I started my photography business over 20 years ago, and looking back there are SO many things I wish I’d known.
It took time, perseverance, and a few mistakes to grow the successful photography business I have now. I could have saved myself QUITE a bit of stress, time, and money if I’d known a few things before I started – but that’s how we learn, right? I’m going to share a few of the lessons I’ve learned along the way so (hopefully) you don’t have to learn them the hard way like I did.
Here are the 4 things I wish I’d known when I decided to grow my photography business.
PRICE YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY BUSINESS SERVICES ACCURATELY
When I first started out, like most photographers, I was focused on doing what I loved. I wanted to provide my clients with everything they needed and wanted. I also wanted to grow my business in the process. However, in order to grow a business, you need to know your numbers and be paid accordingly. What I didn’t realize at first, was how much time each service actually takes in a photography business, especially when you decide to add selling prints to your clients (as I did).
When I sold my first print to a client, I was SO excited – until I realized afterward that I might actually LOSE money on the whole process. By the time I paid the lab to produce and ship the print to me so I could wrap it and deliver it to my client, I had lost money on the transaction. I didn’t know how to price for profit!
Make sure your prices reflect the time it takes you to provide your service (including any retouching), print costs, packaging and shipping. At the end of the day, you’ll need to make a profit on these services to survive financially and emotionally, so don’t sell yourself short.
Speaking of selling yourself short – I used to do that a LOT in my photography business. In an effort to grow quickly and make more money, I used to take every opportunity I got. This translated into LOTS of work, long hours, and an unsustainable lifestyle.
Which brings me to the second tip I wish I’d known when I decided to grow my photography business: you’ve gotta have… boundaries!
SET BOUNDARIES IN YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY BUSINESS
When you’re thinking about growing your business, one of the first logical steps is to find more clients. Do more shoots, make more money. The problem is, you are only one awesome human, and there are only so many hours in the day. After months of editing photos until 3a.m. with a gallon of coffee and an incurable eye-twitch, something’s gotta give. You cannot work all the time, and if you do (like I did), you’ll burn out over and over again.
When I took a step back and really asked myself what I wanted to be doing in my business, I was able to set some boundaries to protect my time and energy. For example, after 10 years of doing weddings, I decided they were a BIG drain on my energy, so I shifted my focus to portrait photography instead. I also blocked off intentional time on my calendar each week to have time for myself and my friends and family. These boundaries allowed me to run my business in a more sustainable way, while still allowing me to pursue my art and passion.
Setting boundaries also allowed me to grow in my photography business in other ways! After spending years trying to ‘do it all myself’ I realized that wasn’t sustainable. Which is why I decided to get help with some of my workload! That brings me to tip number 3…
Outsourcing is a huge step when growing your photography business and I cannot recommend it enough. The first service I ever outsourced in my photography business was retouching. This made the process SO simple because after a shoot, all I had to do was a little color correction and send the photos off to the retoucher. When I receive the images after the retouching process they are ready to share with the world! (Saving me HOURS of edits). This allows me to spend my time on the parts of my business that really help it grow: like nurturing relationships with my customers and taking great photos. Some other areas I’ve outsourced are studio management, email management and book-keeping.
These changes have given me back precious time and the energy to show up more fully in my business! #priceless.
The last thing I wish i would have done in my photography business sooner than later is to seek the help of a mentor/coach. I tried to figure everything out on my own in the beginning of my career. While I think I did a pretty good job, all things considered, I’m POSITIVE there’s a quicker way to level up your success that the long and windy road I had taken.
I didn’t hire a coach until I was 10 years into my career, and boy am I grateful that I did. At the time, I was in the process of pivoting my business from weddings to portraits. I knew that was a risky move because, let’s face it, weddings can be a great living! Seeking the help of a photograph coach helped me shorten the learning curve of what it takes to run a successful portrait business. With in 2 years of launching, I was on track to top what I had made in all my years as wedding photographer! I couldn’t have done that with out the help of a good coach.
Today I work less hours in my photography business and make more money doing what I love. This couldn’t have happened without setting accurate prices, protecting my time and energy, outsourcing, and getting the help of a mentor.
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