Talk It Out Tuesday: Coffee Chat
The Checklist of Checklists
As the beginning of the season quickly approaches, do you feel like your business is set up for success and you've crossed your T's and dotted your I's? Or do you feel like as soon as you are one or two weddings deep, you are going to be one helluva hot mess? Join us as we run down the areas of your business that need to be in tip-top shape in order to have your most successful wedding season yet!
Episode 15 Coffee Chat Replay
Episode 15 Podcast
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Lauren Dragon-Cook: Happy freakin’ Tuesday! Today we are going to be diving into preparing your business for the start of the season. This can be applied for anybody in any creative industry, but it especially applies for my wedding creatives. You know probably more than anybody else how exhausting, and taxing and how much of a whirlwind it can be when we are in the middle of the season. Very time consuming! You don’t have time to do much and go on an impromptu lunch date with friends and family. So I have created an outline for you all. I love you all so much that I literally stayed up until about 12:30am last night putting this into place for all of you. So that is how much I love you! I would not typically be doing this for anyone… I love sleep!
Let me dive in here. I created this checklist because once again I hopped on Pinterest and there isn’t really a whole lot that you can use as guides. If you’ve been in business awhile you have certain things you implement regularly or things you don’t even realize you are doing. I wanted to compile a list not only for you all, but for myself because I’ve never sat down and thought about all the stuff that needs to happen to kick off the season.
How many people have started their season? How many people have a wedding this month or next month? Do you feel like you are set up for success? Do you feel you are going to be one hell of a hot mess?
I broke things down into personal, financial, and business categories. These are tasks that I think will apply to just about everyone and anyone.
First things first… try your best to not stress. Easier said than done 9 times out of 10. It is really easy to prepare what you need to do in order to feel confident versus entering the season blind. This is the time of year where the collective rumblings of all the wedding vendors start to roll across the country and everyone begins to stir out of our winter hibernation. It can be very exhausting when you are trying to get ready for the season, so one of the first things I want you to keep in mind at all times is to not let yourself be caught off guard. You are always going to think you have more time to prepare. That is the reality of the beast.
“Oh I can totally do that next week”.
“I don’t need to do that now, I can do that next month”.
The reality is life happens. Right? Life happens more often than not. You want to really try to create priorities for yourself that are on this checklist that you know you need to take on sooner rather than later. And then let all those other little things that you really want to do but its not going to make or break your business. Don’t worry about them as much!
Shoes: How many people go through their wardrobe from last season and actually take a look at their wedding shoes? Raise your hand! How many people actually at the time to look at their wedding clothes or shoes from last season? I used to struggle with trying to find a real pair of shoes for me. Being a planner, being a photographer, being a florist, being a DJ… we are on our feet up to 16 hours a day. I have gone through the gamut of wedding shoes. I’ve tried Crocs, Danscos, Verx, Naturalizers… teds! I’ve tried switching out shoes mid day… I’ve tried it all!
This is not me pitching this brand. This is just a brand I have found works for me. And that is Teeks. They are the ballet flats that have the blue sole. They are expensive, they are like $200 buck a pop, but they are the only shoe I can wear the entire wedding day without having blisters or cuts or feeling I got hit by a truck the next day. They are the only shoes I can still be walking in at the end of the day. For me they are totally worth the investment.
What I am trying to say is if you don’t have a pair of go-to wedding shoes or your blazer from last season has a hole in it or you lost a lot of weight… go out and set yourself up! Go buy a new blazer, a new pair of black pants… and prepare! The last thing you want to do is be out the day before and having to run around and try to find something that works. Its not necessarily something you want to wear or want to buy but you have to find something that works last minute. How many people have been there?
Schedule Time with Loved Ones: Along the personal thread… schedule dates with your friends and family and significant other. Do date nights and family dinners! Schedule them now! Because we all know as soon as June hits, people are going to ask where you are and if you’re okay! We all know… we love the industry but that is the reality. Make it a point now to spend time with your family and friends.
YOU Time: Schedule YOU time now. One trick I learned very early on was I actually went ahead and scheduled the very first year I was in the industry a monthly massage. I went ahead and did it in advance. It was probably the best decision. It is something to look forward to. You know that one of the weddings you have coming up is going to be super stressful, but you have already planned that that Tuesday or Wednesday you are going to get a massage. It is nice to have that you time scheduled because you pour yor heart into all of your clients and you forget some love on yourselves. Pour some sugar on me. You could also schedule a mani pedi. Just get one on the books!
Plan Getaways Now: Plan your vacation, your getaways, your weekend trips… NOW. If you have a weekend available and a client says “oh my gosh can you please do a walkthrough that Saturday, I don’t have any other time”. Which is a total lie… because they always have time. And then you say “oh yeah sure, I have nothing scheduled for that day”. Schedule your family trip ahead of time! BOOK IT!
Subscribe and Save: It is my saving grace during wedding season… especially for tampons, dry shampoo, and coffee. I know that shit is coming. No matter what! I know I won’t run out and I am good to go. You can always rely on it coming. You get a discount on it and you know its going to come no matter what.
Home Projects: The last thing for the personal section is to wrap up any home projects now. If you have been planning on staining the deck, painting your office a new color, if you have been talking about replacing your kitchen floor… do that shit now or it is not going to be happening this year.
Next section is financial! And I will be the first one to tell you… I hate this section! Hate it!
Business License and Taxes: So things that are included in this section are renewing your business license. In New Hampshire you have to renew it once a year and that is by April 1, 2018. Renew your business license, file your taxes. I know some vendors that haven’t filed taxes since 2011, 2012. Don’t get caught with a pink stamp. It could end really badly for you.
Establish a bookkeeping system and a method to track your receipts and your mileage. Personally I use an app it is automatic! I don’t have to even think about it. It is called Mile Cloud. It will turn itself on and start tracking your mileage as soon as you leave your doorway. It knows your home address and it knows when you’re in your car. It will allow you to later go back in and figure out which miles were for business and which were for personal. I believe I pay $3.00 a month for it. But it is totally worth it! For a bookkeeping system, good for you if you have been able to master that and keep track of all that fun stuff. For me, it is not in my wheelhouse, so I am in the process of hiring out a bookkeeper.
Insurance: Updated your business insurance as needed. Especially for photographers, if you purchase a new camera body or lenses or make any major addons to your company, take note. Do you need to add venue insurance? Do you need to increase your liability?
Savings: Define areas you can cut costs. How many of us are guilty of this… (I am!) do you have a monthly subscription that you forgot you had? Or you have a service you pay for and you don’t even use? Go through on your bank statement or credit card statement, and if you don’t know what a certain transaction is... if you don’t remember what it is for you probably don’t need it.
When the bankroll starts flowing, where is it gonna go? Don’t get me wrong, you should totally indulge every once in a while. You deserve it. But you want to be saving some of it too. You are busting your ass for a reason. The app called Qapital is amazing. I’ve talked about it before, but basically it will round up to the nearest dollar and move that savings into a separate account without any thought. So it is just racking up the money and before you know it, you have a small savings waiting for you.
The last a final section is… business. When you think you have to prep for the season these are the items you use that would probably come to mind right off the bat.
Update your website: You do not want to have a client hop on your website and then they are like “oh okay this service is X amount of dollars” and you say “shit I forgot to update my pricing!” How many people have had that happen? Me included! If you have new offerings or packages or you hired new team members… that should be on your website! Add photos to your site from last year! Keep it fresh. Google looks for new content, so if you are not adding new content regularly then you are not considered an authority figure. Now would be the perfect time to hop on and update anything you need to.
Update your Content Calendar: We all know that thing doesn’t plan itself. If you are like “oh my god I cannot do it”, then check the content planning batch day coffee chat we had. Not only is there a coffee chat from a podcast episode but there is a blog post. The Content Planner is sold out for 2018, but a fellow group member created an almost identical template to the content planner. She is willing to share it with you all, so I will have that link below!
Emergency Kits: This one is for everyone! Photographers, florists, planners… You want to update that emergency kit. Everybody should have one. I’ve seen DJ’s that will have an entire bag of stuff. Photographs you should be carrying around safety pins and batteries and lipstick! Go through your emergency kit and if there is a 6 year old granola bar hanging out in there or is there is something you don’t even remember what it was supposed to be… get rid of it! If you are a planner or photographer and you are trying to figure out what to put in your emergency kit… I have a blog post written about that!
Work Smarter: Your client workflow… find what your process is from the inquiry to the end. Fine tune that. If there are things you have wanted to add, forms you want to send to your clients, now is the time to do that. There are plenty of client flow resources on this website!
Outsourcing: Do yourself the favor and if you are already contemplating about hiring someone to help you in some area of your business (calling, editing, social media, blogging…) do it now! That way you have the mental capacity to help get that set up for when the ball drops. It would be so much more stressful and hard to actually get them going while you yourself are juggling.
Create Templates: Whether you think you have them or not… you do. If you are sending candid emails out to people… if you send out the same automated response to people once a week… if you have a certain set of questions you ask for your timelines… those are all templates. Instead of pulling it from, or having to re-type it all the time… just create a central location for all your templates. Make it easy for yourself to access. This is for especially if you don’t use a tool like Dubsado or Honeybook. If you really don’t have a template and don’t know where to get started, you can find a list of suggestions on my website. If you do decide you want to purchase something use the coupon code “gimmie15” and get 15% off.
Determine what Works: What worked or you last season and what didn’t. We all know what was an epic fail for us last year. Or maybe we tried something new and it was amazing. Now is the time to get real and honest with yourself. Realize your shortcomings or your major wins so you can grow from them this season.
These last two areas are photographer specific!
Clean your gear! Send your camera bodys’ and lens’ to Nikon or Sony or Canon so they can get shined up all sorts of pretty! Now is the time to get them cleaned. The last thing you want to do I wait til the middle of the season.
Back It Up: You want to make sure you are purchasing new externals for yourself. So new backups and hard drives. The rule of thumb for photographers is to back it up, back that up, and back it all up! That can take a lot of storage. So start the season off to make sure you have plenty of space to do that. If you checked out honey.com it will scan the interwebs for the better price on anything. If you have a saved wishlist on Amazon and you connect your honey account and it will notify you anytime there is a major price drop. It is amazing!
Wrapping It All Together
That is your checklist! I will post the link below so you can download it. Share it! Everybody needs a little help in preparing for the season. As always thank you for joining me on this lovely Tuesday.
Q + A
Q: Have you or anyone else used “Trello” for workflow?
A: I gave Trello a really good try, it just didn’t work for me. Someone had created a free course for Trello and I still was like “nope, it doesn’t do it for me”. But that’s just me personally!
Q: You said we need to be updating our content on our website for SEO, how much content should we be updating?
A: The rule of thumb is you want to be consistent with updating your content, but you can’t go on your website and update stuff like your homepage text or your about page or your images all the time. You will run out of stuff to say! It just isn’t the smart way to do that. The easiest way to update content regularly is blogging. It is adding new content consistently. As far as updating content though, I would be adding anytime you have a wedding you have images for… posting that on the website. If you just recently changed your packages, updated it! Consistently add content, because you don’t want to necessarily be changing things up… but if you are ADDING to is you are growing and expanding. Google with recognize that.
Q: Are you going to be doing coffee chats during wedding season?
A: Yes. I have had so many people say this is the one thing during the week they look forward to. Especially if they are having an off week. I am totally going to continue. The only change I do want to point out that will be different… there are two weeks. Next week I will be speaking at my local chapter for the Rising High Society. It is a great networking opportunity. Especially if you are in this business by yourself. I will be speaking there from 8:30am-10:30am. I plan to stream it starting at 9:00am and I will totally give a shout out to you all! Hop on! The other date is May 8th. I will be on a plane heading to Florida. Super excited… our first major vacation as a family. I’ve been debating on whether or not to pre-record something and post it for you all… so I’m not entirely sure. You tell me!
Q: Can you post a calendar for all the awesomeness that is coming up?
A: I have one… if you check out my website I always have future chats listed. Now that I have some more coffee chats finalized I will have posted all the fun stuff through the end of May.