Hello my elopement photographer friends! We have built out the ULTIMATE guide to book the elopements you want and to automate your elopement business. This guide is so packed we could not fit it all into one blog so get ready for our FIVE PART SERIES! Get your popcorn, get your notebook, let’s get going to book the elopements you want!
Our first focus point is automation. You can’t do everything, and do it all well. Not gonna happen. So find the areas you like and the areas you are good at, and automate what you can!
Here are ten tips to automate your elopement business to get your life back:
1. Create your workflow map
The workflow map is an automated client experience with your voice and brand. For our creative people (this should be all of us TBH), envision what your workflow map looks like and then physically put pen to paper down to outline it. A simple workflow can look like:
Client reaches out -> Elopement photographer schedules an introductory meeting -> Meet and go over elopement vision -> Book client, send contract, accept down payment -> Photograph the elopement -> Edit and send photos -> THE END
Now if you read that and laughed out loud, we did too while writing it. There are a million little sub points that go into each of those actions. Can we just vent about the follow up?? So. Much. Follow up. This is when automation comes in handy, it can free up your time, keep your workflow on track, and your clients feel engaged and taken care of. Happy clients = happy elopement photographer!
Another benefit to when you automate your elopement business is that you set up your tone of voice and it stays consistent throughout the entire process. Consistency in what you say, and who you are is your ENTIRE brand. Don’t water down your brand, boo. Be you every step of the way, for every client. PSST we talk about branding a lot in How to Become an Elopement Photographer.
2. Free up your time with automations
We use 10+ automations for every client. It’s enough to clear your plate of excess admin work, but we make sure it’s not so much that we sound robotic and don’t get to know our clients. Clients are #1 in our business, make sure they know that!
For example, when your client fills out a questionnaire, that data should be automatically added to your database. They should automatically receive email confirmation that their questionnaire was received. When you book a meeting, it should automatically go on your calendar and if it’s a virtual meeting, they should be able to automatically add the meeting to theirs! When an invoice is sent, there should be automatic follow ups until it gets paid as well as confirmation after. When a customer is 3 months out from their elopement day, 3 weeks out, and 3 days out, they should be receiving an automatic email drip correlating to what they need to be reminded of. Our personal favorite, after we have a magical, wonderful, elopement adventure with our couple, they will automatically receive an email from us asking them to share on social and with their friends about their experience! Believe it or not, we just listed ten ways to automate your elopement business right there. You’re welcome for giving you your life back.
3. Invest in a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Platform
Having the CRM is the first place the client information gets filtered to. Hopefully, you have a lot of clients wanting to book you and this keeps all of their information for you in an easily digestible place. This is also a great tool to refer back to. Say you have Connor and Becky on your calendar and you’re trying to remember where they want to go, the CRM has the information stored so you can know they are looking at Glacier Park in July.
Inside scoop – we use Tave and have been impressed. Not only does it have lead management and the workflow piece discussed above, but it also makes it easy to nurture the client relationships which are ESSENTIAL! Honorable mention goes to Honeybook which has gained a lot of popularity among the industry and we have also used it.
4. Add a questionnaire to your website
Majority of clients will reach out to you through your website first. Have a contact form on your website that will link to your CRM – you’ll collect their name, email, phone number, location, a little bit about them (see mine for example). You want it to be as easy for them to fill out your inquiry form as possible! Don’t ask a lot of questions, they might not know their budget, they might not know their date or are still looking for places to elope. Having this auto populate to your CRM is also a great way to automate your elopement business as it takes out room for error such as misspelling an email address or mixing up an elopement date.
5. Create templates for your email inquiries to automate your elopement business
After your couple completes the neat little contact questionnaire on your site for them, your website emails you about the submission and then AUTOMATION! There should be a response automatically sent back to them when they hit submit so they know that you know that THEY are interested in YOU and YOU are interested in THEM! Yeah, kinda like Bumble. If you already have an idea of what your response email should look like, implement! If you think you have something but wonder if better exists, stick around. We have created a few already that we can’t wait to share with you so subscribe to be the first on the list!
6. Find your Contract Template
In a past life, we believe we were many things: warriors, star gazers, likely pack mules. But we can confidently say that we have never been lawyers. We don’t pretend to be lawyers now either. Contracts are a bunch of (important!) legal mumbo jumbo so we make sure we are doing it right by not doing it ourselves. Buy a contract template. Plug and play with your couples names, wedding date, etc. But if you are also not a lawyer, don’t invent the wheel! Our go to is Legal Paige, this legal baddie opened up a photography business of her own so she knows what’s what on both the creative side as well as the i dotting, t crossing side.
7. Create templates for the adventure elopement timeline
Your couple has very likely never eloped before. You, however, have been part of TONS of elopements! They are looking to you to be their elopement guide. Having a template of the timeline that you can easily adjust for your couple depending on their location and desires is a must. Even if they don’t use it verbatim, having it helps get their juices flowing and they can start to plan what they must have and can do without on their own adventure elopement.
If you’re new to the love game, and haven’t booked an all day elopement yet, NO WORRIES! You can create your perfect day and share it with your couples to get them inspired. Still not sure where to start? It’s cool, check out our sample elopement timelines, you know we wouldn’t leave you hanging.
8. Get a scheduling App
Do you remember the scene from Bruce Almighty where he tries to organize everything into filing cabinets? Then post it notes? Then he finally uses a computer system. Yep, we have all been there and, in 2022, an app is the answer. We use calendly! This helps us coordinate with both our clients and the rest of our team. It connects to other calendars so your team can see what the day looks like and it sends out links to your client so they don’t have to go typing it all in. The less work we make our clients do, the more they love us. Solemnly swear.
9. Invoice through your CRM
Let’s get you PAAAIIIIIDDDD! Also, let’s make things easy for your clients. Win-win! Having an invoice sent through CRM does a few things.
First, it provides a clean, professional look. Having an outdated word document with margins that have been altered one too many times doesn’t give a lot of confidence in your professionalism which translates to how professional your photos will be. Even if you don’t think they are related, your client will.
Second, it makes it easy for the client to pay. The easier it is for them, the less hassle it is for you and the more likely it is that you will be paid quickly and painlessly. Gone are the days of snail mailing a check or WORSE waiting until day of to receive any payment. The anxiety alone still gives us shivers.
Third, let’s be real, NO ONE likes to have to remind someone that they owe you money. It’s human nature that this feels icky even though IT IS NOT. Compensation has already been agreed upon in the contract, it’s how you make your living, and it’s what confirms to your client that you are committing to doing the job to the very best of your ability. Even so, when you automate your elopement business it takes out the ick. Setting up automatic reminders takes you out of the middle of it, letting the computer do the work. Depending on your CRM, there is typically also an auto pay option. I have had several clients who would rather split the amount to monthly payments that are taken automatically from their bank so they don’t have to worry about either having a bulk sum or forgetting to make a payment.
Pro tip: Set up Quickbooks account for the taxes at the end of the year!
10. Create guides for your couples
The elopement timeline is first and foremost but there are other guides that will be helpful for your couples. One of our most popular guides, The Ultimate Adventure Elopement Gear Guide, is a great resource when they are approaching their elopement date. Being able to schedule this to automatically go out three weeks before is one less thing you have to remember to do, and it also hits them right when they start thinking about needing gear.
Soooo how do you create a guide? Go through the common questions you get from your clients and create guides to answer them. Where are the best waterfalls in Montana? Can you change outfits during an elopement hike? What does it mean to elope? You’re there to solve your couple’s problem so let them guide the guide! One problem they might have is permitting questions in a certain place you photograph a lot. Make a guide for them that they can refer to that’s quick and easy – a spreadsheet with the permit max counts, vehicle counts, times, etc. Even include pictures!
Automating the guides to be sent along your couple’s elopement journey allows you to spend more time creating, or building your business. Some of our favorite automations are the “you’re booked, what’s next!”, “choose your activities” where you spell out all the fun things they can do on their elopement day (peep our brain child 100 things to do on elopement day), or other staples you may have.
Have we convinced you to automate your elopement business yet? Drop us a line on your thoughts. SUBSCRIBE to be notified of when we release part two of our five part series on the ULTIMATE guide to book the elopements you want!
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