With how much has happened in real life lately and running four businesses on top of it one of the biggest questions people have been asking me in every day life or in email is, “How the heck do you do it all?” This question implies I’m some sort of superhero. The reality is that I fail quite often, just like everyone else. When shit hit the fan this Fall with our move I prioritized what was most important and let the rest go.
However, there were certain things in all four of my businesses that happened regardless of what was going on in my real life and all of that was due to automation. If you’ve ever thought about getting an assistant to help you get it all done in business you really need to think about automation instead. It’s insanely cheaper and you get a lot more control over it. Automation was the key to my survival and has been for a long time.
“Automation” sounds like one of those terms that implies a lot of legwork. A lot of people shy away from it because of that. Automation is a pretty big word, but what it should imply is FREEDOM. So much freedom. I’m not going to lie, there’s a little bit of work up front in setting up anything automated in your business. However, once it’s done you’re golden for life. What is it exactly? It’s the idea of setting up automated processes within your business so you do less work.
Let’s talk for a minute about why you started a business in the first place. It certainly wasn’t to get better work hours. Business owners work 80 hours a week so they can work 40 after all. You probably didn’t start a business so you could pay twice as much in taxes as someone employed by a company. You probably started your business because you knew that once you put in the effort up front you could have something reliable, more work freedom and probably more freedom with your family. You wanted to work smarter and not harder. That’s where automation comes in. It helps you work smarter and not harder, you just have to be willing to invest two things into it.
One you have to be willing to spend a few hours setting up your automations, whatever they may be. Two, you have to be willing to pay for services to facilitate automating your business. I know you’re hesitant to spend the money. I was always hesitant too, but it costs money to make money and your automations can run your marketing as well as all kinds of other efforts in your business that actually increase your income. In the end it’s money well spent.
When it comes to my personal story I can tell you that automation is what saved me. It’s what keeps my business going. It’s what keeps customers knocking at my door. It’s what keeps me from getting burnt out. At first automation just seemed like a convenience and now I’ve built my entire business on it. I don’t think I’d be here today without it.
Let’s talk about how much time automation can save you. There’s one big huge thing that automation saved me and it came in a few steps before I fully got it automated. That’s social media. I spent years in my photography business only posting new photos to Facebook when I had a new sneak peek or a new session to share. I often wondered what I should post in the dead of Winter when I wasn’t shooting. Eventually I realized I could continually show some of my favorite photos from my portfolio even if they’d been seen before. Facebook came out with its scheduling tool. So I started going in once a week and scheduling social media updates to Facebook and eventually Instagram.
You’d think scheduling a photo a day for only five days a week would be pretty quick, but the truth is that most of us spend that time in the decision process. We have to decide which photos to post and then what to say about them. That is what takes so much time. Scheduling photos on multiple social media platforms also started to take time as well. Then I started getting into scheduling my blogging in advance too. When I tallied up how much time it took me to prepare for the next week and get everything scheduled I was spending about two hours a week scheduling everything. I’ve got forty hours a week I can work though right? So two hours a week in the scheme of things didn’t seem like much at the time.
Once I really took a look at the big picture, that’s when I saw it. Two hours a week is 104 hours a year. That’s two and a half weeks of full time work. I spent two and a half weeks every single year just scheduling stuff in advance. Here I was thinking scheduling was helping me save time. It was to an extent. It was certainly helping me stay consistent with my marketing which was a huge plus. It dawned on me pretty quickly that I could spend that two and a half weeks every year doing much better things with my time than scheduling stuff in advance. That’s what got me starting to look into automating my social media. So I’m to sitting down and making the decisions on what to post every day, and neither am I spending the time scheduling it either.
Instead I can spend that extra two and a half weeks of time with family, traveling, learning more about business, or doing the parts of the business I actually enjoy. With that amount of time I could potentially take on more clients and make more money as well. I took advantage of that last summer. My husband and I went to Ireland for a few weeks in the middle of wedding season. If you’re a photographer you know how hard it is to travel and part with needed income in the middle of the one time a year you actually work. Automation played a huge part in my ability to leave my business when it was crazy and go enjoy myself.
There are a few really big processes I automate in business. Social media, blogging, and client emails/client contact. Consistency may seem like a small and unimportant result in changing my business with automation, but truly it was incredible. When your clients come to expect social media posts daily, blog posts consistently and email communication that answers their questions before they even have them, you provide such a consistent experience they cannot help but love, compliment and refer to their friends and family.
When I automate client emails basically I have an email system that sends out email reminders with resources, tips, helpful tools, and answers to questions I know they’re going to have at specified dates based around when they booked me. My goal with the emails is to beat them to the punch and provide a lot of information to help them through their wedding planning process. It’s the idea of being a resource and not a sales pitch. The more you help people the happier they are with you. This automated email process was actually really simple to set up and the best feature about it is how it guarantees all my clients have the same experience when they book me.
Before I had automated emails I often neglected to send reminders to clients or resources and helpful information unless they reached out and asked for it. Since implementing these automated emails my clients have said how informed and prepared they feel when it comes to me shooting their wedding.
I mentioned above how much consistency played a role in changing my business and the automation’s success. Not only did it give me consistency in my client communications, but also in my marketing presence. The amount of opportunities that knock on your door when you have a consistent social media presence surprised me and continues to catch me off guard sometimes. Since automating my business I’ve received more speaking opportunities, more features, and endless marketing opportunities if I wanted to take them. Huffington Post emailed me to ask for photos to feature. Another publication asked for a couple’s wedding photos to publish in their magazine before I had even photographed a wedding. A wedding magazine gave me a free advertisement in it. Other wedding blogs offered to let me guest post, multiple times. There’s something about consistency in marketing that creates so much trust between other brands, you and your clients as well.
Trust is a huge factor in business. If you’ve read any of my past blog posts or attended any of my classes and workshops you know we talk about trust a lot. Trust is the foundation to a really strong brand. Developing trust with your customers is one of the best things you can do for yourself in business. Through consistent marketing I was able to create a great trust with not only potential clients who went on to book me later, but also with other wedding vendors and brands who I was able to work with to further my marketing opportunities. That was all due to automating my social media.
Pay attention to what I’m about to write because this is the biggest change in my business since introducing automation. Passive income is basically income you earn by doing little to nothing on your end. Typically with a photography business I have to take the photos to make the money. My goal in the last couple of years was to really work some passive income into the business through affiliate marketing. Affiliate marketing is when you become an affiliate for a business and they give you a custom URL to hand out. Every time someone clicks that URL and purchases something through their site you get a small kickback.
Here’s how it went down. I found myself constantly referring things to my clients. Here’s an awesome pair of shoes that seems like it matches your theme. Or sometimes it was, here’s a great store to buy unique bridesmaids dresses from. When I stopped selling my own save the dates and wedding invitations I designed for my clients I was telling them where they could go to buy them online. I just kept thinking how nice it would be if all those places sent me a little referral bonus back. That’s basically what affiliate marketing is, except it’s all automated.
I ended up really diving into the affiliate marketing thing and signing up for all kinds of things that I refer to clients regularly and now can make a kickback on every time they buy. It’s one of the best things I’ve invested in my business with time and it costs me nothing. At this point as much as a third of what I earn is passive income.
How do passive income and affiliate marketing fit together? Well, perfectly! You can include affiliate links in pre-scheduled blog posts. You can include them in consistent social media posts. My favorite? You can include them in client communication emails as well. That’s where the majority of my affiliate sales come from, automated emails.
The thing about automation with passive income is that it allows me to automate my income. That’s right, automate my income. I can earn money while sitting around taking naps all day if I wanted to. Usually when I talk about affiliate marketing the first thing people ask is how to get involved, so I’ve got a free affiliate marking class releasing on November 17th this year for you. Yes, it will be recorded so you don’t have to watch live. Yes, it will be AWESOME. I’ll be going over everything you need to know to get started with affiliate marketing with your photography business. To sign up head to the link below and click “sign up” there are no specified times or detailed information about the class, because it’ll be released to you on November 17th via email. So as long as you hit that sign up button and add your email address you’ll get all the info and the class instructions to watch will be sent directly to your inbox. It’s free, so make sure you take this opportunity and let me teach you how to rock out the automation and passive income combined in your business to take it to the next level!
I hope this helps you consider how much automation can do for your business, and how much cheaper it is than hiring an assistant! If you’re interested in more awesome stuff like this follow Rock Your Weird on our Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to get updates. You can also subscribe below to my weekly ‘behind the business’ newsletter full of insight on how running a business actually goes down behind the scenes. You get to be a fly on my wall and learn from my successes and failures with me! We have a Facebook community where you can join and get some business help from other entrepreneurs like yourself.
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