Tools to maximize your photography business

We all know those people that think sharing their gems will somehow make them less successful. I dislike those people. Just kidding, (maybe). But honestly, spreading knowledge will never dim your light. So I wanted to share some tools I use to help me manage the business side of my work. Creating is fun and I truly believe that is the most important part of being an artist. But let's be real, we also want to make a living doing what we love. Am I right?

Ok, let's get into it.

  • Invoices (aka: secure the bag)

This was a game changer for me. Getting paid is cool but once you're serious about starting a business you have to have the receipts! I use a site called Blink Bid. It's basically a software for invoicing, estimating and production. You can create jobs and fill in all of your info, the client's info and a description of the job. 

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Blink Bid has a built in catalogue of items associated with the business of photography. So you can add in things like: photographer's fee, assistant fee, casting fee, discounts, travel fees, make-up artist, equipment rental and more. 

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Another great thing about it is you can use it not only for invoices but also to send estimates to your clients. I particularly love that because it let's me set up a job and then send it to my client to review and sign. It works as a contract pretty much. Which, by the way, Blink Bid has built in terms that you can adjust to your preference. This is very important because as creatives who want to run a business we have to secure the bag. So you can set up your own terms for deposits, usage rights, and more. Once you're done adding your fees, adjusting your terms, etc., then you can click on print estimate (or invoice) and it will pop open a new tab on your browser with a PDF-like page that you can simply save to your computer (example below). I recommend having a designated folder to keep all your invoices organized and easy to find. 

 This is an example of what an invoice looks like when exported from Blink Bid. Again, these terms are totally customizable and the items listed are just examples of fees you can add. 

This is an example of what an invoice looks like when exported from Blink Bid. Again, these terms are totally customizable and the items listed are just examples of fees you can add. 

I've been using Blink Bid for more than a year now and absolutely love it! I just find it so easy to use and I can simply type in some numbers and export to my computer. I don't have to worry about copy and pasting or typing out terms and conditions, it's all saved in my settings. Lastly, Blink Bid also keeps track of my reports for my yearly or monthly profits/losses. It's an investment that is worth it if you're serious about the business side of your photography. I think it's about $140 a year but they have a free trial so I would definitely try it out to see if it's for you.

My next go to tool is the Square Up app. As a consumer, you have probably seen people use it. It's the app people use when they have that squared, white card reader plugged into their phones to swipe credit cards with. Which is very useful for small business owners. Even though that's how I first learned about the app and how I began using it, it's not what I use it for now.

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I use the Square Up app as an invoicing tool as well. See although Blink Bid is amazing for creating invoices and keeping my yearly reports, I can't receive payment through it. So for my clients that wish to pay by card, I like to use the app to do so. Square Up let's you create a basic invoice with a job description and fees. It then sends the invoice via email to your client and allows them to enter their credit card to pay (there's a fee of about 3%). I love this because its so easy for the client to do plus allows for a professional and trustworthy transaction to happen. We all know CashApp, Venmo and QuickPay is cool, but not all clients are down to pay via these apps. The other cool thing about Square Up is that it let's you add your custom invoice number. Therefore I make sure that whatever invoice # I used in Blink Bid for that client, I also use on Square Up when I send it. I can also attach the Blink Bid invoice or estimate file on the Square Up invoice so the customer can view the file and terms before submitting payment.

Square Up is available as an app but it also has a desktop version which is just as great. I mostly use it on my phone and it's literally the best thing because I can invoice people on the go without having to sit down in front of my computer. It's perfect for self-employed or freelance folks who pretty much run their business on their own and have to be able to do so from their phone at times. Also did I mention it's free? So if you're unsure about investing in Blink Bid just yet, then you should definitely start with Square Up.

  • Model Releases (aka: protect your neck)

I use the Easy Release app for model releases. You can upload your logo to the app and fill out all the model and session info. Then you and the model can literally sign the release via your phone and email it once done. Easy Release has a standard built-in version of a model release but you can also create your own custom terms. The app costs $9.99 in the App Store and it is definitely worth it. I like how it let's you take a photo of your model if you want to use as a reference later.

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Now, I admit that I haven't been as consistent as I should be with these. For those that aren't sure, basically a model release is a contract between you and your model that gives you rights to use your image(s) you please, so long as it's not defamatory to the model. The reason this is important is because if a brand or company happen to want to use an image of yours, you cannot do so if you don't have a model release. Most companies will ask for one. But even if they don't and you get away with using the image, the model can actually come for you in court if they have interest in taking some of the coins you earned from that publication. So you want to make sure you are protected as an artist. Also make sure that your release has a consideration clause which basically states that the model is receiving something in exchange for signing. This can be worth $1 or more. So giving them the images from the shoot is something of value, for example. But you can also literally give them $5 or something and that'll do.

  • File Delivery (aka: make it personal)

Ok so next thing is sending images to clients. I've tried many different ways, believe me. There's dropbox, WeTransfer, Google Drive, etc. It's all a preference. But honestly, I decided to go with this site for one reason: presentation. I cared about my client's experience when viewing the beautiful photos we created together. I didn't want them to have these bunch of links or file names and not be simply wowed by the images first. So I invested in Pixieset. It let's you create a custom online gallery for your client. They can choose to download the images at full resolution or web resolution - of course depending on the resolution of the files you upload. This is perfect for clients who wish to print and also use the images online. I believe they give you 3GB of storage for free and you can upgrade to whatever package you want when you need to.

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Here's why I love Pixieset. You can password protect your galleries, clients can select favorites from the session, you can allow clients to download individual images or whole gallery, it let's you customize a cover image and session name, and you can even add your custom logo.

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There's more I can tell you but you really have to just try it. Again, you can enjoy it for free and then upgrade if you need more space, so why not?! Save your coins while you can and then invest when you feel it's necessary.

I hope you find these tools I shared helpful. I'm no expert in the business yet but I do know that I like anything that makes it easier to manage so that I can focus on creating. These tools do just that for me. Like I said I just want to be able to share some of what I've learned with those who are trying to grow in the field. I know being a creative or artist in general can feel isolated. So whenever I can share some tips or tools I definitely will because I know when I started out there weren't many people doing that for me.

Anyway, if you do give any of them a try definitely let me know! I'd love to hear how you used them or what you like/dislike about them.