If you find yourself slowly starting to exhale as busy season winds down, you’re not alone. Wedding season can challenge the sanity of even the most organized photographers! And after you celebrate making it through the crazy season in one piece, it’s time to evaluate what worked – and what didn’t – so you’ll be prepared for next year.
The end of the 2013 wedding season is a great time to evaluate the past year and use that information to make productive changes in your business. These six questions will help you perform your own busy season audit, and help you prepare for a successful 2014.
1. Did I deliver photographs to my clients by the deadlines I promised?
This is one of the most important questions to ask yourself about 2013. As a service provider, it’s your job to meet (and hopefully exceed!) your clients’ expectations in every area. Not only does that mean delivering an exceptional set of final photographs, it also means delivering those photographs to your clients in a timely manner. After their wedding, your clients are naturally excited to see the photographs. So the longer they wait, the more impatient and potentially frustrated they’re bound to become.
But it’s not only good for your clients to get their photographs as quickly as possible after a wedding, it’s good for you too. By delivering photographs to your clients when they’re still excited, they’re more likely to purchase photographs and share the gallery with friends and family. Plus, they’re more likely to order additional products. Capitalizing on their excitement is an important part of the sales process, which means time is of the essence!
If you didn’t consistently deliver photographs to your clients within the timeframe you promised, it may be time to outsource your post-production to a specialist. By letting an expert handle it, your time is freed up to take care of other important things. Plus, you won’t have to worry about many weeks (or months) passing before you’re ready to deliver photographs to your clients.
2. Was I able to spend time building vendor and industry relationships?
Spending time on activities that keep you connected with other vendors and contacts is critical when you’re in a referral-based business. Aside from spending time at networking events, shooting weddings provides an opportunity to give back to other vendors and forge relationships. Reach out to vendors and ask whether they’d like images from events you worked on together. Stay in touch with planners, and work with other vendors to get your images published. Building these relationships, like other income generating activities, is a key ingredient to a successful business.
3. Were there any areas of my business that consistently caused me to fall behind?
Spotting a bottleneck in your business early will help you address problems before they start to domino and affect other areas of your business. Whether you’re consistently falling behind because of album design, getting lost in a black hole of emails, or struggling with editing, take a look at these tips for how to fix a bottleneck in your business.
4. Was I working out of control hours – even scrambling to get stuff done – or did I find a healthy balance?
Running a sustainable business means you have systems in place to ensure that you operate efficiently – not necessarily 24/7. Though there are always some exceptions, even during busy season, you should be able to rest up and take time off.
If you’re constantly working to keep up, and don’t remember the last time you took a day off, it’s time to decide what activities you can hand off to someone else. Chances are, there are areas where you could partner with a specialist in order to stay focused on tasks that you need to be doing yourself.
5. Did I follow a set process for all my clients, and deliver a consistent experience?
If you want to ensure that tasks aren’t falling through the cracks, having a set process for your shoots – from start to finish – is important. Map out each person or partner’s role throughout the process; then automate as much as possible. If you haven’t had a consistent process for your clients, check out software like ShootQ that helps you manage shoots from start to finish. Or, get a white board with your clients’ names and tasks – that’s just one way to get started!
6. Did all my clients who wanted to purchase for the holidays meet their deadline (and allow me to deliver on time)?
At the end of the season, it’s likely that clients will want to order albums, prints, and other products in time for the holidays. If you were buried under a pile of last minute orders and facing deadlines you couldn’t meet, now is the time to fix this issue for next year. It may be as simple as giving clients an earlier deadline for placing orders. Or, you may need to evaluate the simplicity of your ordering system, how many options you’re giving clients, or what your album design process is like. Easy to understand processes and clear communication ensure that your clients have a smooth experience placing orders and have a great impression of your business.
After you complete this audit, write down your takeaways and start brainstorming ways to implement solutions. By taking time to evaluate your systems and workflows this busy season, you’ll set yourself up for success (and sanity), next year!
Our Free Guide: How to Grow Your Wedding Photography Business is packed full of over 50 pages of tips and tricks to help you manage and grow your business! Download the guide today!