During the past few months, I’ve been working hard to increase the efficiency of my photography business with a new MacPro, lots of new new software upgrades and new methods for completing many of my daily tasks like writing bids, keeping accurate records and billing clients.
Not that I was horribly inefficient before then, it’s just that as I get continue to get busier, every little inefficiency is magnified by ten fold. The few minutes that I was spending writing out an assignment estimate or typing in the terms of a stock photo usage was time not spent editing images, marketing myself or creating new work.
And, when I bought my new Mac, a very important change occurred. No more Classic Environment.
Over ten years ago, using FileMakerPro v2.1, I had created a series of custom databases for all my client contacts and accounting. I used these to keep track of all my records. However, when I finally upgraded to OS X Leopard, I was suddenly faced with a choice: Either spend $300 bucks on the latest version of FileMaker Pro (I had never bothered to upgrade) or look for a new system.
I chose to look for a new system, and after looking at a number of options, I decided on Blinkbid.
Why? Because photographer Lou Lesko and his team have come up with a REALLY useable and sensible program for estimates, billing and invoicing that allows me to create, save and print jobs in a fraction of the time that it took me to complete these tasks before. It’s already used by thousands of photographers and it’s endorsed by groups such as National Geographic, ASMP, Editorial Photographers and NPPA.
Designed as a complete bidding and billing solution for creative professionals, Blinkbid is a FileMaker Pro based program that incredibly easy to use and powerful enough to let you customize it to suit your specific needs. What makes it so fast and easy is that the specific language that covers all kinds of image licensing, usage rights, territories and fee categories that include everything from studio and location fees, travel, insurance, production charges, stylists and more is built right into the program.
When you go to create an estimate or an invoice, you simply enter the client, fill in the job description and then select the dropdown categories that apply to the job. It literally takes seconds to write up the license, because you don’t need to actually write it, you just click the applicable options and hit enter and the proper license is added right to your form.
And although Blinkbid is not a photography pricing program, the latest version does include a new feature called Bid Consultant, which acts as a pricing guide. It won’t quote an exact price, but if you’re unsure about how much to charge for a specific type of shoot, it can at least help get you in the right neighborhood so that you don’t severely over or undercharge your client. I’m really excited about this feature, because, let’s face it, pricing jobs is not always easy.
Sure, I probably could have just upgraded my version of FileMaker Pro and made my own client and billing database, but I don’t really have time to do that. Although in the past, I tried to be resourceful and do everything myself, I’m learning that in certain areas, it’s much more efficient to take advantage of the innovations that others provide. This is one area where it makes perfect sense to go with a pre-made system that not only works, but that works really well.
I downloaded the 14-day trial version of Blinkbid, but after seeing how well the program worked, I went ahead and bought the full version. It’s made a huge difference in my business efficiency, and At $229, it’s already paid for itself many times over with the jobs that I’ve bid and billed with it.