Evernote for Photographers: Part 2

In Part 1 of my series on Evernote for Photographers, I discussed why I love Evernote and the ways that this powerful tool helps my business. In this second installment I talk about specifically what data I collect and how I organize that data.

 

Notebook Structure – How I Organize My Data

The biggest piece of advice that I can give you when starting out with Evernote is to keep your workflow as simple as possible. Evernote is hugely powerful with a ton of features, but if you get too complicated with your structure then you won’t be efficient and you’ll drive yourself nuts. I am constantly refining my system as new challenges arise, but almost always I’m simplifying rather than adding complications.

As I mentioned above, individual Notes in Evernote can be organized into Notebooks, which act in the same way that folders do on your hard drive. Notebooks can be nested together to form groups of Notebooks (similar to sub-directories in a traditional folder system). I currently have nearly 60 Notebooks at this point, but my day to day activity revolves around just nine. These Notebooks sit at the top of the app in the Shortcuts area, for quick and easy access:

1. Inbox

My Inbox is my default Notebook. Unless I specify to send a note elsewhere, my Inbox is where all incoming notes land, whether clipping something from the internet or making a quick Do Note. My inbox is where I triage incoming data and file it in the appropriate Notebook. My goal is to make sure that my Inbox stays empty, so nearly always when I sit down at my computer I check my Inbox first and clear it out. For example, this morning there are five notes in my inbox: two amazon.com order receipts for props that I ordered (clipped directly from amazon.com using the Evernote Chrome Plugin) that need to be logged into my accounting software, a scanned invoice from a contractor that needs to be logged and paid, a Do Note about a farm table that I’m considering buying to use as a surface for my food photography, and a scanned receipt from the post office that needs to be logged. Essentially my Inbox is exactly like a physical Inbox that used to sit on my desk.

2. Actions Business

This is the most important Notebook for my day to day work. Everything Note in this Notebook is an action that needs to be completed for work, either today or in the very near future. While this Notebook is almost never empty, I try to keep it to no more than 10-15 Notes at any given time. Any more than that means that I’m either falling behind or I haven’t separated my tasks into manageable pieces and I need to review my action items. Once I have completed a task it gets moved to another notebook for example “Waiting For” if I’m waiting to hear back from a client, or the note gets moved to the archive if the job is complete.

3. Actions Personal

This is the same as Actions Business, but involves non-business related stuff. Again, I try to keep this Notebook down to just a few Notes at any given time.

3. Active Projects

This is where Notes for active projects reside. This Notebook allows me quick access to Notes that relate to Active Projects but that not have direct actions that I need to take. This includes reference materials, contacts, stuff that I need to browse through but don’t want cluttering up my Action Notebooks. When I job is complete, all associated notes are moved to the archive.

4. Errands

This includes several Notes for things that I need to do while out of the studio. There are several Notes that live here full time (Groceries, Costco, etc.) where I add items to my shopping lists that I can pull up on my phone while I’m out an about. If I need to run errands for a specific job, the Note would go in here as well.

5. Incoming Projects

This holds a single Note template for incoming jobs for quick access. More on this later.

6. Next

This Notebook includes Notes for tasks that I would like to tackle soon, but don’t have time to deal with at the moment. I try to keep this Notebook to around 10 Notes at any given time. This is kind of an extra Notebook which helps distinguish between stuff that I want to do soon but is not imperative, stuff that I want to do someday, and stuff that needs to be done, but not right away. I review this Notebook once a week.

7. Someday

This is my Notebook for project ideas, random thoughts, things that I would like to accomplish at some point in the future. When a Note sits in Next too long, it gets moved to Someday. Someday is a great Notebook to check out when I have downtime and am looking for something to do. This helps to solve a big problem that I have: finding something to do during downtime. Occasionally I’ll unexpectedly find a few free hours, and if I don’t have anything specific planned, I usually end up doing nothing. And then I get all stressed out about not being productive. Since I have a nice long list of Someday items, I can quickly find something to do, rather than procrastinating.

8. Upcoming

These Notes are Active Projects that don’t require immediate attention but still need to stay on my radar. For example, if I schedule a photoshoot a month in advance, and there are no actions I can take for three or four weeks, I don’t want the Note cluttering up my Actions Business Notebook. The Notes in Upcoming are assigned an Reminder for when they need to become active (and I also review the folder once a day to be sure). When it is time to take action on these notes, they are moved back to Actions Business.

9. Waiting For

This is a biggie. Whenever I get to a point with a job when I am waiting on anything at all (waiting for a callback, waiting for a client to select proofs, waiting for a signed estimate, waiting for a check, waiting for a shot list) the project Note goes into the Waiting For Notebook. I review this Notebook several times each day to make sure that there is nothing that needs additional attention or needs to be moved back into Actions Business with a specific action associated with it.

Everything Else

But what about all of the other Notebooks? The other Notebooks in my Evernote setup are there strictly to file and organize my notes once they no longer need my daily attention. When a job is completed or a receipt is logged it gets filed away. If I’ve done my job correctly, I will only need to reference those Notes when a future job comes in. Or maybe never again. Part of being productive is dealing with information as it comes it, then filing it away in case you ever need it in the future.

Every Job Gets a Note

As a professional photographer, I get inquires about shoots all the time. Sometimes they are serious requests for quotes, other times they are just people just asking general questions. In either case, I want to be able to reference all of the pertinent details about the job in the future whether I get the job or not. For example, if an agency contacts me about a commercial beverage shoot, I want to record all of the details of that exchange. If I win the bid, I want to know exactly how the process went. This information will help with repeat business in the future. If I lose the bid, I want to notate exactly what went wrong (pricing structure, outside factors like scheduling problems, client cancellation, whatever) so that the next time the same agency contacts me I’ll be able to adjust my sales pitch accordingly.

Basic Information

When a job inquiry comes in either via phone or email, I immediately create a note in Actions Business and start logging details. I have a template Note called Incoming Projects which I use to collect all of the data that I’ll need for a bid: contact information, job description, image licenses requested, etc. The template helps me figure out right away what information I have from the initial contact and what information that I need to put together an accurate bid. If possible, I google the client and look up their location, their billing address, and any other information that may be useful (their client list, notes on their brand, other projects they’ve done recently). Knowing who your client is and who they work with is a definitely plus when you get to the initial sales call.

Logging the Sales Call Information

It is very rare that a client gives me 100% of the information that I need to make an accurate estimate of the job when they first contact me, so what usually follows next is a phone call or an email exchange for more information. Within the job note I make a list of the information that I need and the questions that I have.  I can reference this list of questions during the call. This includes all the questions that I was unable to answer from the initial contact or google, and specifics for the job.

When I make the call to the client, I find it easiest to take notes the old fashioned way, with a pen and paper since I find it distracting to type while on the phone. After the call is over, I transcribe my notes in the job Note, and usually include digital copy of my notes using the Scannable app before tossing my notes in the recycle bin (paperless is good, people).

Building the Estimate

As all professional photographers know, building an estimate for a client can be the most difficult part of the job. Since we aren’t selling widgets, almost every job and every client is unique. While I have a metric I use for determining pricing for jobs, there are always going to be outside factors that mean tweaking day rates and usage fees, not to mention a wide range in production costs.

If I ever need to review an estimate later, I want to make sure that I remember exactly why I priced a job the way that I did. If the client prefers to see one big lump fee as opposed to breaking it down into an itemized estimate? I want to remember that. If a client asks for structured pricing on usage year over year, I want to have a detailed breakdown of how I came to those numbers in case I need to explain it to them later. If I think the job requires a few extra dollars for props, I want to be able to remember why so that I can justify the extra expense. Most importantly, if the same client comes back to me two years from now with a similar job, I want to remember every single detail about the pricing negotiations so that I can make informed decisions the second time around. Plus it doesn’t hurt to be able to speak intelligently about your bid whether it is the next day or a month from now when the agency accounting department calls with a question.

Once I have made all of my notes and determined all of the costs associated the job, I send a pdf estimate to the client. I also import a copy of this estimate directly into the job Note so that I can refer to it later. If the client asks for revisions to the estimate, I make a note of the requests, additional notes about the revisions made, and then import a copy of the revised estimate in to the note. Rinse and repeat until the job is either won or lost.

If I lose the job, I make notes about why; maybe my pricing was too high, maybe I said something stupid during a sales call, maybe the client asked for unreasonable usage, maybe the job was just canceled and there was nothing I could have done differently. Whatever the reason, I want to be able to refer to those notes when the same client contacts me again.

Job Detail Notes

Evernote makes it easy to add a date stamp (Command + Shift+D) and I use this function to keep a running log of every detail of the job right at the top of the main job note for easy access and review. Every single milestone or relevant interaction with the client gets a quick note at the top of the job so that I know exactly where I’m at with every active job. Here’s a quick example of what those notes look like:

April 10, 2015 – Client contacted me via email about a food photography shoot. Emailed reply asking to set up a call for more information. Waiting for response.
April 13, 2015 – Client relied, setting up call for today at 2pm
April 13, 2015 – Had client call, need to send estimate.
April 14, 2015 – Sent estimate to client, waiting for approval
April 14, 2015 – Received signed copy of estimate, job scheduled for April 25th, 9am
April 15, 2015 – Start pre-production, booked food stylist, assistant, reviewed client materials. Client called asking to add a shot, I sent revised estimate for approval…

And so on. Every step of the process is noted and logged so that at a quick glance I can tell that while we’ve booked the shoot, I still need a revised estimate signed by the client. I also have the ability to review the entire job from initial client contact through delivery and payment of the invoice if I need to refer back to it later.

In Part 3 of Evernote for Photographers, I do a quick rundown of how I use Evernote during the actual photo shoot.

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