Esther de Boer is the Founder of ShootZilla, a workflow tool for photographers in which they can manage their clients and all their recurring tasks with ease. She is also a business coach for photographers and loves to help people achieve more in less time and with more fun!
In this episode, we talk about blogging and workflow. But also, Esther asks listeners a fantastic question which you have the opportunity to answer. Listen or watch the episode for the question.
WordPress/Photography Related News:
- Imagely officially recommends Imagify as the WordPress image compression plugin of choice.
- WooCommerce released an update which reduces the requirement for theme compatibility.
- SmartSlides now has beat matching.
- Lightly Theme
- Yoast SEO
- Lightroom Plugin
- Thrive Themes Plugins
- Fixed Widget Plugin
- Lead Generation
Where to find Esther:
Transcription was done by Rev.com
Scott: Welcome to Episode 54. My name is Scott Wyden Kivowitz, and I'm joined by my guest Esther de Boer. Esther is the founder of ShootZilla, a work flow tool for photographers where they manage their clients and all their recurring tasks with ease. She's also a business coach for photographers and loves to help people achieve more in less time and with more fun. Ester, welcome to the show. I'm glad to have you. We recently connected on Instagram, so it's nice to be able to get you on the show, you know, fairly quick, and also, we're on very different time zones. This was a little tricky to get us synced up the right way, but I'm glad we were able to make things work with some moving things around. So welcome.
Esther: Thanks. Thanks for having me, Scott. It's good to be here.
Scott: Yeah, totally. So, before we dive in to what's going on with you and ShootZilla, let's talk about some WordPress photography related news. First, Imagely, the company behind this podcast, officially recommends Imagify as the WordPress image compression plug in of choice. We went through, or I should say I went through, all the most popular image compression plug in. I spent one month testing all the plug ins extensively, and I did this big round-up article about it, and compared what's good and bad for photographers in each of these most popular ones. I even compared it to JPEGmini, which is a photographer's choice for computer, for desktop image compression, for Windows and Mac.
Scott: At the end of the day, we found that Imagify was the ideal choice. It was also the closest to JPEGmini as far as not over compressing, and a beautiful user experience, and things like that. We are proud to actually partner with Imagify for this, and so now, right into the NextGEN Gallery. If you don't have an image compression plug in installed, you can install Imagify with one click. It'll install and activate it. You can then sign up for Imagify, and it will compress anything you upload to the media library, and also anything you upload to the NextGen Gallery as well. There's an article linked to the show notes that talks more about this, and actually what it means for you as a NextGEN Gallery user. What it actually means in terms of compressing your front end images, not compressing you back ups, which is important, so things like that. We talk all about that.
Scott: Next is WooCommerce, if anybody uses WooCommerce. They just released a big update, which actually reduces the requirement for theme compatibility. This is huge because WooCommerce has always been ... you've been forced to use a theme that is compatible with WooCommerce. If you didn't, you would get an error saying it isn't compatible. It'll still work, but it won't look right. They're starting a process to reduce the requirement for theme compatibility. It still requires theme compatibility but its less required, less of the templates are required to be compatible. Hopefully, as they keep pushing out these updates, it'll make it less and less required tool until eventually it doesn't matter what theme you're using. That would be the ideal thing for WooCommerce to do.
Scott: At last, our friends at SmartSlides has just added something that was talked about in episode 38, and that is beat matching. So now, if you create a slideshow video in SmartSlides, you can actually choose the audio you want and turn on beat matching and it tells you if you need to upload more images or remove some images to make it so that the images change along with the music automatically, so you don't have to set three second intervals or four second ... it'll automatically do it depending on the song that you're using. That's a beautiful feature. It was talked about literally on episode 38 of the podcast. This is now episode 54, so it's been a while, but they got it out, and it's a big feature. I'm really happy for the team at SmartSlides for this achievement. Good job, guys.
Scott: Alright, so Esther, what is new with you, with ShootZilla, what's going on in your world?
Esther: All right. Maybe a short introduction of what ShootZilla actually is, cause people probably have no idea.
Esther: Imagine this. You have done three weddings in a row, you come back, and your head is filled with all that is due and all the emails that are coming in from new shoots and new clients. You just don't know where to start. You're like, "okay, I just have to edit all my weddings, and get it over with." Imagine then this scenario: you come home, you still have the same three weddings, you do all your backups, you just open your Macintosh or whatever you're using, and you see this neat dashboard, where you see all your green lights from all your jobs that are still going on, and you know that you're actually good to go. You only have to click one little icon to send out an email for questionnaire or something, but you're good. All your clients are managed. You know they're managed because you know your work flow in detail. That's basically what ShootZilla does for clients. It's managing their work flow with all the little tasks that come between acquiring to all the way at the end of the final delivery of the images.
Esther: What's new is we are doing new features every month, so nothing real big and fancy at the moment. What is new for me is that I'm also working on a little online course, 'How to blog successfully for photographers.' So, that's new with me.
Scott: That's something that we talk about a lot on the show is what photographers should blog about and what kind of blogging work flow should you have and how to come up with topic ideas and good things like that. A lot of photographers are still just scared of blogging, so hopefully, the course you're building will help ease their minds and make it easier for them to actually start the process or bring back the process if they used to do it in the past.
Scott: I can't wait to see you launch that because that'll be really good for photographers. It was never enough, you know, business related courses out there for photographers-
Esther: Yeah, I know.
Scott: Cause there's so much of the equipment and technical non-business side of photography, in far as courses go, so the industry needs more business related, you know, courses.
Esther: Yeah. It needs to make it easy. That's what I'm saying about I want to help starters achieve more in less time and with more fun. That's really important to me. I know when your head is full of the things that you want to think about, and you don't want to forget, and this and that, and then suddenly you have it all in a system. It's like mind blowing for people, and they are getting so happy with that. That's what I want to achieve with blogging as well. Make it really easy and really natural. Yeah. You mentioned that, and that's definitely something I pay a lot of attention to. Next to that, I also pay a lot of attention to how to actually blog with return on investment on your time because there is a lot of time going into your blog. You have to select all the images, write a little text, whatever methods you choose and how to do it, you want to have some return on investment. We go into that-
Scott: Yeah I think that's one of the things that a lot of photographers are skeptical over because they could be doing so much with their quote, unquote, free time, for their business activity. Why is blogging important ... to me, blogging is essential as a business marketing tool. It's just a matter of each photographer finding out, you know, what is the ROI, the return on investment, for their time blogging for their specific business. The ROI is going to be different for wedding photographers versus a boudoir photographer versus a commercial photographer. Everybody has to find their own. Are you going to be helping them to determine their ROI, or just teach them what the ROI could be?
Esther: I'm going to teach them what the ROI could be, and help them take the steps. Very practical to take the steps to get results from your blogs.
Scott: Great. Great. Let's talk about some blogging stuff right now. You are a fan of using a sidebar on a blog. Now I, about three years ago, completely removed my sidebar ... I'm using other methods of getting people to book me to get more leads and things like that. I'm really curious, and I'm sure all the photographers listening or watching that have a side bar, would love to learn how they can use their side bar, that right now may be nothing for them, in order to increase bookings. Tell us about some of that kind of fun stuff.
Esther: First of all, I want you to get in the frame of mind of your visitor. Usually, the visitor from your blog is someone from Google who typed in a key word, like 'getting married' in blah, blah, blah. You know, a wedding and then a wedding venue. That's what they call a long-term keyword, and that's what people type into Google. Now, they come to your blog from the Google search engine where there are multiple results. You only have one shot at hooking this customer on your blog page, so that's why I think it's super important to treat your blog page like some kind of a very simple homepage, where you literally want to hook your customer. Now how do you do that?
Esther: The old situation, or people who don't have sidebars, and don't have all the trick that you're using, Scott ... they usually see a long list of photos, and they love it, and then they come to the end, and in the worst scenarios, there's nothing. There's no feature-
Esther: There's nothing. So they just close the tab and go on to the next Google search engine result, which is what I would do.
Scott: Yeah. It's funny. I run a Facebook group called WordPress for Photographers, and the past three weeks now I've been doing one to two, sometimes even three or four, website critiques for members of the groups. It's so funny how often that comes up as like, why so many images? So many images. Then, at Imagify, we own Best of Wedding Photography, and tons of wedding photographers are doing the same thing. Yeah, I see it all the time, and it kind of, you know, drives me bonkers, but you know, you give feedback when you can. Anyway, keep going. Sorry to interrupt.
Esther: What I always advise people is to use that sidebar as some kind of little homepage. You tell something about yourself. Not that you're a photographer because people already know that. You put your headshot there, and not behind the camera because people already know that you're a photographer. Let them get to know you. Let them get to actually feel emotions when they see you. If you're a man or a wife, or how you say that a girl or boy, they wanna know who they're dealing with. A little bit of a bio, what you do, what is special about you, what do you like, and people can have that instant click with you. If you like dogs or yoga, people who have dogs or yoga will like you more. It's just scientifically proven, so use that sidebar and get those people that visit your website to say yes, yes, yes. That's what you want.
Esther: There are more elements you can put on your sidebar. Anyone who has read the book from Cialdini Influence knows that people are influenced by social proof. So put one of our testimonials there with real faces, with real image of real couple or shoot that you did for a family. We need testimonial, social proof. If you say from yourself about yourself that you're good doesn't mean nearly as much when a real client says the same thing.
Scott: You know, one thing that is talked about a lot in a lot of photography education is weddings, so every so often, whenever possible, when something like this comes up, I like to try to bring in a different niche. I'm going to relate what you just said to pet photography because I have something in my head that I think will make sense to anyone listening who does pet photography. One thing that I would do if I was a pet photographer, or a family portrait photographer who always incorporated the pets, if that was my niche, whatever it is ... animals, instead of a headshot, what I would do, and instead of just social proof, what I would do is each of the testimonials would be a photo that my assistant or my wife or whoever it is, took a picture of me shaking the dog's hand, right? Every time it rotated, it was me shaking a different dog's hand. Just doing paw, you know?
Scott: That is your connection to the owner's pet. That is showing that you make a connection. You're good with the animal. If there's a testimonial attached to it, you now have that from the actual pet owner that you can connect more with whoever is browsing your site. You can make it more than just a headshot. You can incorporate real world emotion and connection into whatever you're doing in that sidebar.
Esther: Yeah, that is brilliant.
Esther: Because pet owners ... that would be one of the objections of pet owners. What if he doesn't like my dog?
Scott: Right. Yup
Esther: You take that objection straight out of there. That's great-
Esther: A couple of more things you can do is people want to know that you're credible, so you can offer some logos for credibility. Maybe you're a member of an association, maybe your work has been published. Just put those logos there, and you have instant credibility. Just like that.
Scott: Yeah. That's true.
Esther: Like I said, when you browse all the way down and there's nothing to go to, you want to have a call to action there. You want to have a means for people, a method for how they can follow you, how they can stay in touch. Maybe they're not ready to buy yet, but maybe they can follow you on Facebook, or subscribe to your email news group, letter.
Scott: For sure. For sure. Heres a question for you. Speaking of ... earlier when you said, as you scroll down, there is a large list of images, right? There's a giant list of images. A lot of the time photographers don't put any content with the pictures. They just put images. In the sidebar, in most WordPress themes, the way they are designed, the sidebar is fixed in position. It's up at the top. It doesn't stay as you scroll, you lose the sidebar. Right? At some point, depending on how many images you have, you'll lose the sidebar. I don't mean like lost it, it's just out of view because it goes back at the top. Do you recommend, for when someone is using a theme like this, to use a plug in that will fix it in place so that it's always visible as you scroll?
Esther: Yeah, that would be perfect. I didn't even know such a plug in existed. But yes, for sure.
Scott: Oh. The one that I've used when I've come into this sort of situation where it was needed. For example, unrelated to photography, my family is in the process of adopting our second child, and the website that I built for our adoption actually uses a plug in called Q2W3, and I will be sure to link to this in the show notes. Q2W3 Fixed Widget.
Scott: Basically, all it does is that it adds a little check box called Fixed Widget inside every widget that is available on your site. You drag that into your sidebar, and check that fixed widget checkbox, hit save, and now your widget will stay in position. There's also settings for the plug in, so if you're finding it's a little ... scrolling at the wrong time, or fix at the wrong time, or it's being weird on mobile, you can adjust some of the settings to make it, you know, fine tuned for your devices and your website, your theme, and so on. It's got a 100 thousand active users. It's a very popular plug in. I'll be sure to link that in the show notes so you can check it out if that's something you're interested in.
Esther: I like it. I'll check it out.
Scott: Let's talk about ... that was great about sidebar. There's a lot of great, juicy information in there. Let's talk about consistency with blogging. Rachel Connolly, who was the original co-host of the show, and Christine Tremoulet, who actually named WordPress, they both have come on the show talking about blogging consistency, so I'd love to hear your feedback about it, your lessons you've learned, and any advice you have on it, any real world scenarios you might have about how it's helped being consistent on your blog.
Esther: Yup. For me, what works was adding it to my work flow. I just create one task is to blog the shoot, whatever the shoot was, to blog it. You can do it in two ways. You can either have your blog, how do you call that, editorial strategy, like, "I want to blog every week. I don't want to blog three times a week." You can plot out your subjects in a month's time, or you can say, "I want to blog every shoot, and I'll just include it in my work flow." Could be either way.
Esther: When I did my ... cause I was a wedding photographer a couple of years back, when I did my shoots, I always had the same format and I used to send a survey to my clients where I would answer all my questions, and I just used a lot of those answers in my blog. It was really easy because the images from the blog was also used as a preview, a sneak preview on Facebook, so they were used in multiple way. I was never wasting my time. Then I used the answers from the survey in the blog. So, it was also [inaudible 00:19:17] of my time by using their answers. For me, just including it in my work flow and creating a system out of it. When I notice I'm doing something repetitive, I always start to think, 'How can I make this faster? How can I make things smarter?' Sometimes, I would have no inspiration to talk about the day, or how everything went, so I figured out a solution for that. I asked my clients.
Esther: That's how I did. There's also a way to just be more creative, because I don't consider that's the most creative way to blog, but it did work. Especially for SEO, it's just great. You do all these weddings and shoots, it's great for SEO. If you want to be more creative and more editorial, you can go that route and you just figure out subjects ahead of time, and then you just collect your images from that. The 10 cutest blonde brides from December could be just one subject, and you can just think of different subjects. I have a whole section in my course, of course, where you think of two subjects, how to pick the best venue for your wedding, etc. all these topics. You can come up with the topics ahead of time, and then every time you come across a image, you'll know you'll include it so you do the work, you prep the work ahead of time as well.
Scott: You know, what you were just talking about, these sort of mini guides, is something that I talked about on the last episode, episode 53. Talking about something that I've been working on, a course I've been working on called "Lead Generation Machine" ... anybody who has ever been doing these guides already in the past, you already have a head start towards creating a really, really awesome Lead Generation tool that you can use and automatically start boosting the leads that you get, which then will help increase your bookings. I'm going to link to that episode, episode 53, just so you can get a reminder if you missed that episode or what not. Yeah. Those are great things. These mini guides, you know-
Esther: Did you offer mini guides as a download, or just on your website?
Scott: Part of the Lead Generation Machine is actually creating a download, but it would be more than a blog post as a download. It's a little bit more advanced than that. It's sort of taking a bunch of little guides and making them as one giant guide, so you have all these different blog posts that anyone can access at any time, but if they want it all in one shot ... if they didn't' see the previous articles, then they can get it, all of them in one PDF, or even just as a website that is sort of hidden that gets you the leads. There's then the process of nurturing those leads of course. There's a whole variety of things that go into it.
Esther: I agree. I teach that too. That's awesome.
Scott: Yeah. Cool. What is your sort of go-to recommendation for photographers nervous about blogging to ... what does the consistency sort of timing that you recommend for photographers that are still on the fence on blogging?
Esther: You mean, how often should they blog?
Scott: Yeah. Yep.
Esther: I think it really depends on how much time you want to allocate for it. I don't think there's a magic bullet for 'you have to blog one time a week,' especially in the different niches of photography. I think it matters as well. I always said that at least one time a week is great, but hey, I can't look into your ... I bet I have one quality blog every two weeks, or three weeks, and then three half-assed blogs. You know?
Esther: With images and no personal attention into it. I always like something personal from the author to shine through in the text or in the selection or anything that they can put into the blog that makes a blog special, for me so that I can get to know the author.
Scott: Yeah. Yeah, my usual recommendation for anyone that's just getting started is at a minimum, once a month. The ideal is once a month is really juicy, something that took you a lot of time to create that, well thought out, well crafted, and has a high chance of converting people to leads. Then drips throughout the month, and it's still consistent. For example, if every Wednesday ... if the first Wednesday of the month, you're putting out this juicy article, every other Wednesday could be something lighter. A recent session, or a sample from a recent session and about the session. Something that is still good for your potential clients to view, and your current clients to view, but something that is less juicy, something that is just, you know, keeping the content flowing and keeping you in the mindset of, 'hey, I still need to create blog content.' But something that might take you 30 minutes to do rather than four hours, for example. That's usually my go to.
Scott: Yeah, go ahead.
Esther: Also, people should really pay some attention and some time to the promotion of their blog. That's also a thing I'm big on including in the work flow, if you do the work flow. Include it, promote it, promote the hell out of it. Send it to your vendors, send it to your clients, send it to everywhere. Post it on social media, at least a couple of times. People don't see it the first time.
Esther: Otherwise, all that work is for nothing. Or for the Google visitors who will only see it after a while, you know?
Esther: It still builds up, so that's good.
Scott: Yeah, especially with the Facebook algorithm and the Instagram algorithm now. You know, an article that you post on Facebook today may not get seen for a week, possibly. You know, there's a chance you won't see it for a week. On Instagram, that is starting to happen as well. You're not seeing it in the chronological order anymore. One thing I recommend doing on Instagram is: when I post an Instagram that has multiple photos in it, that article is being posted on Instagram via buffer more than once. It's being posted how every many times I have a photo in the article, practically. I only do two to four, at most, in my articles. That article is being posted on Instagram each photo individually, not as a gallery of Instagram, but I'm posting it today with the first photo, tomorrow, same post different photo. The next day, same post a different photo. That way you're getting your images out on Instagram too with hopefully good hashtags, and the content is being seen and multiple photos are being seen, just not as an Instagram gallery. You don't always have to do an Instagram gallery, although those are good to do every so often, as well.
Esther: Yeah, sure. I do the same thing.
Scott: Good stuff. Let's move into your recommended WordPress plug ins or themes. I see in our show note documents you've got a bunch to recommend. Can you talk about your ... some of the design qualities that you like and whatever theme you're recommending.
Esther: Yeah. I already talked about the sidebar. That's why I also loved the Imagely theme Lightly, because I like the light feel. Our images from our wedding photography was already bright and light. This theme would match that perfectly. It has the sidebar and the blog, and I'm sure you can change that with the other themes, but I'm not sure-
Scott: Yeah. Yeah.
Esther: Yeah, so I really love that. I'm also a big fan of Yo plug ins because it's great for SCO optimization. People who are not familiar with SCO ... you probably already did a lot of podcasts about that, but with Yost, it's so easy because you can just follow their lead. You just install their plug in, and after that you just follow their recommendations step by step. Then you have green traffic lights meaning your blog is optimized. It really helped me when I was optimizing my website for SCO. The Imagely Light plug in is like a dream. Doing it straight from light room to WordPress, that saves so much time. Yeah.
Esther: Definitely. I'm all for time saving, like I already mentioned so-
Scott: Yeah. Yeah. I'm a big fan of time saving as well. Work flows are everything.
Esther: Yeah. Right now, for ShootZilla, I'm using a dry theme set of plug ins, and it's great. I think a lot of them would make a lot of sense for photographers as well. I mentioned AB testing, for landing pages. Now, people who don't know what a landing page is it's basically like your home page, but you can create different landing pages for different situations. You just take out the menu ... people just land on your page, and then they see your offer. It's great, for example, to create a landing page for your Facebook ads, because then people would definitely see your offer, and that could be your lead generation book that you can download. Another one is Ultimatum. In that one, you can create time sensitive promotions. You see the little counter at the bottom, clicking down time. If you do mini sessions, you want to have them booked before a certain date because after that the execution begins. It's great for those type of things. Combined with the lending page, AB testing, so you can test one lending page with the other, and see which one confers better. I mean, it's so easy. They just released the AB testing last week-
Esther: I set up AB testing for my most downloaded freebie in less than minute. It was so easy.
Esther: I'm not super technical, so I can do it, people can do it. Another one is ovation. I don't know if you know it, but you get all these testimonials, like people say, 'oh my gosh, your images are great. Thank you so much.' Blahdy blah. With the ovation plug in, you can change Facebook comments to actual testimonial on your website.
Scott: So it will actually import them and convert them into ... wow, nice.
Esther: It has a whole work flow included where you can ask the original for permission to use it as a testimonial. Nice one. You can also send an email to a form where people can add their testimonial, and it's like you have a whole database full of testimonials that you can then use on your landing pages again. Super simple.
Scott: Are the thrive theme plug ins, can they be used with any theme or do they have to be used with the thrive theme?
Esther: No, they can be used with other themes as well.
Scott: Good. Nice. That's good to know. I'll be linking to all this in the show notes. Yothesio has been talked about a lot on the podcast, so I'm probably going to link to one of those episodes just so you can listen to another episode. Everything else I'll link to the links to those in the show notes. Now is an opportunity for you to ask the listeners, so if you're listening, listen up. This is an opportunity for you to ask all the listeners a question that you would like for them to answer. The answers will be done in the show notes of the episode at Imagely.com/podcast/54 or on the YouTube channel as a comment on this episode YouTube video. What question would you like to ask the listeners?
Esther: All right. I gave you already some tips on how to systematize your blogging, how to make it easier, and I go way deeper in that in the course. I would love to know ... I hear from a lot of photographers there's so much backlog on my shoots to blog, and I'm just not getting into it. They have some kind of hurdle in blogging, so I would love to know what is your biggest thing that is keeping you stuck? What is ... when you put it on your to do list to get a blog out, what's the thing that's keeping you from not doing it? I would love to hear your answers for that, and hopefully I can include it in my course as well.
Scott: Awesome. I'm going to link to, you know, your website and your blogging system, and you also have a free work flow chart. I'm going to link to all that in the show notes. Shootzilla.com and also link the rest of the links, as well as everything else that was talked about in this episode. Thank you, Esther, for joining us today. You can find the show notes and where to find Esther at Imagely.com/podcast/54. Until next time.
Esther: Awesome. Thanks, Scott.
Scott: Thank you.