Welcome to Keeping it Candid – Wedding Photography Unfiltered for photographers who want to keep it real. I’m your host, Sandra Henderson, international wedding and family photographer and educator with a Marie Kondo-style approach to running a business – you know, keeping things simple and getting rid of anything that doesn’t bring you joy!
More importantly, I’m a strong enneagram 3w2 who is obsessed with tacos, and my love for travelling plus navigating chronic illness life are just two of the many things that drive my passion for all things systems, workflows, and beating burnout as a business owner.
Join me twice a month for a candid, behind-the-scenes look at what it’s really like working as a wedding photographer – where I’ll give you actionable steps to take your business to the next level. Absolutely no fluff here, friends! So grab your favourite notebook and pen, and let’s dive into this week’s episode.
Sandra Henderson 0:56
Hey friends, and welcome back to our second last episode of the year!
Sandra Henderson 1:00
Today I am joined by Julie Painter Fried also known as Dallas Girl Friday. Julie is a Client Experience Architect and Operations Manager helping wedding pros organize and streamline their systems so they can continue to thrive doing what they love the most. She worked as a wedding planner for 10 years before transitioning into this role, and it gives her a unique perspective at what it takes to run a business in the wedding industry.
Sandra Henderson 1:22
During our chat we talked all about the importance of having standard operating procedures, the long term impacts of getting your systems in order and how to know when it’s time to hire a VA. Plus, Julie shared some amazing takeaways that you could literally start applying to your business today. Are you guys ready to dive in?
Adventures Behind The Lens
A limited email series where I’m spilling all the tea from the ups and downs I’ve experienced during my time in the wedding photography industry. Click here to join!
Sandra Henderson 1:40
Thank you so much for joining me Julie. I’m so excited for our chat today. Before we get started, why don’t you take a quick second if you don’t mind and just introduce yourself and let everybody know a little bit about you.
Julie Painter Fried 1:51
Hey, y’all, I’m Julie. I’m the girl Friday behind Dallas Girl Friday. And I am a client experience architect and Operations Manager for wedding professionals. I was a wedding planner for a decade. And then I shifted over into doing VA work and then I niched down to only working with wedding pros, because that’s who I liked, and it’s what I knew. And now I work exclusively with wedding pros. I love it. I love love, love it. And that could be anyone from planner to venue to band, hair and makeup artists, photographers, all of the things. If you are wedding related I’m your girl. For systems, not for I don’t know, Cat Training. I love systems they are, they are my love language. And right now I work with clients on like, a retainer basis as their COO, and I do systems audits and systems overhauls. And I am going to be hiring some people soon to be like, associate VAs for my, my company. Um, and so I’ll be able to take on more people because sometimes I know I have like people come to me and they’re like, Oh, but I only need this and this. And I’m like, Oh, I’m not the person for you. But I want to be. So I’m very excited about that direction.
Sandra Henderson 3:22
Yeah, that’ll be amazing. I’m excited to see how that goes for you.
Julie Painter Fried 3:27
The hope is to be hiring it by January.
Sandra Henderson 3:33
Right on! What a good way to start the new year. So as a systems expert, what state of mind do you find that most of your clients in the wedding industry are kind of res- like, residing in, when they first come to you for help with their systems?
Julie Painter Fried 3:49
Oh, they’re drowning. They’re underwater with like one slight fingernail sticking out. And that’s something I really attempt to educate and encourage people on is to hire before you’re ready. Because a VA or you know, systems, you know, me doing systems overhauls and audits, yeah, that’s different. But if you’re wanting to work with someone long term and just bring someone on to outsource a few things, maybe you’re blogging or culling images or managing your inbox and things like that. I just really try to encourage people to hire before they’re ready. Because if you are already missing deadlines, constantly bringing a new completely new person into your business won’t rescue you. They need time to learn your business and the weddings that are currently on the books along with your processes. So especially because weddings are a cyclical industry, I do say you know try to set yourself up for success by hiring during offseason, you know. Try not to bring someone on in the middle of October, I think that’s kind of just a universally busy month, no matter what part of the country you’re in. So you know, bring them in during your quote/unquote offseason, your slower season, and let someone learn your process and adjust to how you work. Because hiring in a rush usually means that the wrong person gets hired. And you’re, you’re more likely to overlook red flags if you’re panic hiring.
Sandra Henderson 5:28
Yeah, that’s so true or not having the time available that you need… Speaking of someone who needs Cat Training, she is looking for all kinds of attention. But when you’re in that –
Julie Painter Fried 5:38
You’ve got a mascot, I love it.
Sandra Henderson 5:41
Yeah haha. When you’re in that headspace, and you’re trying to bring someone on when you’re so overwhelmed, and you have all this work to do, and it’s your peak busy season, there is a portion of the work that you have to do to be able to have, like, bring that person on to help you. And so if you don’t have the capacity to do that, it’s so easy, I found in my own experience, for little things to get missed. And then it’s sort of like, the whole experience leaves a bad taste in your mouth. And I had to get myself out of the thought process of it wasn’t the outsourcing or the helping that was the issue, it was that I didn’t have any of the systems or processes needed in place to be able to bring someone on.
Julie Painter Fried 6:18
Oh my gosh, completely. I know that, because I’ve been doing, you know, in some different capacity, VA work now for almost eight years. And so I know that I have at times been that person that somebody has left working with me being like, Well, that was a terrible experience, because she didn’t know what she was doing. She didn’t know I was like, okay, but you gave me one month, and I didn’t come in with any SOPs. And I didn’t know how to do this. So I like to attempt to try to tell people like, Here are some ways you can effectively work with a VA and, you know, things like that. And like, yeah, there’s going to be some duds out there. Of course there are. But a lot of times it is just because things maybe aren’t set up in your business.
Julie Painter Fried 7:04
And so anyone listening right now, if you do not have SOPs in your business, which SOP is a standard operating procedure. It’s like a document that outlines the necessary steps to perform specific tasks for your business. So the aim with SOPs is to streamline your processes so that they’re clear, they’re concise, and this really will allow you to deliver like consistent and predictable results. To put it simply, think of them as like how to guides and checklists for all your recurring procedures and processes. So if you are listening to this, please go complete one SOP today, even if it’s this is how I change out a graphic in Canva. Or this is how I outline a blog post, you know, complete from click New Post in WordPress to like this is what I enter for SEO, you know, all of those kinds of things. It’s really good for all of that stuff just to be outlined, because I mean, you still can’t just hand those documents to someone and expect them to know what you, everything that’s going on in your business. There’s still a learning curve, still a training, but that will certainly set you up for success.
Sandra Henderson 8:24
Oh, absolutely. That was a quarantine project that I had over 2020 times when I wasn’t able to work was just to kind of like sit down and think about all the ways that I actually do things. And it’s been so helpful. I haven’t thankfully *knock on wood* had to like fully hand off things, but as someone navigating a chronic illness, there’s times that I’m just not able to be at my computer or doing things and so having those standard operating procedures even just kind of takes the the forethought away from my mind. Like if I can just easily refer to something I don’t have to think about it or having all these things on my mind all the time.
Julie Painter Fried 9:02
I completely get that from all angles because I have chronic illness too. I have chronic migraines have suffered from them my whole life.
Sandra Henderson 9:14
Julie Painter Fried 9:15
You know, I do Botox in my skull and like it’s I do all the things. But I mean, there’s still taste when I am just knocked on my behind. And if I didn’t have processes in place, if I didn’t have things outlined that, that I could do, like I just my business would collapse. And I feel like you can’t save it if you’re already drowning. So why don’t you set yourself up for the best possible scenario because I mean, cars get into accidents. Babies come early. It could be something joyful, like you’re going on a honeymoon. Like there are going to be times when you do not want to be in your business and systems make it so that you don’t have to be all the time.
Sandra Henderson 10:03
Yes, I love that that’s such a good way to put it. So going off of that, what sort of impact kind of like short term and long term Do you see? Either in your own business or for the clients that you’re helping when you’re building out systems with them? What kind of impact are you seeing happen in their businesses, once things do start getting organized and more streamlined?
Julie Painter Fried 10:24
Oh, my gosh. So I will say short term, a thing a lot of people come to me with is and I love that you started working on your SOPs, like during that, you know, quote, unquote, COVID downtime, because a lot of people did. And that’s great. And a lot of people came to me and some people, you know, walked me through their stuff. And I set up their SOPs and outline for them, that is something I provide. But people, you will feel like, at first, it’s taking too long. I mean, because you have to write out every single thing. And that feels daunting. If it feels you know, the writer staring at the blank page feels daunting, what comes next? You’re gonna wish you could have it done in a snap, but I mean, long term, there is truly not a value that can be placed on it. I mean, having great systems in your business, not- it can mean exorbitantly more money. Who doesn’t want more money? More time with your family? A lot of people you know, in the wedding industry are you know, I won’t generalize it and say it’s just women, because it’s certainly not, but there are a lot of, you know, moms with young kids and things like that. And they want to have time to go be room mom and go volunteer at their kids school and be home, like after school for snack time. And all those things and systems can give you that time back. I mean, money can barely even buy you time, but systems can do it. More time to travel or pursue your outside interests, if you know, weddings, and the creative industry isn’t your only interest. So I mean, I truly, I can’t put a value on what it can do for you in the long term to be streamlined.
Sandra Henderson 12:18
Oh, absolutely. I think you said it perfectly. And it also gives you the ability to take that time, guilt free, you don’t have to worry and have like the weight of all the things that you quote unquote, should be doing or need to be doing. Because the systems and processes are in place that they more often than not, are running well and efficiently without you.
Julie Painter Fried 12:40
Sandra Henderson 12:43
So what would you say if you could pick one reason why a wedding professional should get their systems in order? Do you think that you could pick just one?
Julie Painter Fried 12:53
Sandra Henderson 12:54
What would that be?
Julie Painter Fried 12:56
Well, I mean, it’s one in that it’s a phrase, it encompasses a lot of things, but your client experience because we are in the business of hopefully only doing things once. You know, we’re- I mean, obviously, you know, divorce has happened and things happen and people do get married multiple times. But the, you know, hope when we send all those couples down the aisle is like, this is your forever person. One and done, I hope that I don’t see you again, kind of thing. But it’s also an issue where they’ve waited, you know, let’s say, you know, the average, couples getting married at age like 30ish. You know, that’s not their whole life, of course, but they’ve waited their whole life to find this person to have this day, that is still a huge thing for a lot of people. And so, I mean, they’re going to do it the one time, they want it to be perfect. If it’s not… We are not, let’s say AT&T. Like, for me, I have been with AT&T for 10 years. And granted, there have been times where they have messed up or service has gone out or they have sent me the wrong replacement product and things and okay, here’s a $15 credit on your bill. Okay, that was nice. But overall, like, does AT&T have five star customer service every time? No. Am I still with them? Yeah, ’cause it’s TV and let’s face it, I’m not giving up Bravo. But these people, this is their one time doing it. This is their one experience with you. And so the client experience which is, I mean, from the minute they land on your website until after their wedding when you’ve given them their deliverables, whether it’s you know, photos, videos, or just a tangible Thank you, that entire process is the client experience. And you can truly elevate that into a luxury space with systems to make every person feel like they are staying at, you know, the Ritz.
Sandra Henderson 15:21
Yeah, absolutely. And creating that just consistent client experience across the board adds to that luxury vibe as well. And I think those are the things especially speaking from a photographer’s perspective, a lot of people can take great photos. And it’s not to dismiss it, but I think that when it comes to running a successful photography business, and continuing to get your name out there and grow your business, has a lot more to do with the way that you’re running your company and the client experience that you’re providing, because there are so many people who are out there taking beautiful photos, but there’s not a lot of people out there who are delivering amazing client experiences.
Julie Painter Fried 16:01
Yeah. And I mean, you said it perfectly. It’s a photography business, you have to be running that business, too. And if that is not where your heart is that that is not where your mind is that that’s fine. Hire people who that is their strength. Hire people like me who nerd out on that stuff, like hardcore nerd out on systems. Because, yeah, you may take the best, most beautiful photographs in the world. And that’s your creative deliverable. But if you can’t email your client back in a timely manner, if you can’t outline the process of like, here’s when you’re going to schedule your engagement session here is when your photos will be delivered here is this and this and this, then you’re just making them wait around and wonder what’s coming next. They don’t know. You may have shot 100 weddings in the last two years. But they’ve only gotten married once. Probably.
Sandra Henderson 16:59
Yeah, that’s so important to remember.
Julie Painter Fried 17:01
Yeah. And it can be, you know, frustrating, I get, to feel like, oh, my gosh, these people are asking the same questions over and over and over, and it’s so annoying. Okay, then you need to beef up your onboarding packet with a list of FAQs that you know people are always asking, so you can answer this question before they even think of it.
Sandra Henderson 17:20
Julie Painter Fried 17:21
That is the client experience, because customer service is taking care of what went wrong. Client Experience is preventing it.
Sandra Henderson 17:28
I love the way that you phrase that that’s such a good perspective about it.
Julie Painter Fried 17:28
Sandra Henderson 17:29
Okay, so we’ve talked about creating those standard operating procedures and how important it is to get these systems and procedures all in place so that your business is running no matter what comes your way. Do you have any tips for someone who is just getting started? Whether they’re new in business, or they are, you know, like you were saying at the beginning, feeling like they’re drowning, and just have one fingertip sticking out of the water? Where would you say if someone was to dedicate an hour of their time today to getting started? What would be your recommendation?
Julie Painter Fried 18:07
Contact me?! No, I’m just kidding. Of course, but no, really the- I have, I would say start with one thing you think you could outsource. Whether it is, you know, a lot of people say, you know, blogging is such a time suck. Social media is such a time suck. Okay, what aspect of those things – something that you hate doing that you know you need in your business, but that your hands do not need to be touching – could you hand off? Just think of one thing. And then write that SOP down.
Sandra Henderson 18:41
Love that. That’s so good. I was thinking about that, as you were like originally talking about SOPs earlier, is that on a day where you’re not overwhelmed, you know, going into August, September for a lot of photographers and wedding professionals in general, this may not be the time but when you have a little bit more wiggle room to your schedule in a day, after you’ve done something, take five minutes and go write it down. And then eventually you’re going to be piecing together this SOP guide without having to sit there for six hours and write down every single detail.
Julie Painter Fried 19:15
Something I suggest to people too, who’re like, well, it takes too long right SOP and I don’t understand why I really need it. Or like Can’t you just do it for me? So if you don’t want to go back and forth into a Google doc – because SOPs do not need to be pretty. This is not some like gorgeous, like, Adobe Illustrator template that you’re working with. I mean, it’s just a basic Google Doc. But if this is something that is just causing you so much dread and you’re like it’s kind of taking more time. Just use a program like loom or Screencastify or something like that and just record yourself doing the thing, like and then send it to someone like me who can interpret what you have just done into an SOP for you. Um, and then you can even include the link to that Loom video as part of your SOP so people have a visual reference to what you’re doing so it’s not just a bunch of words.
Sandra Henderson 20:13
That’s such a good idea. I love that. Awesome. Well, do you have any final thoughts or anything before we wrap things up?
Julie Painter Fried 20:20
Um, I mean, I just – My biggest thing that I stress to people is that systems are not optional. I mean, they weren’t optional before COVID. And they certainly still are not optional. like stuff happens, and you have to be prepared and systems can save you time. They are your toolbox to utilize and improve every aspect of your business, in your life. Systems help you grow. And, you know, systems can literally save you. So, I mean, it’s something I’m so passionate about is systems are not optional. But you know, hop on my, hop on my website, schedule a discovery call. If you feel like maybe you need a systems audit, and you just need some eyes on it. Or if you need a systems overhaul, and you need me to come in and redo your CRM, write your canned emails, redo your processes. That’s something I offer. And then you know, come next year, you have some openings for additional VA services! can’t wait!
Julie Painter Fried 20:42
Yes. Love it. Yeah, that’s so so true about how just everything I think comes down to systems. I totally agree with you on that.
Julie Painter Fried 21:37
Everything. And it’s not a sexy topic. Like it’s not like, ooh, new Instagram, ooh, marketing. Ooh, selling. Like, it’s, it’s boring. I’m not, I’m not going to pretend it’s like glamorous. But to people like me who love it. It is glamorous. Like, I love what I do every day. And there are a lot of people, especially in this creative industry whose brains just don’t work like mine. And that’s great, because we need creatives to win the greatest. And we need… we need the visionaries, and we need the integrators on the ladder. So let, let me or someone like me, you know, come in and really just clean things up.
Sandra Henderson 22:18
Exactly. And then the people who aren’t systems focused, they can reap the glamorous benefits after when they get that freedom back.
Julie Painter Fried 22:26
And they can focus on what they actually love doing.
Sandra Henderson 22:28
Yeah, exactly. Yeah, that’s so true.
Julie Painter Fried 22:31
Because if I mean, if you’re a photographer, and you hate that business-y part but you don’t take it off your plate, you are going to grow to resent your business. Every time you have to sit down to blog, every time you have to look at your numbers, every time you have to look at, you know, your back end and send emails. I mean, you’re gonna resent your business and you’re gonna burn out.
Sandra Henderson 22:50
Totally. That’s so so true. I have been there and I hope to never revisit that space ever again.
Julie Painter Fried 22:56
I yeah, I feel like most of us have, at some point for sure.
Sandra Henderson 22:59
Right? That’s a huge like goal of mine, or hope that I hope… or things that I hope people will take away from this podcast. Like the Keeping It Candid podcast as a whole, but even this specifically from this interview is just the like, the freedom that can come from taking these steps behind the scenes and that like the importance of getting ahead of it and not getting to it once you’ve burnt yourself out. I think that people who have been in the industry for a while we started our businesses with the hustle culture. And so it was very common for everybody to be burning out at the end of every year. And I hope to see a shift in that with the new generation of people coming into the wedding industry where they set those boundaries and set those systems ahead of time.
Julie Painter Fried 23:44
I hope so. Because burning out is not a badge of honor.
Sandra Henderson 23:48
No, not even a little bit. All right. Well, thank you so much again, before we end the call, I would love to just have you let everybody know where they can find you online and on social media.
Julie Painter Fried 24:00
Yes, you can find me at dallasgirlfriday.com. And then on social media, the only thing I do is Instagram, qnd if you want systems tips or hot takes on The Bachelor and book reviews and just me being a stone cold weirdo. Please come hang out with me on Instagram at @dallasgirlfriday.
Sandra Henderson 24:25
I love that. That was the best description. I love a stone cold weirdo!
Julie Painter Fried 24:30
I you know I learned a long time ago that that I’m not everyone’s cup of tea and that is completely fine. And I don’t want to be
Sandra Henderson 24:40
right. Exactly. Life is too short to take it all seriously.
Julie Painter Fried 24:45
If people come to my Instagram and they like what they’re seeing, they know that’s what they’re gonna get when they work with me. And if you don’t like what you’re seeing, happy to recommend someone else.
Sandra Henderson 24:56
There’s lots of people on this world, the world takes all kinds, and so we can easily just bring in those people that fit our vibe and everyone else can go find their vibe. It’s totally fine.
Julie Painter Fried 25:05
Sandra Henderson 25:08
Awesome. Well, thank you so much again, Julie, this was great. And I cannot wait to connect with you again down the road.
Sandra Henderson 25:15
Okay, you guys know that I am obsessed with systems so it’s probably no surprise to you that I absolutely loved this conversation with Julie. Whether you’re building them out yourself or hiring someone to do it for you, systems are truly a non-negotiable when it comes to a successful, thriving business.
Sandra Henderson 25:31
And I remember years ago, I was talking to one of my old college professors about how I planned on learning how to do my taxes myself. My mom had always done them for me up until that point, that’s one of the perks of having a mom who’s bookkeeper! But mixing business and family can get stressful, let’s be honest, so I wanted to make a change. I also felt like it was like the quote/unquote “adult” thing to do.
And when I told my prof this, I will literally never forget his response. He said, ‘You know how people say they’re going to just get their uncle with a nice camera to take their wedding photos. Like, sure, you can absolutely do that. But should you? probably not. And the same goes for your taxes. Just because you can do them yourself doesn’t mean that you should do them yourself.
And that lesson has really stuck with me through so many different aspects of running a business. As entrepreneurs, we’re used to wearing all the hats. We’re emotionally invested in every aspect of our businesses. And it’s hard to let go of any of the things that we’ve worked so hard to build, we get lost in the thought of if I want it done right, I have to do it myself.
But here’s the thing, we can only excel in so many different things right? It’s impossible for us to do every single thing at an expert level. If every person and every business in the world could excel at their own finances and taxes, we would have no need for accountants. If every person in the world could take technically perfect photos and capture the best emotions with their cell phones and personal cameras, we would have no need for photographers. And if everyone could prepare the most unbelievable meals from scratch with no effort, we would probably spend a lot less time at restaurants.
But we live in a world full of people who are experts in their field and it’s a smart business decision, not a lazy or irresponsible one, to outsource different aspects of your work and work with other professionals who excel in the areas outside of your own expertise.
I hope this episode has inspired you to take some of the hats off that you wear every day. Whether you start by writing out one standard operating procedure like Julie’s suggested, or if you’re ready to take the leap to hiring a VA or working with a systems expert. You deserve to take some of the things off your plate.
Now before I go – Have I ever told you about how I found out my foot was broken while I was shooting a wedding?! If you want to hear the story join me for an Adventure Behind the Lens, a limited email series where I’m spilling the tea about all the ups and downs I’ve been through over the last 12 years in the wedding industry.
Head to simplysandrayvonne.ca/adventures to join!
Thanks so much for listening to Keeping It Candid: Wedding Photography Unfiltered with Sandra Henderson! You can find full show notes from today’s episode at simplysandrayvonne.ca/keepingitcandid. In the meantime – let’s connect! You can find me on Instagram @simplysandrayvonne, and on Facebook in the Wedding Photography Unfiltered community! If you’re loving this podcast, I’d be so honoured if you’d go ahead and hit that subscribe button and leave me a review!
Until next time!
Julie Painter Fried from Dallas Girl Friday
Julie is a Dallas native who planned weddings for a decade before transitioning into working with wedding pros to transform their systems and client experience. Julie is a newlywed, a lover of reality tv, and you can find her on Instagram reviewing books and chatting systems.