Business

Ep 124. Simple Systems + Workflows for Photographers with Taylor Torres

Systems and Workflows for Photographers
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Today’s guest is Taylor Torres, podcaster, photographer, entrepreneur, and Dubsado expert. She talks all about simple workflows for photographers. So, let’s dive in!

Ashley: Hello Taylor, I am so excited to be here with you today and I cannot wait to talk to you about simple workflows for photographers. I would love for you to introduce yourself, and let us know who you are, who you live with, and what you do.

Taylor: Hi! Yes, thank you so much for having me. I’m super excited. It’s great getting to chat with you on Instagram and finally getting to have a conversation with you on your podcast. I’m Taylor. I live in Katy, which is right in the Houston area. I am a mom of two: I have a three-year-old and an eight-year-old and also live here with my man and our dog. I am a lot of things: I’m a podcaster, and I’m an entrepreneur. I have a systems business; I do a lot of education and I’ve been a photographer for over a decade. So, a lot of things happening in my world over here.

Ashley: That’s awesome! I so love that we can relate to that, because I’m so multi-passionate also. I’m learning more and more that as women, we just typically are. There’s more than one thing that we’re really interested in. I’ve noticed too, that our journeys just kind of evolve as we go from different seasons. And so, I would love for you to kind of share about your journey and how you got to where you are today.

Taylor: Yes. It feels like way longer than it’s been. But my journey with entrepreneurship or photography now started in high school. I got a camera in high school, a DSLR for good grades, and fell in love with photography. I had always been an artist in school and loved doing all kinds of things. I took photos of all my friends and I was really involved in the music scene.

So, I would take pictures of bands, and eventually, that evolved to taking portraits, senior photos, and family photos of people that I knew. So, by the time I was 17, I was doing online schooling, so I could graduate early and go to college early. I had started officially my business because I was just taking photos for fun and then I started charging in high school and it led to a really promising career.

Commercially, I was shooting weddings and portraits and pretty much anything I could photograph. I ended up going to art school for fine art and really stepping into more of the fine art space, which eventually led me to kind of a pivotal life moment. I went through a really hard divorce and art kind of got put on the back burner. So, a couple of years later, I ended up getting pregnant with my son and realized I wanted to work from home. 

After art school, I went into bartending and retail and then decided I wanted to be able to stay home when the baby came, because I was really passionate about being able to make it work, whether it was working from home or entrepreneurship.

This path kind of fell in my lap. I was working at a social media agency, and wasn’t making barely any money. I got into a Facebook group while I was pregnant and I just said, Hey, is anyone looking for help? And they were all photographers. I had a background in photography, so I kind of knew how photography businesses ran and what they needed support in, and how their minds worked. I had a girl say, hey, yes, you could answer emails for me. I had no business, I had no Instagram, and I didn’t have packages. I literally just was like, ‘Hey, does anyone need an assistant?’

And so that led me into this virtual assistant world and this was in 2019. By the end of 2019, it had grown so much with me assisting photographers virtually and really a lot of different wedding creatives, to where I left that social media position, took the business full time, and I was only two months postpartum. It was terrifying and very risky, but I was like, I’m making the same amount of money as I am at this business, but this will allow me to stay home with my son and grow it on my own time.

Then COVID hit and I was terrified again because now I have this six-month-old baby and I just started this business and it’s COVID. Thankfully, everything worked out really well and that kind of led me into systems and automation.

But working with so many other entrepreneurs, this is such a huge piece of business that we often don’t like, and it feels messy and really hard. And so, I kind of saw this space in the industry where I could step in as an expert in automation and offer that to other entrepreneurs.

Ashley: That is so cool! I love that your journey started really messy. I feel like that is how all of us start right. We just take a first step, and we see where that takes us and then we just keep going. Growth is not linear; it’s very up and down and sometimes you turn around and you backtrack and then sometimes you find new avenues that you didn’t even expect.

And I’m really excited to dive into this today, and help our audience really get a handle on this. Because sometimes it can feel so scary and messy when we have these businesses. And we’re like, okay, we’ve got all this work to do, but it’s just very overwhelming.

So, what are some of the starting points that you can guide our listeners through about what kind of workflows should photographers have in place? Where do they even start?

Taylor: Yes, I think you want to take a couple of steps back, especially if you’re new, not even to business, but just new to like systemizing, organizing and processes. And so, before I even step into the workflow conversation, I like to look at what other systems and applications do you even have in place. Some of my clients I’ve worked with, who are very successful wedding photographers, are still using Apple Notes and Google Sheets for things. They’re super successful, they just never have had the time to figure out what systems work for them or for their clients.

And so, before I even get into automation, I always kind of look at, do we have a client management system in place? Do we have an email system in place? What kind of things are you doing to make your life a little bit easier in business? Then once you have those in place, we can start moving into automating all of the moving parts before you try to get too down in the weeds with what is automation, and I got to have a workflow for everything. So, I like to look at what systems do we have and how are we utilizing them in the business, and then we can move into that automation conversation.

Ashley: That’s such a great point because I think a lot of people go into this idea of workflows and automations and they think they have none. But when you sit down and have a conversation, you’re like well you do, you just haven’t actually written it down. You do have a system; you just maybe haven’t acknowledged that yet.

And so, I think it’s really important to first just think about what you are already doing or what are you already using. Because chances are you have something, you have a workflow already started. But I think too to kind of back up to what you were saying, even if these photographers who are listening maybe are not as far along in their business as they want to be or maybe they’re not as busy as they want to be, now is the perfect time to start the workflows right, wouldn’t you say?

Taylor: Yes, because the great thing about workflows is obviously you can get into automation or systemizing your business at any point. I work with clients who are in their first six months of business, or I’ve worked with people who are 10 years in, and they’re either revisiting their workflows, or they’re revamping or their business model is changing.

And workflows are great, especially for the newer photographer, or maybe the one who’s not as busy, because that’s going to set the tone for the client experience. And if you have that experience already set in stone before you even utilized it, it’s just going to create an even more beautiful experience for your clients.

They’re going to feel from the very beginning of contact with you that you are organized, and that’s obviously going to go into your creativity with your shoots and everything else.

But I always say if you have the capacity and the time to do it, there’s no harm in doing it now and setting that foundation while you have the time before you get crazy busy and you’re trying to do that plus run a business, which is always a lot.

Ashley: Yes, absolutely! So, what would you say would be the next step then, if the listener right now is kind of going through their workflows and their processes and they’re kind of thinking okay, I actually do have some of this. Would you recommend them just like writing it all out? What would be their next step after they’ve sort of identified what their workflows are?

Taylor: Yes, so my process that I use, really with anyone at any stage when it comes to building workflows, especially if it’s in a client management system, is taking everything in your mind that you do and writing it out. Whether it’s on paper or a Google Doc or you do it like a pretty map. Figure out exactly what needs to happen for each service or type of session you have. From the very beginning of contact, from the time they find your website and submit a contact form, all the way through the shooting, the pre-communication, the delivery process, all the communication is jotted down.

Once you do that, you can really identify here’s where I may have some holes right. What I love about that process too, is that’s when you’re really able to find the spaces in your brain dump, once you have all that then you can identify what you need. There are so many things that are floating around: there are forms, proposals, and emails. If you’re taking calls with clients for consult, you need some kind of scheduling app.

So, you’re able to kind of brain dump that process and that allows you to identify what do we actually need to make this automation work. Even if you’re not going to automate it, that’s still going to allow you to figure out what you need to create, what maybe needs to be revamped or elevated and then giving you the framework for you to take the workflow and automate it into a system like a client management.

Ashley: That’s awesome! And I think it’s really important to do this step. A lot of photographers I feel like when they are in the weeds of a busy season. And we’re not saying do this during busy season, we’re saying to wait until you have some space or better yet, carve out the time now in the future to make sure you do have time for this.

Often we get so stuck working in our business we don’t have time to work on it.

I talk about this a lot on the podcast, is making sure that you’re owning the role as the CEO in your company and that you are doing these systems, even though sometimes they might not feel fun for us creatives. So, can you share with us what are some ‘aha moments’ or takeaways that some of your clients have had after working with you? What does it feel like after having systems and automations in place?

Taylor: So, I have these conversations often, where they have realized maybe a hiccup or something that continues to happen. Maybe it’s that a client’s always asking for this one particular thing in the process. Or they’re always missing the follow up email, or just something where they’re forgetting or this is a common question that comes up. And that’s a moment of, hey! That means that something in this process up until that point is either getting lost in communication, or it’s missing completely, or we need to address it to just make that client experience better.

Something as simple as having maybe an intake questionnaire where you ask all the details about the session and the family and the person and what they enjoy. So, you have that information before you actually work with the clients. Just simple things like that, where people realize this one small asset I add to my process can eliminate other issues that are coming up down the line with the client. So that’s something really common and really fun to kind of identify with my clients. I think people often realize after the entire process is done, is they often say it feels a lot more daunting when they’re getting started versus actually using it afterward.

Just going back to what you were saying, a lot of people don’t enjoy systems and tech and you don’t start a photography business to do systems and tech. You’re creative, you want to be using a camera and doing all that fun part of the business. So, it can feel overwhelming and almost like, oh, it’s going to be too hard, so I don’t even want to try it. Or I don’t want to get a system or invest in an expert because I’m not even going to use it.

On the flip side, they realize, oh, wow! It’s so much simpler than it sounds because once you do have the process and the automation, and you’ve tested it and everything is cohesive, it just makes your life literally so much easier. The amount of times people have said how much time they’ve saved this week because they didn’t have to send follow-ups to every new lead. So, it’s those little time saving moments that add up at the end, but that you’re also like okay, it’s really not that bad to use it all if you have the right processes in place and you’re using the system that works for you.

Ashley: That’s so good. And I think you mentioned something that is so important, which is that getting started is the most daunting part. And I think that’s true with anything new that you do. Why does it take so long to just get started? It really isn’t that bad once we get in the motion of it. And once we start to think through all the processes we already do have in place, like you mentioned, you probably have a lot of it in place. It might not just be in the right order, or it might feel frazzled, because you haven’t automated it yet.

So can you kind of walk us through like the very first step for a photographer. So, let’s say for instance, it’s going to be their inquiry process and you have them kind of write out like the different steps. I’m just kind of envisioning myself as a new photographer, I feel like I would be a little bit nervous about writing everything down because I’m wondering do I have systems? Do I have processes? But then I think the next step would be asking myself, what do I do once I know I need an inquiry booking process? Can you walk us through what we should know, or how we should think about it?

Taylor: Yes, I think it is a little hard because obviously, if you’re newer or if you’re new to this whole jotting everything down. Am I right here? Should I do this? It’s good to have guidance, whether that’s from another photographer who’s done it before you, whether that’s someone like me, who’s a systems expert. I think having the sounding board is always so important. Because I work with a lot of people who come to me super nervous. They’re like, Oh, my process is terrible. It’s so messy. And we get into it and they’re like, oh, it’s really not that bad. I just needed someone to kind of tell me if that sounds good, or like back me up. I think it’s kind of just having that accountability of someone else kind of walking with you.

And so, even if you can’t invest in an expert or a Dubsado specialist, or an automation person, you could just ask, hey, what is your process kind of look like? Would you recommend doing this? Because I think it can be overwhelming trying to research or figure out what the exact steps are.

But you really want to look at what it comes down to is client communication, all the information happening, and then the timeliness of that is. So, if you get a new lead in, what’s the next step? Are you sending an email or are you booking a call? From there, are you sending a proposal, and how many follow-ups do you want? You want to look at what the client needs to know and then how am I delivering that information to them. Other than that, I’m always bouncing it off someone else, whether that’s a peer or it’s a friend. Even a past client I think is a great way too to ask. If you’ve worked with someone you say, hey, I’m refining my processes, can you let me know if this was helpful for you or if this email would have been good, if I would have sent you one at this stage. I think we get scared to ask for a second opinion and that can be some of the best help in our business.

Ashley: I think that’s such a great idea to reach out to a past client. I’ve never thought of that before. If you ask a client who has never worked with you before, what information would you like, they probably don’t know. But if you go to someone that’s already been through the experience with you, then they can say, oh, this would have been nice to know or I really did enjoy that you told me this.

Your workflow doesn’t have to be complicated, it can be very simple! We need to stop overcomplicating things.

Even just having a few steps in between when they book us to when they get their client gallery delivered to them, that’s all we need. So, do you have a guideline or something that people to start out with? And when we’re talking about systems and automations here, is it only email or what other kind of ways can people systemize without just emails?

Taylor: Well, I think with something like photography, most of it is communication, which is emails. But going back to kind of the asset conversation of asking yourself, what can I turn into an asset? Meaning, could this be a form that I gather information? Could this be a guide? A lot of my photographers will send a prep guide for their session, that way you don’t have to put all of that into a long paragraph in an email. You want to look at what other things can I not automate but elevate in the process. And I think it’s a good thing to get away from that automation word all the time, because it’s not all going to be automated. I think a lot of people come and approach it with, everything’s going to be automated, everything’s going to be sending on its own.

Honestly, I work with a lot of photographers and I would say about half of it’s automated. Half of it is going to be modified or sent manually or approved, depending on the circumstance,  because not every client and every service is the exact same. So, I think to look at what other things can I turn into a system. Not just in client management with forms and such, but also with email communication, like newsletters, or maybe behind the scenes stuff such as tasks and project management systems.

I know a lot of photographers will utilize not really automation but systemizing maybe their editing process. Or if they do albums, what kind of process for album delivery. There’s not a whole lot of client communication happening, it’s more of systemizing the back end of the business in the internal structure. So, I think there is a lot to look at when it comes to not just automation but systemizing as a whole, and allowing our business to get more organized in the apps we’re using, the project management, the marketing apps.

Ashley: I think everything that you just said is so good, and so important. And another thing that just came to mind as you were speaking was, really anything in your business that you do on repeat, you can build a system for.

So, it could even be just batch creating your content for Instagram or for your blog posts. We’re not just necessarily talking about systems in general that are only for booking or only client communication.

There are so many systems in your business that you can create a checklist for. I feel like that’s a super simple system that sometimes people just forget about. It doesn’t have to be complicated.

Taylor: Yes, and that would be going back to an SOP, a standard operating procedure, which is what you’re saying almost like the checklist or writing them out. I am crazy about those. I have one for literally everything in the business and it’s all stored in my project management system. So, when there is a task, you can go straight to the department, I could say of the business and find that procedure for that thing. Like a blog post or Pinterest or whatever. And then even in those processes that are happening in something like a real system, like a client management, those are even written out.

This is kind of a fun tip: when I have those written out, I revisit my workflows once a year. Some people may be quarterly, especially if you introduce new services, or you’re changing your process around. Having that brain dump and kind of the SOP of the system stored somewhere is amazing. Because as you’re auditing your business and kind of revamping or revisiting things, you have that procedure stored, and you can revisit it and kind of modify it, which I do recommend to do at least once a year. I think there’s a lot of confusion with having a system means you have to have an actual paid platform for that thing, when a lot of times it could be something as simple as a checklist.

Ashley: I’d love for you to jump into Dubsado and what you love about that. There are so many other management systems that people can use, but I feel like it’s all generally the same idea. All of them generally have similar capabilities. And so, for listeners who are thinking, ‘I’m ready for this.’ If they want to take the next step and move to something a little bit more robust, what would you recommend, and why did you choose Dubsado?

Taylor: Yes, so I would recommend Dubsado for sure and here’s why. As you know, I was a photographer in 2010, so before, a lot of the systems came out that there are now. I mean Instagram came out that year, so things were so different back then. I had tried so many different systems as my career was taking off. And then when I became a virtual assistant, I got to experiment with so many different CRMs, from other photographers. The great thing about Dubsado, because I think normally in this industry, Dubsado and HoneyBook are kind of both up there as the top tier for a solopreneur, or a smaller scale business and they both can do what you need them to do.

So, it’s not saying you can’t take HoneyBook and use it. But the good thing about Dubsado that I personally love and that I have converted many HoneyBook users over to Dubsado, or people who don’t have a system at all to Dubsado, is that it is so customizable to your needs. So, if you are a new photographer in your first year, if you are a photographer of 10 years with a team of shooters, it can suit either whoever needs to use the system. What I love about it is that not only does it have workflows, systems like Honeybook don’t have as robust workflow automation, this one has so much automation.

You can get really in the weeds with it or you can keep it really simple. The other great thing is the way that you can customize all of the assets. The proposals are beautiful in there, especially for something like photography. We can get rid of Canva, we can get rid of the website proposals, and have these interactive, beautiful proposals where your clients can literally just press a button and book you and sign and pay in five clicks.

For photographers, what I love is that Dubsado can really meet you wherever you’re at. So, I even have people who will start with Dubsado, who don’t even use automation yet and that’s okay. You can still elevate from a 0 to a 10, just by utilizing their forms and the proposal and just all of the different business tools you can use inside of the system that you wouldn’t get without it. Then when you’re ready to use automation, you have everything already in the system, you just now have to put it into a workflow. Because the emails exist, the forms already exist, everything’s in there and that’s when a lot of people will then hire me once they’ve used Dubsado and kind of understand it a little bit and they’re ready to take it to the next level and start using the automation.

Ashley: That’s awesome! Thank you so much for sharing about Dubsado. I’ve never actually personally used it. I use HoneyBook, the other top tier there and I feel like I do not use it to its fullest capabilities. I think part of the reason I don’t and I’m sure that a lot of listeners can resonate with this is that it’s really intimidating for me to learn new tech.

It does take time to watch tutorials and training videos, which is why it is so helpful to hire an expert that knows what they’re doing in the system. Because not only does it save you a ton of time, it’s going to get you exactly what you need and you’re going to be able to utilize the platform for exactly what you need.

I think that’s really a good  learning lesson for all of us here is like, you have to be willing to invest the time or the money or both to get the most out of the platform. And so, I think that is so cool. I want to go now and peek around Dubsado and just check it out because you just never know.

Taylor: Yes and what’s cool about it is you can have an unlimited trial. So, it’s not like HoneyBook or really most websites at all, where you get like a two week trial or three days or whatever. You can use it for free up until you have more than three clients in the system. So, I love it because if you’re a HoneyBook user, if you’re not a HoneyBook user, if you don’t use anything, you can just create an account and just surf around.

And I will put a disclaimer on that: yes, it may feel overwhelming and that is okay. But I think it is going back to you can do it on your own if you want and Dubsado is a great resource, because they have so much information for new users and free webinars.

There’s just a ton of information they give, they have courses whenever. But like you said, you will either have to invest that time or that money and there are some things in my business I will pay 1000s if I can save hours on that thing that I don’t want to do. You kind of have to think ‘do I want to spend all the time learning and diving into it and trial and error or just invest in someone who can either guide me or completely do it for me?’

I think when you hire an expert, you get a deeper picture of what all you can do if you’re just trying to figure it out yourself.

Ashley: Oh, I love that so much. I would love for you to share with everyone before we end here today how can they connect with you. How can they work with you? Do you have different packages for what different people need based on if they just need a little automation or if they need a huge system built out?

Taylor: Yes, so I offer fully done for you Dubsado setups. I don’t work with any other systems like HoneyBook or anything like that. When it comes to automation, it’s just Dubsado. But essentially, it’s a pretty easy flat rate package, because everyone thinks they know what they need and I’m like, we just got to do a rehaul. So, you get the whole system set up, you get the education, I teach you, I train you everything.

But I also do offer consulting for systems, so if you do have other questions or needs about email marketing systems, like Flodesk, or Clickup, or anything like that. I do have all those knowledge and technique in those systems as well, to kind of guide you with figuring out what else can I automate or what works with Dubsado, or what should I use in my business and what’s kind of overkill.

You can find me at my website, which is https://chanelandlee.com/ and also on Instagram.

And then my podcast is Ironically Serious podcast, which just prefacing now by saying it’s not automation related whatsoever. So that’s more of just a lifestyle fun podcast. But yes, that’s where you can connect with me and get all the details about Dubsado and what it is and I also have a ton of just free resources.

I have a workflow free masterclass, I have free Dubsado forms, free email templates. So, you can get a feel for what Dubsado can offer you before you invest in an expert, which I always recommend anyways, of figuring out is this expert even an expert?

So, dive into the free resources, I give a ton of information on Dubsado. I’m always sharing tutorials on YouTube and tips just to make sure if you’re not going to hire an expert, you have resources you can get to guide you in your discovery of what Dubsado can do for you.

Ashley: I love that. Well, thank you so much Taylor for being on the show. I’ll be sure to link all of your things in the show notes. That way people can just easily access and to connect with you.

Taylor: Thank you! It’s such a fun conversation. I always love talking about this and I’m like it’s way more fun than it sounds, I promise.

Ashley: I agree, once you get started it becomes really addicting. Like you just feel like a weight has been lifted and you want more, wouldn’t you agree?

Taylor: Yes. Well, my favorite thing is I’ll be in the bathtub drinking wine or something and it’ll be like so and so has signed your contract. The first payment has been made; they have booked their appointment. Like getting my email notification saying that this person has done all this stuff and I didn’t even do anything. Because my automation did it, which is the goal, right?

Ashley: That’s amazing! So good. Awesome. Thanks so much, Taylor.

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My mission is to help fellow momtogs (mama photographers!) experience success in business and in motherhood. As an Arizona brand photographer for mompreneurs, I’m passionate about capturing authentic images that show off my clients’ unique personalities so they can connect with their ideal clients. And as an online business coach for momtogs, I LIVE for helping mamas experience incredible transformations that help them build a business they love, without sacrificing their precious time with their littles.

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