EP137 Habit Hackers: Supercharging Your Studio with Good Habits

Pick up any book on business in your local bookstore, and it will almost certainly talk about processes. Yawn.  But what if we thought about processes as good habits? The things you do every day that you don’t need to think about.

As a business, you need good processes: doing the right things, at the right time in the right way is the foundation of any successful studio. And besides, it gives you more time to do the things you love!


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Episode Transcript

Well, the sun is shining here in the UK, just at the moment and has pretty much been doing that.

For the past six weeks

Or so. And it’s just glorious. I’m sitting here in the studio. It’s streaming in through the windows. As I walked down here this morning. It was just so, so. Well, so beautiful. The light is just incredible. The temperatures, that lovely temperature, where you can still wear a t-shirt.

But it’s just that little bit cooler than it is later on in the day. Ah, just stunning. Now I am going to start this particular podcast by blowing my own trumpet. Yes, just a little. I have lost a little bit of weight now. I’m not that good at losing weight. I have a natural gift for accumulating it, but when it comes to shedding it, well, not so much, but recently.

I have a bit of a knee problem. It’s my left knee. If you’re curious and it’s. Not one, that’s going to go away. The pain that is not the knee. Uh, it’s not going to go away without a replacement. However, one thing that certainly will help. It’s maybe, maybe just asking it not to have to support quite so much tonnage.

Above it. So I’ve got back on the Peleton. Yes. Yes. I know. Uh, but I do actually love the thing. Um, genuinely I’m torn between my love of EDM and house and the 63 beats per minute climbs that. Uh, they give you. Uh, or, well, just trips down memory lane to the classics of the eighties. Anyway, over the past three months.

I have lost a stone. All of that’s well, yeah, six and a half kilos to my metric listeners, but a stone to people like me who love eighties music. Though I admit I probably do have another couple of stone to go. Uh, anything, anything to take the pressure off my knee? I will honestly admit to feeling just a little bit pleased with myself.

And I have done it almost exclusively through exercise and just well eating a little less bread. Having no toast in the mornings is not the greatest hardship. Um, I still like a big sandwich at lunchtime. Can’t stop myself and the alcohol. Well, the alcohol has stayed. Frankly in my diet, because if I’m honest, I need it.

But it turns out that burning a thousand calories each session on the bike. Um, gives me enough calorie deficit. To have lost some weight. And I think people think I’m always a little bit. And on the energetic side anyway, but some of that energy, it felt like it was waning. Cause it’s hard to be bouncy with a brittle and frankly, excruciating knee.

Uh, and caring a little too much weight. So recently I think some of the bounces back, and I’m no longer out of breath dragging my camera back up the stairs after being out on the road. I’m Paul. And this is a slightly less heavy mastering portrait photography 📍 podcast.

Hey, just, just as an aside. Just before I started to record this, I saw a headline come in from the BBC that says the UK in the UK, we’ve paid an extra six P a liter, a liter. The fuel. Uh, the pumps because there’s been weakened competition and what my money back, frankly. I want my money back. The Landrover has a pretty big tank and I want my money back six Plet because they can’t sort out the competition stuff.

I want my money back. Dreadful anyway. So what’s been going on. Uh, well, we’ve had one of the busiest months we’ve had, uh, also also one of the worst hayfever seasons I’ve ever had. Uh, one reason that I haven’t recorded quite so many podcasts recently is that I have a permanently blocked up nose. And I sound like, or have sounded like an advert for Vicks VapoRub. Well, I mean, as in Vicks VapoRub, before application of Vick’s VapoRub and it didn’t make for a great recording sound.

Uh, but we’ve had a load of portraits. So the commercial couple of weddings. And the cricket, well, I mean, I say quick, I don’t, I’m not a sports photographer. I just mean it’s the ashes series now, obviously to my Australian friends. Yes. Yes. You two. Nil up on a five series. But what’s been a huge victory in our household is that Jake, our son has brought cricket into the house and all four of us.

Are now talking about cricket, almost non-stop test match cricket in particular, but cricket. Uh, yesterday sitting with Harriet. She has developed. A real nose for it. Uh, I don’t know where she’s getting all of her knowledge from, but she was educating me on some of the ins and outs and nuances. Of cricket. And I don’t know if Jake who’s, it’s been Jake’s domain since he was about seven years old. Uh, you could hear him swishing a bat in the backyard.

From a very early age. Uh, and even now he does it when he comes home from uni or from working at English cricket board. Uh, he, uh, swishes, it stands in the backyard and just practicing his strokes. Uh, and I think he’s had a bit of a solitary time of it because none of us were really into it until I suppose the last couple of years.

And that’s really gained traction in the past couple of months. So, uh, we went to, Edgbaston for the very first. Ball of the first ashes. Sorry, the first test of this series of the ashes. Uh, cracking for it was great. We thought it was going to be just all. Uh, all, uh, all downhill from there.

Well, it has been all down hill from there, really? And then over the weekend, we went to Lord’s to see the fourth day of the second test . All of it, exciting, all of it. Brilliant. And it’s just lovely as a family to have. What is one of the worlds? Most obscure sports. Uh, you have to admit, I mean, any sport that you play over five days and then you do it five times is a strain sport.

Uh, but it’s been absolutely brilliant. It was also Sarah’s birthday this month. Now that’s a multi-day event. So it was birthday. Isn’t a singular. A singular date. It’s a multi-day event and it, as it happens, isn’t yet concluded.

As we’re off to go and see Matilda. Uh, the musical in London by the Royal Shakespeare company. I don’t. I don’t know why the Royal Shakespeare company, maybe that’s just a. At aside for them, maybe it’s just a light relief. Uh, anyway, we’re going off into London as a family to go and see a Matilda and a couple of weeks.

Uh, what else? Oh, yes. We’ve had part of the house gutted and this is kind of the trigger for this whole podcast. So we live in a very old house. Uh, and at the back of it are what, we’re almost certainly a couple of little cow sheds or something. It was a little small holding. Uh, it’s 600, 700 years old. Nobody’s quite sure, but it’s pretty old. Our house.

And there are a couple of cow sheds at the back that were an office and a bathroom before we moved in and it was a kitchen and a bathroom. But it’s never, we’ve never done anything with it. And we’ve lived in the house for 24 years now. Oh, 23 years. Uh, we never really did anything with it, except to gut it a little, uh, dry it out, paint it, and then live with it.

Um, but it needed to improperly it needed to go back to the original walls. New dry lining new floor, new ceiling, new wiring. New bathroom. Uh, you name it. We’ve had it all in the process of having it done. Now there are parts of it that are great relief. So when we took all of the old stuff down the stuff I had done, the stuff that people before me had done.

The people before the people before. I had done. It turns out the walls were in good condition. It’s dry. We’d have to re we’ve had the roof freedom anyway, so that it’s watertight. And the whole place was looking pretty good. But watching, uh, Brian, who’s the guy who’s looking after the whole project go through each stage of it.

Made me think of processes for everything he does. He knows where he’s at any stage. He knows where that, which bit of it he’s doing. He knows whether it’s measuring. He knows whether he’s ordering stuff in. He knows the lead times. It’s really interesting. To watch. And it got me thinking about processes. Now, if you think about it, we all have processes. Whether it’s the way we get up in the morning.

Uh, the stages of that to having a shower, having a shave, cleaning your teeth. It’s the way you get in the car and start the engine and head off to wherever you go, the way you put your seatbelts on adjust your mirrors, tune the radio in, stick your phone in the bracket, whatever it is. They see even the way you had to work, maybe buying a coffee on the way these are all processes in some full.

They are the things you do. Every day and probably never really think about it. They just kind of happen. And you don’t even notice they are habitual and that’s the point. Processes are habits. They’re habitual. They are. Things you do that are almost automatic or they should be. They can be good habits. They can be efficient. They can be quick. They can make you happy.

They can be bad habits. They can be inefficient. They can still make you happy. Uh, but they can, you know, take longer than they should do. So for instance, do you always open a bottle of wine after a day in the studio? That might be a well-organized habit, but it’s probably not great for you. Though I’m with you on that one anyway, but they are things that you do.

Regularly. And there is comfort in that regularity and that rhythm in that habit. And to be an effective business, you must have. Processes. Two. Imagine in life when you’re getting up, you don’t know what order to do things in, or you don’t know if you’ve done them. You change them every day. Maybe you forget to clean your teeth.

Maybe you forget to put on socks. Uh, business without processes is more or less a sockless human with bad breath. Now there are a couple of ways. I’m sure there are numerous ways, but there are a couple of primary ways to create your processes on the one extreme. The first way and the one that I think big corporates love, it’s certainly the way when I was working with big corporates, we worked is you sit down and you design one. You ask for lots of inputs from lots of people.

That you decide. And write it down. But you could, of course, in this day and age as chat GPT to design it for you now as an exercise, I actually did this. Uh, I asked it to design an effective process for here

and I quote. Design an effective process for handling client inquiries in a photography studio. And here’s what it gave me. One initial inquiry. Provide multiple contact channels offer various ways for clients to reach out. I don’t think that’s a process really. Uh, to, uh, well, no, sorry. Part of still part of one.

Create a dedicated email address. So by the way, as an aside, Don’t use a Google email address. Get your brand name, sorted. Get your web domain sorted, and then have an email address at that. Uh, domain don’t do paulWilkinson@gmail.com. It doesn’t look good. You don’t need to do it. It’s really easy to have a web address.

I have an email address based on your web domain. Just this isn’t from Chet GPT, by the way, this is just my pet peeve. I hate it when somebody sends me an email from google.com and there are professional. Uh, anyway, carrying on include a clear call to action on your website. Social media profiles are micro. I still not sure that’s processed, but that’s what chat GPT has given me. Stage two, the inquiry triaged. It feels like there should be a drum roll for that inquiry tree. It sounds like.

Our casualty triage!!!!! . Uh, anyway, uh, regularly check and monitor all inquiry channels, prioritize urgent inquiries, respond to them promptly. I sought and categorize inquiries based on their nature. Fairly logical. Number three inquired response. Craft a template response that can knowledges. Acknowledges the inquiry and express his gratitude for the client. I’m so grateful.

For the client’s interest, personalize the response by referring to the specific details. Provide essential information. So just due to availability, pricing, packages, any other relevant details. Include a clear call to action, encouraging the client to take the next step, whatever that might be. Number four consultation, offer the option for an in-person or virtual consultation to discuss the client’s requirements of detail. Shed jewel, the consultation as a mutually mutually convenient time.

Preparedness to questions to understand the client’s needs, showcase your portfolio, explain your photography style and provide detailed information about your pricing. Uh, number five proposal and booking, uh, based on the consultation, it create a customized proposal that outlines the agreed services.

Clearly communicate. Uh, the booking process, including an innocent of deposits, et cetera, provide multiple payment options such as online payment gateway. So direct bank transfers. Set a deadline. And once the client accepts send a confirmation email number six, follow up after the booking is confirmed. Flip the client, send reminders, maintain regular communication with the client, leading up to the shoot to address any.

Questions or concerns. Number seven, the final stage, it says, chat, DPT, send the thing, you know, it’s a client expressing gratitude for the business and trust in your services. It’s missed out the shoot bit. Let’s not get too. I don’t know. I don’t want to be too critical. It’s missed out the shoot. Anyway, post shoot number seven, post shoot.

Send. Thank you. Note. Provide a timeline of what you’re going to do. Share a sneak peek. A follow-up to confirm the client’s satisfaction and address any feedback or concerns they may have. It does say at the bottom, remember each photography studio is unique. So adapt this process to see your specific needs and clientele.

Continuously refine and prove your process based on client feedback. To ensure a seamless experience from inquiry to final delivery. And that last paragraph is the most important of the entire thing. Remember each one of us is unique. Remember to adapt your processes. As you go, keep refining them, keep improving them and listen to your clients to make sure they’re the best they can be anyway. So that’s why that’s method. One is you sit down and you either.

As I have their boiler plated one from chat GPT from AI, which let’s just remember where the AI, that it’s not inventing that process. It’s reading. The internet in 2021. All of the documentation available and I would lay you a bet. If I searched. For processes for photography studio. I will find that or something very similar to that out there.

Uh, that a photographer or multiple photographers have written online. Uh, however, it’s useful to have it. You could sit down and design it from scratch. Decide just to get a big piece of paper and write down all of the contact points with your client and what you’d like them to be. And then for each of those contact points,

Write down exactly what you’re going to write and send out as emails and how you’re going to do it. So just a way of designing a process. The second way is just to get into a good habit. So I like him process design, a good process design. So. I think I’ve talked about this. Certainly talk about it in our workshops on business processes.

Uh, but it’s a useful thing to remember. If you’re ever stood at the corner of a large green space in a city. Where there’s, uh, Uh, path at a Tod or gritted or graveled or, you know, uh, constructed path. Round the edge of it. Look at where the grass is worn. And I lay you a bet. It’s across the corners.

Because architects and urban planners love to have a park. With paths that go in zigzags and corners and all the rest of it. People on the other hand, want to get from a, to B in the most efficient way possible, and they’ll walk across the grass and eventually you’ll see by virtue of a muddy trail.

You will see exactly how people wanted that to be. And that is when that’s, when you design processes using habits. You will find a much better process this way, but it takes a long time to get there. Over time as you do things and you do them repeatedly, you very quickly get a feel for what works, but it just takes a lot longer than sitting and designing a process.

So, whatever you do, there’s no right answer. I would suggest the most obvious way of doing it is to sit and design your process. But remember that it’s not finished yet, and it may not be finished for many, many years. Uh, it may never be finished. And I was change all the time. As we listen to our clients, we respond to changes in the marketplace. We respond to changes in how we want to work. We even risk even internally.

For instance, the package imaging, AI, which we do use for all of our color correction has meant that we’ve changed fundamentally who and where the color correction is done. Who? Sorry. Who runs the color correction and where it’s done, because I didn’t have the ability, for instance, for Sarah to run all of the colors.

Whereas when I was doing it, myself, all that to come back to me. So we’ve changed the process. So now I don’t do the colors. Technically it’s, it’s outsourced to a software package and that AI artificial intelligence package. Uh, but Sarah can run it. Brilliant. Um, and it’s not just working processes up. It’s not just about the obviously obvious things. Like how do you respond to a client? It’s actually about everything you do in this Juju.

It’s your inquiry process, color culling coloring. And post-production, it’s your complaint handling process. Let’s hope you don’t have complaints, but you’ve always got to have a process in place to know how to deal with it efficiently. I’ve recorded a podcast on that. You know, if you make mistakes own it.

Fix it. Uh, you’re in shoot process. People don’t think about this, but actually how you run a shoot. Has a process, what you do during the session, what you say, how you say it may be, even when you say it. Uh, I’ll give you a good example of this. Is for us to do the sales work we do. And we have a very successful sales room.

It’s really important that I brief the client at the end of the shoot . As to what to expect next. It’s part of my shoot process. I have regular habits that I use when I’m actually creating imagery. But at the end of the shoot, I always take a breath. I will show the client stuff on the walls. I will hand over a magazine of our work.

And I will give them a price list. That’s really clear, but I was still explaining it. I’ll tell them everything on it, what it means, why we do it, how we do it and what we expect of them. When they come back to pick out their pictures in the reveal, or some of you call it a sales consultation. If I don’t do that part of the process properly.

Michelle or Sarah who’s in the sales room later. So two weeks later, they’re going to have a much tougher time of it running their process because I haven’t put the inputs. Into that process correctly. I know this all sounds a little bit dweeby, a little bit corporate. When I talk about process. But all it means is I’ve got into the habit of telling our clients what to expect and how excited I am for what they’ll put on their walls.

And here’s how much it’s going to cost. So that they’re excited, but they’re also realistic and they know they can, they know what they want and they know how much it’s gonna cost. And then they bring that into the sales consultation. I went Sarah and Michelle at there. They’re not having to explain.

Oh, no, that’s quite expensive. The client already. He knows. All right. So that’s how processes and habits work. It may even be for instance, that you have a habit that on a Monday, as I do, I do things for mastering portrait photography. So even which days of the week, you do certain things in your business on.

I may actually be part of your process or part of your habits. And it can also be how quickly you do things you may need to actually think about speed. Because one thing is for sure in this day and age immediacy. Is part of our puzzle. People want things and they want them right now. And it was a studio here we’ve made a really quite conscious decision to slow things down.

We craft our images and we give our clients an experience. They can remember. But not when it comes to the processes behind it, timing is everything. So we try to respond for instance. To all inquiries within the same working day. As in our working day, our studio is open Tuesday to Friday.

But usually it’s within the same working hour. Immediacy is actually part of the puzzle now. And processes are not a technical thing. They’re habitual. They are just get into the habit, get into the rhythm, get into the pulse. Of how you do things when you do things and what you do in your time. But why bother?

Good question. Why do you go to the effort of setting this stuff out? Well, if I’m honest, Mostly it’s so that you can offer a great service with minimum. Thinking about it, you can concentrate on other things with good processes. You don’t really need to constantly think about what’s the next step. What should you be doing? When should you be doing it with really good processes in place.

You will know. Which means you don’t need to be, oh, where’s that template? What should they do now? What should I write in this email? It’s all done for you now. That’s not to say I’m a fan of automating emails. For instance, I’m not. I think emails should be hand. Crafted. But there were common things you say in them, they’re a normal links.

Your pricing, et cetera, et cetera. I’m just saying there should be a pattern that is familiar to you so that you don’t have to think too much so that you can concentrate on the things you really do need to think about, which is a photographer nine times out of 10. Is the imagery itself. And having good processes gives you the flexibility in the time.

To concentrate on the thing. You probably love more than anything else. Which is producing beautiful pixels.

It also stops you missing things. Um, There are three of us in our studio here. So we have to have reasonably clear pathways through all of the work the studio does. Who looks after what? Uh, when some things are immutable. Uh, it’s me, for instance, that creates the imagery. Whereas cell are flexible. It may be either Sarah or Michelle. Who’s looking after the client reveal of the sales consultation, or if you want to call it.

But all of us know exactly what is going on at any one stage. Even things like the way folders on our hard drives are organized. Tells us which stage the images are at. So the guys will know I haven’t finished the images until they appear in a certain folder when they appear in that certain folder.

My. Part of the process is done and they know they can pick them up and carry on with that process all the way through to the sales room. It’s all about having habits, knowing and knowing what comes next. That. I know processes may sound daunting and corporate, and I’m from a corporate background. So I don’t, and I apologize. I know I’m not really apologizing for it. The reason corporates are full of processes is because they’ve learned.

That it’s the right thing to do. Now I know many of us in this industry in particular have fled from those big corporate organizations. You know, some of the guys I worked with had bigger teams. And bigger budgets that were hundreds of times the entire turnover. Have a small photographer, took photography studio for one function.

They would have had dozens, maybe even hundreds of processes mapped out for different things. And yeah. Okay. Maybe you don’t need to think quite like that. When there’s just one or two or three of you running a studio, but they are good habits. They’re not enforceable rule books. They’re just. Uh, way of doing things that is repeatable.

And efficient. And if you do it. You’ll have happier clients. And the happiest UGA. For me here. I honestly even have a process for how I think of ideas, right. Record and edit these podcasts. Uh, even if I don’t do them. Often. Enough. And on that happy note on that happy note, thank you for getting to the end of another podcast. No interview this time, just me on my own and a microphone.

Uh, I am in the process of adding more content to mastering portrait photography, co.com. Sarah and I are working busily on that behind the scenes. You should start to see. Uh, new articles and new ideas started to appear on there. That’s mastering portrait, photography.com. And of course, That is the spiritual home of this particular podcast.

, if you’re interested in, if our workshops or masterclasses.

Uh, Paul Wilkinson photography.com. If you just search for Paul Wilkinson photography training, you’ll find it. Um, I hope you’ll find it. I haven’t checked that. I keep saying that I haven’t checked it. Google it. See what happens. Paul, look into photography workshops or portions. Photography training.

Uh, we will be releasing the dates of those soon. And of course. Whatever else you can hear. My nose is bringing up already. It’s. I’ve made as they get was how long has this podcast. What about 25 minutes, something like 📍 that. I’ve managed to find it without sounding too bunked up, but now. I can feel it.

Blow in hay fever on that happy and slightly. Uh, knowing pollinated note.

Remember this. Be kind to yourself. Take care.

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