Time is one thing that, if you lose it, you can never get it back.
Money… Clients… Vendors… Things.. – All of these, if you lose them, you can usually find a way to get more of them. But with time, it passes and it is gone, out of reach, unable to be restored.
Which makes it all the more important to look at HOW you are spending your time and WHY you are spending it that way.
“How we spend our days is of course how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour and that one is what we are doing."
– Annie Dillard, The Writing Life
In my business, that means I am always looking for efficiencies, things that allow me to do the same thing in less time. Even if I have to invest a bunch of time upfront, so that, the next time I have to do this “thing” (and the next and the next) it takes far less time.
I like to focus on leverage, tools, and automations that, once in place, require me to spend less attention on repeatable tasks or mundane things. Here are a few tools and techniques that have been most helpful in our business.
Time Shaving Tools
- Snippets and templates. If you find you are writing the same email, or the same chunks of emails to people, make templates and snippets you can cut and paste. I like Apple’s built-in Notes program, because I can copy, paste, save, file, and read any of my notes on any device, with just a few clicks.
- Cloud connections. IFTTT (“If This Then That”) and Zapier are cloud-based software solutions that tie together other cloud-based systems. You can use them to get different systems talking to each other, sharing data in amazingly helpful ways. We have used them for clients to do things like: automatically create an email newsletter based on weekly web posts; harvest emails from abandoned shopping carts and start those potential customers on an email drip campaign; connect scheduling software and an accounting system so that invoices are created automatically; automatically create a social media post whenever a blog post is created. The uses are endless and both services offer free plans with limited connections.
- Software as an employee. One word: Gusto. When I finally made the jump to using a cloud-based, largely automated payroll system, I quickly got angry with myself for not doing it sooner, because all of the time I had been spending monthly, quarterly, annually, doing payroll reporting is time I will never get back. Of course, there are other indispensable programs to do nasty shallow-work for you, like Avalara (to automate sales tax collection and reporting) and Hootsuite (to pre-schedule social media).
- Org tools rule. We have been using Hive for some time as a ticketing and tasking tool. It allows our collaborative of creatives to communicate and prioritize in client- and task-focused ways, and to always know where things stand. There are lots of tools like this, but the main reason we chose it is that it has client proofing and time-tracking baked in. On the photography front, we use Tavé as our studio CRM for client interaction, job ticketing, and invoicing. We have even found ways (see above), to get it to talk to our accounting software, Xero, and to our scheduler... Finally, we have just started using Milanote, which is a wonderful, graphic, and spatially-based organizing tool for teams collaborating on photography and marketing projects – it's sort of like a love child of Pinterest and Evernote.
- One calendar to rule them all. Acuity is my scheduling software of choice. For a very low monthly fee, it saves loads of time setting up Zoom calls, meetings, and sessions, and is super customizable. No more back and forth hunting and missing for times everyone can meet, and it hooks easily into Google Calendar. If you don’t want to set up a scheduler, Doodle is a great ad hoc tool for helping gaggles of people to find a meeting time they can all live with.
- Email needs a fence. For probably two decades I have been using Mac Mail, since fleeing from Outlook. It's free, integrates well with everything I use, and is clunky and slow as hell. So recently I began testing Superhuman and really like what I see. It focuses on processing and filing email quickly, with a keyboard-centric interface. It is blazingly fast and minimalistic.
- If it just works, don't fix it. I quickly begin thrashing and moaning if I have to waste time getting essential tools or programs to work, if I have to constantly download new drivers and updates. This is why we use the full Adobe Creative Suite for everything we do. It's the same reason I use legit Nikon glass (lenses) for all my cameras. Yes, I know there are knock-offs and upstarts out there that can do the job almost as good for half the price. But I just don't have time – I. need. things. to. just. work.
So what does all this have to do with photography or marketing? Well, good marketing is good storytelling. And good storytelling takes time. So the more time you can free up to gather and tell meaningful stories, the more impactful your marketing will be.
But there is more.
Marketing is never a “one and done” affair. It is a long-term commitment to telling the story of your business and how it transforms your customers’ lives. That means you need to be constantly thinking about how to fill the pipeline, to publish, to share, to show, to explain. And any tools that can help make that work easier, leveraging time, I am all over that.
“Time is free, but it’s priceless. You can’t own it, but you can use it. You can’t keep it, but you can spend it. Once you’ve lost it, you can never get it back.”
– Harvey MacKay