Organizing for an Emergency: Organize by the Session
A guest post by Joy Vertz
Note: For these few weeks, I’m talking about ways photographers can prepare for a “bus”: something that will take them out of commission for a while and possibly leave their business in the hands of backup help. I’m answering the following question: “What are some easy things I can do to make sure my business runs smoothly when I’m away?”
Picture this: It’s coming up on your busiest time of the year. Sessions are being booked at a nice, steady pace. You’re keeping up, but it’s taking some effort. Some orders need to be placed, others need to be wrapped up. Pretty typical. And then the phone rings. You get done with the call and realize you’ll need to be out of the office for a week.
It’s not a far-fetched scenario. In fact, it’s fairly common. What do you do?
Ideally, when you’ve read through this series and done the work, someone should be able to step in to your shoes and figure things out without having to (1) do a ton of digging or (2) call you a million times. After all, if it takes a ton of hours and a million phone calls to understand what’s going on, your clients probably aren’t getting contacted the way they need to be.
As a second goal, you want to be able to focus on the emergency at hand while you’re out. That won’t happen if the office is following you around via cell phone. Not only that, you don’t want the stress of worrying that clients will become confused or frustrated while you’re gone. You want to be able to step back in without doing a lot of searching to find out what happened or having to make a ton of apologies.
Since I’m all about offering practical solutions, I’ll share one adaptable way to organize your workflow to make this happen. And as a bonus, it will help things go smoothly whether you’re in an emergency situation or not!
Allow me to introduce (drum roll, please)…the envelope system!
Way back in the day, I started using an envelope system for any session I booked. It’s an idea that’s served my business well even as we’ve grown.
Here’s how it works:
When a client books, a label is printed that has all contact information and their session date/time. That label goes on the front of an envelope, and all pertinent info goes inside as it progresses – receipts, backup CDs, notes, printouts of orders, etc. Those envelopes then follow your workflow…from before the session until the order is picked up.
Envelopes aren’t the only means to this end – a number of other tools will do the same job – but the idea here is that everything is in one place. For those of you who are thinking about how to design your own system, let’s expand on that thought and get you to a good, organized, workable place.
Here are the guiding principles we’re working with:-
- All the items that have this session in common go together in the envelope, so there’s no frustration that comes from having to search and gather.
- It’s easy to find what you need – everyone agrees where the envelope should be found. It’s easy to see who the client is and their contact information is clearly marked.
- In the same way it should be clear where to find an envelope, it should also be clear where to put it back once a task is completed. It’s much easier to get back up and running if things are back in place.
An easy comparison is this: finding a session file should be like finding a fork. In almost any house, people generally know where to look for a fork, and can easily pick the right one out when they’ve found the drawer. Plus, there’s usually a clear process for putting it back (use, clean up, put away in that specific location).
Here are some extra bonuses for using this kind of system:
- It transitions into other great systems. You can easily sort the envelopes into “Upcoming Shoots”, “Upcoming Sales”, and “Other”. And the envelopes are simply filed or archived once they no longer have pending business. See? Easy.
- It makes for a smoother transition when you get back into the office. Especially when the backup person is a spouse, it’s easy to pick up envelopes, call or e-mail a client and say, “I see you were booked for XYZ session on this date. What are some good days where Sally can reschedule you?” All those notes can go straight in the envelope for when you get back.
In the upcoming weeks we’ll keep talking about more strategies for just-in-case planning around your workspace – strategies that will benefit you in other ways also. We’ll talk a little more about organizing, writing, and even cross-training…no sneakers or Spandex needed!
Connect with Joy here and on Instagram / Twitter @joyvertz.