AH! Can you believe that 2015 is right around the corner??! Allison Shumate Photography will be another year older and I feel like this year is going to be the best one yet! This new year will bring on new challenges, new successes, new traditions, new clients, a new workflow, and new things to be thankful for!
I’m going on 3 years running my own photography business and I wish I could say that by now I’m an expert in both the photography and the business aspects in this exciting industry… while I have learned a ton over the years, I still continue to learn, grow, and develop this incredible dream of mine!
In looking back at 2014, I think it’s safe to say that it was my most challenging one yet. It was my transition year of growing as a photographer, developing a workflow, building my portfolio, establishing best practices, creating awareness of my brand, and more!
So, I’ve thought long and hard about how I want this business grow, what direction I need to steer in, and what slight changes need to be made to get me there! I’ve updated my website, revamped my scheduling policies, setup some pretty specific “office hours”, and I’m simplifying my overall workflow. I’m starting to fall into a great routine with how I tackle emails, organize my calendar, and I’m confident to know that 2015 is going to be the year everything falls into place.
So, to keep my fabulous clients and followers in the loop, here are some exciting updates and goals…
• Keep family my top priority — As a business owner, it’s very easy to get bogged down with the zillions of tasks that I need to stay on top of. Whether it’s answering emails, updating my website, sending out contracts, blogging, meeting new clients, responding to inquiries, posting to my social media sites, shooting, editing… you get the idea!… I could easily sit in my office for countless hours hammering these things out. While doing so, I’m missing out on valuable time spent with my incredible husband and my goofball black lab, Jackson. I need to better prioritize my tasks, create boundaries and a seamless workflow, so I can balance out all the important things in my life!
• In order to best serve my clients, for 2015 I will only schedule a maximum of 2 weddings per month, 3-4 newborn sessions per month, 2-3 milestone mini sessions per month, and 5-6 lifestyle portraiture sessions per month. That is it. This will enable me to keep up with my workload and maintain a turnaround time and an amazing experience that my clients deserve.
• If you have booked my Motherhood Collection (the all-inclusive package from belly-to-baby) I would highly recommend scheduling with me early to get your sessions on the calendar. For maternity sessions, I always encourage my clients to let me know shortly after you find out your due date so we can properly schedule time in for portraits. For newborn sessions, it’s best to schedule it right when you begin your second trimester. For your milestone mini sessions, we’ll want to schedule these tentatively while we’re together for your newborn’s session. As you can see by looking at the numbers above, I anticipate my schedule booking up quickly.
• I will try to keep you all updated as to when months book up, but please, please, please schedule your sessions early. I wish I could do sessions for everyone, but it’s just not possible. SO please, do not wait to book your session!
• Weekend sessions will only be scheduled three weekends out of the month. Outdoor sessions will be scheduled roughly 90 minutes before sunset and in-studio sessions (newborn sessions only) will take place mid-morning.
• ALL scheduling will be done via email. Facebook messages tend to get buried and forgotten, and it’s much easier to have all scheduling correspondence in one place. So, please don’t message me to my personal Facebook page. For all scheduling questions, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Many thanks!!
• While we’re on the topic of scheduling, I will now only respond to all scheduling and general inquiry emails Monday-Friday between 8 AM – 5 PM EST. This is a big one for me! In the past, if a client emailed me at 9PM and I was still up later that night, I would respond back even if it was at 1AM! Although my clients deserve a prompt response from me, I need to set realistic expectations because I’m not always going to be available 24/7. I do not plan to respond to email inquiries over the weekend because that is when I’ll be very busy shooting and editing (and having family time!). I’ll still check in on emails daily to make sure there is nothing urgent that needs to be taken care of, but most email action will take place during the days/hours above. Thanks for your understanding.
• Duty Day — the first day of the month I now have a recurring “admin” day where I have a set number of tasks that I do to stay organized and on top of things. A few tasks on this day will be to back-up my portable hard drive, record my mileage and expenses, organize my blog calendar (more on this later!), organize my email inbox, download Google analytics, file sales tax, write my snapshot monthly goals, etc.
• One major piece of my business where I struggled in 2014 is blogging… and it needs to stop. I’ve found that almost every time I post a new blog post I get an inquiry from a prospective client… so not staying on top of this is hurting my growing business… so, no more falling behind! Who wants to read a blog post of a session that I did several months ago?!… it’s not as fun and exciting! I also know that I need to get better about blogging not only images from my recent sessions but opening up more by posting personal things that allow my clients and followers to better connect with me. A blog only full of images from previous sessions is only telling “my” side of the story. Although I love when my followers can see my work and meet my clients via my blog… Potential clients really don’t care about all my past sessions — They come to my blog looking for information and to see if I’m a good fit. They may browse through a few blog posts to check out more of my style, but those posts are not helping me build a relationship with these potential clients! SO, I plan to work harder to let my personality and my expertise shine through! 🙂
• Speaking of blogging… I now have a blogging calendar! I’m very excited about this! I could probably talk for a long time about this but will just give you the highlights. This calendar will keep me on track and I have some exciting boring blog buster ideas!! Here are a few headline blog post ideas that I have: creative ways to display your images in your home, 5 questions to ask your wedding photographer, my 3 best secrets to getting newborn babies to sleep, the simplicity of clothing choices, 3 ways to capture Christmas with your kids, the importance of where you put on your wedding dress, 5 must-have camera accessories, and more! If you have a topic that you’d like me to feature please shoot me an email — I’d love to hear your ideas 🙂
• Create a seamless experience for my clients — When I think about what pain points are out there in my business, two of them come to mind. The process of my clients reviewing/signing/sending me their contract and processing payment (two very important pieces to the puzzle in booking me!). Right now, my clients have to print, complete, and either scan/mail the contract back to me. While this current process doesn’t involve too much effort to do that… I’d rather the process be easier and paperless. SO, I’m working on a digital format for contracts where it can all be done online with digital signatures and all! For processing payments, you may have seen my latest post where I talk about the launch of my online store (and my holiday mini-session special! Still a few spots left!). I’m very excited about this! I’ve had a handful of clients already utilize it (the Weir family was the first!) and the process couldn’t be any easier. Definitely a big game changer for my business — no more writing and mailing checks, no more email Square Cash requests… just hop online, choose your session, and you’re done!
• Monthly Newsletter ~ Click here to subscribe! This is another big initiative for me. Within this newsletter I plan to include tips and tricks, what’s new, referral incentives, product offerings, contests and giveaways, and other valuable announcements.
• Re-vamp my Client Lounge — You may have noticed on my website that I have a password-protected Client Lounge. I’m working on final touches and excited to re-launch it for current and prospective clients. This is the home for my clients to visit and access my contracts, links to my online store, and view my fabulous Client Guides (tips on what to wear, what to expect, how to best prepare, etc.). This will save us from emailing back-and-forth and instead when folks are ready to book I’ll give them the fancy password to access the Client Lounge and it’s a one-stop-shop home for everything 🙂
• Exclusive Facebook Group ~ I launched the group “Allison Shumate Photography ~ Clients for Life” Facebook group earlier this year and I love it! Right now, there are 44 members (of those that have Facebook) and it’s a home for all my fabulous clients. As soon as someone books with me they can get access. Here is where my clients get a “first look” sneak peek at my limited-time specials, referral incentives, product offerings, birthday and anniversary celebrations, contests and giveaways, and other valuable announcements. For any clients that are reading this (hello!)… there is a fun contest in the works where I’ll be giving out a free mini-session!! Keep your eyes peeled for announcements in the group.
There are many, many other initiatives in the works (maybe I should do a part II?) but this post is getting long-winded so I’ll wrap things up for now. I hope this helps give insight to some exciting transitions for my business in 2015. I cannot thank my clients and followers enough for your love and support over the years. You have helped make my dream a reality and I still thank God everyday for giving me the gift of capturing those special fleeting moments for my clients that they will treasure for generations to come.
Happy Friday!! 🙂