We’ve all been there. Whether you’ve been in the business for years, or you’re just starting out with your photography business. I’m talking about that moment when you realize that you’re no longer running your business. Your business is running you.
“What do you mean Dustin? I’m staying busy, that’s a good thing right?”
Of course, staying busy is good. Shooting photos, editing images, spending countless hours in Lightroom, designing wedding albums, retouching print orders, answering phone calls, returning client text messages, sending emails… sounds familiar, right?
“Well yes, that’s what I’m supposed to be doing as a wedding/portrait/commercial/editorial photographer. Isn’t it?”
Well, that’s partially true. However, are you so busy with your head down that you have no idea where your business is headed? Some of these day to day responsibilities should be maintained by you. But, think of it like a car manufacturer. There’s the CEO of the company, the high level executives, marketers, designers, accountants, managers, and people working the assembly line. Every person in that company has their specific role to play. However, in your photography business, you play all of those roles. But, do you really have to?
Obviously, you’re the CEO. You’re running the business, right? You have the vision to see where you want your photography business to go next. But do you see a CEO working the assembly line? Perhaps. But a car company with a CEO working the assembly line may not last for very long. Who is driving the company forward if the boss is busy with their head down working on piecing each car together?
Now bear with me here, I know this metaphor is a bit of a stretch. But, your photography products are kind of like the cars made by this imaginary company. Let me explain…
Here’s my business level hierarchy:
Business Development > Marketing > Finances > Clients > Shooting > Editing > Products
Every professional photographer is different, however this can be considered as a very general business structure. My main point is that all of the things on the left side of the hierarchy can only be done by you. However, as we move towards the right, more of these items can be handled by employees or outsourcing. Whether you’re a volume portrait/wedding photography studio, or a fine art photographer, to some degree each of these items can either be handled by you or by someone else. The biggest mistake however is when we let someone else handle our business development. This most often happens when we allow our clients to run our business.
“But wait, Dustin. It’s my business, how am I letting my clients run it?”
Let me ask you this, how often do you respond to emails? Is it the moment they come to your inbox? Do you drop everything and do whatever is needed pertaining to that email the moment it comes to you? What about the times of day that you answer emails? Are you guilty of returning emails late at night after business hours? Do you even have established business hours? When your client sees that timestamp on the email you sent them at 1am, what do you think that tells them? Do they now have access to you at all hours? And what exactly were you doing when that “drop everything and panic” email came through in the first place? Were you shooting, meeting with a client, editing photos, working on a print order…? Where on the hierarchy does the interrupted task fall?
My point is this: Identify what makes you productive and outsource what doesn’t. For example, make priorities to go over your finances and see what’s making you money and what’s wasting it. Or, schedule a lunch with one of your favorite wedding vendors and do some networking. Or, look back at your slow periods throughout the past year and come up with ways to bring in more profits during your next slump.
“Ok, hotshot. You seem to have all of your priorities in place. Who do you use for outsourcing so you can run your business?”
First off, I had to identify what was slowing me down. I realized that even though I’m picky about how my wedding images look, it was also a huge amount of my time spent editing in Adobe Lightroom. So, I outsource my RAW image file corrections to Collages.net. Their post-production experts spend time with me, making sure their edits look exactly as if I did them myself. Secondly, there’s no way I would have the same level of style and creativity as a professional wedding album designer. I make the images, but I’m not a graphic designer. It’s not my forte. Collages.net also designs and binds my albums for me. And when it comes to prints, Collages.net even retouches my prints before drop shipping them from their professional photo lab to my clients. As for my finances, I use a local bookkeeper and CPA. There’s just no way I’ll even pretend to be an expert on finances and taxes.
Everything else, shooting, clients, marketing, business development… all of those responsibilities are mine. When I started Dustin Meyer Photography, I made a conscious decision to use my name for my business. My business is a reflection of who I am. My studio is caring, compassionate, emotional, professional, enjoyable, and personal. I can’t maintain this professional image if I’m getting caught up with the minor details.
With all of this being said, it’s time to ask yourself “Am I really in charge of my business? And if so, where am I going with it?”. My hope is that you will find the means to take back control of your photography business and actually enjoy it :)
This post is sponsored by Collages.net Helping Photographers Profit.
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS AND COMMENTS? WOULD YOU LIKE TO SHARE WAYS YOU’VE DISCOVERED TO HELP RUN YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY STUDIO BUSINESS? PLEASE COMMENT BELOW…