So far in my photography workflow series, I’ve covered:
Today’s edition is all about CYA. The more my business grows, the more important it is to have efficiencies and systems in place so I don’t drop balls. (At least, until I get a personal assistant! Sigh.) I’ve developed lots of tools to manage my time, track details, and stay caught up. It’s the only way to survive as a one-woman show.
Many tasks are more efficiently performed in batches. For example, it takes more time to download every iPhone photo individually as you take it than it does to download all of them once a month; it takes more time to calculate and log business-related mileage after each trip.
If you create recurring reminders on your calendar for the tasks below, and exercise discipline in doing them when the reminders pop up, your files will be safe, you’ll never get behind on sales tax reporting, never forget major client deadlines, and avoid spending
hours weeks digging up records during income tax season. Here are some of my regularly occurring calendar reminders:
First Day of the Month
- Pay Sales Tax. Why wait until the deadline? Do it as soon as the reporting period closes and check it off the list. It only takes a couple minutes, right?
- Run Backups. I do this while sleeping.
Every Second Thursday
- Send Marketing Emails. I have templates for this, and rotate the audience. I have basic content I update for each edition, with separate distribution lists to creatives, fellow photographers, former commercial clients, former portrait clients, leads, etc.
Last Day of the Month
- iPhone4 Photo Downloads. I use Lightroom to copy photos to a specific annual folder on my hard drive for iphoneography. The iPhone automatically names files by date, so I have a chronological record for special projects like my recent “My Life in Food & Drink” slideshow. All of my iphone photos (originals and edited versions) are then archived and backed up with all of my other photos.
- Log Mileage for the Month. I do not log mileage using my car’s odometer. Instead, I maintain a simple excel spreadsheet with three columns: date, purpose, and total mileage. At the end of each month, I just scroll through iCal and find business appointments, and run them through mapquest, then add the mileage to my log. Takes about 5-10 minutes, tops – but it would take a lot longer if I did that every time I drove somewhere. (Note: Mileage is an important deduction. Case in point: I already have about 4,000 business miles on my car for 2011. Neglecting this detail costs you, literally.)
- Update Home Office Expenses. This obviously doesn’t apply if you have a studio, but I don’t. So, I track utility and phone/internet bills and deduct a certain % of them every year. Again, doing this once a month saves a big headache in tax season. Just remember these expenses count as real dollars against your bottom line. Keep that in mind when managing your profit margin. If you tally it at the end of the year when doing taxes, and have a narrow profit margin, it may turn your black into red. If you track this all year, you’ll have a better grasp on your true balance over time. (Note: You can also deduct a % of your square footage if you have a mortgage.)
- Client Appointments. I add pending jobs (leads, estimates) to my calendar immediately, so I remember to hold the date and confirm when booked. I color code appointments according to type (commercial, personal, portrait, to-do, travel, etc.). I am visual so having this system helps me mentally organize coming appointments and priorities.
- Client Gallery Expiration. My clients’ galleries stay online for 90 days. When I post the gallery, I put the expiration date on my calendar, and also a note to send them an expiration reminder email one week prior to that date. I do this when it’s fresh in my mind.
What did I miss? How do you manage details like these? I’d love your ideas, too.