As the end of the year quickly approaches, I know that many are still in the busy season that photographers face every year. This does not mean that you can’t stay on top of organization to ease your way into the holidays. The last thing any photographer wants to be doing is winding up their business, drowning under a pile of receipts merely because of being too busy. I know that there are many who will probably click away from this thinking that there’s a pile of client edits to get to. Take 2 minutes. Drink some coffee. Read through this. Even picking up on one of these tips can be a time (and life) saver for end of the year.
1. Get a system
Identify a system that works for you: old-school paperwork, high-tech excel spreadsheets, or computer data entry systems that compile reports for you. At a bare minimum, all businesses need to document the client name, contact information, products ordered, product amounts, any discounts provided, associated receipts, sales tax remitted and an area for notes. Breaking your reports down into fiscal year (which for most people is calendar year) then into the blocks of time associated with your sales tax returns will enable a quicker reference. For example, have a Microsoft Excel file for the year and then have tabs for each different account schedule (quarterly, monthly, etc.).
2. Stick to a schedule
By having a routine schedule for organizing business documents, you will force yourself to get it done. One of the double-edged swords of being our own boss is that there is no one (but the IRS) looking over our shoulder to check out our financials and documents. My biggest piece of advice is to integrate input of client orders and related receipts (see #1 Get a system) into your typical client workflow.
I will admit right here that this is one of the hardest aspects to commit to when spending a few more minutes sleeping or processing pictures seems like a better idea. Having a routine schedule like any ordinary boss would institute is critical to business efficiency, accurate tax reporting, and personal sanity at the end of the year.
3. Keep a running to do list
Just like with trying to run a business and balance home life, you should keep a running to-do list of all organizational matters to ensure that everything you need to do gets done. Whether by notebook, whiteboard or sticky notes. Get it on paper. Just like most anything else in life (dieting, budgeting, etc) when you put things on paper, you’re less likely to forget and more likely to act.
4. Storing & filing all receipts
As a mom of three, it is a miracle (straight up miracle) if the receipts make it from the store and into my office at home. I solved this issue standing at the check-out, taking a picture of the receipt with my smart phone, emailing it to myself, and then storing in a receipts folder. For an easier way to remember what receipt goes to what deduction line for tax time, it is a great idea to write the clients name or type of deduction (i.e. overhead, marketing, etc.) on the receipt.
5. Set up an out-of-office automated response
Time is of the essence in trying to get christmas orders out and get organized for end of the year. Create a diplomatic but personable out of office reply. Also institute templated emails (with a dash of personalization) for any emails that require a response. If you receive emails that can wait, simply ask the sender if they can hold off until after the Christmas rush.
If you’re having issues with wording check out The Modern Tog’s Go To Guide for Client Emails for pre-crafted template emails that you can drag and drop into your email with ease!