Episode 3 – Automate & Get Your Life Back

I did the hustle. I did the grind. I worked 7 days a week, all hours of the day and days of the week. Dashing here and there  and rushing back and forth. Just hustling to get it all done. But it was sloppy and ineffective and it doesn’t have to be like that! You can put processes in place, automate your business and get your life back!

Hey guys! Welcome to another episode of Updraft! Today was the loveliest day… I slept in while my amazing husband got the kids off to school – a little late, but hey they got there! I spent the morning split between cleaning the house and working on all the behind the scenes stuff to prep for the Updraft launch and then headed of for a visit at the dentist. That part was less lovely, BUT my hygienist is lovely, I have known her since I was about 3 and we had a great chat despite the hands in my mouth – so not all bad! While I was close by I popped into the studio and quickly got a few galleries ready for clients and left feeling oh so satisfied because I am running about a week and a half to 2 weeks AHEAD of my delivery times. Happy clients = relaxed me.

So… we know that I have a 6 figure business. I don’t do IPS (which is In Person Sales and typically very high ticket for those who don’t know) I have more of a volume based model and I have 4 kids with high needs and a husband that works like crazy… and yet this was not a completely uncommon day for me. Lovely, and enjoyable but not something that never happens. I do work a lot – I enjoy my job and I am now working on some even bigger goals. Its not a crazy hustle anymore though, it isn’t scattered. It is a much more relaxed pace, and if I weren’t trying to go off and take on more big things then I could probably really relax into this photography business of mine and enjoy a lot of reward without much chaos. Don’t get me wrong, there were YEARS of hustle getting here. Years of insane hours, working until I was ready to pop, mere days before my kids were born. Working when they were babies. Working nights, weekends, days – you name it. Hindsight being what it is though I’m not sure that it was all necessary. Yes there is always going to be some hustle with getting a business off the ground but if I had know what I know now it definitely wouldn’t have taken this long, and certainly didn’t require this much effort. 

One of the things I hear most often from people after they hear about my crazy life is “but HOW?! How do you possibly do it?!” and the truth is that a) I don’t. I let lots of things go – like my kids very occasionally being a few minutes late for school this morning and b) I automate and outsource.

A little over 2 years ago I found myself sitting in the ER, positive that I was having a heart attack. I had had a horrible pain in my chest for over 24 hours and NOTHING was helping it go away. I tried drinking water, taking pills, sleeping it off, meditation and deep breathing…  It felt like there was something heavy pressing on it… an elephant on my chest.

Walking into the ER with heart attack like symptoms is actually pretty awesome, minus the pain, I barely waited at all before being seen – normally the line up at that ER are hours long. They immediately hooked me up to an EKG machine. All was well, everything seemed fine. Because of my Dad’s heart history though, they decided they should do a chest x-ray just in case, and then followed that up with an MRI to be sure. I was there for HOURS. I think 6 or 7. When I left that day I was not only thankful that I was in fact walking around with a perfectly healthy heart in my chest, but also that I live in Canada because I don’t even want to know what that hospital bill would have looked like otherwise.

Perfectly healthy, but with this nagging chest pain that would not relent. The only other option we could come up with was anxiety. It was the middle of my busiest season. Crazy at work, finishing up and editing all of the holiday sessions, planning 3 birthday parties and getting ready for Christmas. I LOVE Christmas and I LOVE birthdays. It’s not enough for me to keep it super simple, I love to go big with themes, homemade cakes, perfectly coordinated invitations, baking, decorating, carefully selected Christmas gifts that are even and coordinated so everyone is happy, Christmas activities, our Elf on the Shelf Pickles coming to visit – we do it all regardless of the fact that we have Christmas and 3 kids with birthdays all within 3 weeks.

That year though almost did me in. I was so incredibly stressed and anxious that it was coming out in all sorts of physical ways. First step was to get medicated. That took a few tries, but we eventually got it right. Second step was to start to slow down and to LEARN to let go of some things. I wanted everything to be perfect. It is my nature. I want to micro manage every detail and be the BEST at everything I do. It was going to kill me, and I’m pretty sure it was driving everyone around me bananas. So little time spent enjoying the kids and my husband, and so much time spent stressing. That Christmas I remember standing there on Christmas #1 (we did two FULL Christmas mornings that year because my step kids were going to be spending actual Christmas morning with their Mom and so I had to make sure it was perfect for them, but also perfect for my two on actual Christmas) anyway, I was standing there watching the kids open their presents and just fighting back tears, and irritation when they didn’t act exactly how I wanted them to. As soon as they were done I retreated to my room and found the bathroom floor – the only place to be when you can’t function, need to cry and wish you could be swallowed by a black hole. It was so, so very ugly.

I look back on that time and I can’t even believe how different our lives now look. At that point there was NO time for anything. It was a mad dash from one thing to another, scrambling to get everything done in time. Racing home at the last possible second to grab the kids from daycare, throw dinner at their faces and then toss them into bed, only to turn around and dash back to the studio to keep frantically working until midnight, grab 6 hours of crappy, broken, toddler in the bed sleep and then do it all again. The concept of taking time for myself was laughable. The idea of having a day off didn’t even occur to me. I was hustling. I was doing it all. I was SLOPPY and inefficient as heck.

Then I discovered automation. This little discovery was a happy bi product of a marketing course I took. They introduced us to CRMs and how we could use it to track out finances, book appointments, send emails and more.

At first I resisted 90% of what the CRM was good for. I didn’t want to automate everything.  How could I possibly micromanage everything and make sure it was completely 100% perfect if it was automated?! I also didn’t want to spend money on anything else. I already wasn’t making nearly enough for our family to be really comfortable and while it wasn’t much it would be yet one more monthly fee that came out of the profits I was making. But I had PROMISED myself that I would give this course everything I had – it was the last shot I was giving myself at making this business generate enough revenue or I was quitting and getting a quote “real job”. So I sucked it up, I download Dubsado and I gave it a shot.

Game changed. For real. Some of you probably have a CRM and are thinking I was super slow to the party (I was) and other’s might be wondering what the heck a CRM is. It is a Customer Relationship Management tool and it is magic.

All of the things I worried about seem silly now. I thought my clients would find pre written emails to be cold and impersonal – they are actually just happy that they hear from me since I never had time to write them before (I also do add things in now and then to make it personal where it applies) I worried that the information packages, or confirmation emails would go out at the wrong time, or they would fail to send at all. Truth is that the CRM is actually WAY better at remembering to send them than I was. A computer more reliable than a scatterbrained Mom of 4?! I know… shocking.

It has also saved me money by keeping track of the invoices and even sending out reminders when people forget to pay. No more scrambling to try to remember who has or hasn’t paid and then feeling super awkward and looking super unprofessional as a result. I was actually able to create proposals that go directly to the client and walk them through everything required to book – package selection, deposit, contract – it is all done through a few easy steps for them, without me having to a) remember to send it all and b) nag them to complete it. There are workflows that can be put in place as well to make sure that they actually get (unlike before when I intended but forgot) a confirmation email with the promised information package…  AND it can be set to do things like sending my newborn clients an email before their birthday to suggest a fun and completely hilarious cake smash for their birthday which not only bring me more business, and allows me to see how much my sweet newborns have grown, but it also feel MORE personal to my clients because I actually remembered them and their baby’s birthday! Even when they don’t book I think it is nice for them to get that little note… And honestly, 100% truth, I have ALWAYS had the intention of doing this. I wanted to mail them all birthday cards and it was on my never ending to do list for YEARS, but I never got around to it because I didn’t have time. There is no WAY I could have fit even one more thing into that chaotic, disorganized mess of a schedule. Impossible.

Imagine if you own a cake businesses – you could be inputting the special occasions that your clients book cakes for and then set it up so they automatically receive a note wishing them a happy anniversary, happy birthday, whatever it may be. How personal is that?! These are things that make you stand out and help you cut through over saturation! Or if you sell courses to help people study or learn a new skill – put their exam dates into the program and trigger it to send them a good luck or congratulatory email once they have completed everything. There are SO MANY ways this could be used. Heck if you are like me and always forget people’s birthdays you could even use it for your personal life. (I literally saw my Mom, on her birthday yesterday, and forgot to say happy birthday. Don’t worry, I did eventually remember and she actually loved it because she has definitely forgotten mine too… Once when I was in the 6th grade I actually questioned that it was in fact my birthday because when she woke me up and sent me off to school it was just like any other day… Normally my Mom made a big deal – she decorated with balloons, streamer, and the whole bit and bought us sweet sugary cereal that we normally weren’t allowed to have and everyone made a big deal of us. Not that day… totally forgot. Not holding a grudge or anything over here… don’t mind me, just sharing it with the world. Love you Mom :P)

This little business tool has made a massive impact on my business and has shifted my brain to look for other ways to automate and outsource things both in my business and in my home life. It was super hard to get my head around it at first, AND to find the time in that period to actually get it all set up. The set up was not a small undertaking. I had to write ALL of those pre written emails and promotions, and then set the time triggers to have them send. I had to program is with all of the invoice timelines, and everything else that came along with automating the business. Thankfully Dubsado’s interface is pretty straightforward and easy to get the hang of. They also have fantastic and super quick customer service and are constantly adding new features and upgrades. I haven’t even touched on or started using half of the features that these management systems offer, but it has still been a total game changed and I definitely plan on learning more as I go.

There are tons of different options. I have heard of Honeybook, Asanna, 17 Hats, and I’m sure they are all great. I can only speak to Dubsado as it is the only one I have used but you could definitely research the rest and see which fits best for your business. I believe that 17Hats and Honeybook are geared more towards photographers, but Dubsado and Asana are more generalized.

If you want to give Dubsado a shot they have been generous enough to give the Updraft listeners a 20% discount on their first year. Just go to their site and use the code “updraft” when you sign up.

If you don’t currently have effective systems and automation in place I really and truly suggest that you do whatever it takes to find the time to set it up and put it in place. I know it feels impossible when you are already drowning. It is the worst feeling to try to tackle a huge project like setting up a CRM and planning your automation when you are already hustling and scrambling but you will save yourself SO much time in the long run. It’s sort of like being on a bike, late to an important meeting and you are pedaling SO hard and so fast, trying desperately to get there in time. What you really need to do is stop pedaling so that you can get off the bike, walk two steps over and get into that car so you can get there faster and with far less effort, but you are too afraid to stop pedaling and can’t see the big picture. Look at the big picture my friend! You won’t regret it!

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