If you’ve heard the recent rumblings about Google’s plan to make their search results better for mobile users, you might be wondering if your site meets Google’s new criteria. If you’re using SmugMug, you don’t have to worry about a thing.
You don’t need to change anything or scramble to meet their deadline. We’ve got your back!
Wait, What’s the “Google Mobile-Friendly Test?” Why Does It Matter?
Think how often you pull out your phones and other mobile devices to perform a quick Google search for something you’re dying to show someone. Ever run into results where pages scroll left or right beyond your screen? Or had to pinch-zoom a ridiculous amount just to see what’s on the page? It’s frustrating. And Google doesn’t want anyone being frustrated with their results.
So Google’s decided to reward sites that display well on mobile devices. They’ll be using a set of criteria to measure the mobile-friendliness of websites. Starting April 21, 2015, sites that meet those criteria may rank higher in mobile search results. You can test your website using the Google Mobile-Friendly Test.
Passing this test means your site could be shown higher in Google’s search results whenever someone searches using a mobile device.
We know how important it is for your website to be found, so we made sure that all SmugMug sites pass the test. You don’t need to lift a finger! (Of course, if you want to keep your site out of search results, you can do that, too.)
It doesn’t matter if you’re viewing your site on an iPod or a 4K cinema display, your design and photos will automagically fill the screen perfectly without any annoying side-scroll or zoom action.
Menu and navigation items adjust to fit the screen and are spaced out to help users avoid any mis-taps when trying to view different pages or photos on your site. Galleries automatically optimize their layout to fit mobile devices. Carousel swipes smoothly for your mobile admirers.
And we long ago overhauled our slideshows to use HTML5 instead of Flash.
New SmugMug sites have always looked stunning on mobile devices, and we tweaked a few things after Google’s announcement to ensure any New SmugMug site will pass the test with flying colors.
Tip: Be cautious when using negative margin values on SmugMug content blocks, or adding custom CSS that moves the margins off the page. This might cause your site to fail the mobile-friendly test.
In short, we did everything possible to make sure your photos always display beautifully at any size on any screen.
How Can I Improve My Search Ranking?
Now that you know you don’t have to worry about your site losing rank because of mobile-friendliness, you might be interested in learning how you can bump your rank a bit. We’ve got some great tips on making your SmugMug site more search engine–friendly and growing your organic traffic:
Add descriptive and unique titles to your folders, galleries, and pages. Keep them to the recommended length of 50-60 characters.
Keep Uploading and Sharing
We hope we’ve put your mind at ease regarding your SmugMug site and Google’s new mobile-friendly test. Keep photographing and sharing what you love and know that we always have your back.
Since today is World Smile Day (and we love to smile), we thought it was perfectly appropriate to share a few tips we’ve written that help you better create infectious grins throughout your circle of fans.
Keeping your smiles safe, sharable, and profitable:
Pros have often asked us for tools that will help sell more prints, gifts, and downloads, because occasionally your fans need a little extra push. So we’ve created a long-format tutorial (7:58) and a short-format tutorial (4:52) showing your fans how to add photos to the shopping cart, understand those framing and cropping options, and check out. Here’s the short version:
We hope that you’ll share these with your clients, or even embed them into your site so that they’re viewable at any time. Tip: Use Customize > Customize Site and drop a YouTube video Content Block onto the page. You can get the video link above.
Here’s to smoother sales at SmugMug!
P.S. Did you know that we have a 100% guarantee on all items ordered through your SmugMug galleries? If you or your customer are not happy for ANY reason, we’ll fix it or replace it for free. We mean it.
To celebrate moms, we took time to chat with a couple of our favorite photographers, Natalie Licini of Je Revele Fine Art Photography and Chrysta Rae of Chrysta Rae Photography, about how they juggle successful photography businesses with raising their family. They’ve shared a little insight into how to get the kids to the dentist and invoices in the mail, all while keeping their clients happy. Like all moms, keeping all those balls in the air is a struggle. But one that is rewarded with the best of both worlds – time with their children and paying the bills doing a job they love.
Today we’ll see their top five tips for getting everything done like a pro.
1) Make – and Stick to – a Strict Schedule
One of the biggest advantages to being your own boss is setting your own schedule. But that doesn’t mean that work has to slide into family time and vice versa. Find a balance between the responsibilities of your business and your children no matter how tough it is, especially when your office is at home and you’re truly never far from work.
I try to work Monday through Thursday and keep weekends free. Each day I wake about 8am, spend time with my children, check email, drink coffee, and then drive to our New Jersey office by 10am. We have two photo shoots per day on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday with Tuesdays reserved for client viewings (sales appointments), usually late in the day to accommodate working clients. Fridays I reserve for accounting at home. Every day I handle client inquiries and questions and head home about 5pm. Every other Saturday is date night with my hubby and every single Sunday we have dinner with my parents, brothers, aunt, and cousins. It’s my favorite day of the week. We just relax, talk about life, and enjoy the company.
I drop the kids off at school, then I’m off shooting. I can book 1 to 6 shoots a day (once I did 9, but I almost died). While I’m out, I have to find multiple addresses and deal with realtors, homeowners, builders, and managers on location. I help stage, clean houses, make small talk, shoot, and then I scoot to my next booking. I pick up my kids and take them to hockey, or go grocery shopping, or pick up their friends, etc. Both my kids love it and thrive in hockey. And in my schedule, hockey is non-negotiable. They are members of a team, and that has huge value. Nothing interferes with that. And as much as I can, I’m at each practice and every game cheering them on.
2) Stay In Focus, No Matter Where You Are
Focus on the job at hand. Be present in the moment, and with the people you’re with at that time. Give all your attention to your clients when you’re working with them, and to your family when it’s their time for your attention.
My main focus is always my boys. Their needs come first. Work is always there, so I just make sure when I’m with my kids, they know they’re my priority. I’m lucky they understand how hard I work, and that I’m doing it to better our lives. And when I’m at work, I build a true bond with all my clients. Simple things like not bringing my phone into a client’s home—it’s easy, but important. They know they’re the only focus I have while I’m with them. I ask questions and talk about my personal life; my clients truly know me and, in the end, they know they’ll get my best effort AND that I truly care about them.
3) Don’t Be Afraid to Outsource
Whether it’s help with the kids and the house, or with the non-photography tasks of your business, know when to hire an extra set of hands or two. Relinquishing control can be hard, but you’ll save that much more energy to focus on the things only you can do.
We have an au pair who lives with us. She helps with the children during the day while I’m at the office, feeding, dressing, playing with the kids, and getting them to and from school. In New York City having an au pair is more economical than day care, which costs 35-50% more. My team helps with editing, printing, writing, and preparing our clients’ orders for pickup. I’ve hired additional staff to write for Je Revele, and we have an in-house editor.
4) Love What You Do
We hear from photographers all day, every day, that they love their jobs. Keeping your heart in line with your hands is the best way to guarantee success, and that you’ll wake up every morning excited about the days ahead.
The biggest perk of doing photography for a living and raising my boys is they SEE daily that if you love something, you can find a way to make a living doing it. Work should be something that gets you out of bed in the morning, not something you press the snooze button on while dreading the day ahead of you. The bottom line is I do what I love and have found a way to make money doing it, and I also have balance with my family. Being a mom is the most important job in the world, and the most rewarding. I truly think I’m giving them a very big life lesson in finding their passion and empowering them. With enough persistence and passion, anything’s possible—it’s there for them to grab.
If you love what you do, and can pour your heart and soul into growing your business, do it! Don’t let fear hold you back. I’ve had photography mentors over the years who’ve really helped me grow and establish my business. Attend workshops with some of the masters in our industry and you’ll find your skill level improve dramatically.
5) If You’re Just Starting Out
Making the leap to start your own photography business can be the most exciting step of your life, especially if you’re coming away from being a full-time parent, or a more traditional job. Here are two final tips to keep in mind if you’re looking to go pro.
Set a timeframe. I gave myself one year: if I could pay my bills and still afford a few luxuries at the end of it, I would continue. It started up quite quickly for me; I posted on Facebook that I’d offer $50 photography sessions for families while I was still in school. It was truly just to give me things to shoot and learn “in the field.” From that one post I did hundreds of portrait sessions and, after I graduated, I was confident enough to even shoot weddings.
Network! I suggest networking with your community, business owners, moms, and dads. Always gently mention you’re a photographer and be prepared to hand them a brochure of your work. I have little accordion brochures in my purse that I give out by the dozen, thanks to a suggestion I heard on creativeLive from Sue Bryce. Rather than having someone lose my business card, I give them a brochure so they can see my work immediately. It makes a good impression that helps them make a call to book a session with me.
Do you have your own secrets to running a tight family ship? We’d love to hear them! Add your comments at the end of this article.
My name is Chrysta Rae. I’m a professional interior/real estate photographer working full time in the Edmonton, Alberta area. I have 2 amazing children, Tyson (he’s 11) and Grayden (he’s 10). The boys are in grades 5 and 4, and both play in high level hockey all winter, and both play spring hockey as well. My kids are exceptional people. They’re funny, kind, thoughtful, dorky, and loveable. I love being their Mom.
My family was first. I started photography professionally when my youngest went into grade 1. I have always been a very self-empowered business person. I previously owned a closed captioning business that ended when my youngest son was about 2. With the recession and new technology, the business just slowly died. I was a stay-at-home Mom until both kids were in school… then I needed to fill my days back up again! I had always loved photography and decided to focus my attention on it on a “professional” level. I enrolled in the New York Institute of Photography and devoured everything I could to learn every single thing I could about every aspect of it.
I was born and raised in New York City. I reside there with my husband and 3 children. We have 2 girls ages 5 and 4 and our son is 11 months old and already walking. Yay! My daughters are in dance, piano and have singing lessons. It’s busier than it sounds, but we have a manageable schedule.
I opened my business 6 months after my first child was born in 2008. I started photographing clients using backdrops in my basement in 2008. In 2011, I left my full time job and moved to my first studio. Then in 2012, I rebranded and opened our flagship studio in a historic New Jersey Castle.
Hey there, Portfolio and Business photographers: We’ve heard that a lot of you didn’t know that you could make money selling digital files on SmugMug. And maybe there are those of you who did know, but still weren’t sure about how to get going.
Your photo clients may not always be looking for just traditional paper prints. So we’re here to show you that with just a few extra clicks, you can start selling digital photos and videos in addition to your usual physical print items.
At SmugMug, we’re all about supporting your business and we love to help you succeed. Today’s guest post is by our longtime SmugMug customer and successful full-time professional photographer, Kathy Rappaport. She is CEO (Chief Everything Officer) at Flash Frozen Photography Inc. in Woodland Hills, California. For many years she kept her pencil sharp as an Accountant and honed her Marketing and Operational skills as a VP in Bank Management. She’s a QuickBooks Certified Advisor and consults with photographers on best business practices when she isn’t photographing families, children, dogs and women in lingerie (though usually not all at the same time). So, we were thrilled when she shared her tips with us, and we wanted to share them with you.
The US Small Business Administration says that 80% of small businesses fail in the first five years. So what are some good business practices for photographers so they don’t fail? Or better yet, so they succeed? Here are a few of mine!
1) Good Accounting!
If the reason you work is to make money, then you’d better track how much you make, how much things cost, who owes you money and how much you owe the government. My favorite solution is QuickBooks. It comes in Mac and PC Flavors and even Online and mobile editions now. My personal favorite is the Premier Edition (which is for PC) because you can track your costs and customers in detail. There are many good features to the program like customized invoices, sales tax tracking, customer tracking, inventory and product sales. It’s pretty easy to learn and maintain. Take care of your money and it will take care of you! There are other solutions, but, this is reasonable and comprehensive. And way better than a shoebox.
2) Good Pricing!
“My camera is paid for and I love to shoot so anyone who pays me something is my client.” Well, just because people pay you doesn’t make you a professional. A Professional has a business license, insurance and charges money for their products and services. You have to have good accounting to figure out good pricing. A good place to start is to figure out how much a fair hourly wage is for your skill level. Then multiply that times three or four. Why? Your camera will need replacement, your lenses will surely need service, your cost of business (like insurance, props, gas, supplies, your phone, printer , software, internet) are a part of price you charge. Don’t forget some of your time is spent on editing and finishing your work. You need to include saving for your future. Your retirement, taxes, and replacing your equipment. You can add up your costs and figure out a daily/weekly/hourly rate plus time to arrive at a price that will keep you in business.
3) Good Customer Service!
I hear over and over from some so-called professional photographers that it’s not necessary to call customers back or that they wait weeks to deliver work. If they have some miscommunication they send an email. The best thing you can do is be omnipresent to your clients. Respond NOW. Call if there is a problem. Knock their socks off and they’ll tell their friends. Disappoint them and they’ll tell the world. Underpromise and overdeliver. Find something special to say thank you. Maybe an extra print from the merchandise selection of your SmugMug catalog. Even a handwritten greeting card says you care.
4) Have a Good Plan!
Don’t just have an idea and implement it right away. Think about it. Plan it out in the form of a business plan. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Plan your marketing efforts, your customer service initiative, and your business goals. Make a calendar and a task list. Plan out the amount of money you want to make, how to get there and budget it out. It’s like taking a cross country trip without having a road map if you do things by the seat of your pants.
As a solopreneur, you shouldn’t do it all. You do need to get legal advice and accounting advice. You can get contracts online, but, they might not be right for your situation. Same with accounting. You should never take everyone’s advice when it comes to accounting and taxes. They are really personalized. Find out what kind of entity you should be. I hear S Corp and LLC all the time as advice but they really might be wrong for you and cost you big time in the tax department. You might have some graphics skills, but, a good printer and graphic designer will present your work to make you stand out. Maybe you even need to hire someone to train you in how to do something so you can do it properly instead of guessing. I don’t know the first thing about HTML and having an expert handy makes me sleep better at night knowing that everything is right.
6) Do Things the Official Way!
Don’t be a scofflaw. Get your location permits, business license; your DBA, carry liability Insurance, your Sales Tax License, your tax Identification number. Go to your local chamber of commerce or accountant and see what you need to do to be a real business. Not having those things can cause you to have penalties, interest, fines, or expensive legal and accounting fees. If people pay you to photograph, then the end result is you have a business. The IRS says you have to file a tax return if someone pays you as little as $400.00.
Practice your craft. Up your game. Take care of yourself. In your marketing plan you should be out there meeting people both inside and outside the industry. Learn about business just as much as you spend time learning about the latest lighting techniques. Up your game and keep improving and learning. Read good business books. You will never know everything, but don’t stop adding to your bag of tricks. Challenge yourself to reach for the stars. I know you can do it.
Landscape photographer and pro educator Varina Patel is one of those people we all aspire to be. From the mountains to the deserts, she travels around the globe chasing the light and enlightening photographers near and far. We’ve long been inspired by her incredibly varied and inspiring blog posts, eBooks and workshops, as well as her ability to keep her photo education company running smoothly and in sync with her husband, Jay Patel. We talked with Varina about how to keep your photo business blooming year after year. Here’s what she suggests.
Jay and I may be a husband and wife team – but we are running a business together. It’s so easy to lose sight of the goal in the face of the day-to-day requirements of running a business… especially when you have lots of other responsibilities that require your attention. In order to keep things running smoothly, we have monthly meetings where we discuss our plans for the upcoming month. We decide which projects are worth extra time, and which ones need to be scaled back. We look at our sales and financial data and decide where we should focus our efforts. We make sure we are working towards the same goals – and that we are never working at cross-purposes.
Don’t be afraid to change your plans.
Of course, having a solid business plan is important… but plans should be fluid. Don’t be afraid to change your plans as your business opportunities shift. Jay and I are constantly re-establishing priorities as we navigate the ever-changing world of photography. Stock photography was a productive business for us at one time – but as the market became more and more saturated, we found that our efforts weren’t paying off as well as they had been. So, we tested new waters. We taught workshops, wrote eBooks, photographed events, submitted images to magazines… and as our business grew, we found out where we could make the most of our limited time. Right now, our focus is on eBooks and short workshops – and as times change, we will continue to refine our goals and shift our plans to meet the ever-changing needs of our business.
Know your own strengths – and your weaknesses.
I can’t emphasize this enough. It’s important to know what you are good at – but knowing your weaknesses is equally important. Heck – maybe it’s even more important. When you are aware of a weakness, you need to focus your attention on it. Nobody said running a business is easy. If you aren’t good at handling your finances, do some research, take a class, or hire someone to do it for you. If you want to write eBooks but your grammar and spelling is terrible – hire an editor. Need a good website, but you don’t know a thing about design or ecommerce? Call on the SmugMug Support Super Heroes. ;) Ignoring the problem isn’t a solution… and it can cause all kinds of headaches in the future.
Use social media to build a relationship with your clients.
Social networks are incredible marketing tool that offer small businesses like ours an opportunity to be noticed among corporate giants with enormous budgets. We don’t have to spend a dime to connect with millions of people who are interested in what we are offering. Our foray into social media began with our blog. I spent more than a year writing regular blog posts before people really started to pay attention. There were lots of times when I thought maybe my efforts were wasted, but I knew that quitting was the surest way to fail… so I kept plugging along. Over time, more and more people began to comment and subscribe. During that time, I started posting on Facebook too. Pretty soon, I had a pretty solid collection of “fans” who would leave comments and share my photographs. When Google+ came along, I didn’t hesitate. This was a whole new experience. Suddenly, photographers were having in-depth discussions about everything from composition to marketing – and people were adding us to their circles at a fantastic rate. Best of all, we were really getting to know some of these people! They were becoming our friends. They were recommending our work to others, signing up for our workshops and webinars, and buying our eBooks! We met some of them in person, went shooting with them, and got to know them on a personal level. Those experiences took social networking beyond marketing. Now, we are a part of a dynamic community of photographers who exchange ideas and inspiration.
Look for ways to minimize content creation and maximize content consumption.
So yes. Social media is a great tool. But it can be your downfall, too. Don’t let it consume you! The trick is to find ways to minimize the amount of time you spend creating content for social media – while maximizing the consumption of that content. What does that mean?
Well – we only have a limited amount of time to spend writing blog posts, updating our websites, posting on Twitter or Facebook or Google+. And yet – we want to be sure that the content we create is seen by as many people as possible, right? So, if I write one blog post, I want to make sure everyone knows it’s out there. I need to get it to my followers on Facebook, my fans on Google+, my subscribers on Twitter – in short, I need to make sure it’s as visible as possible.
Right now, we create almost all of our new content on my blog or on Google+. Content from the blog on my website is automatically syndicated to Jay’s website and our other social media platforms. (Ideally, a single source of content would be preferable… but Google+ doesn’t provide means for automatic syndication yet. In order to share with our very large audience on Google+, we need to manually share a link or copy and paste content to our streams.) Automatic syndication lets us send out our content to twitter, facebook, and our RSS subscribers without an additional effort on our part. So we create the content once, and everyone knows it’s there. The process takes discipline and forethought – but you can make social networks work for you.
Know your target audience.
Take some time to decide who your customers are. Are you selling prints to art collectors? Writing eBooks for budding photographers? Teaching beginners to use their cameras? Look at your strengths, determine what you want to be doing – and then decide who you are targeting. Jay and I know that our primary audience is other photographers – people who want to learn how to use their camera. So, we target our posts to appeal to those people. We include brief tips in every blog posts. We speak in a variety of forums – sharing knowledge with large groups of people so they can get to know us and our teaching styles… and share our names with their friends. And we are always looking for ways to reach out to the photographic community – even this article is part of that effort.
Make sure you are valuable to your customers.
Maybe this is obvious, but it’s absolutely critical. If you purchase one of my eBooks, I want you to come back and purchase another, right? And the only way you are going to do that is if you really feel that the eBook was valuable to you. So, we work hard to make sure that we pack those books full of information. We regularly go back and review older books to make them better, and we are constantly looking for more knowledge so we can share it with others. Workshops are no different. We want our students to go home feeling like they are better photographers than they were before they arrived… and more importantly, we want them to be confident in their ability to repeat the techniques we’ve taught. As nice as it is to come away from a workshop with some amazing photographs – what we really want to do is teach people to take amazing photographs when they are on their own and we’re not around to help out. So, figure out what your customers want, and work to make sure that you are providing that. Doing so will translate to more clients, more sales, and more word-of-mouth advertising.
Act like a professional.
I think too many photographers forget how important it is to present themselves as professionals. I’m not talking about business suits and corporate accounts. It’s really not that difficult. Start with a well-designed website that works well. Design a simple logo and print up some business cards. Respond to emails and queries in a professional manner – it’s ok to be casual, but don’t be sloppy or rude! And perhaps most importantly, present only your very best work! Don’t just stick photos up there to fill gallery space. It’s better to have a small collection of really great shots than a huge collection of mediocre ones.
Learn More about Photography from Jay and Varina Patel
If you’re looking for more inspiration, photography tips, education and webinar workshops, visit Jay and Varina’s blog over at Photography by Varina. And use this exclusive discount code to get 10% off any eBook order over $20: SMUGMUG314