Using Your Bullet Journal
- General Tips
If you're here, I imagine you already know what a bullet journal is, or at least have some idea. If not, here's a quick tutorial on what it is and what the fuss is all about. Lots of people use theirs for lots of different reasons. I use mine as a catch-all for everything: I keep track of what my family has going on that month, make weekly lists of events and to-dos, meal plan, and (my favourite part!) track client processes and growth! I had a premade planner I loved but it just wasn't suiting my needs as a mom, a project manager for a non-profit, and a photographer.
The best thing about a bullet journal versus a premade planner is that it's entirely customizable for your needs. What is it you'd like to track? Want to see growth over time? Keep yourself on track as you edit? Dream up new ideas for shoots or keep track of locations? You can make a spread for each of those! Made a spread but it's not quite working for you? Make a new one!
I did just that with my old bullet journal. I had a growth tracker and client tracker spread that worked, but I found myself not keeping up with it as much as I wanted. It was a little too involved and didn't give me as clear a picture of what I wanted as I had initially thought it would. Things felt jumbled. It was hard to see exactly what was what. So for this one, I thought about what worked and what didn't and made that. Now I find myself flipping back to it constantly!
I like to use my bullet journal in conjunction with HoneyBook as a way to both keep myself on track and easily reference everything at once. I can also use it to track a lot more than just where I am in the process with clients or track expenses and income.
- Client Tracker
I've seen other client trackers that follow essentially the same process but they're a lot more involved, tracking every single step of the process. And that may work for you! For me personally, I like to keep myself on track without making the tracker feel like an extra step. This is especially helpful during my busy season or when I do mini sessions; if I've already got a lot to do, checking off little boxes just gets to feeling tedious! This time, I streamlined the process to include the following:
- Client: Client name, obviously
- Shoot Date: What date the shoot is scheduled for. This can change some, especially for newborn shoots, but that's what white-out is for!
- Inquiry: This is a good way for me to keep track of how many inquiries I get. Sometimes a client inquires about a session but it's not a good fit at the time for whatever reason (time, money, etc.). Either way, this helps me see how many inquiries I get versus how many bookings I get. And if they do go on to book with me, then I already have them entered into the system!
- Booked: Booking is a two-part process for me, but more on that in a further bullet point.
- Forms Sent: Before I had HoneyBook, I used to have to either meet clients or send them the files via PDF, which wasn't ideal when my clients (and I!) are busy with families, work, and other social obligations. I loved the face-to-face interaction before our shoot, but it just wasn't working. Now, I can send out premade contracts and questionnaires. This box is here for me to make sure I got everything sent out after the booking.
- Deposit: I require a 50% non-refundable deposit for each session as part of the booking process. This helps me as I have to block out time, arrange for childcare, and do a lot of behind-the-scenes work to prepare for every session. HoneyBook sends out emails, but this helps me make sure I get that deposit and remember to follow up if I haven't.
- Forms Received: Has my client sent back their forms before their session?
- Full Payment: Did I get that remaining 50% payment? This helps me make sure we're all even steven before our session.
- Shoot Done: This one is pretty self-explanatory.
- Photos Sent: I've seen a lot of photography trackers that have a lot more boxes for things like importing photos, culling images, different rounds of edits, and that may work great for them! For me, I use my client tracker to keep track of big picture stuff and all the minute details (importing, creating collections, different rounds of edits, etc.) can be tracked weekly in my to-dos in my weekly spread. If I have a lot of sessions to edit one week, I'll make a mini tracker in that week's spread to track each session's progress. Sometimes I need it, sometimes I don't. As I said, having to tick a ton of boxes or flip back and forth between spreads if I'm already busy just doesn't work for me.
- Thank You Sent: You'll notice there's no boxes ticked for this one. That's partially because I decided not to send gifts to my mini session clients this past time. I love sending client gifts, but I was 8-9 months pregnant during my last round of minis (and ended up on bed rest right after them!) and just barely a month to a month and a half postpartum for the last couple shoots I did. I have full sets of gifts for full session clients, but I'm still re-evaluating what gifts I'd like for my mini session clients.
- Blogged: Easy one: have I blogged the session? Blogging is something that tends to fall by the wayside for me, so I need a box to help both keep me on track and help me see what I have left to blog so I can make my monthly content calendars.
- SNS: Have I posted photos from the sessions on social media (Instagram, Facebook)? You'll notice one box is ticked a different way, and that's to remind me not to post their images on my social networks. That particular family had a little foster child they were caring for toward a possible adoption and wanted pictures with, but neither of us were entirely sure on what the rules for posting images of foster kids on social media was, so we decided to just keep them to ourselves. Sometimes families don't want photos on certain sites. Ticking the box at a different angle triggers that little reminder for me to take care with that specific session.
- Growth Tracking
This one is a work-in-progress for me. In addition to my client tracker, I want to keep track of how I'm growing my business. You can't expand your reach if you don't put yourself out there, so this is one way for me to track everything from amount of inquiries to how many social media followers I have.
- Monthly Calendars: Helping me see the year at-a-glance so I can easily reference how I'm growing over time. In my last yearly tracker, I used to highlight shoot dates after I did them, but that didn't accurately reflect how many shoots I did that month. If I had a day of minis, how would I reflect five shoots in one day? I decided to do a column next to each month to track certain variables to get a more accurate view.
- Inquiries: This one tracks how many inquiries I got in a given month. Just like my client tracker, it's possible someone inquired and wasn't quite ready to book for whatever reason, or maybe we chatted and I just wasn't a great fit for what they were looking for (which is always fine!). Either way, iniquires are an important variable and helps me track how many lead to actual bookings.
- Bookings: How many sessions did I actually book that month? I count something as booked when I get that confirmation from a client and that 50% deposit.
- Shoots: How many shoots did I do? I may have booked 5 sessions in one month but not done any shoots, and then done 5 shoots the next month. This helps me see how early to advertise for certain sessions or how popular they are (like quarterly mini sessions), to see when my busiest season is, and have a better idea of where and when to focus my resources. The past couple years, winter has been my slowest season (as I think it is for a lot of photographers in places with seasons!), so during those months, I'll focus more heavily on advertising for in-home sessions, prep advertising for warmer weather sessions, and work on content creation.
- Blogs: How many blogs did I post that month? Again, blogging is something I need to be a lot better at, and being able to have a concrete number right there lets me track progress over time.
- Instagram: Instagram is my most successful social network, so being able to see how I'm growing over time on there is important for me. Likes and followers do not equal talent or success, of course, but again, you can't grow your business if you're not putting yourself out in front of people!
- Weekly Spreads
My weekly spreads are always changing, so I'll showcase a few of those in a future blog post. Some weeks I'll have less to do overall, so I won't need more than a few column for each day and a running to-do list. Some weeks I have lots of sessions to do so I'll make mini trackers to see where each is in the editing process without having to flip back to my client tracker. In the meantime, there's a ton of good blogs and YouTube videos out there to help you get some ideas of what might work for you. Take what I've outlined here, envision how it might work for you, change up what won't work, and get journaling!