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A podcast where you join me (Colie) as I chat about what it takes to grow a sustainable + profitable business.
CRM Guru, Family Filmmaker, and Host of the Business-First Creatives podcast. I help creative service providers grow and streamline their businesses using Dubsado.
How much more profitable could your business be if you simply put in the effort to build out solid workflows and systems inside your CRM? As a Certified Dubsado Expert, I’m a believer in the power that a CRM like Dubsado can have in impacting your business’ bottom line. In today’s episode, Alison Brett joins us to share how working together through both my blueprint course and a VIP day has impacted her own businesses! Listen in as she shares her experience in switching CRM platforms and how she’s able to complete her workday by 1 PM each day thanks to work of Dubsado.
The Business-First Creatives Podcast is brought to you by CRM and Dubsado expert Colie James. Join Colie each week as she discuss how to build a business that brings you joy and a paycheck! From business advice with fellow entrepreneurs to sharing automation tips and tricks, Colie and her guests are sharing industry trends and resources, along with a little bit of sarcasm.
Here are the highlights…
[:57] Meet Alison
[1:30] Alison on Dubsado
[1:44] Challenges with Previous CRM
[3:06] Alison’s Experience Doing Her Own Dubsado Experience
[3:53] CRM Blueprint Course
[4:31] Dubsado VIP Days
[7:41] Changes Made Since the VIP Day
[9:56] Automation for Free Time
[10:49] Alison’s Fuck Up in Business
[13:27] Becoming Profitable in Business
[14:44] Business-First or Creative-First
[17:48] Client Relations
Are you looking to implement some time-saving automation into your business? Take the DIY approach with my CRM Blueprint Course or check out my Dubsado VIP Experience and let me do all the heavy lifting!
Alison is a family filmmaker + commercial photographer based in St. Petersburg, FL. She specializes in making family photography sessions fun for everyone involved. You will have photos + video that perfectly preserves your family as they are right now and gives you something to smile about.
If you would like to watch this conversation or future episodes, click below and subscribe to my YouTube Channel!
Review the Transcript:
Colie James: Hey, Alison, welcome to the Business-First Creatives podcast. How are you today?
Alison Brett: I am doing fantastic. It’s a Friday. So I mean, it can’t get much better than that.
Colie James: Are you going to the beach this weekend?
Alison Brett: Yes, there’s a pool party, at the, at the beach pool. So we’ll go out to the beach and then go to the pool party. It’ll be fun.
Colie James: That’s one of the perks of living in Florida. There aren’t many, but the beach is definitely one of them.
Alison Brett: I’m not even joking. We probably swim every single day after school. Just wear the kids out.
Colie James: Awesome. So Alison, you are one of my clients. You took my course, the CRM blueprint, and you were one of my VIP day clients. So today we’re just going to be talking about your business and your experience with Dubsado through my services.
Alison Brett: Cool.
Colie James: So first, how long have you been actually first let’s back up tell people who you are and what you do.
Alison Brett: I’m Alison Brett. I am a family filmmaker and photographer based in St. Petersburg, Florida. I’ve probably, I don’t know. I think I’ve been doing this for 10 years now, I love it. And Colie has helped my business so much.
Colie James: Well, we’re going to get to that, but you are an awesome filmmaker.
Alison Brett: Everybody needs a little bit of Colie in their lives.
Colie James: Well, thank
Alison Brett: I think I heard Ana may say that too.
Colie James: She does. She says it all the time.
Alison Brett: It’s true.
Colie James: So you’ve been in business for 10 years, but how long have you been a Dubsado user?
Alison Brett: I have been using Dubsado since the fall of 2020.
Colie James: Okay, so almost two years. So what challenges did you have with your previous CRM before you rolled over to Dubsado and before you worked with me.
Alison Brett: I was using 17 hats for probably, I don’t know, for four years. And at the time Dubsado was not around. The workflows were not as robust, so things were falling through the cracks. It was a lot of time on my hand, making sure that everything’s going out properly or when it does, because some things just weren’t automated.
I realized things were falling through the cracks and it was stressing me out a lot. So I switched over to Dubsado because it’s just so much prettier and cohesive with my brand, and customizable and workflows are robust. There’s Colie to help you out.
Colie James: You know how I feel about Dubsado and videos? Like, if, if you’re a filmmaker, like there’s no reason that you should even turn your head to look at any other CRM, because the ability to embed all of our client videos and films during the booking process is invaluable.
But so you left 17 hats and you came to Dubsado, but before you took my CRM blueprint course, did you attempt to do the automated workflows yourself?
Alison Brett: Yes I did.
Colie James: And how’d that go?
Alison Brett: I think I was on chat with Dubsado support, a good jillion times because it functions so much differently than what I was used to. And I really like, I was real good at this scheduler in 17 hats, but it just. Works differently. So the first thing that I used my Dubsado account to do is set up my fall mini sessions.
Basically. I didn’t realize that if somebody schedules an appointment without some sort of intake form or lead capture form, that you have no idea who that person is. At all, like what is going on? How are people coming into my system and without their information? Anywho, it was a calamity. It was so bad. Oh, real, so bad.
Colie James: Well, and then you took the CRM blueprint course, and you were able to fully move and automate your family photography business into 17 hats. And you did a fabulous job. You were also super quick. I mean, you just flew through the course materials. You seem to get everything automated on your own. Great.
You asked lots of questions, but I mean, you’re Alison that’s what you do. But then it came time for you to put your second business into Dubsado and you actually came to me and you hired me for a VIP day. So tell me about that decision and why you didn’t just integrate your second brand into Dubsado on your own.
Alison Brett: well, there are a couple of reasons. The first is everything was so streamlined from my CRM setup, from the blueprint that I had a lot on my plate. I was crushing it in the family photography, like doing great, everything was smooth and wonderful, and I just didn’t have time to do it myself. And my second brand is a little bit different slash a lot different than a family photography setup. And so I really needed somebody to help me troubleshoot. Cause I was still running that business in 17 hats. I needed Colie’s creativity and know-how and you to just do it for me and make everything work so that I didn’t have to go back and forth and ask you 10,000 more questions. Because I didn’t have time for that.
Colie James: I didn’t have time for that. We did such a good job with the first brand that you’re like, no, I have all of these clients and all of these sessions and I can not spend time trying to figure this out.
I’ve got yah.
Alison Brett: And coli, I think I would be your only client. Cause
you would be so busy answering all my questions that you wouldn’t have time for anybody else. And that’s that. Okay. I’ll just pay you to set it up.
Colie James: So let’s, let’s think about what I did for you for your VIP day. What is the favorite thing that I created for you for that business?
Alison Brett: Oh, the schedulers and the workflows, because it’s such a high volume business. At least that part is so high volume that there’s so many people coming through that I don’t have the time to send out reminder emails or, they’re also not paying very much, so it’s not like they get the same kind of.
Coddled care, or how about, what’s a better word for that?
Colie James: That’s okay. I loved coddled care.
Alison Brett: that, that my family photography clients get. So, the reminders automatically go out, they can schedule and book and pay all by themselves through my website. I don’t have to send out proposals or any of that. They just go and do it themselves. So if I get an inquiry, as you send them a link and say, sign up and then.
the forms, all of the information that they need to know to prep for their session is
Colie James: It goes out automatically. Yeah.
Alison Brett: Yeah.
Colie James: Yeah. I mean, I guess we should say, so you have your family filmmaking and photography business, and your second brand is actually personality portraits for tiny children. And so, you know, more high volume, much shorter sessions. you’re not really giving them that high value experience that you’re giving your photography clients.
So everything does need to be less touch and more automation.
Alison Brett: Exactly exactly. And I needed it to work flawlessly so that, I wasn’t spending time trying to figure out what the hell was going on? On the backend, if something went wrong,
Colie James: So it’s been a year, let’s think specifically about the portrait version. And then we’ll talk about family filmmaking, but it’s been over a year since you had your VIP day. So have you had to make any changes yourself and how comfortable did you feel making those changes in the little Llamas brand?
Alison Brett: Ooh, yeah, dropping the
Colie James: I mean, I was trying to remember.
Alison Brett: I’ve made minimal changes to everything because I had the knowledge of. You know, the CRM blueprint when we went through that and I’ve set up one brand already start to finish. It’s pretty easy for me to navigate, especially, you know, what’s make easy, simple changes to things.
I haven’t made very many changes and everything was easy to set up if I had a new portrait party to set up, which is, essentially think of it as a Tupperware party, but for personality photos. So a mom just sent out a scheduler to all of their friends, for all of them to sign up.
So it’s low touch for my host moms and it’s low touch for me. Cause I literally just set up new parties and send it out or. It’s really great.
Colie James: That’s great. So let’s think of your family filmmaking, because you did that on your own using the Sierra and blueprint. So it’s been almost, it’s been 18 months since you did that brand. How many changes have you made in your family filmmaking business and how comfortable did you feel making those changes on your own.
Alison Brett: The only thing that I’ve changed really. It’s the photos and the forms. Everything goes out very nicely. And because family photographers kind of just run their business the same way. And especially if you run your business with the simple sales blueprint, which Colie you have intimate knowledge of and can help us set it up that way.
With Dubsado, everything was just so smooth and streamlined. The changes that I made to your forms. We’re just making sure that I added my personality to them. And, there were some follow-ups and workflows, cause I’m not an in-home family photographer. I’m a outdoor family photographer and filmmaker, that I had to change obviously, but that’s just taking steps out.
I use the scheduler heavy. Because I’m more high volume than you were. Right. And so I don’t want to go back and forth with a client 10,000 times to try and figure out what day and time works best for me and then them. I’d rather just send them a link to my calendar and then choose themselves what time it’s nice.
Colie James: So basically you’re saying you’re just using as much automation as possible for all of the things for all of the clients.
Alison Brett: Yes. And that just lets it frees up my time to make sure that I can take care of every single client, the way that they deserve. So like all of those, I’m going to send this email to every single client I can. And I don’t have to send a custom email every time or take time out of my schedule to write the same fucking email over and over and over.
Colie James: Canned emails are your best friend.
Alison Brett: And workflows and it’s nice because I can approve something too.
So like if somebody reaches out for, I don’t know, headshots or, something that I don’t do, I can just say, I’m sorry. I, I’m
Colie James: don’t do
Alison Brett: to send you a scheduler.
Colie James: No, thank you. Find another photographer and I appreciate you contacting me.
Alison Brett: Yes. Thank you so much.
Colie James: So I think we’re going to transition into one question that I ask all of my guests now, because I know that it’s related to this topic. So, Hey, Alison, what’s the biggest fuck up that you’ve had in your business? What did it cost you and what did you learn from it?
Alison Brett: Girl. I was still a 17 hats user and I completely forgot to put a session on my calendar and it was a sunrise session. And, I was late, very late to said session. Cause it was like 45 minutes away from my house. And I woke up when the session was starting. So that is my biggest fuck up. And I learned very quickly that I can not let my calendar, like I rely heavily on my calendar.
So ultimately it cost me a hundred dollars of print credit, which was minimal compared to, you know, it didn’t, it didn’t cost me all that much, but I gifted her. Very much valued that. So it kind of made up for things. So it’s important to take care of your clients, even if it’s a fuck up on your part.
Colie James: it is, it is. I mean, and that’s one of the things that I tell people about the automated workflows is that sometimes those things are not for your clients. Sometimes it’s there for you to make sure that, you know, you don’t forget something. With each one of our clients. I mean, I think I will say, I think for each one of my family clients, they get between 15 and 16 emails from me, like, and I’m talking total from the time that they inquire. Until I actually deliver. That’s a lot of emails if I’m trying to write them from scratch and I’m trying to remember to send them, and then, you know, you rely heavily on the scheduler, which I don’t, but a lot of the clients that I set up do, and it’s just fantastic to know that you can just send them a link to that scheduler.
The client can take care of booking themselves. And you don’t have to worry about forgetting to put it on the calendar because Dubsado is doing that for you automatically. It’s going into your Dubsado calendar, which is then getting transferred to whatever external calendar you have connected to it. So, you know, using your CRM can avoid things like forgetting sessions.
Alison Brett: Yes.
Colie James: have to set an alarm though.
Alison Brett: Yes. I don’t know how photographers do it without some sort of CRM, like using the Excel and then copy pasting. I just can’t. It is not for me. I am. So I’m a hot mess. And being able to like have it’s like my second hand, man, like keeps my shit too.
Colie James: It’s like it’s like paying a virtual assistant without paying a virtual assistant. Yes, absolutely.
Alison Brett: Yeah. And then you need the virtual assistant to make sure that they, um, send out and check in with your clients all the time.
Colie James: So talking about the automations. I want to shift to numbers because I know that you’re comfortable talking about numbers and I love talking about numbers and I think it’s something that creatives don’t talk about enough, but in particular photographers, don’t talk about it enough. So thinking of the 10 years that you’ve been in business, when did your business actually become profitable?
Alison Brett: It became profitable in 2019? Um,
Colie James: a bit, that’s quite a bit of time.
Alison Brett: yes, I was. I mean, it was essentially a part-time job for me until I got my shit together. And you know, kind of really took my business seriously and made sure that I had all of my ducks in a row on the backend so that I could take better care of my clients and make sure that I had the time to market and set up my website and, you know, learn and, you know, do all of that stuff.
So it helped a lot. And that’s when I started using Dubsado and I found the wonderful community of TFN, which is like really business
Colie James: It’s really valuable. Hey, that’s my next question, Alison.
Alison Brett: Ah,
Colie James: So I’ve been asking all of my guests. The second question is, do you consider yourself to be a business owner first or creative first?
Alison Brett: This is an easy answer for, for me. I am definitely a business owner first. Creativity is, I mean, for me, photos are kind of just a recipe, like is that bad.
Colie James: No.
Alison Brett: I’m not, you know, and I’m, I’m a good photographer. I’m not like the most creative with the lens babies and the, and the really artsy stuff. That’s not why people hire me.
They hire me because they know what they’re going to get and they’re gonna have consistency. And then I know how much I need to make every single client to be profitable. And so I worked really hard the past few years. I don’t even know what year it is. What is it?
Colie James: The 2022. I mean, don’t, we all need reminders of what year it is.
Alison Brett: thief, since the pandemic time has flown, I’m like really it’s been two years. My daughter was. And Devin, I just can’t believe that. And I really needed to it. There was a push for me to make sure that my business was profitable because, um, my other half did not have a job and somebody had to make some money and support the family.
So that somebody, we talked about it and that was going to be me.
Colie James: Yeah, and I mean, I, your business has just grown leaping leaps and bounds. I’m just so proud of you. And even though you don’t think you’re a very creative person, your films are very creative. Everything that you do is great from between the commercial work, the family work, the personality, parts, parties.
I mean, all of it is fabulous and. I am happy that, you know, systems and whatever role I could play in helping you get your shit together and get your business to be profitable, that I was able to do it. cause you are, you know, you’re one of the people that was with me when I first do the course, and then I helped you with your second brand.
And now, I mean like, you know, things are just going really well for you. And I am just so happy that, you know, you feel like you have everything together that you’re making the money that you need to make. All of that is just super fast.
Alison Brett: You and me both girl, like I’m so glad everything’s doing well. I mean, I think I, I can’t even put a number on how much my business has grown recently. To top that all off, I’ve worked so hard, getting everything streamlined on the backend that I’m able to shut the computer at one o’clock every single day.
And then I go have cocktails and swim at the pool.
Colie James: Cause you live in Florida.
Alison Brett: I’m not, taking photos, if I’m not taking photos. So, it that’s really nice. And also I have new ventures coming.
Colie James: I know, I’m really excited about that. I’ve loved talking with several of my guests who have taken like their original businesses and like expanded them into new ventures.
And so I’m very excited about your new venture. So is there anything else that you want to tell the listening audience about automating your business or working with me? Basically, these are your last thoughts. Alison, give them to me.
Alison Brett: Okay. Client relations are critical. For your business, you cannot run a successful profitable business with shit client relations. You’ve got to make sure that from the moment that people get on your website, that it’s smooth, easy to book, they know exactly what’s going to happen, what they can expect, and that you can have the time to. Take care of them, the way that they deserve, and automations, and it really, really helped with that. It creates consistency, happy clients, and frees up time. So you can book more clients if you want to, or take more time off
Colie James: And spend it with your family. Yes. Sometimes people are like, but what if I don’t want to grow my business? Yeah. That’s not what I’m promising you. I’m promising you that you will have more time. I personally don’t care what you do with that time. If you spend more time with your family, if you grow your business, whatever.
But the point is, I want you to spend less time doing things that a robot can do for you. A very cheap robot at that.
Alison Brett: I mean, you make back what you invest in Dubsado every year with less than one session or one mini session. So why the hell not.
Colie James: Well, Alison, thank you so much for having this chat with me. I really appreciate it. And also I’m being totally serious when that new venture is off the ground. I would love to have you back to chat about that.
Alison Brett: Thank you so much. I’m excited and thank you for all the help that you’ve done for me.
Colie James: Yes ma’am. Bye