There were a lot of apps, tools, and services that helped me out in 2017, but there are 7 that really impacted my photography business for 2017. No, these aren’t photography specific apps or tools. I wanted to share the ones that helped me out on the business side of photography vs the art of my architectural photography. These are the tools that helped me grow and build a better overall business in 2017.
Proposals, Quotes, Invoicing and Delivering
Near the end of 2016, a terrible year at rock bottom on all levels, I lost a quote for some much-needed work. Since I needed it, I underpriced myself and still lost it to a cheaper photographer. At first, I was frustrated because I’d underpriced my photography work and it did no good at all. I decided then and there to do things differently when asked for a quote. I am grateful for the lost project because it got me to think about proposals in a new way. Moreover, I was going to use quotes as a way to improve the client experience. When contacted about my pricing, people were going to receive customized proposals, not line items. I was going to find ways to brand and show how much I care about the details.
This leads me to the first few apps/tools:
Instead of sending my pricing or quote in a generic email or line item doc, I decided to use Keynote to create beautiful quotes and proposals. Doing things this way took 10x the amount of time, but I created them as fast as possible. I believed not only would the quality be appealing, but the speed at which I replied would be too. Together, it would stand out. I wanted everyone to realize that if I cared this much about a quote, imagine how much I care about capturing their projects. Keynote is also the app that I use to create PDFs of my architectural photography portfolio. Pro Tip: Check out Creative Market if you are looking for any presentation templates.
Later in the year, I discovered an invoicing tool on steroids called Bonsai. While I’ll sometimes create those Keynote PDF proposals still, but Bonsai upped experience in dealing with proposals, contracts, and invoicing for clients. Clients could easily accept proposals online, sign contracts easily online, and pay for invoices online if desired. The ease of everything trumped my old admin way of life but most importantly made things easier for clients. And, I just want things to be as easy as possible.
With Bonsai, I can even attach the deliverable photos and files directly to the invoice if necessary. There have been a couple of instances when the client has said there was no attachment. I have wondered if the upload was still going and I sent the invoice off to the client. If this happened, I quickly shot over a download link to Dropbox. The best is when I remember to include the Dropbox link in the invoice as a backup for them.
Soon after trying out Bonsai, reporting was brought out and I love seeing data. I can see projects in process, but I could also see a graph of income from the work too. I’m a very visual person and these features motivate me.
I couldn’t recommend Bonsai more! If you check it out and join, feel free to do so through the link below because you and I will receive a month free of the service. Trust me, I’m sticking with em for 2018.
I’ve used Dropbox for many years as a paying customer and it helps to deliver work to clients online. Why I’m including Dropbox on this list is because of some changes this year: Showcase and Smart Sync. As soon as I upgraded my account to include these features, I found use instantly. Finally, I could see all my Dropbox files on my computer again because of Smart Sync. The beauty is seeing these files but not having them on my computer unless I choose to. I struggled with trying to do everything on the web.
Showcase instantly allowed me to present my work in a cohesive way. Instead of linking a client to a folder to view some project photos, I could link them to a specific “Showcase” and add titles, notes, an intro, featured header photo, my logo, and set up the images how I wanted them to appear. It’s not limited to showing your images files. I could add a zip file or pdf to it too. I’m currently using a Showcase for my portfolio pdf(s) and you can see it here.
The upgrade on Dropbox is obviously more expensive, but after a month of trying it out, I was hooked on it.
Keeping track of everything
The next few tools are what helped me keep track of everything on a better level than ever. As a creative, I’ve usually worked within the chaos, but in 2017 I’ve embraced working towards greater organization. Check these 3 apps out:
Trello really came in handy in 2017 even though I’m still not the best with it. I was able to use it with a few clients for improved collaboration on larger scale projects. Being so visual, I can see everything laid out for me. Labels, Dates, Images, Notes are all right there and quick. With long lists of buildings to photograph around London, it’s been easy to add them to Trello boards and work through them. Integration with Dropbox and the creation of a calendar for due dates has really helped me out. It also becomes a place clients can come check on things too.
I’ve never been the best with Calendars. I always get excited to start and then I fade off. I recently pulled the trigger on Fantastical 2 in hopes of putting old habits to rest. The use of a calendar became completely necessary. After a bit of time now, I’m adding everything I can into it and integrating with Trello Calendars.
The thing I love most about Fantastical 2 is the way it understands natural language. I can enter events in my own words and it sets things up great.
I’m excited to continue my efforts for 2018.
Now you might things some of these apps are overlapping and you’d be right. Do I need a todo app when I could use Trello or Fantastical 2? I guess I do.
Todoist helps me brain dump a bunch of things I need and want to do. I can label them all up til my heart is content or leave them be. Sometimes, I’ll find myself adding the task after I’ve already completed it as a record of getting something done that wasn’t listed for some reason.
Eventually, I may drop this app and only use Trello or the other way around. For now, I’d rather use Todoist as a place for me to keep track of things to do and use Trello for documenting, planning, and projecting.
I also love the Karma feature with Todoist. As you improve your productivity, your Karma points go up. If you’re doing terrible, the points go down. Essentially it tracks and visualizes your productivity.
Help with Website
I’ve always struggled with my website. It’s been redone so many times and these tools have helped me gain a hold of my website in 2017:
Elementor and OceanWP
Elementor is a page builder plugin for WordPress, the open source software used to create my website. OceanWP is the theme I use currently. I was amazed to find these tools in 2017 as they helped me create my website so easily and I’m slowly working on changing things into 2018. If you’ve been here before, things are changing over time.
OceanWP is a free WordPress theme that is so adaptable it is not funny. Sure, there are a lot of themes like that. Combined with Elementor, I really haven’t had to try and dig into any code like I have with past themes and tools.
WP Ocean does have a premium plugin bundle that includes additional features for your website, but it’s not necessary at all. The beauty of it though, it’s something you pay for once and new plugins are consistently added for your use.
If you’re considering a website update in 2018, I recommend WP Ocean and the bundle upgrade.
As for Elementor, it’s a free plugin that helps you build your site easily. It’s so visual and it’s also free. You can do a lot with the free version but there is a Pro version if you want additional features. There are also other developers making plugins that elevate what you can do with Elementor too.
I can’t imagine working on my website without Elementor. I haven’t even looked at the page builder competition. As I mentioned, I’m slowly updating my site and planning to simplify it out. In the past, I would have had to search for a new WordPress theme, but I can do everything with the combination of Elementor and OceanWP. Such game changers for me this year.
There you have it
Without these tools, I don’t know how I would have fared in 2017. While I’m still not any type of guru for any of these tools, I hope to dig deeper into how powerful they can truly be for business. I’d be curious what tools or apps helped you out most through 2017. Feel free to let me know in the comments or connect through social.