How Nellie Quail retooled her photography workflow with Focal in a single day

Habits are funny things. We often develop them without much thought. We brush our teeth a certain way, laugh a certain way, put on our pant legs in a certain order, merely because… well, that’s how we’ve always done it. 

But the sneaky thing about habits is they exist in all facets of our lives. And it’s the ones we think least about that can get us into trouble over time.

In photography, it’s not surprising to meet professionals — even remarkably skilled ones — without an organized workflow. It’s a busy job. You’re wearing twenty different hats and only one involves holding the camera. There’s an oft-repeated phrase that running a business is like building a plane while you fly it. You have to react. Quickly. But, even with the best intentions, that often comes at the expense of proactive thinking.

A happy couple shares a moment of joy. Photo by Nellie Quail Photography.
Credit: Nellie Quail Photography
"A crazy idea”

Nellie Quail is the kind of family photographer clients love: genuine, kind, and with an eye for bringing her customers’ creative vision to life. A mother of four based in Victoria, she’d developed a steady client base through fellow mums on Facebook. But between raising her young kids and shooting in the evenings, she’d never had the chance to build herself a solid workflow.

“It was frustrating,” Quail says of her prior approach. She’d receive inquiries via Facebook, email, and Instagram, and handle payments via e-transfer. Keeping it all sorted required digging through emails and instant messages to recall who had paid, who hadn’t, and who’d booked what and when.

“You’d get the oddball that came from somewhere out of left field, and you’d have no idea how they got your contact information,” she says.

Her old way of doing things wasn’t cutting it anymore; her business had outgrown it:

“Trying to manage 80 [bookings] on a spreadsheet seemed like a crazy idea.”

It’s a common issue for photographers — one of the core problems we designed Focal to solve.

"All right there, ready to go”

When we met Nellie in mid-October, she was gearing up for Christmas minis.

In the course of a few weekends, she would be fielding dozens of bookings — each with different time slots and customers. Digging through 47 different email and Facebook message chains to find which customers had paid and which ones hadn’t would’ve been a nightmare. Nobody loves their inbox that much. She needed something easier. Something professional.

We gave her a demo of Focal and told her how we thought it’d help her. The changes would be twofold:

  1. Simplifying the booking process for her and her clients
  2. Managing her bookings in a professional, organized way

Read more: 3 ways to fix your photography website

To her credit, she was quick to get on board. Within the first few minutes of the demo, she was putting together Sessions and connecting her Focal portfolio to her website. 

A father and his two kids pose for Christmas photos. Photo by Nellie Quail Photography.
Credit: Nellie Quail Photography

"It was much easier,” says Quail. Everything was “all right there for me, ready to go. I don’t have to dig it out of somewhere.”

Cue the floodgates

That evening, we noticed Nellie send off her first booking with Focal. Instead of a Facebook post or a .pdf with an e-transfer request, it gave the customer a slick, personalized booking page with a payment link. The client paid within minutes.

“It worked really well,” says Quail. “Everything was filtered right [to my dashboard], and I was able to sort and filter and manage all the clients and dates and times and payments all in one spot.”

Soon, she was getting well over a dozen booking inquiries a week.

When customers paid — which they often did immediately or within a few hours — they received an automated email confirming their payment, with a public booking page where they could reference their session and read up on any FAQs.

Plus, it was good for Quail’s bottom line: she booked well over 30 sessions in a matter of days.

“It’s been fantastic,” she says. “If anyone asks for my prices, I send them right to [my] Focal [portfolio].”

Find out why Nellie Quail is part of a growing contingent of photographers who trust Focal for their business.

See How Focal Works

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