The savvier photographer will have, at some point, totted up the total hours that is spent on each job –
- Pre-shoot including travel and edit; 7 hours,
- Wedding day shoot including travel; 15 hours,
- The edit; 16 hours (yeesh, more on the edit to come!)
They’ll then happily divide their rate by that total hours spent in the hope that whatever the calculator spits out is above minimum wage – with maybe a little left over for the mirrorless camera fund.
One (surprisingly significant) thing that is often left out of this calculation is the time spent bashing out emails to clients, sometimes over an 18 month period!
We took it upon ourselves to look back over our archives at our historic email habits before implementing what we will come on to below. The results? Between the initial enquiry and delivery of the photographs the emails sent to each client ranged from 25, up to 50! We’re not talking short emails either, yep,– these were mostly full on essays – y’know explaining things.
Presuming that a conservative 10 minutes is spent on each email, that’s between 4 and 8 hours spent writing emails per client – 35 weddings a year? There goes up to 280 hours a year, yep 7 full 40 hour working weeks. Probably worth putting a little thought into whether this process could be a little more efficient?
First off, the whole email thing, it’s amazing. The ability to have 10’s of conversations running simultaneously, all with a paper trail of reminders of otherwise forgotten info, all of which you can choose when (or even if) you decide to reply. Am.azing.
Yet as we’ve established, over the working year it’s one hell of a potential time pit – so we said; let’s make this process more efficient – without effecting the quality of conversation and value they offer, and more importantly – offering consist quality!
As amazing a tool emails are, it’s easy to get into bad habits with the way we use this brilliant tool. Can’t face getting stuck into income generating tasks? Gah, I’ll crack out some emails. Getting bored of editing? Gah I’ll crack out some emails. Trying to delay having todo that thing? Gah I’ll crack out some emails.
It’s easy to use emails as a scapegoat of importance to avoid getting shiz done. – We are Guilty too!
It’s an in-tray not a trigger. Batch the processing of emails into an allocated daily time frame – as a starting point, we like 15 minutes before lunch and 15 minutes at the end of the working day. For the rest of the time your email inbox should be closed, with dastardly notifications turned off whilst you’re focusing on other tasks. If you leave them on and see an email come in, your consciousness will still be attuned to the content/task related to the email outside of your allocated ‘email time’. Manage the expectations of your clients/enquiries by making your email habits known, they won’t mind waiting a few hours for a reply if it’s what they already expect; if they do mind, well that’s a bullet dodged in our books.
Consistency, consistency, consistency. We’re all about offering not just a great experience to our clients/couples, but a consistent one. Consistent = Efficient. Before starting new email enquiries conversations, map out the conversation for a successful booking flow by looking at your previous email threads and summarise each email; for example.
YOU = BLACK THEM = RED
Enquiry + Questions
Availability + Answers + Ask for the business i.e How to secure the date
Deposit received + Next steps
Invoice for balance + Send online wedding info form
Wedding info form completed.
Suggest plan for wedding day
See you then.
Post wedding expectations (delivery time scales etc)
Want less emails? Well, send less emails. If after that exercise you find that a back ‘n forth could have been avoided by incorporating questions/answers (or information) into the same sent email – then do that!
Get this flow and exchange down to it’s minimum.
Consistent emails prompt consistent replies; when we take a quick look at our own inbox, and at each client email thread, they are scarily identical. Ask the same questions in the same way, get the same answers in the same way. Now it get’s interesting. You’re writing the same thing literally thousands of times a year, in the moment and day to day you may not notice this as an issue, but it’s actually crazy. Why not write it really well, once? The answer lies beneath –
So you know your target email flow which you want to gently coax your couples into adhering to, and now to guarantee that consistency you want to automate your responses. Enter our no.1 email time saving app, Text Expander (for both mac and windows). This productivity app lets you instantly insert snippets of text from a repository of pre-written snippets using your own text prompts.
Sound Complicated – it’s honestly so simple and brilliant! We Love Text Expander.
Every time we have written a paragraph more than once, we save it as a snippet. Now we appreciate that every enquiry and email that comes in are not totally identical (although they are generally just a variation) which is why we don’t save entire emails as one snippet, but instead have 10’s of paragraph snippets so that our email replies feel personalised, well written and most importantly took seconds to reply to. This is a game changer if you’re still manually writing emails with your quill and parchment.
Take the below typical enquiry:
We are getting married on 23rd August 2018. The ceremony will be at St Mary’s church in Wimbledon village, and the reception will be at the RAC Club on Pall Mall.
Please could you let me whether you’re available on this date and, if so, prices and more information about your coverage and whether or not we can have the unused images in addition to the edited ones?
Many thanks in advance
Lois & Dale
Peasy easy, we would be able to reply to that by typing – xavailable xraws xsecure – time taken? 5 seconds. Game.Changer.
This is a handy little add-on for Apple Mail which adds several clever extensions that have previously only been available to heavy Gmail users with a combination of separate add-ons. MailButler allows you to have this add-ons within one simple application – just the Apple way. Among the extensions is the ability to ‘snooze’ emails for an allocated time (think, don’t want to reply until x is done/ready), time schedule replies (don’t want to seem too keen to reply to an enquiry?) and also the ability to see when your sent emails have been received and or read (handy!).
Building a list
Whilst we are on the subject of e-mails, it seems prudent to mention the importance we believe there is in “Building a list” of all the people that you come in to contact with. The next questions might be, who is on my list, and how do I get the emails? First though let’s start with, why build a list in the first instance? For the majority of the emails you send, you will likely have a thread with an individual person, and you only need to send that email today, or tomorrow (which you type with TextExpander, can schedule with MailButler). However at times it’s probably prudent to schedule an email to all your couples/clients at once. e.g Merry Christmas, Happy Anniversary, Making albums in January? This, and much more, is how we use our lists.
The simplest list to have would be to have all your ‘direct’ clients in one place. We would then recommend separating out your 2018 and 2019 clients in different lists. Or, as we do, different groups within that same list. In this way, when you want to say Merry Christmas you can send out one email to everyone in your list. But, when you want last years clients to leave you a review, or vote for you somewhere, you can just send this to the relevant couples.
To take this one step further, you can then build on to this with another group of people, these are the people we like to think of as our ‘secondary clients’. To us; these are the parents, friends and families of the same couples within Level 1. We don’t send so many emails to these people, but around December time is a great excuse to prompt them back to the images to see if anyone needs Christmas ideas/presents? It’s a great source of additional revenue. You write the emails once, you schedule them, and then go on holiday – hello print sales!
One source we use for these emails, is your client galleries/videos. How? Enable the necessity for people to add their own email before viewing the photos/videos, or before they can download. Then have all these emails either sent directly to where you store you list, we use MailChimp. Or, if you still like a little old school, every month you could simply copy/paste them into an excel file. Happy Building.
Native to Apple Mail, this underrated little feature allows you to have 2 (or as many as you like) inboxes, your regular boring one, and your smart ones. What do the smart ones do? Well, the only emails that make it into it have been filtered by a single or bunch of rules you’ve set. For example, the only emails we want in our smart inbox are emails which were from humans (i.e not junk, or mailing lists), received in the last 10 days, and have not been replied to – to achieve this we set just 3 rules:
The message does not contain the word unsubscribe (all unwanted emails do!)
The message was received in the last 10 days.
Message was not replied to.
These 3 simple rules clean up all of the rubbish, and make it easy and less intimidating to have a nice clean inbox – good for your mind and soul! We love it.