A photographer’s secret weapon – unlock the power of email templates


In episode 484 of the Business of Photography Podcast, Bryan delves into unlocking the power of email templates, streamlining your client communication, and saving valuable time. Being a successful photographer is 80% business and 20% photography, so streamlining processes is essential for photographers to save time and focus on their passion for photography. 

You’ll learn:

  • 5 risks in manually composing emails from scratch each time
  • 4 rules to email that enhance client satisfaction and trust
  • How to write templates using the 3 C’s framework

Links and resources:

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A photographer’s secret weapon – unlock the power of email templates

Named best of iTunes, The Business of Photography is a weekly podcast where we interview industry experts and business specialists who share high-value, no-fluff, concrete business ideas for professional photographers.

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Welcome to the Business of Photography podcast powered by Sprout Studio, a studio management suite built for photographers by photographers. Here’s your host, Bryan Caporicci. And welcome to episode 484. My name is Bryan Caporicci and I’m excited to talk about the topic that we have today. We’re talking about a photographer’s secret weapon and how you can unlock the power of email templates. Let’s kind of set the stage a little bit here for the conversation. You probably say the same thing to a lot of your clients in a similar way a lot of the time. Would you agree to that? You probably write the same email repeatedly over and over again in your business.

And so my question for you in the whole context and the framing of today’s episode is to say, why should you write the same email over and over and over again when you can instead write it once and then reuse it whenever you need to use it? Well, that’s what we’re talking about today. And in fact, we have what we call the three C’s framework. We’re going to discuss that later on. And this is exactly the three steps that you follow on how to write email templates. Before we get to that, though, let’s talk about the three challenges in providing consistent responses to your clients. At the end of the day, one of the things that you know as a part of your business, because, again, what you do in your photography business is 80% business and 20% photography. We talk about that all the time. That’s why we exist here on the podcast.

But your clients trust you, and they put a lot of trust in you. And they expect professionalism and to an extent, they expect polish. And you are supposed to be there to guide your clients. We talk a lot about that here in the podcast. In all of the education that we do. Donald Miller from Building a Story Brand really framed that nicely in saying that you are not the hero for the story. Your clients are the hero. Your job is to be their guide.

And all of this revolves around that. You providing consistent communications and dialogue and conversation and responses to your clients is so important, yet at the same time, it’s so much easier said than done, wouldn’t you agree? I sort of think that there’s three challenges in giving this kind of consistent communication experience to your clients. And they’re pretty simple actually. Number one, the first challenge is that you can do what you say you can do. Number two, you remember what you say you can do. And then number three, you actually do what you say you can do. So number one, just again, making sure that you can actually do it. Number two, remembering what you said.

And then number three, actually doing it. Now, all of those seem pretty simple, but if you can do those three things you’re set up for success in your business. If you can actually do the things that you say you’re going to do, if you remember the things that you say you’re going to do, and then you actually do the things that you say you’re going to do, your business will be wildly successful. I mean, those are basic expectations. Yet so many businesses. And I’m sure you can think of many examples in your own life with businesses that you’ve dealt with as a consumer, as a client, and maybe even arguably in your own business sometimes, that you’ve maybe dropped the balls or the ball, where one of those three things or all of those three things or two of those three things didn’t actually happen. So that’s why I’m an advocate for the idea of having what I call a Client Experience Handbook. This is something that you maybe just arguably have internally at least, it leads to start internal.

It’s something that you have that clearly outlines your commitment to your clients. It is clearly understood what your processes are, what your procedures are, what your workflow looks like, what boundaries that you have in your business, the bumper guards for how you do business with your clients. If you don’t have that, if you don’t have some clear expectation for yourself, if you don’t have clarity on that, then how can you expect your clients to have clarity on that? So in order for you to have clarity on how to communicate on what it’s like to do business with you, you need to make that for yourself before you can start implementing that for your clients. Because when you’re in the weeds and you’re doing the Worker B work, I talk a lot about this notion of CEO mode and worker B mode. CEO mode is when you’re working on your business. Worker B mode is when you’re working in your business. And so when you’re in worker B mode and you’re in the weeds and you’re replying to the emails and you’re doing all these things, it’s hard to ensure that you can again, those three things you can do, what you say you can do that’s. Again, why the Client Experience Handbook is so helpful.

You remember what you say you can do. That’s why having a task management system and the CRM is so important, and that you actually follow through on what you promise. Again, basic expectations, but it’s so important to actually do those things. And having a standard set of email templates, a sort of library of content that you can be using in conjunction with this Client Handbook, is going to ensure that you can actually set and then exceed expectations for your clients at every step of the way. Now, if that isn’t enough to convince you that email templates and this kind of consistency is so important for you in your business, I’ve also got here five risks in manually composing these emails from scratch every single time. Because one of the things that you might be thinking is, Bryan, look, that sounds great, but I just don’t have the energy. I don’t have the time. It’s just easier for me to answer these emails and kind of fire them off as they come into me and as they hit my inbox.

Okay, so let’s look at that as a scenario and let’s look at the risks in manually composing these things every single time. I’ve got five of them. The first risk of manually composing emails from scratch each time is that there’s a great potential for errors and typos and incorrect information. Number two risk of manually composing emails from scratch each time is that you may have inconsistent messaging due to maybe just an oversight, a forgetfulness, or you just being in the weeds, being in the worker B space and not having the clarity that you need. Number three, increased chances of miscommunication leading to misunderstandings with your clients. Number four, you could have a negative impact on client relationships and even arguably your reputation if mistakes occur. And number five, which in my opinion is the most important risk of manually composing emails from scratch each time, is you just waste a lot of time. There’s a lot of energy that you lose in having to write the same thing over and over again.

I mean, I’d argue that that’s the case for any part of your business process. Email templates are one example that we’re talking about today. But anytime that you have to do the same thing over and over and over again and you don’t have a way to automate that or systematize that or streamline that, you’re wasting time. So let’s find ways to waste less time and to save time. Because I don’t think that you got into photography to spend more time behind your computer, to spend more time in your inbox, to spend more time writing emails. You got into photography because you love photography. So let’s get you more time behind your camera. Let’s get you more time with your clients by actually being more streamlined with your communications and with your business processes.

When it comes to sending emails, I’ve sort of got four rules that will help you enhance both client satisfaction and increase the trust that you and your clients have with each other. Four simple rules for emails and the rules are this reply fast, reply consistently, reply professionally, and reply thoroughly. If you can follow those four rules for all of your emails and all of your communications, you will have a recipe for success with your client communications. Reply fast, consistently, professionally, and thoroughly. Now, there’s a lot of nuance in every single one of those. For example, reply fast. I don’t mean that you should be an inbox zombie. I don’t mean that you should be living in your email and replying like the minute something comes through.

In my opinion, as a guideline, replying fast means replying within 24 hours. I don’t think that if you get an email at 07:00 at night, that means that you need to be emailing back right away. I don’t even think that that means that if you get an email at 11:00 in the morning that you have to be emailing back right away. That’s not what email is. So email should be fast, but it doesn’t have to be urgent. It is not an emergency. So when I say fast, I don’t mean that you need to get on it right away. And as soon as that ding goes off, you reply because that sends a different kind of message as well.

So reply fast, reply consistently, reply professionally, and reply thoroughly. Now with all of that, you’re perhaps now convinced, okay, email templates make sense. Let’s go ahead and get into what I call the three C’s framework. And this is how you can build an email template library. We talked about this handbook earlier on in the episode and how important it is for you to have this living, breathing document of this is how I do business as a photographer. These are what my boundaries are, these are what my processes are, this is what my workflow looks like. You’re going to have this as, this moving, breathing thing. This is your business in a box.

And again, this is so important. And this email template library is a core component to that. So what you want to do is build a library of email templates. Build these things, these common replies, these common snippets, these common answers, these FAQs, these consistent parts of your business that again, you’re writing these emails all the time anyways. So let’s make a library of this content. So it’s really easy, let’s reduce the friction, so it’s easy for you to get in there and get it and use it and repeat it every single time. So three C’s number one capture. Number two craft.

And number three customize. So let’s kind of go through those in each part, the three C’s framework for how to write email templates and how to build an email template library. Number one capture. Every time that you get an email from a client, or every time that you’re writing an email to a client, ask yourself, will I get this question again? Or will I ever have to write this reply again? So from this point forward, this is your homework. From this episode, every single time a client emails you ask yourself the question, will I ever have a client ask this question again? If so, then this is an email template. Or every time from now on that you’re writing an email to a client, ask yourself the question, will I ever write this email again? And if so, that becomes an email template. So that’s step number one, capture. So write down a list, a log of an index of all of the emails that you are going to have to have an email template for that’s the simplest first step, that’s capture.

Step number two is craft when you are writing a reply, and again you’re writing the reply anyway. If a client emails you and asks you a question, you’re going to reply to them anyways. So you’re going to reply, you’re going to already have that time to write the email. Let’s say it’s ten minutes. Take a few more moments and write a slightly more generic reply, or a slightly more thoughtful reply, or a slightly more intentional reply. Something that you know you’ll be able to repeat over and over and over again. So if it’s going to take you ten minutes to write this email anyways, make it twelve and make it more generic and save it as a template. So number one, capture, make this log, make this list, make this legend of emails that you want to have templates for.

Number two, craft when you’re replying the replying, when you’re writing or replying, it combines to become reply anyway, it doesn’t matter. Number two, craft. When you’re writing the email anyways, when you’re replying anyways, just take a few more moments and write it into an email template and save it. And then number three is to customize. So from this point forward, you’ve got your list of emails that you need to be writing. You’ve actually written those templates now because you’ve taken those few extra moments. And number two, number three, grab those templates and customize them every time that you use them. So my advice, my suggestion is not to just build an email template and then be robotic about it and just copy and paste it as is or send it as is.

You want to customize it, you want to tweak it, you want to add some small nuance. You don’t want a client to ask three questions and then you reply to one of them because you have a template for and ignore the other two. Like customize it. That’s the third C, customize it. But at least the template does 95% of the heavy lifting for you. You don’t have to burn mental calories every time that you have to go and write that email. You just do a bit of tweaking, a bit of small adjustments, add some personal nuance before or after, add some tweaking to the content, and then you’re good to go and you send it. So the three C framework capture, craft, customize.

Now, by doing all of this, by building this email template library, there’s a whole slew of benefits. We’ve kind of talked about those already in the episode. But let me run through what this means for you and the benefit that you’re going to have. By having this email template library. You’re going to save time, you’re going to send more thoughtful answers and replies. You’re going to give more consistent replies, you’re going to streamline your communications, you’re going to be able to lower your reply time on emails, which is really important and one of the sort of rules that we had earlier. You’re going to have happier clients and you’re going to reduce inbox anxiety and inbox clutter. Now, that all sounds like a great recipe for success to me.

So from this point forward, let’s commit to the three C’s framework. Let’s commit to it, capture, craft, customize, make a list of all the email templates that you want to have that’s capture. Write the email templates every time that you’re writing the reply anyways, that’s craft. And then customize it and tweak it as you grab it from your Template Library and use it in your business. That’s customize number three. Now, if all of that is still not simple enough for you, and I’m hoping that we can obviously simplify this in this three C’s framework and make it so that as you’re writing the emails anyways, you’re just slightly tweaking them for a template. If that still feels overwhelming for you, then my encouragement to you is to not stress. Because one of the things that we’ve come to realize here at Sprout is that photographers are creative geniuses.

Like you are an incredible creative person. You’re a great photographer. But a lot of photographers don’t fancy themselves as professional writers. They don’t fancy themselves as someone who can write these kinds of emails, or write these kinds of thorough, beautiful, poetic, long, intentional, proactive emails. And so that’s why one of the things that we’ve committed ourselves to, and we’ve been doing this for seven or eight years, is writing these things for you. So in Sprout Studio, if you’re a Sprout Studio user, then you probably are already familiar, or maybe you’re not. And if you’re not a Sprout Studio user, then we need to get you on into Sprout Studio. And using Sprout Studio, we have this thing called Template library.

And what we’ve done for you is we have written dozens, hundreds of emails for you and you can literally click and copy them into your account with the click of a button. We’ve got some for sale as well, if you’d like to have even more thorough ones. But we have so many in there so that you don’t have to worry about writing these emails yourself. You can copy hours, you can customize them, and it’s as if you wrote them yourself. We have replies and templates for things like how to email your clients when their photos are taking longer than expected, or what to say when someone uses your photos without your permission, or how to reply to a potential client that says that you’re too expensive. There’s literally dozens, hundreds of other templates that we have in Template Library. So if any of this feels overwhelming and you want a hand getting started on that, I definitely encourage you to hop on into Sprout Studio if you’re not already using it. And if you are, hop on into Template Library and take advantage of those things.

And that’s what we have for today. Episode 484 of Photographer’s Secret Weapon and how you can unlock the power of email templates. I hope this episode was helpful for you and I’m looking forward to seeing you in the next episode.

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