The other day, I was having a discussion with Emily Madigan, a local digital consultant and one of our go-tos for tech and organizational system expertise. We were trying to imagine a time before we did everything “in the cloud,” and honestly, what we kept coming back to was, “How did we ever do it before?!” From asset sharing to live collaborations on pitch decks, most of Grey House’s business is conducted via cloud-based software. Even in our hiring process for a new Studio Manager, one of the questions on our application asks after familiarity with our favorite apps, since so much of that job relies on virtual operations. With Emily as one of our advisors, here’s how we make it work for us — and perhaps how the photographers, directors, and agents out there can make it work for you, too. P.S.: Even if you run most of your business on the cloud, don’t forget the importance of running a hard drive backup. Our new favorite, CrashPlan (thanks, Emily!), is — you guessed it — cloud-based.
Our central “Hub”
Emily (and, really any business manager) always underscores the importance of having a Client Relations Manager system (CRM), and Hubspot is ours. Colleen from The Crew Consultants helped us get ours up and running, and Emily is helping us be more efficient with how we use it. Right now, we use it as a place to store client history and contacts so that when we go to a particular city, we can see who lives there, pull emails for marketing, and so forth. But really, we’re just scratching the surface. Hubspot acts as the main communication space for your business, and it’s got loads of features: email tracking, contact management, storing documents, meeting scheduling, email-campaign automation and templates, blog post management, and creating task lists for project management purposes. Hubspot excels at not only organizing your information, but also creating content such as templates, ads, and forms. All told, it’s a great way to look at the stages of where you’re at with a particular job — or a client — in terms of tracking paper trails, communication history, and planning next steps.
File Storage & Server
As Emily has said, “[G-Suite] is just becoming more and more a one-stop shop to running your business. And I’m not mad about it.” We use it for everything — from email to creating documents and spreadsheets, asset tracking, and talent management as an alternative to traditional file folders or even desktop management, so that anyone from our team can log in from anywhere. We love that you’re able to customize things like calendars, and it has a great layer of security that Google’s constantly improving upon. And, the drive is where our coveted (and custom) food map lives.
Storage & sharing
Storing and sharing files is obviously a huge part of our business. Right now, we predominantly use Google Drive, and one thing Emily’s helping us with is migrating odd ends on Dropbox to Drive completely. One major advantage to Drive, of course, is that it’s compliant with the entire G-Suite system. But we don’t want to alienate clients who might prefer Dropbox, so we’re maintaining presences on both systems. Really, it comes down to personal preference, and we always want our clients to be comfortable and confident with the way in which we share our work. In terms of digital asset management, that’s another biggie — and something we plan to explore in detail in a blog post down the line.
For project management, we just switched from Asana to ClickUp. Asana wasn’t allowing us to organize data in multiple ways, which is obviously a key part of our business. The beauty of ClickUp (beyond being beautiful!) is that you can assign tasks and due-dates; it’s very robust. We’re still in the early stages of learning it, but it’s already a lot better than anything we’ve used before.
We know a lot of people use QuickBooks, but we are migrating away from it in Q4, and into Xero. Without paying $75 a month, QuickBooks doesn’t allow you to tag expenses on a per-job basis, so for us, there wasn’t a good way to look at which expenses were operational and which were associated with cost of goods sold on a job-by-job basis. It’s just not conducive to our business model. With Xero, we can do all of that and it’s a bit prettier. Emily and I have laughed about this, but it’s so true: there’s a lot to show for apps that are easy on the eyes. As she points out, if you don’t like how something looks, you’re not going to look at it! Bonus: Xero recently acquired the receipt tracking app HubDoc, which is what we use in house to track receipts for productions and our business.
Keep an eye out for a deep dive into our biggest “cloud”: digital asset management. We’ll be sharing our tips and tricks for tracking tens of thousands of photos while keeping everything safe and secure.