During my 4+ years of starting and growing my photography business, I’ve tried many websites, apps, and services to help run my business. I’m someone that if I’m not happy with something I’m using, I move on and find a better solution.
And once I do find something that I absolutely love, I support the company and product 100%.
This is a list of everything I currently use, absolutely love, and highly recommend.
This is the platform I’ve used since day one of starting a website. There was a bit of a learning curve when I first started, but there’s a ton of YouTube videos out there that can help with understanding it a bit better. I tried out the trial that Squarespace has, but I was and still am more pleased with WordPress.
This is the company I use to host my WordPress site. I’ve been with them since the beginning and have never had any problems. If I ever have questions, they have helpful customer service that’s available 24/7. Price-wise, it’s about the same price you would pay for having just one Squarespace site. However, one of the benefits about Web Hosting Hub, is that they allow you to host an unlimited number of WordPress sites! I pay for their highest plan so that I can benefit from a faster running site, but their plans start as low as $4.99 a month!
Backing up your website is important. If something were to break or mess up you want to make sure you can restore your website. This is the backup plugin I recommend. It backs up your website automatically every day and you don’t even have to think about it. I have it connected to my Dropbox. The best part about this plugin is that is does incremental backups. This means after it does the big initial backup upon installing the plugin, it will only backup any changes that were made. This saves you tons of space on your Dropbox and also takes up less bandwidth on your hosting provider. It has a ton of other great options like automatically updating your plugins and themes and even making a backup right before updating as well. It’s well worth getting.
WEBSITE DOMAIN NAME
I register all my domain names with Namecheap. I’ve found that Namecheap is cheaper than most of the other services out there. Every domain I’ve registered has come with WhoisGuard for free. WhoisGuard just protects your privacy online. Most other domain services charge extra for that.
I can not recommend this company enough. They create beautiful website themes for creatives that look great right out of the box, so to speak. Their themes can also be easily customized so that you can make it your own. Flothemes truly cares about the creative industry. Their incredible themes and customer service is proof that they do.
SOCIAL MEDIA MANAGEMENT
This is what I use to keep track of blog posts. It’s basically a content calendar. You’re able to see all your WordPress posts in a calendar format, schedule all your social media posts for each blog post, and visually see the blogs and social posts all on the calendar. I’m paying for the $39 a month plan, so it is a bit pricey. However, being able to see all my posts and schedule my Facebook, Twitter, Google +, and Pinterest posts for all my blogs within WordPress, is a huge time saver. If you use WordPress and blog a lot or want to start blogging more, get this plugin!
Currently, you’re unable to schedule Instagram posts with CoSchedule. So, my work around is using Grum. For only $3.95/month, I can schedule unlimited Instagram posts. I’m able to upload the photo, add the caption, write a first comment for hashtags, schedule it, and forget about it. It’ll then automatically upload to your profile at your scheduled time.
This is another Instagram scheduling service that I no longer use, but thought I’d include it because this one is free. With their free plan, you’re able to schedule 30 posts a month. One of the benefits with Later compared to Grum is that you can see all your schedule posts on a calendar. Grum doesn’t have the view option. However, then main reason I switched to Grum is that it automatically posts. With Later, you have to download their app to your phone and use the app to post to Instagram when it sends you a notification. So it’s not exactly automated.
I’ve tried a ton of online gallery solutions out there. I won’t drop names, but I had terrible experiences with some of the ones out there, except Pixieset. Personally, I believe it’s the best online gallery solution out there. From a client’s perspective, the galleries are beautiful and easy to use. For a photographer, Pixieset is the most flexible of the online galleries out there in my opinion. There’s so many different options within the backend that can be configured to fit how you run your business. And after helping them out with a feature and getting to know one of the team members, I can truly vouch for how much they care about their customers.
This is what I use to manage my clients, schedule emails, send invoices & contracts, and keep up with workflows. It definitely takes some time to get yourself set up, but in the end, it’s worth it. Once you’ve set it up, it does a lot of the work for you. You’re able to set up reminder emails to automatically send clients about payments. They can then log into a client portal to pay online at their convenience, download a pdf of their invoice and contract, etc. I’m able to get a client into Pixifi and get set up with booking in just minutes. Get a 2 month free trial using the coupon code “PIXIFI2FREE”.
This is the merchant I use to receive payments. I stay away from Paypal because I’ve had too many problems with them. There’s plenty of other services out there, but this is the one I’ve stuck with. It connects with Pixifi and my online gallery provider, Pixieset. One of the reasons I like Stripe is that the payments I receive get automatically put into my bank account without me having to manually transfer them.
This app is incredible. It’s a phone app that automatically tracks the miles that you drive. That way you can easily keep track of personal miles and business related miles. At the end of every month and year, you can download a report of your miles, which makes it easy when filing your taxes. It’s worth the $5.99 a month. Trust me. I was able to claim a lot more business related miles come tax time, because I no longer was forgetting to write down miles myself. Try it out!
I use this to let my clients book meetings with me. Instead of going back and fourth with emails with our availability, it connects to my Google calendar and only lets my clients book on days I’m available and on the certain days and times I’ve set up for meetings. It’s very useful and saves a lot of time.
This is my calendar of choice. Plain and simple.
I absolutely love Gmail. With so many different Chrome plugins out there that connect to Gmail, it makes it very power.
This is a service I use to automatically filter my emails. I’ve set up a few different filters so that client related emails go to one folder, newsletters I’ve subscribed to go to another, and so on. Gmail allows you to create filters, but with Sandbox connected, you don’t have to manually create filters in Gmail every time. You can also simply drag and drop emails to the filters/labels you’ve created and train Sandbox to have them go there. Doing this makes it easy to go through your inbox fast. You’re able make sure important emails are taken care of first and lets you deal with all the unimportant emails at a later time. Check out the trial and see if it’s for you.
This is a free service that Google has. You can create a new phone number and connect it to your cell phone via their app. This allows you to have a separate phone line for your business, but still have only one phone. You can also send and receive text messages for your separate phone number and even set do not disturb times. That way you don’t receive phone calls late at night. And like I said, it’s free!
This is my task management app. Everything business and personal related goes into this app. It’s the best to do app I’ve used. I’ve been using the premium version for a few years now. Their free version is just as good for basic functionality. Todoist is super flexible too because you can access it on many different platforms. You can check out a video of how I use it here.
This is essentially my digital brain and file cabinet. I use it to store blog post ideas, random lists, and most importantly, I use it to store digital copies of my receipts and documents for my business. I enjoy being paperless. With Evernote, you’re able to access your stuff on different platforms, which comes in handy.
I listed my calendar app here, because it helps my productivity. It’s a beautifully designed app that has a lot of functionality.
This is the text expander I use. I use this so that I can quickly import email templates into an email with just a keyboard shortcut. It saves so much time. If you’re not using a text expander of any kind, I recommend you do. It’ll change your life.
The only way I can describe this app, is that it’s like Spotlight on steroids. I love it.
I used to always forget passwords and it was frustrating. I’d waste so much time figuring them out or resetting them. With this app, that’s no longer the case. It stores your passwords for websites and encrypts them. This means that you literally only need one password to be able to enter any site, even though you have different passwords for different sites.
This is a simple app that sits in your menu. When you hover over the icon it presents you with options that you can configure. For example, I can drag files onto a folder in the app and it will either copy or move them to the pre-set destination I’ve set. I can also drag a url to it and it can quickly create a Bitly short link. There’s other things it can do, but that’s what I mainly use it for.
I’m big on automating as much as possible. If you haven’t heard of IFTTT, then you should check it out. I use this for many different things, but one thing you might find valuable that I use it for, is being able to get SMS notifications for certain things. For example, if I get a new inquiry in my Gmail inbox, I’ll get a text message to let me know. There’s so much more though that IFTTT can do.
If you’re not using Dropbox, you’re crazy. I use it to not only keep an extra backup of things, but also be able to seamlessly access my files everywhere. Being able to access my Lightroom catalogs on any of my computers comes in handy. For only $10 a month,you can’t beat being able to access and sync your files, but also having the extra peace of mind knowing there’s another backup of your files.
This is my main cloud backup solution. All my drives are uploaded to Backblaze. It’s easy to use and runs in the background. It of course depends on your internet connection, but I was able to upload 8 TB of files within a few weeks. For the ease and only $5 a month, it’s a no brainer.
I don’t check my analytics and reports as often as I should, but this is a great way to get info on your website views, visitors, etc. And it’s free!
With Bitly you can shorten your url’s and track the number of clicks and where people clicked on them. For instance, I’ve learned the most of my clicks come from Facebook. I also use a custom short domain that I bought from Namecheap to add that extra touch of branding.
This is what I use to send out my newsletters. It’s simple and easy to use.
This is the WordPress plugin I use to help make sure my blog posts are SEO ready. I’m not good at explaining how to use it, but there’s tons of articles out there. For a free plugin, it’s worth using.
This is a book put out by Mark of Shotkit.com. I bought this out of curiosity and was actually blown away with how detailed it was, but also with how easy it is to implement. He made it step by step on each section. Not everything in the ebook applies to how I run my business, but overall it really is a great book to get if you’re wanting to get more inquiries. Go check it out!
Andrew from PhotoBizX has an awesome photography podcast. He interviews successful photographers about their business. He also just recently started an experiment podcast where he interviews photographers on what makes them tick. The free podcast is great, but I recommend getting the premium membership because he gives you the full episode and gives you also get access to the Facebook group. All the premium members and interviewed photographers are in there. I’ve learned a lot of business related things for photography just from his podcast alone. You can use this link to try the Premium Membership for just $1.
This is a podcast that Sam Hurd and Nathan Mitchell do. The format is almost like you’re having a conversation with them. They do not interview anyone. They just talk about a topic related to wedding photography. It’s pretty entertaining and informative.
This isn’t a photo related podcast, but it’s great to listen to if you’re interested in productivity and getting more out of life. Paul interviews various guests on how they approach getting things done. I was even interviewed on an episode regarding being productive as a freelance photographer. You can listen to it here.