I am crazy about the Cloud. I do as much of my business up in the “cloud” as possible. One of my favorite cloud resources is Google Docs. Now I know what you’re thinking, “Why use Google Docs if I already have MS Word, Excel, etc.?” I like the simplicity, speed, and power of Google Docs. Plus, no matter where I am, as long as I have an internet connection, I can work on my documents. Also, it’s free, and I don’t have to worry about updating the software every year or two.
So, here are the five top ways I’ve been able to use it in running my business.
Proposals and contracts. I use the Document feature to write all the formal proposals I send to potential clients. I start with a template then adjust it accordingly. I can add pictures (like my logo in the header), tables, page numbers, page breaks, etc. When I’m ready to send it, I download it as a PDF and send to the client. Other formats you can save as include MS Word docs, RTF, ODT, Text and HTML.
Edit Logs. I use the spreadsheet feature to log the number of hours I spend on any project. This is an essential habit I think all filmmakers in business need to do. The spreadsheet I’ve created allows me to track total hours on a project, and I’ve even designed it so that I can track how long it takes to edit specific parts of a video (e.g. the opening, credits, color grading, revisions, etc.). I just enter the start and end times (using military time), and a formula calculates the exact time in hours and minutes. This is a great feature for you wedding and event filmmakers. I originally created this feature when weddings was our focus and I wanted to track how long each section of a wedding film took. You should have an idea how long it takes you to edit any particular project. The only way you can do that is if you consistently track that number. I create one spreadsheet for a year then track all the projects for that year in one document. Just like Excel, each project is a separate tab. Here’s the link to my template: http://bit.ly/ronseditlog.
Work Log. I am a classic case of the ADD-artist who can get easily side-tracked. After having one too many “discussions” with my lovely wife about my inability to stay focused and work effectively, I decided to create a document that allows me to track where I put my time each day. You’ll be surprised where you spend your time if you track it. It also helps you to see how many times a day you change what it is you’re doing. I’m a fan of block scheduling, so by tracking where I spend my time, I can evaluate how I’m doing. Here’s a link to my work log template: http://bit.ly/ronsworklog.
Budget Estimates. Whenever I need to create an estimate for a potential client, I calculate the numbers using this Google doc spreadsheet. I keep all the estimates in one doc. I can do a search within the document to easily find any particular estimate.
Internal Plans and Proposals. Our business plans, marketing plans, and any other internal proposals are created in Google docs. I can then share a document with my wife/business partner Tasra who can go in and make notes, changes, etc. It’s a great way to collaborate.
There are hundreds of free Google Doc templates you can start using as well. Just go to their main templates page. If you want to see the templates I have specifically created, here’s an easy bit.ly to remember: http://bit.ly/ronstemplates.
Other Google Apps
Google also has a powerful Presentation program (similar to PowerPoint) as well as a Drawing program. I don’t use those, but I could see myself transitioning to their Presentation program some time in the future.
Tomorrow I’ll talk about how we use another popular cloud app: Evernote.
Barry Vaughn says
Ron – This is absolutely timely. I’m new to the business of film-making but have been at it as an expensive hobby for about 7 years now. We’re just now setting up our online presence and I was brainstorming ideas of how to get forms out to people. I’ve used Google online tools but never really thought of it as part of my workflow with clients. I’m definitely going to make use of this. I’ve noticed many business use ShootQ, Tave, etc and while these look very powerful I’m looking for free alternatives for some of the functionality just to get things up and running as we’re not really a money making machine just quite yet.
This is very cool, I have seen that a lot of other starting photographers and videographers really need to do something like this. I’m using StudioLead.com right now and absolutely love it. Glad I switched from word and excel and just outlook for managing all this good stuff. Google seems ok but I worry about what they might do with my precious data? Great Post!
Ron Dawson says
Thanks for commenting Jenny. Although I can intellectually understand your concern about Google, I really doubt with the millions of users they have, they’re going to be interested in doing anything with the online documents of a small photography studio. 🙂 Specifically, what are you concerned they might do, that, honestly, they don’t already have the power to do via Google.com, YouTube, or any other site they own that you log onto? If they really wanted to do something nefarious, they don’t need Google docs. They can already do it. Not sure if that gives you comfort or just makes your more worried. 🙂
Ron Dawson says
Congrats on starting the new biz Barry. We use ShootQ and really like the functionality. There are a few changes I’ve met with them about to make it more effective for commercial videographers like myself, but for our photography and event video biz it’s wonderful. But, I think you’re wise to save on the money until you really need it. There are some things Google docs does so well for me, it’s just simple.
Tomorrow my most is seven ways creative professionals can use Evernote. You will want to tune in for that post as well. 🙂
I use google docs for EVERYTHING – one add on I can suggest for those of us who do not use shootq – Echosign – it’s amazing! All my contracts are handled online so now there is no paper work to do. You can create a doc in google docs and open it right in echosign or what I did is created a generic contract with the fill in parts in PDF and now for MOST situations I have a ready to go contract, I fill it in online wit echosign, they take care of the rest! It works right in GMAIL or as a stand alone. Google docs and apps are great and there are so many great apps coming out daily!
Ron Dawson says
Thanks for the tip Matt.
Ron, when are you going to share your google doc templates with us? 🙂
Ron Dawson says
Here are links to my templates:
David McKnight says
Hi Ron, just curious if you at one time shared the Video Estimating template; it’s no longer in the shared templates.
btw I’m finding more and more uses for Google Docs…
Ron Dawson says
There’s a link to download an Excel spreadsheet version of it on my Resources page of the blog.
Glad you’re getting much out of Google docs. 🙂