5+ Must-Have Tools To Start Your Own (Photography) Business

5+ Business Solutions That Helped Me Launch My Small Business

I got my first camera when I was a young kid, and I made my first photo album when I was only 6 years old! (I still have it. Admittedly, there are a lot of photos of my childhood cat, Esmeralda, in it.)

Cameras were always a part of all my old jobs over the last 20+ years, both in broadcast television and as an educator. But I didn't start my own photography business until 6 short months ago in August 2017! Business is going GREAT and I'm having a blast serving my new clients, but let me tell you, I don't know how folks launched businesses before the internet! I researched everything I could online and to fill in the gaps for what I couldn't find, I relied on some kind working-professionals who took their time to share a wealth of knowledge with me. 

So in an effort to help educate other creatives who may be thinking of starting their own small business, too, I'm going to share my list of Top 5 Go-To Lifesaving Business Tools! These business solutions save time, make life easier, and allow me to book more work and communicate more effectively with my existing clients! 

I'd love to hear from other creatives who have found business tools that are making their lives better! Leave your picks in the comments below!

5+ Business Tools To Make Your Life Easier

Tools for Small Business Owners
 

 

1. Honeybook

This all-in-one software solution plus online community is a game-changer! Submit elegant, clean proposals to your clients to e-sign and pay effortlessly without ever having to mail printed papers back and forth. Their handy phone app allows you to even send client proposals and book more client while you're on the go! (And after editing thousands and thousands of photos, who wants to be tied to their laptop any more than they have to be, am I right?)

All your business' templates and documents are saved in one place. It connects payments directly to your bank account for a nominal fee and allows clients to pay via credit card. Honeybook sends reminders out for you and can handle any other number of automated tasks. If you use their custom contact forms, you don't even have to type the client's information into Honeybook's system--it's automatically captured for you! 

Basically, Honeybook handles all the organization, calendar, payment and 'businessy' things so you're freed up to handle all the creative things. 

Other similar management solutions include 17Hats and Dubsado, but Honeybook also has a robust community aspect, which I really like. Connect with other professionals and collaborate! Photographers can ask for second shooters for their next wedding, or find models, bakers, florists and set designers to collaborate on an awesome styled shoot worthy of magazine covers! Check out the Rising Tide Society to learn more about this awesome creative community that believes in 'community over competition' and check out one of their Tuesdays Together meet-ups for a chance to network and learn from one another!

If you're interested in checking out Honeybook, here's a link you can use to get half off your first year!

2. Squarespace

You've already applied for your LLC, researched your state's tax laws, set up a business account with your bank, and checked into insurance. Yucky business stuff, right? Now, on to something more fun. . . your website!

Wait just a doggone minute, Stacie. . . website creation--fun? You betcha! If web designing sounds daunting and scary, head on over to Squarespace! You can secure your domain URL, link it to a beautiful website that you picked out from several easily customizable 'themes'. It's fairly intuitive, and you could realistically crank out a website without having to even enlist the help of that 'techy' friend of yours who speaks computer code as his second language.

If you come from a WordPress background, WordPress is another great option, and many of my photographer friends swear by Showit. (And their sites are beautiful!) But I landed on Squarespace and have been very happy with them! I even changed out which theme I used a month back and it was completely effortless.

For absolute turnkey, foolproof website designs you just can't beat Squarespace! You can grab a free trial at Squarespace without even entering your credit card.

3. MileIQ

MileIQ is a really cool smartphone app that helps you track all your business mileage! It runs in the background of your phone, and at the end of the day (or week, or whenever) you just swipe left for personal travel, swipe right for business. 

It allows you to categorize your business expenses (client meetings, supplies/errands, business meals. . .) and you can easily print a report by month or year! I literally just sent the '2017' report to my email and forwarded it to my tax preparer. Done. It's that simple!

Grab 20% off using this link when you sign up. 

4. Planoly

I've had a personal Instagram for years and must admit that Instagram is probably my favorite social media platform! I follow a lot of photographers whose work I admire and like to jumpstart my creativity by scrolling through beautiful images.

But when it came to starting my business instagram, I have to admit, I started it and deleted it at least 5 times. Then a graphic artist friend of mine introduced me to Planoly. It allows you to drag all your images and graphics into a grid and plan out how your insta-grid will look before you post it!

Plan your content schedule out in advance and schedule that Friday Introduction posts out the Monday before when you actually have time! Plan ahead for when your holiday posts will go up, coordinate any promotions you're running or just drag posts around so your grid looks gorgeous!

You can type your copy on your desktop keyboard. Hit save. Finish editing the post from your phone! And Planoly is the only approved app (at the time of this writing) that can actually post to Instagram on your behalf!

Want to see some beautiful Planoly-cious Instagram feeds for inspiration? Follow my marketing wiz friend Samantha Royer or friend Cate's gorgeous Grace Kindly insta feed.

5. Pixieset

While the previous 4 business tools on my list were good for any creative business owner, this last one is just for the photographers out there. (Hollaaaa!!!) I used to use Pass to deliver client images to them, and some folks like ShotProof, but a photographer friend recommended Pixieset, and I love it!

Pixieset offers a beautiful, clean and elegantly designed gallery that doesn't just deliver images to the clients, it showcases them!

From their gallery, clients can create favorite lists (perfect for helping you identify which images your clients love when you go to build their photo albums!), share images directly on social media, email or download images and purchase directly from a professional photo lab with your pricing!

Pixieset also links to your Google Analytics so you have a complete picture of your website's traffic.

BONUS: Creative Live!

If you haven't watched any of the classes on Creative Live, stop everything and head over there right now! Normally I spend my evening 'TV time' watching online posing courses or wedding photography courses. I'm truly inspired by seeing others' processes and have always enjoyed learning new things about my camera and my craft. So I watch a TON of Creative Live photography courses. But one evening I caught Kathy Holcombe's business course "Building Your Photography Business for Under $3,000" as it was streaming free and learned soooo much! Kathy and her family live in an RV and have built a hugely successful business attracting clients who want adventurous family portraits. This article, The Business of Photography sums up some of her teaching. 

Another personal favorite resource of mine for education is Richmond wedding photographer Katelyn James. I've participated in her webinars and online courses (The All Access Course is like being her virtual 'third shooter!') and read numerous articles she's written to help educate photographers. Find yourself a mentor and study up! If you don't have one, again I say, "go to Creative Live!"

BONUS #2: Blog Stomp

If you're putting any images on a blog or website, Blog Stomp is the bomb-diggity!  (Yeah, that's right. I said bomb-diggity. Don't judge.) This software costs a one-time only fee of $49 to download, and you're able to download it on two of your computers. (Laptop and desktop for instance.)

It's a drag-and-drop solution for putting images side-by-side or in collages. It also reduces the file size to help make sure your images don't slow down your web page speed!

And speaking of speed, Blog Stop is fast! Drag two images over, highlight both and hit 'stomp'. Boom. You're done. Images are all saved in a 'Stomped' folder on your computer and ready for you to insert into your blog or webpage. 

 

 Blog Stomped image of my son at my parent's pond in Covington, VA. Isn't he a cutie? ;)

Blog Stomped image of my son at my parent's pond in Covington, VA. Isn't he a cutie? ;)

I hope that this blog post helps other fledgling #bosslady types out there get a headstart on getting their businessy stuff done so they can focus on their clients and their craft! Give me a shout in the comments below if you have any questions or any other cool business tools we should all know about!

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(PS Have you been wanting to start your own business for years? There's always going to be a million reasons not to. Believe me. . .I know! It's not the right time. . . You don't know where to start. . . You're afraid of failing. . . But know this. There's a God above who loves you and won't let you down. And there's a supportive community of like-minded small business owners out there who WANT you to succeed! Take the leap--you'll never know how high you can soar if you don't try!)