Episode 184: How to Automate Onboarding Workflows with Charlotte Isaac

How to automate client onboarding workflows as a photographer

Charlotte Isaac is a Business Operations Consultant who gave up her role as a corporate ops manager inside of a creative agency so that she could serve small business owners who love their people just as much as she does hers. Through her signature program, Ease Seekers Society, and her DIY Dubsado shop, Charlotte helps overwhelmed and overworked entrepreneurs build customized solutions so they can serve their clients better, automate busywork, and feel confident in their business.



Introduction 0:01
Welcome to the photo Field Notes podcast, where you’ll find stories, tips and inspiration from professional photographers to get you taking action in your own business, and making your business dreams a reality.

Allie 0:15
Hey, everybody, this is Allie Siarto. And my guest today is starlet Issac who’s a business operations consultant. And she gave up her role as a corporate ops manager in she was in a creative agency, which said that she wanted to serve small business owners who love their people just as much as she does really like serve those clients. So now Charlotte helps those overwhelmed overworked entrepreneurs build customized solutions so that they can serve their clients that are automate that busy work. I’m a huge fan of automation, and just feel competent in their businesses. So welcome, Charlotte, thank you for being here.

Charlotte 0:48
Thank you so much, Ali, I’m excited to chat to you.

Allie 0:52
Give me a little bit more about this background of this business this like corporate ops manager position that you were in, and then how you decided to make this pivot into working with small businesses doing it yourself?

Charlotte 1:05
Yeah, of course, it’s got a bit of a roundabout journey, like I think we all have, we do a few loops, some circles before we get to ultimately where we are. But like you said, I was working in creative agencies, I was leading the operations team, but by all means, I had a really fun job, I was pretty lucky. But I got to the point where I wanted a lot more freedom and flexibility. And I wanted to have more time at home and, and really just to be able to be in control of where I was going and how I was spending my time. So I left my corporate gig, and I got to keep working with creative people to help make their businesses better, which is what really, really excites me. So I didn’t start by helping people with their systems. But I gradually helped a couple of people, I started to become known as that person, people would tell their friends, their friends would tell their friends. And, you know, just like that, I became the person that people call the dubsado. Queen, which I find both very humbling. And I’m very embarrassed to say that at the same time,

Allie 2:00
yeah, but that’s so often how it works with business. So were you doing that on the side and then kind of slowly built up into, you’re able to do it full time as your own business.

Charlotte 2:08
So I left straightaway, I have found that I’m not great at doing kind of being in two camps, I prefer to focus entirely on one thing, so it might be a little bit stupid, I left my corporate gig and thought, You know what, if I do this, and I have no clients, there’s gonna be a fire under my butt, I’m gonna figure out how to make it work.

Allie 2:25
It’s brave, I am not that brave. And I was always the one running multiple businesses at the same time, or doing multiple things at the same time until I could get it to work. So I commend you on your bravery sounds like it’s gone well. So let’s get into the topic today, which is really largely focused on like automation, but also using those processes using those workflows to just create a better client experience. So it’s not just about getting your life back. And kind of almost, I always call it like my personal assistant, that’s not a real person. But it’s also about creating a better client experience. So you talk a lot about using automation to onboard new clients, if someone is completely new to this world, and if you are, I’m so glad you’re here, because this is going to change your life. Where do you recommend that they even get started?

Charlotte 3:17
Yeah, I think sometimes it starts before the system. So like you said, automation is only great if it saves us time. And it makes the experience better for our clients as well, too. Otherwise, it’s never going to feel good. And it’s not really going to do its job. So if we take a step back from systems, which the people that don’t like tech are probably like, thank goodness. So take a step back. And we want to get really, really intentional about what your client process looks like. So we want to start to dig into how you do things now what maybe feels hard. The things that make you want to pull your hair out every time it happens with a client, what you want to do better, maybe there’s some things you’ve thought about starting for a while. And we really want to drill into all of those things and make sure that before we even start looking at any tools, we’re really, really intentional about how you work with your clients.

Allie 4:03
Okay. And then you also talk about like the framework for a great client experience. So I assume that that’s kind of part of it that once you’ve evaluated what, what you want that experience to be like, or what’s working or what questions, or for me, it was always like, every time that someone did something that I was like, Oh, I don’t want them to do that in the future, it would go into like a guide that would automatically get sent out to them, or would go into something that would help create that process make that process more clear whenever anybody had a question. So how do you like what is this framework is that basically it’s just figuring out the pain points, and then like, getting out a piece of paper and writing down. This is how I’m going to make it like, do you like sketch it out like a wireframe? Or how do you go about creating that framework?

Charlotte 4:50
Yeah, so exactly like you said, it starts with what you’re already doing right now. And you can slowly grow it and change it as there’s things that you find that frustrate you about your clients and things that don’t fit So smooth process is definitely the first big step into creating a great client experience. And that’s where we often start. And then we want to look at it with a few other layers as well, too. So making sure we have great communication, some people find that really, really easy, others don’t. I think as photographers, you will have a little bit harder to communicate really well with your clients, because you’re off it shoots, you’re not always in front of your computer, you’re juggling a lot more clients than say a web designer would that maybe only has a couple clients a month. So making sure that when we’re looking at that process, there’s lots of little steps built in that make it easy for you to communicate well with your clients. So that’s the first kind of layer, we want to put over that. The second one is making sure that there’s room to deliver on time. So making sure that you don’t take on too many clients and making sure that you’ve got enough time set aside. So things like editing, and you can always, you know, get back to people in the timeframe that you say. And then the fourth one, I think that makes a great client experience is your personality, I think a lot of people will work, you know, move mountains to work with the photographer that they want to I know I set my wedding date based on the photographer, which, you know, I’m happy to admit that my family thought I was a little bit nuts, but I had a person in mind, and I was willing to do it. And I think sometimes when we’re thinking about our client process, we forget how much our clients can love us and how much it’s okay to be ourselves. So we want to put that in there, too.

Allie 6:25
I also, you don’t, you haven’t mentioned this in any of you know, our prior communications. I don’t know your thoughts on this. But with that personality, and in the idea of automation, I have found that including videos has been really useful. So in my automated process, they automatically get like access to videos that I’ve pre recorded that answer some of the frequently asked questions or even in like, I’m moving away from weddings myself now. But when they would fill out the contact form, or when Yeah, when they fill out the contact form, it would automatically take them to a page where I would like before just giving them the pricing, I would walk them through the experience. So is that something you’ve had experience with too? I mean, I guess it’s silly to say do you recommend it? Like I think yeah. Okay, so it’s Yeah, so I really do. Yeah, have you worked with any clients who have done other creative things like that, that are kind of a little bit outside of the box to help take, like, the things that we find ourselves saying often or just to kind of like creatively connect with clients?

Charlotte 7:29
Definitely. So videos, I think a great a lot of people like, Oh, I’m scared to do video, I’m gonna have to make myself look presentable in front of my camera, I’m gonna have to say this concisely. If you can make yourself get on video and do it, I think clients really, really appreciate it. And it means that they’re getting the experience of working with you without you having to be behind a computer. And that’s kind of the goal of Systemising. And automating some of this so that it all happens while you’re out shooting, or you’re on your couch watching Netflix after a long day. So videos are great. If you feel less comfortable with video or you feel like it maybe for the information, clients would absorb it really well. The other thing that I often recommend to people is some kind of services guide or magazine that sent people before they’ve even thought about working with you. So you mentioned you send yours out when they’ve already inquired that the same time I think is brilliant. You know, send them stuff that talks about your process and why you’re the best person and, you know, show some of your beautiful portfolio in there and get them really, really excited so that by the time they hop on, you know, if you do a zoom call with them before you work with them, whatever that looks like, you know, they’re already sold. They’re excited. They understand how you work and not going to be pushy, and try and change your process.

Allie 8:39
Yeah, I think that kind of brings me back to when we booked our wedding photographer, or really any photographer that we’ve ever booked that specific their wedding photographer, she actually like didn’t even reveal her prices until after we met which is interesting because I had come across her at a networking event and I just really liked her. So I was similar to you. I was like willing to lend my that around her. And she didn’t share until much later. But by then I’d already gone through like here’s the experience here with the album’s like, like, here’s just like the, like, free of the money conversation. You were having that. So I can see, like a magazine or something. And that’s why the video walks through the experience first, if you can kind of really get them excited about that process, instead of just being you know, price shoppers. You can you can really, I like when you can come into that meeting already feeling like they know you in that way. And I think that that’s, it’s just so helpful because then in the meeting, you can get right on into what matters instead of having to repeat yourself and say again, and again, all of these things. So when they’re doing kind of like a magazine style, is that going out? Is it an email? Is it like a PDF? What kinds of formats are you seeing people using for that?

Charlotte 9:53
Yeah, it could be a PDF. It could be a hidden page on your website. It really doesn’t matter whichever feels good. I find PDFs off even feel a little bit more special sometimes. But again, whatever you’re comfortable with, I think that if you build something into your process, a lot of people are going to take notice if they are someone who felt like they had to press up, maybe they really loved you. But like, you know, they’re shooting with their family, or it’s a brand photography, and you know, their business brain is telling them that they need to press up, you’re going to stand out against other people by doing anything. So really, if it’s a series of videos, if it’s a PDF, it’s a web page, I think like you said, these things do help people feel really comfortable about the decision. And they’ve almost decided before they talk to you so that when you have a call with them, or you meet them in person, it can be a conversation about what the sheet would look like, rather than, you know, selling yourself and justifying your prices and telling them the same things over and over again.

Allie 10:47
Yeah, so they’re already excited. Okay, so once you get them excited through the magazine, or the video, or the email series, or whatever it is that you use in an automated way, so that you’re not sitting there retyping Hello, this is like a you can take the time to put the personality into it, and do it once and really make it great. Once we get that how, how do you recommend kind of like making that simple transition into if it’s the kind of service where you need to have a meeting, to sell which giving my own context, most of mine do like I was previously, hopefully, folks are mostly focused on weddings. Now, as I’m doing branding work, I really need to have that meeting. So I have my own ideas, of course about this, though, I want to hear yours before I mentioned, what do you feel is the next natural next step to get them into that meeting.

Charlotte 11:37
If we talk about services, like you mentioned, like branding, or weddings, or some kind of service that you really don’t want to talk to them first. I think having an online scheduler that goes out at the same time, as you know, whether it’s this magazine we talked about or a web page or video, that feels really good. You could also put a step in and make sure you’re checking your availability first if you had to, but like we’ve talked about people will move mountains to work with you if they’re excited about it. So definitely an online scheduler I think is the next step. I know you use online scheduling ally. So

Allie 12:08
yes, that’s Oh, yeah, it’s like the best $5 a month I could. Amazing, I don’t know how we ever coped without it, I don’t ever want to email someone, again, like just 2pm on Thursday work for you. So definitely having an online scheduler in place to set the meeting with them to chat with them is really great. And then the next step is having really great templates and everything for things like proposals and contracts. If you use a piece of software like dubsado, you can make it really, really on brand and beautiful and keep kind of dragging them through that same dragging is a little bit extreme, walking them through that beautiful experience and, and keep them excited about working with you. Yeah, and I would imagine, you know, in all those cases, yeah, bringing imagery into that overall experience. And I’ve noticed that, you know, again, going back to weddings, I’m kind of like stepping away from weddings, but still have that page. And I’ve almost made it like less appealing. But in general, I want every step to show some combination of me. So that there because part of the product is me, images of me or video of me, even though it feels so weird at first to do that I’m trying really hard to like insert myself into those steps and my work so that they see that along the way, as well. So yes, I’m a huge fan. I use Calendly to book my meetings. And in the case of weddings, I just say, go ahead and book it. And if I’m not available on your date, then I’ll reply and let you know. But we’re or give you an associate photographer information give you that option. So I’ve had some more sometimes I’m just like, oh, sorry. Can’t do it. Okay, so now what about though you said in the case of mine, where I want to guide them to a meeting, but there are cases where we don’t necessarily need to have a meeting or for some photographers, some might need a meeting for everything. And again, I have my own opinion on this, but I want to hear yours first. So let’s say you don’t necessarily think a meeting is necessary. Maybe you’re selling mini sessions or something you just want to like hook them all up without meeting with every single person. In that case, what’s your vision for that kind of booking process?

Charlotte 14:20
I think what you do on your website is basically spot on. So having a scheduler embedded that people can choose a time that works for them, they can pay for their session. I haven’t booked one of those with you. I’m in Australia, so unfortunately I can’t I’m assuming that after they book and pay, they get some sort of welcome and they get some information from you. I think with that kind of service making it as easy as possible for people to book in so that if they’re you know, sitting on the couch and they’re like hang on I should really do this right now. You want to be able to let them absolutely fly through that process and then you also want to follow up with something that makes them feel really good about that decision. And not like they just handed over their credit card to some stranger on The internet.

Allie 15:00
Yeah. And I will say I just kind of switched to that process last year. So for context, because I don’t expect you all to have to go to my website and figure this out what we’re talking about. Before last year, I used to just have a contact form. So if somebody wanted to book, like just a regular, let’s say, family session, or I do a lot of college seniors, just different types of outdoor sessions, I would, they’d have to contact me. And then they would get an automated response. But then we’d have to like, go back and forth and get the contract signed and pick a date and all this. So what I realized was I use 17 hats, I assume it’s very similar to dubsado. So I went through my system. And I looked at the time, the sunsets for like everyday that I want to be shooting. And I scheduled in literally manually every single session, because you can like block it to be like to have this repeat, but the sunsets at a different time every day. So I looked up every single date, I just spent a couple hours one day, putting in every session that I wanted to offer. And then I just made it public on my website. And so I made it where I could also stack them. So like if you do a full session, that’s an hour, you get to pick the location, if you do a mini session, I call a mini session, it’s actually 30 minutes, it’s not that many. But you get a little less, you don’t get to pick the location, I get to pick the location, which really means that full session gets to pick the location. And so I just put those up there. And they’re available the book, kind of going off the idea that like if I was booking a luxury service, like going to a salon or booking a massage, I really just prefer to be able to see the availability, look at my calendar and know the pricing and book it. So all the sales have to happen up front, a little different. But yeah, just like today, I’m sitting here working on some editing and someone books, almost five or $600, little session. So that’s easy for me. And then literally everything’s automated, so they get all the prep information, and all I have to do is click to sign the contract, and then they get the invoice, the prep information, the follow up the reminder, absolutely everything. So I have found that by switching to that system where I make everything accessible to my clients, my bookings went up. And so I think when you remove that barrier for that kind of session, it allows me to book more. And so I do give away digital files, and I do I don’t do in person sales, I have this whole process for virtual sales where I booked you know, where I sell more products later. That’s a whole other conversation. But basically, by automating it, and then also stalking it, I can make more per hour giving away digital files charging accordingly. And just having it all kind of like run itself. So that’s me taking over and then go into the process in the long winded way of saying that, so, okay, let’s get back. So um, if we are, let’s say the bigger purchase, though, like the branding, the wedding, the in person sales kind of thing. How can we, maybe we’ve kind of already covered this, but like, how can we really help save time taking them from? Well, actually, no, because I want to talk about getting paid. So how can we save time between having them say, Yes, I’m interested. And then like getting that invoice paid?

Charlotte 18:20
We almost want to take some of the same principles of everything you just talked about for the mini session. So yes, we want to meet with them. And yes, we want to give them our personal attention. But then we want to create a little process that happens afterwards that, you know, they can receive via email, they can sit down if we use wedding as the example because that’s kind of the easy one, they can decide maybe which package works best for them. And they can check it out if you like I’m air quoting for anyone listening. But they can check out straight away. So in dubsado, and one of the reasons I really liked upside, I think 17 Hats does something similar, correct me if I’m wrong ally, but you can have a proposal that is tied together with a contract and an invoice does 17 hats do that as well? Yes, it does. Yeah. Beautiful. So I really like to take advantage of that if you’re using a software that offers it amazing, definitely do it. So we can set it up so that you’ve got this beautiful proposal that you choose a package, they flick to the next page, they sign that your agreement or your terms and conditions or whatever it is, last couple of years that have taught us that’s pretty important. So get that sign of that using a separate software. And then they can be taken to your invoice and you know, maybe it’s a 50% deposit, 25% deposit, whatever it is, we want to make sure that that invoice is there as soon as they decide to work with you. And the reason we love that, obviously we all want to get paid quicker. But the thing that’s nice for the client is we’re not making them decide to work with you more than once. So they’ve chosen their package, they’re ready to move forward and they just do it on all in one go rather than the next day receiving an invoice in that email and it’s like oh, hang on. Oh, that’s like, you know, that’s a bit expensive. Do we really want to do this am I splurging here So bringing it all into one little nice package is great for your clients as well as you. Yeah, funny,

Allie 20:06
I actually don’t take advantage of that feature. But it is something that I’m aware of when with all the work, they have different names like the workflows and the Yeah, the quotes versus proposals, but same concepts, and definitely I can see where that would be really useful. What about in clients you’ve worked with or and your recommendations, just like throughout the whole process. So once they’ve booked, let’s say, there, it’s going to be a little while before the wedding, for example, or like maintaining a relationship, I mean, these tools like dubsado, and, and 17 hats, like their client relationship management tools. So how do we take advantage of those to maintain that relationship, either while we’re waiting, or maybe after?

Charlotte 20:50
I think if we go back to the very first thing we spoke about is being really intentional about the process, I would start to think about the things that you need them to do over the long timeframe of getting ready for their wedding, or whether it’s maybe just a couple of months before their brand, shoot, whatever it is, think about the things that we really need them to work on, and then deciding the right time to drip it out. So maybe as soon as they have said yes to working with you get a lovely welcome email, it might remind them of the checkpoints that you’ll get in touch with them. So maybe three months before the wedding, we start to talk about timeline or something like that might be earlier, it might be later. But whatever it is, we want to make sure that they have a really beautiful welcome. And they kind of know what to expect when they’ll hear from you. If you use a software that has a client portal, you can get them pre loaded up with a bunch of things that they’re going to need to use in the future. The other thing that I really like is dripping in any extra little resources that you might have. So if you find that all of your clients ask you for referrals for makeup artists, and hair, and you know, venues and all of that kind of stuff, load that all up somewhere else, you could just drop it as a PDF in the welcome email, if using the client portal, it could be there. But trying to think about the things that all of your clients ask you, again and again and again, and put that in place somewhere throughout the process.

Allie 22:05
Yeah, and I also like the idea, I’m just thinking of this, of like, just scheduling out even like a little reminder of those things. Because even though I tell clients like I’m going to send out your questionnaire a month before, and your final invoice a month before, and I don’t really you know, you don’t need to worry about anything until then. But I will get the occasional like, hey, it’s just been a long time. Is there anything I need to worry about? And I’m like, No, but if you want to, we can talk about it. So maybe that’s not a bad idea to just schedule in that check in even like an automated just, hey, just a reminder that you’re good to go to store, like the tips that could just be like, here are some tips. I still don’t need this from you. But just a way of making them know you haven’t forgotten about them. Even though sometimes, like I’ll schedule, I’ll schedule that questionnaire. And then I don’t I can forget because I just have to wait for them to then reply because it’s it’s going out automatically like that. Well share with me then where people can find you where they can find more information about your services. And even if you want to share, like what your services are so that people know exactly what you’re helping them to do. Yeah, of course.

Charlotte 23:17
So there’s a bunch of resources on my website, specifically around dubsado. And I have a free mini course called Seven Steps to automation that will help you decide if dubsado is the right platform, or if there’s something else and what you can do to streamline your process and the kinds of things that you might be able to automate. So Sialidase iq.com/photo field notes if you want to grab that in terms of how I can help. In addition to all the resources I have that I also have a bunch of templates, I have a program called ECE kids society, where we get together with a bunch of creative business artists over six weeks, we’ll set up dubsado together and then of course, I also help people set up dubsado.

Allie 23:54
Nice. Okay, and one more question for your Charlotte as I’m thinking this through. One thing that I kind of struggled with, that I just haven’t dug into does dubsado make it easy to take your clients and export them into some kind of email system where you can then just like have all your clients from this set subset and email them, oh, my sessions are live for the year except for example,

Charlotte 24:19
integrates with Zapier, which you could use to do that. So whether you use like MailChimp, flow desk, anything like that you could zap them from dubsado Maybe when they signed their contract or like they finished their session or delivered their photos, like you could choose a time to pop them in so that you can keep nurturing them. So very good question. Okay.

Allie 24:35
Yeah, I haven’t looked into that I know of that tool, but I haven’t looked into it much. But that is my one big gaping hole that I don’t do well with is taking them from client to then putting them on my email list so that I can remind them of future opportunities.

Charlotte 24:50
Yeah, and I mean, you can check in with them long term as well, too. I think the cool thing about photographers is people do need to work with you again and again. Like if you do more of like a wedding photography and you also offer lifestyle shoots or newborn shoots, obviously, there’s a reason to get in touch with them as their family grows, branch shoots, we all need to redo them again and again. So definitely, I think keeping in touch with your clients long term and nurturing them is both a great way of getting repeat clients and also getting referrals because they keep remembering you and seeing your free face and remembering how wonderful you

Allie 25:22
are. Yeah, absolutely. Oh, when I saw it, I mean, I did it manually, which I don’t necessarily recommend. But I did put together my email list from last year with clients and email them out just to like, let them know what’s new. But and you know, of course, I heard back from them just personal responses to which was great. But yeah, I think automating that would be wonderful. All right. Well, yeah. Oh, yeah, absolutely. So everyone, check out Charlotte. You can find them all of her information in the show notes or photo field notes.com. Go check out that free resource. Check out what she’s got going on. She’s got a lot of good stuff for you. So Charlotte, thank you for sharing and giving me something to check out. I’m gonna have to go look at Zapier again.

Charlotte 26:04
Thank you so much, Allie. It was fun to chat.

Outro 26:07
Thanks for listening. check out show notes at photo field notes.com. And if you loved this episode, leave your review on iTunes. See you next week.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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