Well, here we are in the holiday season. And with it come sales for such fun reason. But where should we spend money where it’s wise? The answer may come as quite a surprise. So put down the cameras, lenses, and gear. Do things differently and invest in yourself this year.

Okay, enough with the rhyming. And in all seriousness, investing in ourselves and our business is extremely important. But what does it mean to invest in yourself? The answer may be different for everyone. For some, it may be automating business workflows in order to find more time to attract clients, while some may need to outsource some of their editing in order to spend more time with their families. Whatever the case, we should all agree that personal investment is key in being a successful and happy business owner.

To help provide a better idea of ways to invest in yourself, I’ve put together 3 ways to invest in yourself and start increasing productivity.

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1. Automated Business Systems

Companies like Pixifi, Sprout Studios, Tave, and 17Hats are all studio management systems that allow you to set up automated workflows for common tasks. By setting up these workflows, you’ll be able to stop focusing on mundane tasks such as emailing with information about engagement session attire and focus on other areas of your business that may be lacking.

As an example, from the moment I receive an inquiry to the moment I deliver my clients’ final image gallery, the majority of my workflow is completely automated without me having to do a thing. I have created different workflows for different types of inquiries, both as leads and as booked clients. All I have to do is select which type of client they are and which workflow to apply. From there, my studio management system takes care of the rest. As a lead, they receive all relevant information to their inquiry, samples of my work, links to reviews, and a booking proposal. Once they book, the system switches over and applies a new workflow based around which photography package they have decided on.  From that moment to the point they receive their final image gallery, they will receive 20+ emails outlining best practices, delivering questionnaires, invoices and any other information they need. And you know what I’m doing while all of this is happening? Focusing on other aspects of my business that command my undivided attention.

My two favorite studio management options out there today are Sprout Studio and Pixifi. Both have unmatched customer service and are constantly coming out with new features to make your life easier.

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2. Outsourcing

The idea of outsourcing editing and leaving it in the hands of someone else is scary but has quite possibly been the best investment I’ve made for both my business and personal life. Before outsourcing my editing, I was somehow juggling shooting and editing 30+ weddings and 30+ engagement sessions every season while still holding client meetings, running a local photography group, shooting headshots, doing various other side jobs, and also spending time with my wife and kids. I was busy…and not in a good way.

By handing the editing off to someone else, I have saved countless hours sitting behind my computer. This year alone I went from spending 60-80 hours a week in my office to about 30 hours of working at a desk each week. And for me, it opened an entire summer dedicated to playing with my kids and going on family day trips.

There are many options out there for outsourcing your photos. I’ve tried them all and for my business, the best option is The Image Salon due to their attention to detail and ability to consistently match my shooting style.

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3. Workshops

Continuing education is extremely important in the photography industry and workshops, both in person and online, are a great way to invest in yourself. But with so many different workshops available, how do you know you’re making the right investment? Sifting through all of the options out there can certainly be daunting, but the important thing is for you to hone in and choose the option that best suits your current needs. Are you struggling with lighting or posing? There’s a workshop for that. Do you need to be pushed outside of your comfort zone to create more dynamic images for your clients? There’s a workshop for that, too. What about the back end? Are you constantly banging your head against the wall because you don’t feel like your business is running as smoothly as it could? Well guess what…there’s a workshop for that as well! There are literally endless options out there for stepping up your game, both on the business and shooting side.

View More: http://shannoncronin.pass.us/boss

So how do you find these workshops? First, find who inspires you or someone from whom you feel you have a lot to learn. Check their website to see if they have any information about workshops they may offer. If that doesn’t work, contact them directly and ask. If they are from your local area, they may offer 1-on-1 coaching or even have a workshop that is yet to be announced. The next step is to ask the community. There are countless groups on Facebook dedicated to photography and often if you ask about specific workshops you will end up with a multitude of options geared towards your needs.

Or if in person workshops aren’t for you there are always online options.  Resources such as SLR Lounge have created a ton of online content for you to learn from, and I can personally attest to the high level of education you will receive. Check out some of the SLR Lounge workshop DVD’s here. Right now through the holidays, everything in the SLR Store is 30% off. Use the code: happyholidays30 at checkout.

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Also, be sure to check out the following articles for some of our recommended workshops: PHOTOGRAPHY COURSES: 5 ESSENTIAL COURSES FOR EVERY BEGINNER and PHOTOGRAPHY COURSES: 5 ESSENTIAL COURSES FOR PROFESSIONALS.

No matter where you are in your career there always options out there for you to invest in yourself and push your craft.  The important thing is for you to sit down and look at yourself critically to find the places you need to grow most.  Once you understand where you’re lacking, you’ll be able to focus on those areas and become a better photographer and business person.

I’d love to hear from you!  What are some areas of personal investment you have found the most worthwhile?  Inquiring minds want to know.