maybe you’re an artist, and you need to create a system around shipping orders. Whatever the case, choose one area to focus on. Then, walk through the steps listed below.
After you’ve chosen the project you’d like to create a system around, write down each and every task needed to complete the project. Be specific and include all tools, software, and team members (if applicable) needed.
Next, determine deadlines or timeframes for each of these tasks. For example, I really like to block out days to complete specific work, so week to week, things look pretty similar for me, but you might need to arrange differently. Do whatever works best for you, but give yourself deadlines and timeframes.
In case this helps, here’s another example. Boutique owners often get shipments of items at various times throughout the week. I could see how it would be very easy to get something in the mail and think you need to photograph it and get it online immediately.
However, it would likely be more efficient to shoot, list, and share multiple shipments at once. This might mean getting shipments the week prior, photographing everything on Monday, listing everything on Tuesday, and then sharing about these new items via social media or your email list on Wednesday. Then, the next week, you’ll do it all over again. Everybody’s process will look different, but giving yourself deadlines will add structure and likely efficiency.
Now, your deadlines are only going to be met if you put these tasks on your calendar and block out the time needed to complete each task.
Again, everybody’s processes will look different, but whether you need to block out 15 minutes to knock out a task or full days or even weeks, add time for these tasks and projects to your calendar.
Next, put boundaries in place to protect these tasks if needed. For instance, if I have a wedding on a Saturday, I don’t take shoots on the Monday or Tuesday after a wedding to ensure I’m able to focus on the system we discussed before so I can serve my clients to the best of my ability.
From there, all you have to do is start working within your systems! When you have systems created around even just the most important tasks in your business, you’ll be amazed at how much more you’re able to get done and will feel more at peace knowing that everything is being taken care of.
Now, full disclosure, I do my best to stick to systems, but sometimes, life happens.
To serve your clients well and avoid disappointing them, I highly recommend under promising and over delivering, especially when it comes to timelines.
For example, I don’t tell my clients that they’ll have previews the Sunday after their wedding. I tell them that it will be on Monday. This way, they’re shocked and so elated to see previews on Sunday, and just in case I can’t do their preview on Sunday, I have an additional 24 hours to get their previews up.
When you complete tasks faster than anticipated, your clients will feel loved and valued and will be thoroughly impressed with your customer service.
So, friend, there you have it. I know thinking about systems isn’t the most exciting thing, and as creatives, we can be hesitant to put systems in place because they sound restricting. But, I can almost promise you that you’ll sleep better at night and will be able to better serve your clients when your business is operating on consistent systems.
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Thanks for tuning in (or reading in), and I’ll talk to you next week!
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