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For Business Owners: Email Hacks

I have to start this post by saying that I am definitely not an expert on Gmail and its many plugins, BUT I am somewhat obsessed with trying to streamline my business and work load as much as I can. I’ll be completely honest with you guys…I didn’t start my business so I could work all the time. I started my business because I desperately wanted a career that I not only loved, but would allow me a lifestyle where I could be flexible in how I spent my days and have time to share with the people that I love the most. So many small business owners I know are a slave to their inbox, and I really believe that you DON’T have to be. And, you don’t have to be a gmail genius either. Here are my super simple hacks for handling my inbox:

Super simple hacks for gmail easy enough for any small business owner!

Immediately archive anything you don’t need to look at now but might need to look at later. I used to use folders to organize all my mail, but I’ve found that archiving works better for me because if I go looking for a message later, chances are I’m going to look for it using the search tool rather than dig through a folder.

Immediately delete anything that’s junk. Just do it!! Right away if possible. You can also unsubscribe to junk mail by using services like Unrollme.com

Use Send + Archive. This button will change your life! Once you send a response, your message will be automatically archived, so it’s out of your inbox and off of your plate until if and when the other person responds.

Use auto responders. I use these when I am on vacation and when I’m out for the weekend shooting a wedding…or otherwise out for more than a full day.  I know others have auto responders set up to go out at all times, but I only use them like old school “out of office” reminders. Either way you do it, auto responders are great for managing expectations of those who email you by letting them know you aren’t able to, or aren’t going to respond right away for whatever reason. Managing expectations is a huge key to the way that I run my business, and it also leads me to my next point….

Set up office hours in your email signature. My office hours in my email signature are Mon – Fri from 9 AM to 4 PM. This sets the expectation that I am only working on messages, timelines, etc for clients during these times. Is that 100 percent the truth? Not always, but as a small business owner you really have to set boundaries and create time for work, otherwise it will start to bleed into all parts of your life and you won’t really have a life at all anymore. Setting office hours in your email signature helps manage client expectations, and managing expectations is so important to creating a good experience for them! Letting it be known that you have office hours ALSO gives you the opportunity to use my FAVORITE business motto, under promise, over deliver. If people think you are available 100 percent of the time, you don’t have the ability to really wow them by taking the time to meet with them after your office hours because that’s the only time that works best for them, etc.

Boomerang. Boomerang is HUGE for helping manage expectations! Sometimes I will be working through emails and someone emails me right then. I can respond immediately (and will do that in some cases) but in a lot of instances I really prefer there to be about an hour or so in between my responses so that people don’t get used to me replying super fast and come to expect that every time. Some of our mentoring friends have asked how we keep boundaries with our clients and Boomerang is a huge part of that!  Boomerang is a plugin you can get for Gmail that you can use to schedule your emails to be sent the next hour, the next day, the next week, etc. So even if your time is limited and you have to answer messages outside of your “office hours” sometimes, people will still learn to expect that you only answer messages during those times and will be less likely to text you at midnight asking why you haven’t responded to the message they sent at 8pm.

You can also use Boomerang to “boomerang” your messages back to the front of your inbox at a certain scheduled time. This is great if you send lots of follow up emails or need to remember to reply on a certain date.

Canned emails. This is SUCH A TIMESAVER! If you aren’t doing canned emails, you need to do them immediately!! You basically use this gmail app to create templates for messages you frequently send out (inquries, image delivery, final payment due, etc) and then either send them as is, or quickly customize before sending out. This is the perfect way to share information that you send to everyone without having to literally type it out every single time OR copy and paste from a draft, which is what I did before Canned Emails.

Don’t read an email if you don’t plan to deal with it immediately. For me, seeing a all of the “unread” emails in my inbox lets me know that an action is required. If you read your emails and then don’t do anything about it, that’s inefficient because you opened it, read it, and then still have to go back later, open it again, read it again, and then take care of it. It’s so much more time efficient if you handle it ASAP. BUT, in the case that I DO read an email and don’t do anything about it, I immediately re-mark it as “unread” so that when I look at my inbox, I know exactly what I need to handle. Obviously, you can use colors, labels, etc to categorize the mail you need to handle, but I am all about keeping things simple and saving as much time as possible. Keeping things marked “unread” that are on my plate to work on is the best and EASIEST way for me to do this. If there’s an email that requires further action, I will actually use the STAR to remind me I have additional work outside of gmail before that can be completed.

That’s how I handle my inbox in a nutshell! If it seems super easy, that’s because it is. Like I mentioned before, I’m all about keeping things simple, so most of my systems are based on simplicity. Hope this post helps!! As always, if you have questions or if there’s something else you’d like to read about in a future post, reach out to me in the comments or email me!

Did you like this post? We’ve shared over 60 posts for Photographers and many for Small Business Owners!

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These are all excellent tips; especially archiving, Boomerang, and Canned Emails! I’m going to start implementing all of these in my routine. Thanks so much!

30 Reasons I love John

Today is John’s 30th birthday and for the life of me, I can’t figure out how he/we have gotten so old!! When we first met, I was only 19 and he was newly 21. In some ways this new birthday is scary to me (though John doesn’t seem to be phased at all) because I’m realizing that being young doesn’t last forever and it’s hard for me to imagine a life one day without him in it.

Today to honor 30 years of my best friend’s life, I wanted to share 30 of the reasons I love him so much!

I love John because:

  1. He’s always kind to everyone he meets
  2. His laugh is the best. It always makes me laugh or feel proud to have made him laugh
  3. He cooks me healthy meals and packs up the leftovers so I’ll have lunch to eat
  4. He loves Lucy like she was really his daughter. So cute!
  5. And he scoops her poops! I rest easy knowing he is comfortable with poop…an admirable trait to look for in someone you want to make babies with one day.
  6. He drives me to weddings so I can nap on the way.
  7. He taught me how to lift weights
  8. He isn’t embarrassed easily
  9. He’s a really good photographer
  10. He also has a really cute butt
  11. His snapchats are mostly hilarious and entertaining
  12. He is very dedicated to making his goals happen
  13. He’s humble
  14. He lets me eat all of the french fries
  15. He’s always willing to try something new
  16. He’s a good friend who is always willing to help someone in need
  17. He gives the best hugs
  18. He never holds a grudge
  19. I love the way he smells
  20. He randomly says hilarious things all the time
  21. He never judges me for anything that I say or do, no matter how weird
  22. He’s very easygoing
  23. He could make friends with anyone
  24. He’s comfortable with himself and likes what he likes (Taylor Swift, for example)
  25. He has always supported me in anything I wanted to do or try
  26. He’s very strong! He could probably lift me AND a hundred Lucys! Ok maybe not 100…she’s pretty chubby. Seriously though, he always carries my stuff for me:)
  27. He lets me pick what we eat for dinner 99.9 percent of the time
  28. He never fails to calm my anxiety
  29. He doesn’t care what other people think. I on the other hand, get too wrapped up in this, so it’s nice to have someone balance me out!
  30. He’s honest.

When I think back over the memories we have made together over the past 8 of John’s birthdays we’ve celebrated together (from the chocolate cake I first baked him!) I can’t believe the time has gone by so quickly. But I also get excited about all of the memories that are yet to be made, just waiting for us to discover them! What kind of adventures will we have together in John’s next 30 years?? I can’t wait to find out!

 

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Happy 30th birthday to John. He sounds like an amazing guy :)

For Brides – A City Wedding Tip

Today’s blog post is specifically for brides who are getting married in a big city! While the logistics of having your wedding in a city can be a little more tricky than for weddings in the country, the right amount of pre-planning can make things so much less stressful.

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My huge tip that will help ensure things go smoothly is to be sure that you invest in transportation! Especially if you’re getting married in a location that is different from your getting ready or reception space and you want to do photos in one or more different places.

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Here’s why:

1. Everyone can travel together
Having a limo or shuttle to get you and your bridal party from point A to point B means you won’t have to stress if people get lost or if traffic holds them up. If traffic holds you up, at least you’ll all be together. Having everyone ride together to your portrait locations helps make things simpler and allows us more time for photos since we aren’t waiting for people to arrive.

2. No worrying about parking
If you and your bridal party drive several cars to the reception or portrait location you have to worry about finding parking every time you go somewhere else AND paying for parking, etc. If you have a shuttle or a limo you can have your driver stop and let you all out and then circle back around to pick you up when you’re done with photos.

3. Your photogs can travel with you too!
For city weddings, we really suggest making sure there is space for us on your limo or shuttle if you want to do portraits in locations other than where the reception will be held for the same reasons listed above. It’s so much more time efficient if we’re with you and not trying to find a parking space in city traffic.

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In general, it’s a really good idea to let us know if you are using transportation and chat with us about your ideas for your portrait locations in advance so that we can best assist you in choosing great spots for photos and ensure that the timeline has plenty of time on it for all that you’re hoping to get in.

We also suggest limiting your locations to 1-2 max so that we are spending more time photographing you guys and less time traveling around town. Also, be sure to research whether there are any festivals, marathons, etc happening the weekend of your wedding that might cause congestion so that you can build enough time into your timeline to still get everything you want! If you’re a KNP couple, feel free to reach out to us to help with this!

 

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The Pricing Series – Part Two

So you’ve got your pricing all set up and ready to go. You’re pretty much done, right? HAHA. Yeah, right. In the world of wedding photography (and other wedding vendor-y type gigs) your pricing is never going to be 100 percent set. Successful businesses will always be evolving and pricing will have to evolve with it.

Notice how I didn’t use the word “growing” there? I chose “evolve” because I believe that all businesses change to some degree but that can mean different things to each business owner. You may continue to grow your business yearly by taking on more and more clients or you may decide you want to scale back based on your life situation at the time. Your pricing is going to need to adapt to the situation.

Today we’re going to chat a little bit about raising your prices!

Pricing for Wedding Photographers

Here are some reasons you might want to raise your prices:

1. You’re booking a ton of weddings
If this is you, yay! This is the dream right?? To have clients beating down your door? If you are getting tons of inquiries and having to turn people away, that’s a great indicator that you might want to raise your prices. Demand is one of the biggest factors in being able to raise your prices. My thought is that it doesn’t really matter what we THINK we are worth…it matters more what people are willing to pay for us. So if a lot of people are willing to pay your rates, then it stands to reason you’re doing pretty well for the quality of your portfolio, and the demand for your services.

2. You’re burnt out
This goes along with number 1. Let’s say you booked 40 weddings last year but you feel so overwhelmed and just can’t even anymore, you might want to consider raising your prices and taking on less for more money. I personally only take 20-25 weddings each year.

3. You are pretty comfortable with your bookings and you’ve still got a lot of time left to meet your goal for the year.
This is usually most people’s indicator of when it might be time to re-examine pricing. If you’re where you want to be with your bookings and you have some time to meet your goal you are in a prime spot to try raising your pricing a bit because you have time to wait out the booking “slump” that can sometimes happen right after you raise your prices.

4. You are hoping to break into a new market
This one is a little tricky because it’s not as cut and dry. There’s a lot of psychology that goes into choosing how to price yourself, but one thing I’ve noticed from clients is this: if you’re priced too low, higher budget brides may overlook you because they assume something must be wrong with you. You might also be priced a little too high for low budget brides and stuck in a weird twilight zone type spot. If this is where you think you are, I would highly suggest 1. Comparing your rates with those of comparable photographer friends who service the same area as you (this is where a referral group is invaluable! You can always go to that group to chat about things like this too!) 2. Test out a price increase BUT make sure that you are adding value and increasing the quality of your web presence, portfolio, etc. If you don’t have a high quality, professional website and you try to break out into a higher price range, you might struggle a bit.

Whew! That of course is not an exhaustive list of ALL of the reasons you might raise your pricing, but it’s a good idea to consider each of them when you’re making a jump in pricing. The next installment in the pricing series will be on deciding when you should or shouldn’t LOWER pricing!

For the first installment in the pricing series go here

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2015 Brides’ Calligraphy Brunch

This year one of the big themes for me and the business has been giving back. It’s become so important to me over the past few months to be able to say thank you to the people who have helped support my business! Four years ago I was still a new photographer who worked a full time job, but was trying to build a business with every minute of my nights and weekends. It was my dream to quit that job and work for myself and though I have worked very hard for that to come true (and to maintain it over the past three years), I couldn’t have gotten to do this without any of the people who have trusted us with their wedding photography!

I’ve really been wanting to do a client party for a couple of years now and we are finally at a place in the business where I can invest in some fun things! I had the idea of doing a calligraphy workshop for my brides a while back and then once I went to Amy’s workshop back in May, I knew it would be such a fun thing to treat everyone to. Amy is so great! Not only is she a talented calligrapher, she’s also a wonderful teacher.

We spent the afternoon enjoying mimosas and homemade poptarts and learning from this talented friend. I think it was so much fun and it was so nice to catch up with some of the ladies who are already married. And, I’ve got to say, it was so much fun putting the details together…I love planning little parties like this! I even did the flowers:)

Of course, I can’t end this post without saying thank you to John. None of the things that I do would be possible without him helping out behind the scenes! He’s the best!

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Darby Sinclair

This looks so amazing!! I love all the details and the entire idea of this whole day! :) You are incredibly thoughtful!!!