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The Keys to Building a Successful Photography Business: The Wedding Photographer’s Guide

In our first post of this series, we covered how to start a photography business. We addressed 4 major areas to focus on to prepare your business for growth.

Successful Photography Business

In our second post, we discussed photography marketing tips and how to use it to expand your reach and gain the attention of ideal clients. In our third post, we shared how to take everything you prepared and use it to grow your photography business.

Through setting goals and creating plans, implementing structure and defining your brand, it is now time for you to sustain the growth you’ve achieved. The well-defined processes you have created for your business will help you capture the attention of ideal clients, and will help you continue to find success in the future as a business owner. When you are at this point in your growth, look at your business as a whole. From here, you can make executive decisions that will continue to sustain your growth.

Ownership

With the appropriate systems in place, you can take a step back and look at your photography business as a whole. Acting like the CEO instead of an employee allows you to make critical decisions for your business. This is a process that you should maintain on a daily basis to see where you are and how long it will take you to reach your goals.

You love what you do, and there is nothing wrong with being a wedding photographer. But, there is a paradigm shift that happens with professional photographers as they transition from thinking like just a photographer into thinking like a photography business owner. Your decision-making process will change when you think about the business in addition to thinking about the images.

Resource: Blog – The Professional Photographer’s Paradigm Shift

“Work on your business, not in your business.” – Michael Gerber

Once you’ve grown your business to the point that you have a constant stream of tasks, a typical day can look a lot like this:

  • What emails do I need to send?
  • What images do I need to deliver?
  • What blog posts do I need to write?
  • What meetings do I need to schedule?
  • What do I need to DO?

This is working IN your photography business. And, let’s be honest, everything needs to be taken care of. All those tasks must be accomplished to meet the needs of your clients. Every minute you spend taking care of those tasks, though, is time that you are no longer dedicating to growing your business. Instead, the business owner wakes up and says:

  • How must the business work?
  • How do I get the business to work on itself?
  • How do I get this business to work better?

As professional photographers, the product is what you deliver to the client: the beautiful pictures that you take and the moments that you capture. This is the product you invest your time on.

As entrepreneurs, the product is the business. The business is what you build and what you manage. This is the mindset of the business owner, and this is the product they focus on.

There is no doubt that managing this paradigm is the ultimate challenge. A growing photography business will have a continuously long list of tasks that need to be performed. And yet, the more time the business owner spends on those tasks, the less time there is for growth. Eventually, the list of tasks grows so long that it is all the business owner can tackle each day. This is why you must transition from a DOER to an OWNER.

Keys to thinking like a photography business owner:

  • Invest in systems: The more efficient and scalable your systems are, the less time you will need to spend executing tasks.
  • Complete tasks only YOU can do: Time with clients, networking with vendors, strategizing about new opportunities – these are things only you can do for your business.
  • Have a plan: Identify tasks that are unnecessary for you to do, and make a plan to remove those tasks from your list in the future.

Activities:

  1. Begin thinking like an owner:
    • Identify 3 areas of your photography business that can be automated so you can spend as little time in these areas as possible.
    • Identify 3 areas that need improvement – is there a bottleneck in your business that constantly causes you stress and overwhelms you?
  2. Create systems that allow you to work on your business rather than in it:
    • Which tasks are you currently doing that can be delegated to others? Identify 3 items you can remove from your to-do list.
  3. Are you working ON your business or IN your business?
    • Do you have the mindset of a professional photographer or of an entrepreneur? How can you shift your thinking to be business oriented?

Partners

When you are working ON your business instead of IN your business, you will eventually need to bring on some help. Whether it be an in-house assistant or an external partner, the process of evaluating starts the same. And yet, many business owners struggle with bringing in the right help. Often, this is the entrepreneurial hiring cycle:

This cycle does not solve your problems and leaves you feeling overworked, overwhelmed, and not happy. More often than not, this cycle leads to a dead end for your business too. To that end, you must plan ahead for working ON your business, and set your help up for success. You can start that process now before you reach the tipping point – you must be scalable.

Resource: Blog – 5 Ways Efficient Business Empowers Your Photography

Planning

When you are overwhelmed and overworked, you don’t have time to hire new employees, train them and build relationships with them. If you plan ahead, you will avoid the overwhelming feelings and you can decide what parts of your business that you do not need to be involved in.

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In building your company manual, you were able to identify those tasks that only you can do. Those are the things that will take your priority. Do what you do best. As you grow, a specialist can help you deliver the best results to your clients while allowing you to be creative. Give yourself permission to trust specialists. Remember that you are the CEO, not the employee of your business, so outsourcing is the best way to keep you from working IN your business.

Outsourcing

Bringing outside specialists into your business to help you execute your growing list of tasks can save you time, headaches, and even improve the areas where your output isn’t the best you know it could be. So now the question becomes, “What do I outsource?”

Taking photos only accounts for about 12% of your business, yet that’s the only section that you are getting paid for. So why should you invest so much time and effort into the other sections? It is all about increasing your time shooting and decreasing the rest of the pie parts. Color correction takes up over a quarter of the pie (28.5%) and is the most time-consuming component photographers invest time in. By trusting a specialist such as wedding photo edit company ShootDotEdit for color correction and integrating them into your workflow, you can save hours of work per event.

Start trusting specialists to:

  • Do the things you can’t do
  • Do the things they can do cheaper than you
  • Do the things you don’t enjoy

When choosing a partner for your business, remember to:

  • Find the right fit
    Define roles and responsibilities
    Invest in the process

Resource: Guide – How to Integrate ShootDotEdit into your Wedding Workflow

Here is a list of specialists to partner with to help your business grow:

  • ShootDotEdit is a wedding photography post production company for professional wedding photographers.
  • Align delivers fast, affordable, and clean album designs for professional photographers. They now have the Album Start-Up Kit, which is an all-in-one album solution that provides the easiest and fastest ways for photographers to start selling more albums.
  • Táve is a virtual studio manager. It keeps your job leads and workflow organized, and always reminds you what needs to be done next.
  • Fotoskribe is a blogging service for professional photographers.
  • LensProToGo is the perfect place to go to rent cameras and lenses. They are one of the largest rental companies and can ship anywhere in the U.S.
  • Extra is a gallery hosting solution that is complimentary for all ShootDotEdit Customers. It has no hosting fees, no storage fees, and zero commission print sales by a team of expert marketers.

Activities:

  1. Develop a professional business plan that will help you achieve your short-term and long-term goals.
    • Determine at least 3 long-term goals and 3 short-term goals you can complete.
  2. Create a list for parts of your workflow you should not be working on and can delegate to others. Check areas such as:
    • Color Correction
    • Album Design
    • Studio Management

Monitor and Adjust

Growing your business does not happen overnight. There is a lot of hard work that happens to get to that point. But once you get there, don’t stop. You want to continuously monitor and adjust all areas of your business as you learn insights and ways to improve it.

  • Never Stop Being the Owner: Your photography business will continue to grow as you continue to nurture it.
  • Trust Your Systems: Develop systems that let you work on your business instead of in your business.
  • Believe in YOU: Believe that you are worth the price you are charging and more.
  • Believe in Your Team: Set up rewarding partnerships that will help you and your photography business grow.
  • Stay Current: Use the most up-to-date systems and software to ensure you don’t fall behind.
  • Use Social Media: The more active and consistent you are, the better your engagement and following will be.
  • Stay on Top of Mind: Stay actively in contact with clients and vendors to ensure that valuable referrals are not lost.
  • Keep Swimming: As a business owner, the learning never ends – growing requires constant change.

Most importantly, persevere. It may not be an easy road, but it will take you to the best places ever. As Winston Churchill once said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” Stay positive, stay focused, stay true to yourself, and you will find success. Each step in the process is essential. Like building blocks, each one lays the foundation for your business. With a solid foundation rooted in your passion, your business will continue to grow.

With the various resources you have for growing your business, there’s no telling what you can accomplish! Take the necessary steps to implement updates and changes to influence your growth, which will help increase the overall profit to your business. The more proactive you are in your business, the better chances you will have to continuously book ideal clients and create sustainability for your business.

Discover the most important areas of your business to focus on for continued success when you access our 5 Keys to Absolutely Succeeding in Your Wedding Photography Business Guide. Download your copy today!

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