There is a reason Apple coined the term, “There’s an App for that.” If you need to get something done there’s most likely an app that can help you get it done faster. As creative, small business owners we try to do it all. Photography, accounting, advertising, sales, social media guru, Photoshopper, blogger, janitor… and the list goes on! Yet, we only get to put one or two titles on our business card, “Photographer, Owner,” or maybe both.

Dr. Stephen Covey, author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People wrote, “managers pick the best path through the forest but leaders make sure you’re in the right forest to start with.” Too many business owners get bogged down by their single-track focus and get lost in the forest. They have little time to step back and think about their business and how it operates. They have even less time to investigate new technologies. Sound familiar? Unfortunately, most owners turn into managers, guiding their business through the forest. Leaders take control of their business and decide which forests will be conquered. If you run your own photography business, chances are you don’t have managers. Why not leverage technology to assume much of the management role? Let applications take care of getting you through the forest.

Enter ShootQ. It’s an absolutely essential application for running my business. It has given me back hours in each day. It’s much more than an application; it’s almost an employee. ShootQ allows me to focus on the direction of my business, while it handles the mundane daily tasks. It’s the cheapest administrative assistant I could find. Seriously, not even China can compete with $39.95 a month!

Here’s what ShootQ manages for my business:

• Customer Information
• Invoicing/Payment Collection
• Scheduling
• Workflow Tracking
• Automated Emails/Questionnaires
• Lead tracking
• Contracts

And here’s a breakdown of how each essential task is handled seamlessly by my studio manager, ShootQ.

Customer Information

All of my client information is stored in ShootQ. Their addresses, phone numbers, emails, payment schedules, relationships, etc. It’s all there. One easy place to access anything I need to know about a client.

Invoicing/Payment Collection

Remember, ShootQ works for me. By setting a few parameters, it will automatically send invoices to clients. They login and pay with a credit card. ShootQ tracks this and notifies me that a payment has been made. Remember the chiming, “You’ve got Mail!” If ShootQ emails could talk they would say, “You Got PAID!” The funds are deposited directly in my bank account. Think about how many uncomfortable phone calls you’d have to make to get a credit card number or remind a client to send a check. A lot, right? It’s annoying. I don’t like to do it. So I let ShootQ handle it for me.

Scheduling

The ShootQ calendar syncs with my iPhone. In fact, it displays the rest of my family’s activities as well. This is a huge time-saver as I’m generally on the run. My calendar and scheduling are synced in the cloud straight from my phone. With around-the-clock access to your calendar you never have to worry about double booking yourself.

Workflow

If you have read any of my posts at Agile Photog you know I’m a workflow fanatic. Peter Drucker says, “Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things.” The Workflow portion of ShootQ will help you be more effective. It shows you exactly what’s due and when it’s due. Miss a due date? It keeps counting the days. The overdue days even turn an sinister shade of red, taunting you to get the task completed. If you’re struggling to meet deadlines, ShootQ will help you stay on track.

Automation – Emails and Questionnaires

Have you ever stopped to think about how many emails you send each client? Now think about how many of the SAME emails you send? I know it’s a lot. Each client needs 90% of the same information from you. In modern warfare terms, my solution is called a “Pre-Emptive Strike.” You know the question is coming. Let ShootQ answer it for you. Need to collect information from your client? Maybe you have some questions you like to ask before their engagement session? Have an FAQ or sales PDF? ShootQ never misses a deadline and gets it right everytime. Set-up a workflow and all of these emails will be sent for you. It’s a little creepy when your bride writes back to place an order from a sales PDF that ShootQ sent her. She says something like, “You know that email you sent about the canvas prints. I WANT ONE!” Then, you remember your underpaid assistant, ShootQ, actually sent the email for you!

Lead Tracking

Do you have a system to track leads? Cluttered inbox? Maybe post-it notes? Maybe you even think you can remember each lead? Yup, I used all of those methods. Now I just let ShootQ remind me. Leads come in from my website. I send off an email and ShootQ reminds me a few days later to follow up. It’s that easy.

Contracts

Before ShootQ, I dreaded dealing with contracts. Emailing PDFs, sending contracts back and forth. There are some digital solutions these days, but even they can be a pain. Just enter your contract in ShootQ, create a client invoice and email them a contract. They sign it online and you receive instant notification. Your turn. Sign, you’re done. My record is 5 minutes. Yes, 5 minutes to send a contract, get it signed, get a retainer paid, I countersign and it’s a done deal!

One more thing about ShootQ: they’ll help you get set-up. You can pay one of their experts to do it for you, or even walk you through it. I’m pretty computer-savvy, so I opted to do it myself. There are a ton of great videos that give you instructions you need. Don’t tell Pictage, but at $39.95 a month ShootQ is a steal. I figure it saves me at least 10 hours a week! In my opinion, no employee could accomplish so much for such a low dollar amount. I use ShootQ so I can concentrate on what I love – my family and my photography.

Get 4 FREE Months of ShootQ Starter by GOING HERE, then click “ShootQ Free Trial” and use this promo code – tpl2012

About Eric O’Connor

Eric wasn’t born to be a photographer. You know the kid that picks up a camera at age 5 and instantly knows he’s meant to take beautiful pictures? Who spends moody hours in a dark room (remember those?), and sees the world through the lens of his camera? Totally not him. He was the kid who began investing his money in fifth grade when he was mowing lawns and caddying.  Who tormented family members because he was a morning person. And an evening person. He could not stop moving for even a minute. He was the guy who read the paper in the back of business lectures for years, and came to resent wholeheartedly the nonsense projects that gave the answers and asked no questions.  He was out of place—and regularly appalled—at the spectacular waste of time that came with group projects.  Discovering his love for photography wasn’t destiny as much as it was a very, very happy accident.

Eric battled and beat a life threatening disease, spoke to congress and doctors about Hepatitis C education, bought a business and married his high school sweetheart between the ages of 15 and 21. Ages 21-32 include 3 children, 12 marathons, 1 nearly fatal dance with blood clots in his legs and Pulmonary Embolisms in his lungs.

Eric O’Connor, the idea guy behind The Agile Photog, the owner of Allori Photography and the creator of mylife-pages. He lives in Suburban Chicago with his wife and 3 boys.

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