How I Use TRELLO to Organize My Business | tips for photographers + creatives

Guys. I am SUCH a pen+paper kinda girl. I adore to-do lists. I'm so not kidding - adore them. There's immense joy in scribbling down stuff I need to accomplish, and then YAY, marking them off as completed!! I'm totally that person who accomplishes a task, realizes I never wrote it down to begin with, and then decides to write it down JUST SO I CAN MARK IT OFF. Yeah, I'm that girl. 

When I first opened ELP back in December 2013, I was then trying to balance a full time 40-hr a week day job, run a business, and keep that business organized - and it was no easy feat. And, as things got busier, it became even more difficult. Even when I left my day job for full time photographer life in October of 2015, I was still struggling to stay on top of my ever growing to-do list. I ended up creating these little charts for myself in good old Microsoft Word, and using them as a checklist of sorts. I tucked them in the front plastic pocket of my beloved yellow notebook which houses all of my current weddings in progress, with everyone's contracts, notes, etc. 

Basically, those checklists looked a little something like this: 


And they went in here. Behold, the beloved yellow notebook. There's no reason why it's beloved. If anything it's just super important, but maybe not beloved. Stay with me here, y'all!


These sheets, at first, worked wonders. I was mad at myself for not having thought of them sooner! I diligently checked off when I received a contract. I jotted down the balance due date for each couple. I checked off for certain emails that needed to be sent at scheduled times during their wedding planning process. I felt really, really good about this whole organization! And it worked, it totally worked.......until it just didn't anymore.

It stopped working as I got even busier... And as I realized that the amount of "to-do's" per couple that I can fit on one sheet of printer paper, didn't nearly allow enough room for the ACTUAL amount of regular, repetitive "to-do's" I do for every couple, and that I was mentally checking off in my head. 

I started combining these papers with my iPhone calendar. Which, I'll let ya in on a secret right now - I still use my iPhone calendar religiously. And not just for the obvious "Jack + Jill's wedding day".. I'm talking "Send Jack + Jill family formal worksheet" / "Send Jack + Jill timeline" / "Send Jack + Jill balance invoice" etc etc. I have a system that starts 4-months prior to every couple's wedding and I follow through with the same steps which really helps nail down their overall photography timeline. 

In time, I realized that I wasn't using those printed-paper-checklists at all anymore and had been relying mostly on my own memory, my iPhone calendar, and my big calendar on my desk. All these things worked fine, as by then, the "system" and "procedures" were nearly second nature to me. But, I knew it wasn't efficient...

During that blinding realization period that I wasn't using my sheets anymore, I started hearing little whispers all around me in the creative industry about a little app called Trello. I at first didn't bat an eye - figuring that it, like so many other things, was costly. And y'all, I like to keep my costs downnnnn. Ya know what I like even more?? FREE STUFF.

And guess what I eventually realized? Trello is freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee. Yes, you read that correctly. Trello has a few different "platforms", and some of them do have a monthly fee (a very low cost though!) - but their base platform, which offers more than enough for my needs - is as free as the day is long. As free as an eagle. As free as, okay yes.. You get the idea. 

From there, I quickly bought into the whole Trello lifestyle - and once I figured out how to work that thing, it was life-changing!! I ended up creating "templates" basically, of my repetitive checklists that I do for all of my wedding couples. I have two types of "Pre-Wedding Checklists", and two types of "Post-Wedding Checklists". To give you an idea, my pre-wedding checklist has 30 steps. THIRTY. And they're all the same, for every couple I work with. Those 30 steps were one part of the mass of info I was checking off only in my mind for a while. The post-wedding checklist has 18 steps. These are totally my own creation, and simply how I break down the process in a way that works for me. Obviously, it's different for everyone. I'm a detailed kinda gal, gimme ALL THE DETAILS! So, my checklists are reflective of that. 

Anyways you guys - Trello lets you create boards to house any given "set" of "lists" so to speak. I might not be the best at explaining this! But, my Elizabeth Ladean Photography board has 8 total lists. For now anyways - almost daily I ask myself "Oooh should I create a board for that too!?" - the answer is probably yes. 
These are my current boards - 

  • 1. Ongoing checklist templates (these are those pre and post wedding checklists I mentioned!)
  • 2. 2017 Weddings (these are still here because I'm finishing up album designs!)
  • 3. 2018 Weddings
  • 4. 2018 Lifestyle sessions
  • 5. Off Season to-do's (this board is essentially temporary!)
  • 6. Blogging ideas
  • 7. Instagram post ideas
  • 8. The BIG todo's
Capture of Trello boards.JPG

Each list has multiple "cards" on it - the card for me, for the most of my lists anyways, is each couple. So each couple is a card. (I just said the same thing twice). What all of this means though, is that I can easily keep track of where I am with any couple, at any given time!
Did I send Katie the family formal worksheet!?
Did I upload Ashley's album design!?
Did Morgan approve her album design!?
Ya see what I mean!??
It tracks how many items you've checked off the checklist, per card (or in my case, per couple!) and gives you a percentage out of 100% with how far you are to completing the checklist! Other "cards" for me are the actual blogpost ideas, for example. Or, a big "to-do" item, as another example. 

A few other things you really should know and understand about Trello - 

  • 1. It's web based - and it syncs across your computer, AND your phone, via their app!
  • 2. The things you can use it for are endless - like, even making your shopping list for groceries!
  • 3. It's free man, F-R-E-E! 
  • 4. You can add people to a board - which means, TEAM PROJECTS and TEAM COMMUNICATION! 
  • 5. Did I already mention it's free?!

    I mean, these Trello peeps are geniuses!! 

    SO BASICALLY... To sum this up, Trello has completely changed my world! It has made keeping up with things a bajillion times easier, and I actually feel like I have a solid workflow. 

I don't get paid or anything to say this - but seriously, go get ya'self Trello!! You can thank me later! 

If you guys want to read or learn even more - especially by others who probably do better than I have at explaining Trello, I'd suggest these guys and their posts! -