A Surprisingly Easy Way To Handle Client Workflow

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Do you have a difficult time keeping track of what you need to do for all your clients? When you’re dealing with wedding and portrait clients there are often numerous steps that need to be completed in a particular order. Anyone who has fallen behind with their work will know how important it is to stay on track and complete projects as proactively as possible. When you manage your client workflow well your business will be more efficient, you’ll be able to handle more work and you’ll feel less stressed about what you need to do next!

The Surpringly Easy Solution

Create a client workflow board!

In our search for the most efficient way of managing client workflow we’ve experimented with numerous strategies. We’ve tried lists, and spreadsheets and elaborate client management programs. In the end it was one of the simplest, cheapest solutions that won our hearts… A whiteboard.

The Awesome Benefits

  1. Cheap – The one we picked up up was about $40 from Staples. It already had a spreadsheet type layout on it so we didn’t have to create one. It’s also nice paying one low price instead of monthly recurring subscription fees for client management software.
  2. Obvious and effective – Because the whiteboard is always in view (you’ll hang it in your office), it’s easy to see at a glance what needs to be done next. It’s also easy to check things off when you’ve completed them. Simple to stay on track!
  3. Perspective – Similar to being obvious and effective, seeing all your clients and where you are in your workflow can help give you perspective about when deadlines need to be set. Do you have a big wedding coming up, or a packed week of portraits? Then it’s time to get caught up with all your current clients so you can easily handle that new influx of work.
  4. Customization – A whiteboard is easy to customize to suit your business and client workflow.
  5. Scalable – Just buy more whiteboards as you need.
  6. Reusable – At the beginning of your season just wipe it clean and set it up for your new season

How To Make Your Board

  1. Plan out the order of steps in your client workflow beforehand. Trying to add something in later can be a pain in the butt! Think of every task that needs to be completed from when the client books you to when you deliver the products and let them know about your referral program. Spend some time brainstorming these steps. Leave it for a day and come back to it with a fresh pair of eyes. The better, more complete, the experience you provide for your clients, the stronger your business will be. (This is also an area that you’ll want to customize yourself. No two businesses will be the same, and you should be continually thinking of steps to add or change to create a better client experience)
  2. Place your list of steps in order along the top.
  3. List the names of your clients along the left hand side and, if you have room, the type of shoot.
  4. Record the date the session will take place. Our board has a column on the far right that we used for this.
  5. Place your whiteboard in a location that will easily be seen. In view from your desk is a great spot. The reason a whiteboard is effective is because you can see what you need to do at a glance, and easily check things off as you complete them. Otherwise you could do all this in a spreadsheet program!

Tips For Rocking It

  • Try to get a whiteboard that already has a spreadsheet design on it. That will save you a ton of time trying to draw the lines on yourself.
  • If you do both portraits and weddings, you might want to have a whiteboard for each type of shoot. This will make it easier to keep track your different businesses, and you’ll probably find your weddings and portraits have slightly different workflows.
  • Get at least a couple different white board markers and some white board cleaner. After a year white board ink doesn’t always erase that easily. (Tip: For really difficult to erase marks use a bit of toothpaste!)
  • Remember to check things off as you finish them!
  • Headed out of town and need to take your whiteboard with you? Just snap a camera phone photo of it instead!

In the end whether you use a spreadsheet, an online program, lists of paper or this whiteboard it’s all about being able to efficiently manage your client workflow. This method has worked well for us because of how simple it is. While it’s not as sophisticated or as fully featured as some solutions we’ve found, you’re way more likely to use something if it’s easy to do and simple to setup.

Lauren Lim

Hey friend, I’m Lauren! I’m a photographer and head ninja here at Photography Concentrate. I’m downright obsessed with photography, and love sharing it with super cool folks like yourself. When I’m not shooting, or writing, you can find me cooking (and eating!), traveling, and hanging out with wonderful people.

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Comments

26 Comments // Leave a comment

  1. I like the whiteboard idea. A good idea might be to get a magnetic board and then have magnetic labels for the client names. Then you can move them around/up/down as you fill in empty spots in your schedule or complete all tasks and they drop off the list.
    I have something similar in a google docs spreadsheet (free!) and then can put days when tasks were completed. Helps to track your average completion times and see what items in your workflow are taking longer than they should or give your customers a reasonable delivery time.

  2. Great suggestions Evan!

    Magnets would be a clever way of reordering things. And good idea—tracking average completion times!

    Given how easy it is to change things in spreadsheets it might be a more effective solution for some people. It might not hurt to have both (a gmail spreadsheet and a workflow board you could see at a glance).

  3. Hi, great post, just thought I'd share an alternative organising tool from the UK, Light Blue Software:
    http://www.lightbluesoftware.com/
    You can download the free trial, to test drive it.
    Just so you know I have nothing to do with the software development or business. Just something I came across at some of the big trade fairs and magazines. I've also attended a training course by one of the developers, Tom Catchesides, an excellent photographer here in the UK. If you like it, send him a message through his blog and let him know I told you about it (michellewalshphotography). Why I am I telling you this because it's nice to big up other fellow photographers and it's good to share the love and knowledge that helps us stay sane in this crazy world of admin…I mean photography!!!

  4. I did something very similar for my office! :) I knew I wanted a whiteboard but also wanted something pretty that could blend in to my decor. So I found cheap picture frames at Michaels (40% off!), in which I framed a client checklist that I designed. Because of the glass, I can use dry erase markers and wipe it clean when each checklist is complete. I also shift the picture frames around so that the event dates are in chronological order. When someone sees my office, they more or less just see a bunch of black square picture frames, but me and my husband see our client workflow. :)

    What I like about your system is that you can see your whole season at a glance, wheras my lists are only up from the event date until the final product has been delivered. We might end up updating our frames to a larger size as our client list grows. :)

  5. Hey Erin! That's is SUCH a cool idea! The whiteboard is effective, but it's not very pretty, so I love your frame system! You'll have to keep us posted on how it goes expanding it as your clients grow!! Thanks for sharing!

  6. Hey Michelle!

    Thanks so much for the suggestion! What is it that you like about Light Blue? We haven't heard of it, but have tried other similar systems. We found they were a bit too much work to keep up with, and we tended to abandon the system. Is Light Blue different?

  7. Buffy and Angel…the Adams family…haha good way to keep it confidential! Great tips too! Thanks.

  8. As a project manager for an IT company, it is my experience that people will try the best software or the coolest Excel spreadsheet to manage project tasks. But at the end of the day, many people will just revert back to pen and paper, whiteboards, or post-it notes. The manual process simply is more visible and thus giving you a sense of urgency when things are not being done, unlike spreadsheets or software that you have to launch. This is a good post and can be useful for any project where your tasks are repeatable down to a science and meeting expectations are important for your career/business. If you ever need the whiteboard information on the go, then just take a photo with your iPhone. It works great. :)

  9. *@Karene:* Lol, glad to see someone picked up on my little joke :) Thanks for commenting!

    *@Melvin:* Wow, great insights! I totally agree, having to open something up on the computer just doesn't work as effectively as something you can see at all times. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts!

  10. Can you post a high-resolution version of your whiteboard? I have my own workflow and steps, but I want to see your steps. Maybe I'll be inspired or realize something I've been missing!

  11. Great idea! I'd also love to hear more about your actual workflow steps…

  12. Hey guys! Great suggestion! I'll definitely get our workflow steps together and post about them. Hopefully it will help! Stay tuned.

  13. I Have been searching for such a system as yours is terrific! One question; my photography business is just starting to get busy and I'm starting to miss my due dates–where on this whiteboard do you have your due dates?

  14. LOL @ Buffy + Angel. BtVS was the BEST. SHOW. EVER. This is a great idea, I've been trying to figure out a way to map out my workflow – also love the picture frames idea!

  15. Nice ideas… Like the concept of having it visual… And frames make it more pretty!!! I also downloaded an app which is meant to take your workflow and populate it into your calendar… Hmmm… Will test it out and see, but I suspect a visual system may appeal more!

  16. Mayulis Bagnell says:

    Hey Erin! Love your frame idea but am having a hard time picturing it exactly. Can you post a photo of your design? Thank you Lauren for championing the need for a manual system…my roots are definitely in pen and paper.

  17. A twist on this if you find that you are always working on the go: you can print a spreadsheet similar to this one out and slip it into page protectors. Use water erase transparency pens to write on the page protector. The water erase pens will not rub off and you can keep the "whiteboard" with you in your binder ready for marking at any time. When you are in your office, hang it by the three ring hole punches on tacks on your bulletin board.

  18. Really love the Whiteboard Idea! I was wondering if you ever got around to posting a high-resolution version of your whiteboard? Thanks!

  19. I wish I could read what the top of YOUR whiteboard says. Hints? :)

  20. I really really really appreciate this website. It’s so clear and simple. THANK YOU!

  21. Thank you! You are absolutely necessary for me!

  22. I love the visual overview of where all my clients are! So much so, that I created software to make it a bit more automated. If you want to go from whiteboard to cloud, you can check it out at http://www.shootzilla.com

  23. Am I the only one having a hard time finding this white board to purchase?? I tried staples and searching online? Does anyone have a link? I’ve been on and off searching for this for months!!

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