One of the easiest ways to fail as a photographer is not keeping yourself up to date on what it takes to run a business. The business part can be boring or frustrating for some, or exciting and motivating for others. Either way, it’s essential to know a few basic tools for keeping track of your business. Not to mention, using these tools will project a more professional image to your clients!

  1. Invoices - InvoiceNinja

    Once upon a time I was very confused about why anyone needed invoices or receipts, and what the difference between them was. Essentially an invoice tells a client what exactly they’re paying for, how much they’re paying, and the due date for payment. It should also specify address/contact information for each party and your preferred method(s) of payment. A receipt is basically the same thing, but it is sent after payment and indicates that the money was received. Usually most clients are happy with just an invoice - I only send receipts if someone asks. One tool I love that I found recently is InvoiceNinja. It makes creating and keeping track of invoices simple. Because all your invoices are in one place, and you can set the status of the payment, you won’t forget what the number of your last invoice was, or whether or not you received a deposit. This is a lifesaver for me because I [luckily] find myself needing to create invoices more often these days, and it is helpful to know if you sent the invoice, if it’s overdue, or if it’s been paid.

    On the other side of using invoices, you should always ask for an invoice for any business-related service you’re paying for. Even if you’re just casually paying a model or a graphic designer, you should always get an invoice or receipt as proof of a business expense.

    (Disclaimer: the link to InvoiceNinja is an affiliate link, meaning I do get rewarded with credits when you sign up, but I’m not writing this for the benefit of this company - rather for the benefit of you and your business! I truly do use and recommend them wholeheartedly.)

  2. Contracts - HelloSign

    Having a contract is crucial to protecting yourself. When I was starting out, I didn’t use contracts as much as I should have, and it resulted in a number of headaches that could have been prevented. For example, I once had a client who just wouldn’t choose her digital selects from the gallery for over a year. I didn’t have her sign a contract that would have specified a selection window in which she could make her decisions or forfeit her right to the images. I joke that with every shoot I do, I find a new clause to add to my contract. It’s barely a joke, though, because new things always come up. Now I always make sure I use contracts, and HelloSign is an amazing tool that makes e-signatures quick and easy. You simply upload your pre-written contract (or use templates that you’ve already created) and drag the necessary sign/date fields onto the document. It has a digital audit trail, meaning it’s legally viable. It ties everyone’s signature to their email address, so it’s all handled very easily. It also notifies you when someone views the document and then when they sign it. The people signing have access to the completed document that everyone has signed, as well. This takes away some of the print-and-scan burden from both you and the client!

  3. Scanning Receipts - iScanner

    iScanner is an app for your phone (available for both iOS and Android) that makes it easy to scan receipts and other business documents. Currently, it’s only $4.99 for the pro version, which removes both ads and the limit of documents you can store in the app. I personally hate scanners and happen to own one that’s semi-dysfunctional, so this app is a handy alternative to a clunky piece of soon-to-be obsolete technology. I find that I don’t easily keep track of receipts if I don’t scan and email them to myself right away and then file them away in a Dropbox folder. Keeping track of receipts WILL SAVE YOU. It may seem like an easy thing to blow off, but A) receipts allow you to track your tax deductions with confidence, and B) if the IRS were to ever audit you, you’d have all your receipts collected digitally in one place and hopefully stored in the cloud in case your house ever - knock on wood - burned down!)…Which brings me to my next tool…

  4. Cloud storage - Dropbox

    I’m embarrassed to say that I just convinced myself to try the wonder that is Dropbox earlier this year (2018). Seriously, how did I ever live without it?! I was using a combination of multiple external hard drives and Flickr as my backup solution. I would have to set aside time to clear my computer disk space and drag all the unedited and edited galleries into new folders on my other drives. My workflow is so much more streamlined now. I drag photos from my SD cards directly into a Dropbox folder for that shoot (organized by Photos > Year > Date-NameOfShoot > Originals or Edits), so that the raw files are immediately backed up. I drag those files from that folder into Lightroom, so Lightroom is working directly with the folder where they will live forever (instead of moving them around on my computer where Lightroom will lose track of how it catalogued them). I can download photos directly from the Dropbox app on my phone to post to Instagram, as well as from any computer. I also love that it provides a permanent gallery solution for clients. I can share the link to the edits folder with the client, and, since it’s my permanent storage system, they can always refer back to the folder. Dropbox is a huge relief for me since I don’t have to think about my photos getting lost on physical drives! The pricing isn’t bad and the ease of use/peace of mind makes it worth it.

I hope you decide to try some of these tools! They certainly have made my business more manageable, and I’m sure they’ll do the same for you. It was your dream to be your own boss - now you have to act like one! ;)