Confession: When You Realize Something Needs to Change…

Free Photoshop Actions and Lightroom Presets by MCP™

Confession: When You Realize Something Needs to Change…


One recent morning I woke up and it hit me. I barely have time to do the things I love. I have not been exercising like I use to.  I have not talked to friends on the phone.  I barely spend time with my husband.  My kids ask why I always am on the computer – they say “why can’t you just do that while we are at school?” – and I answer my twins and say “I am on the computer working when you are at school too.”

I run a business. And with business comes responsibility.  I have a responsibility to provide excellent customer service to my fans, followers, and customers.  I have had Multiple Choices Photography DBA “MCP Actions” since 2006 (training photographers and selling photoshop actions). Prior to that I did Product Photography and photo editing. In the past two year my marketing, social networking, and branding has paid off.  My business is doing really well, even in the poor economy.  I have 2,000-4,000+ visitors to my blog daily, I have over 4,200 facebook friends, 4,500 facebook fans and 3,000 something twitter followers.  This sounds great – right?  It is. I love what I have built and I am proud of my accomplishments.  BUT…

There is always a “BUT.”  And this but is a big one…  I love what I do.  And I am very happy that I can “make a living at it.”  I work very hard.  So the “but” is that something needs to change. I need to make time for myself and for my family.  I need to have more time away from the computer (even if just a little bit – it would make a difference).  I need to take care of my health by exercising more, finding a new doctor (for my PCOS, Thyroid and Asthma issues – yes a triple whammy), and just take time to breath and enjoy life.  I do love my work.  I am passionate about it, but I love other stuff too.  And lately work consumes me.

And the biggest part of that – EMAIL.  Email literally overtakes my every day.  I know many of you are nodding your heads saying “me too.”  I wake up in the morning to usually a few hundred emails, some junk and spam, others customer questions, and yet others just fans who want to know everything from what camera do I use to how can they get better color or focus, etc… I get emails from those wanting MCP to sponsor a workshop or donate prizes, do a guest blog, host a contest, etc… Most emails start like this “I know you are really busy, but I just have this one question…”

You get the idea.  I love helping people and I love answering questions.  I hate saying “no.”  So next thing I know, it is 10am, 11am, noon, or sometimes even 1pm before I whittle away at the email and answer questions and get back to everyone. I may pause in between for an hour to do a one on one private workshop or group workshop, and then back to emails again.  Finally when I clear out my box, and grab a quick bite to eat, often at 1 or even 2pm, the emails already pile up again. My kids get home at 4pm and I try hard to focus on them – taking them to activities, helping them with homework, and spending time with them.  By the time bed time hits, the rest of the night is often spent checking email and responding again.

Are you getting tired just reading this?  I am.  So as the title of this post says, “Something needs to change…”

Here are some of my thoughts and a few ideas from some amazing Facebook friends. I need to decide which to implement and which not to.

  • Do monthly FAQ posts – take a list of questions I get asked (pick a handful or more) and answer them in a blog post. Really liking this idea.  But still not sure if people will feel upset getting an email from me saying check my monthly FAQ post as I will try to answer questions there.  Is this acceptable customer service?
  • Refer people to my facebook fan page.  I am doing this some already.  I hope someday this will be a place where my fans and readers can come together and help each other.
  • Auto Responders… I am not a fan.  I do have lots of template emails set up for frequently asked questions.  But I am talking about the emails that say “we are busy and will get back to you in 48 hours…”  I do not like these. I don’t mean to offend anyone but to me these are impersonal.  And waiting 48 hours just delays the emails and lets them accumulate more.
  • Charge a consulting fee for answering email questions – this was suggested by someone on Facebook. I do not want to do this just to answer questions.  But I do offer one on one training, so if someone has a lot of questions I do point them to that.
  • Have a list of recommended sites, books, and references that they can read.  This is a good idea except that the questions in these emails are such a huge range.
  • Hire an assistant – not sure if I am “ready” for this.  I always said if my business got to that point it got too big.  But at the same time, maybe finding people to do certain things could help.  Just not sure.
  • NEW WEBSITE – yep – I just hired another person to redo my web site.  The last company had good intentions, but it never got completed.  Cross your fingers for me on this one.  Instant Downloads will help a ton.  This would mean less emails saying “I lost my actions, can you resend” or “I never got the actions you sent” (due to spam filters, etc).  Plus customers will love to get things right away and be able to revisit to re-download if needed.
  • NEW BLOG – same as “new website” – new blog designer has been hired.  Waiting on new site to get underway.  But my goal is to make things so intuitive and easy to use that you can locate old posts easily, and see related posts, etc.  This would mean less emails saying “I cannot find this video or post I remember…” or “how do I…”  I will be able to say “search.”  You can search now – but it is not obvious and the blog as a whole is not mapped out well for its content.
  • Start a forum – running a forum likely would take more time than email.  The advantage is that people can answer each others questions, but the disadvantage is everything else.  This is why Facebook may be the way to go if I can get people use to going there and checking there.  It is ready made, easy, and already set up.
  • Referral to forums – I do list some on my blog.  But maybe I should do this in emails too.  Got a question, try these forums…  Hmm – liking this idea.

I would love your help with some more ideas of how I can get my life back and at the same time retain a high level of customer service.  Hopefully this post and the comments will help others who feel their life is no longer their own too.  Thanks for your ideas!

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  1. Ally
    October 19, 2009 at 1:23 pm —

    First off, Jodi you are amazing! Just the fact that you are so concerned about answering all of our questions in a timely fashion says a lot about you. I have sent you some questions and you have answered them way faster than I would have ever expected you to! I was so happy to receive a quick response, but was wondering if you were super woman or something to be able to do that. I would have been just as happy waiting a while. I know this might not help you at all in figuring out what to do. But wanted to encourage you that most people who come to you for advice and questions would totally understand if you aren’t able to answer them due to your busyness or be willing to wait for an answer. So I am with those other comments that have said to hire an assistant to handle the “easy” e-mails and those that they can handle and to sort the other e-mails in to priority for you. Maybe just a few hours a week at first to try it out? But I am sure whatever you work out will be great. Wishing you the best!

  2. Kathy
    October 19, 2009 at 12:54 pm —

    a couple of hot photographers do the every 2 weeks “answer my readers’ questions” posts. I didn’t realize how it worked & when I emailed with a question, I got an auto-responder saying that my questions would be added to the list for consideration in that post. Was I thrilled, not really. Did I understand and survive? Of course. I think if you did a post every couple weeks trying to answer questions, it would cut down some of your load. Also having people use the Facebook fan group where your fans can help each other is a great idea too. Good luck!! A lot of us are facing the same issues trying to fit in our families with everything else we have to do, so I completely understand!

  3. Andrea
    October 19, 2009 at 12:51 pm —

    We have the same issues with my husband’s software business. He’s found that a user forum and e-mail list have helped a ton. He prefers the forum as more searchable, but the users seem to prefer the e-mail group, so he keeps both running. Both have volunteer user moderators who alert him when the more complex stuff comes up that he needs to deal with personally. I have deep gratitude for those volunteers!
    It was hard for him to let go of the personal touch, but I cannot tell you what a positive difference this has made for my family. We’ve not looked back at all.

  4. October 19, 2009 at 12:40 pm —

    Jodi – you have got to keep your health and family up there on the list! Otherwise you won’t get to fulfill the dream! I think you need to stop responding to every single e-mail. Do the FAQ’s and let people take your classes if they need more. Maybe respond to those that have already taken classes from you?

  5. Brendan
    October 19, 2009 at 12:13 pm —


    Check out
    There are over 30,000 posts of different questions, comments, observations, etc. David does this because he has over 60,000 members, so answering individual emails was impossible. I think if you had an automated email to direct people to the forum to post questions, as well as plugging the link on your mcpactions site, eventually it would catch on & build momentum. I’d be happy to try to help. Maybe if you get a couple of users who are familiar with your products, as well as other topics, ie, PS, LR, etc. to admin, it may be a way to get that burden off your back. Of course, you would be free to chime in when the question is important, or of particular interest to you. Your MCPActions would be used as always, promoting your products, blog, lessons, what’s new in your world, etc. The forum would be for questions, comments, and items of that nature.

  6. October 19, 2009 at 11:57 am —

    I know EXACTLY what you are going through! It’s all consuming! I haomeschool my kids, so I have to stop and teach them asa well!

    I hope you figure it out and find balance! Blessings!

  7. October 19, 2009 at 11:48 am —

    Terry – thank you!

    Crystal – considering it.

    Brendan – I was trying to use Facebook fan page in this way. Could that work? It has a wall and a discussion area. Maybe if I had two mods and always sent people there it would sort of happen. The problem now is things do not get answered there… unless I go. Is flickr better for this? If so – do you mean a regular group or something else? Want to mod? 🙂

    Christy – It is possible. I am set up as a solo person LLC. I need to check with my accountant to see how I would handle this. There is a way – I would think.

  8. October 19, 2009 at 11:42 am —

    Jodi, honestly, I have wondered from time to time how you do it all.
    I too think the FAQ and assistant are great ideas. Maybe you could try hiring someone for 2 hours a day to start & see how it goes?
    Possibly, if you do get additional questions about photography or PS that aren’t related to your specific actions, maybe you could make a ‘rule’ that for an immediate response, you have to charge? If they can’t find the question in your FAQ then I’m sure the answer is somewhere on the internet. You have to be able to find the time somewhere and this sounds like one of those places where people could use other means to find the answers in most cases. I know I have trained myself by searching on the internet, visiting forums, reading books & practice, practice, practice. Other people can do the same.
    Remember too, most of your fans are loyal followers who understand there are only so many hours in a day and understand you have a family. On the other hand, there are some people who expect the world, and are never satisfied. Don’t let those people get to you if you encounter them.
    Your kids are only young once and that passes in the blink of an eye. You will never regret taking the time out for you and your loved ones.

  9. Brendan
    October 19, 2009 at 11:39 am —


    Follow the lead of David Hobby of fame. Have a forum on flickr, assign a couple of admins who can administer the forum. Users post questions there and other users and admins can answer questions. This would take you out of the equation of answering lots of emails. You can also answer if people get stuck.

  10. October 19, 2009 at 11:34 am —

    Have you thought about hiring out for customer service? Maybe hire someone and train them on your products and services, and allow them to take over the CS aspect for the majority so that you have more time for your family, other hobbies, and taking care of the behind the scenes aspects of your business (creating new actions, training photographers, etc)

  11. October 19, 2009 at 11:13 am —

    Sweet girl…know this…you are living the dream, but it is not your “dream” unless you are doing ALL the things that you love and that includes spending time with your beautiful daughters and your wonderful husband – quality time. It is obvious that you love this business…you have so many fans because you put your whole heart and soul into it, but you are not good to anyone if you aren’t taking care of youself.
    You absolutely need to excerise and take care of your body. None of this means anything if you don’t have your health and well being. Each of your ideas make perfect sense especially the FAQ posts, new website and blog, hooking people up with each other either by forums or Facebook, but my humble opinion is that you should seriously think about hiring an assistant. I know you said that you are not ready for this, but think of it like hiring a “nanny” for your business. The hard part would be finding the right person, and it would entail some training, of course, but you could be out with your girls or at the gym and your assistant can just call you with a question if he/she can’t answer the email. You would be helping the economy as well as “getting your life back”. I know as a fan of your blog, that I have already contacted other people on it by just clicking on their name and I have figured out a couple of things with them instead of bothering you…it was great and most people are so friendly and helpful…please take care of our “photoshop goddess”…we do love you and the service that you provide. xo

  12. October 19, 2009 at 11:03 am —

    Ro – interesting idea. But I would have to get through all the emails before I could find time to write. Truthfully though, I am such an informal person. I love the blog format for that reason. Not sure I have what it takes to “write a book.”

    Brooke and Stephanie – I will keep you both in mind should I decide to bring on an assistant or helper (even if for a few hours a day). I am not ready yet – but you never know. just not sure how to get that as part of my flow… Then again – that could be a question I ask in the interviews 🙂

    Regan – LOVE THAT IDEA!!!! As soon as my new website gets up – I will have to do that – point people to the blog and FAQ posts. I totally see this happening, “Jodi, I tried searching your blog and faq, but I just have X question…” But I do think this may help.

  13. October 19, 2009 at 10:54 am —

    I like the idea of a FAQ as well. Maybe a weekly or bi-weekly FAQ post to help you keep on top of it. As for responding to emails…you can hire me 🙂 and I can help manage those for ya!!

  14. October 19, 2009 at 10:53 am —

    I ran into a similar problem with my blog design business, spending MUCH more time at the computer answering e-mails than with my kids…which has lead me to stop designing for now. One thing that did help a bit was changing my “contact me” link from going directly to my e-mail address to a page that stated something like “if you have a question you may be able to find the answer…” with links to my Policies and FAQs section and links to other sites that might be helpful — THEN I listed my contact information. That way my clients could still contact me directly but it also offered resources to find the answer themselves. You could even suggest that they search your site/blog and explain how. I know this information is already available on your blog, but bringing it to your readers attention right before they contact you might help.

  15. October 19, 2009 at 10:45 am —

    Have you considered publishing a book ?? I think you should if you have not. Taking all of these tips, and answers, etc. put it in writing….a book that cuts to the chase, something you don’t have to “read” from front to back, one that you can just look up to refer how to do something with step by step guide, would be AWESOME. And I think it would sell.

  16. October 19, 2009 at 10:43 am —

    I think your post hits home with all of us. Even those of us who don’t have business. Somedays I hate that we have some much technology and that it is so easy to keep in touch. Technology was developed to help us but instead we spend more time checking in that doing things that matter.

    I think you have some great solutions to lightening your workload. The FAQ is great. Think about combining your ideas. An automated email with referrals to the forums my help. I know Clickin Moms is great for information.

    I also think the assistant/intern is a great idea. Ok I may be a little drawn towards this one since I’m in SE Michigan, unemployed, a graphic design student, and a big fan. I’ve learned more from your workshop than in my college photoshop class. If you go this way, I’d love to apply.

    I’m sure that even if you need to take a step back and devote some time to your family none of your blog/fb followers will go anywhere. I know I wont.

  17. October 19, 2009 at 10:32 am —

    Tiffany – I could do that – and they actually sort now. But I still have to get back to everyone.

    Keri – I plan to do this and even use random questions to form blog posts more. I also need to refer people to google more. Some questions are really things best left to a search engine.

    Tanya – thanks for your sweet words. I cannot imagine taking the time to create and facilitate a forum so unless someone was so motivated as to do so – it probably will not happen. Plus unless super active, usually people do not go to them. I am active on a few forums (when I say active – I try to go a few times a week or more and skim through questions). If more people join some of these I think maybe others can answer their questions too. Many may be unaware they exist. As far as an Assistant – it may come to that – but I love the flexibility of not having someone around my house (since I have a home office)… A virtual assistant is a possibility too. I am not sure where to start with an assistant, and not sure really that I have enough tasks I could give up. I want to have my hands on the pulse – and always said that if I got so big that I needed one that I was too big and needed to slow down. Hmmm – we will see…

  18. October 19, 2009 at 10:07 am —

    Can you set up different emails to sort your mail? Like help…info…actions…workshops…donations…contests….etc. I know it would depend on the people picking the right email but maybe including a short description on your contact page when to use each one would help.

  19. keri
    October 19, 2009 at 9:34 am —

    I like the idea of FAQ posts!
    Also, your family is VERY important, I say hire an assistant if you can afford it!

  20. October 19, 2009 at 9:24 am —

    Morning Jodi!

    I can’t imagine the floods of email you must have – I think part of it is that we all feel as you are a personal friends, “one of us”, which is a testament to your exceptional customer service and relationship marketing. So here’s my 2 cents…(or 2.00)

    An assistant might not be a bad idea. The assistant could handle some of the mail that doesn’t require specific response only from you (re-downloads, purchase questions, “what does this action do?” etc..). That would free you up for the personal communiques.

    I LOVE the idea of instant download. I know that there have been times where the option in download instantly has tipped me towards a purchase.

    I agree with you on automated response – it’s just not “you.”

    Forums are a good idea – You might be able to pick a few volunteer moderators to help you take some of the load off. They could direct you towards the posts the need your personal touch.

    In any case, you might want to try a couple of combinations of your ideas, and just take the time to find the right balance.

    Above all, try to remember how loved you are, not only by your customers and your fan-base, but by a terrific family that understands that is a learning process and that you are doing your very best.

    Be blessed!

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Confession: When You Realize Something Needs to Change…