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DPChallenge Forums >> Photography Discussion >> New Studio Part 2: Organization
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01/16/2005 10:40:05 AM · #1
I promised I'd try to write about what I'm learning as I go from DPC flunkie to studio owner and it's been over a month since I last wrote, so I think it's time.

Lesson 2

Get organized.

It's funny when it's put on it's own line like that in just two words, it seems soooo simple! This has been one of the hardest things for me to do in our new studio and I'm very VERY anal about organization.

What do I need organized?
Quite simply: everything. Things that need to be done. Jobs in progress. Contact information for vendors and churches. Dates you're already booked. Money people owe you. You need EVERYTHING at your fingertips.

It sounds so unnecessary, but if you do the same things the same way ALL the time, eventually that organization comes back to help you. Case in point: We have a friend who just spent 60 hours in 4 weeks preparing for her first bridal show. She ordered sample albums a month ago that just came yesterday. She has her 20x24s and her other material ready to go. She has been fretting that "all this preparation takes SOOOOOOOO long!" but other vendors we've talked to have been using the same albums for 3 years. She's going to get 10 to 30 bridal shows out of these promotional materials. She spent 60 hours now, but it will save her 10 hours of running around 10 times. She prepared her best effort in the beginning and now she can reap her rewards for a long time.

The other place you have to be organized is what work you're doing when. Back up this data. If you forget an appointment, double book a time, or other booking snafus, you're going to look very unprofessional. You don't want to be late, missing ...

Here's my list of things you should have organized:
1) Appointments, jobs and your calendar. VERY important.
2) Money in, money out. Do it EVERY day.
3) Contact info. Not just clients, but pastors, churches, album vendors, stress relief friends, the massage place...
4) Status of jobs. What's left to send out? Who gets what when?
5) To-do list. Easy to forget, so write it ALL down.

How do you organize?
1) Appointments, jobs and your calendar.
I use Chaos Manager for my computer calendar. It's very simple and gives me an idea of how things relate in the calendar view. It's not a one-stop solution though. We have a whiteboard with details of confirmed weddings, appointments and people considering us still. We keep a record of all jobs we've completed as well. Two daily planners help a lot!

2) Money in, money out. Quickbooks, an accountant, or a very detailed list. Doesn't matter how you keep this organized, but figure out where you are owed from and who you owe to. You need to keep this. It's like, the law and stuff, so I don't feel I need to go into much depth here. Keep receipts. Keep everything! Backup the data a lot.

3) Contact info. Yes, you can look it up everytime - but that isn't time-wise. What we're trying to do is create a studio that will last 40 or 140 years. Not create something that gets you through next week. A piece of paper with names on it will get too long. It's better than nothing, but REALLY think about starting a contact database. Outlook, Photobyte, ANYTHING!

4) Status of jobs.
When you've done 2 weddings in the last year, this is easy. When you do 12, it gets complicated. When you change prices twice, do 15 weddings, and have 3 half done, 5 finished and 6 in progress, you're going to go NUTS. We use desk trays and a whiteboard.

5) To-do list.
Daily stuff is always the easiest and hardest to do. We have three categories on two lists. Our lists are "Things to do" and "Things to buy." Things to do has an A B and C list. A means "Do it asap- stop reading DPC and go do this!" B means "it would be nice to complete this today, but tomorrow is ok." C is "ongoing and long term" such as advertising, stock uploads, etc. Sometimes things move from B to A as they get closer. Sometimes they move from A to B as you realize they weren't that important cuz you keep putting them off and nobody's head explodes. The "Things to buy" list is just as important. It's easy to forget "grab a proof album at the camera store later" but you NEED to do it. So there's an A B and C list for the buy list too. A is "buy as soon as you have the money for it or go to the store it's at." B is "we need this relatively soon. We ought to start budgeting for it." and C is "wouldn't life be nice if we had..." (I have a few lenses in this category, a wacom tablet...)


Get organized.

I told you - it looks simple, but really it's not. Well, it could be, but only if you do it everyday. Do it when you wake up. Do it before bed. Keep it organized because keeping the effort up is a WHOLE lot easier than blowing a whole weekend by catching up every once in awhile, missing appointments and otherwise screwing up because you had no idea what you needed to do. Program the tax filing dates into your computer. Put them in your planner. Just organize. It's the best productivity tool you have if you haven't already done it.

I meant to write about setting up shop, getting started and getting clients, but that will need to be postponed. It was on the B list and this was on the A list. ;)

Hope it helps,

Link to New Studio Part 1: Starting

Message edited by author 2005-01-16 10:42:13.
01/16/2005 10:55:08 AM · #2
Wow Mavrik.

Good info. Anyone who's started a business that lasted any amount of time would see that you're becoming a business man. Probably not what you thought you wanted to do but buddy you're running into the same things that any serious business person hits whether he/she is selling flowers, cobbling shoes or paiting houses. You think that you're just going to have to worry about service (as in I'll shoot your wedding for you) or products (as in my pictures are better than that crap my sis-in-law bought from her wedding) but you quickly find that its about interfacing with clients and managing all the crap that comes with a business. Keeping up with all the little piece of important litter that can accumulate and rise up to drown you in minutia is an important part of any viable small business and it sounds like you're getting a real grasp of how to be a businessman. Congrats to you and I hope you still get that rush of taking photos and giving people physical evidence to enhance the memories of those important events in their lives.

I'm impressed that you stuck to the important facets of starting a business instead of posting something that people would expect to see you write about on a photography site. Mature and honest approach to what you're doing. For those times when a little luck might help, I wish you good luck in this endeavor.

01/16/2005 02:11:15 PM · #3
Thanks Kevin! Those are very kind words. I just want to help others who may be thinking of doing the same thing get on the right track. I'm sure I'll come up with some photo stuff later as well, but for now, these ARE the most important things I can think of.


01/16/2005 02:16:43 PM · #4
Nice bit of work you're doing with these posts. Maybe at some point in the future, you'd consider consolidating these posts into one article.

I find that a handheld PDA that syncs with a desktop calendar, directory and email is invaluable to me in keeping my fecal matter in a linear arrangement.
01/16/2005 04:37:10 PM · #5
Originally posted by Spazmo99:

Nice bit of work you're doing with these posts. Maybe at some point in the future, you'd consider consolidating these posts into one article.

I find that a handheld PDA that syncs with a desktop calendar, directory and email is invaluable to me in keeping my fecal matter in a linear arrangement.

Thanks. I'll definitely consolidate them later on. For right now, it's good to get my thoughts out - and the post was long winded enough! :D I would like to end up with as many of these as it takes to get from "I want a studio and to do photography for a living" to "just put the downpayment on a new house, new car, and a vacation for next winter!"


01/16/2005 09:55:09 PM · #6
M I just finished reading all of this. Man when you get so old and wise? lol I am amazed at all of the detail that you go to but I totally like your style.

I might not own my own business, but I do work for a small company that is trying to build pretty much from the bottom. I have to do a lot of the things that you mention as I tried to automate an office, from scratch.

I think it doesn't matter what business type you are in, this info will be helpful to everyone.

I am very anal about organisation as well. I really do believe that if you get something done from from the begining, that it will make life so much easier down the track. You can never do enough and never be too organised. Thats why we use fantastic machines like computers, because they are capable of so much.
01/17/2005 03:16:10 PM · #7
I'm not old!!! ;)

Anyways, I love owning my own business. Even when we get emails that we aren't professional because we don't print our own prints on inkjets! ;) Long story, check rant later. Anyways!

01/17/2005 03:21:47 PM · #8
Very helpful, Mav!
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