Upload & Sell: Off
| p.4 #11 · Is the economy picking up and photogs are dropping out? |
This is the business model that I'm trying to adapt to. I've come to the conclusion that if I continue running a full time photo business (especially in LA) it will end my life 10 years early just from stress. Unfortunately all the opportunities I find that fit my skills sets are still in LA for full time corporate photo jobs which means our cost of living will still be 200% higher than it should be. I'm curious, though, how do you balance customer service into your schedule? Right now we only book high end weddings where there's a good...Show more →
Well, first and foremost, I went to school for business - not art or photography or digital media or physics. Any job I've ever had I've looked for ways to be more efficient, on both the micro and macro levels. Speeding up editing time, processing time, delivery time, book keeping time, etc., all gets me more time with my family.
To put it into perspective, the first wedding I shot in 2011 I spent almost 30 hours editing. I delivered 500 bad photos and it took me almost a month. The last wedding I shot I delivered 700 photos I'm proud of. I spent only 1 hour culling and 4 hours editing, and delivered the gallery link to my clients in 3 days.
No bragging here, but I'm told I'm a different breed. I work well on little sleep. I thrive on stress and activity.
I don't wait on things. If I get home early from a wedding, and my kiddo is asleep, then I import the images and let them render. If I'm still awake, I start culling. This not only helps speed up the delivery time, but it also makes for less of a chance of losing someone's images. If I can cull, edit, export and upload in a few days, then they're backed up somewhere offsite (SmugMug) quickly, without any fear of losing images. This also helps me sleep at night.
I often times wake up at midnight, pop in my headphones, and edit. It's quiet, and I find I am fastest between 11pm and 3am. I can't do that all the time, but once in a while I can.
I spent all of 2012 getting my editing times down as quickly as possible, and setting up systems for book keeping, client contact, etc. that saved me time. I now spend only about 1 hour a month on book keeping.
I limit my meetings to about an hour. I'm not going to run away if it goes an hour and 15 minutes, but I check the time and start wrapping things up around 1 hour. I walk in friendly, comfortable but dressed nice (jeans, boots, a nice shirt - that's who I am, so I want to represent my brand well), and well prepared with energy. I no longer "meet clients where they're at" in that sense. I don't drive 45 minutes to meet a client. In fact, I probably just lost a booking because I wouldn't drive 75 minutes for a consult for a bride. But you know what? I didn't lose $100 in gas and parking, and an entire evening with my family. That's worth it to me. Skype is a life saver. I just Skype'd with a bride for her July wedding as she's in Texas.
I'm still learning to say no. My wife has to pry me from the computer all the time, and I still miss the occasional dinner due to a telephone meeting, or a coffee meeting. But I've forced myself to put down the phone/mouse/keyboard and invest in my family. After all, I started this business to afford a home for my family, and so my wife could, hopefully one day, be a stay at home mom. If I'm doing all this work, and missing the moments with them, then it's all for not.
Customer service is simple: They get a reply in 24 hours. Even if it's a, "Hey, I'm out of town for the weekend, but I will get back to you first thing Monday morning." My clients have my cell phone. They can email, text, call, Facebook, etc. They know they can access me with questions or concerns. When I am talking to them or with them, I am fully invested in them. Not distracted, or annoyed, or apathetic. I am engaged with them. They know I love what I do, and because of that, building trust is easy.
The majority of our business is digital, although some people do order albums. It's a nice bonus. Everyone wants digital files, and we cater to that. It keeps the business flowing, and I believe that the industry is headed that direction. I am looking into ways to drive print sales, but that's something that's always on my mind. Keeping my clients happy and providing for them what they want, while still feeling like I'm turning a healthy profit for my business is key. That's a balance I finally feel like I've fallen into, and it feels good. Really good.
On a side note, my day job does allow for at least some time every day to email clients, take a quick phone call, etc. My job is by no means flexible, but it does allow me time on a break or lunch to do some of this. This helps tremendously, as the daily photography work (correspondence, contracts, emailing .zip files, etc.) I'd have to do when getting home from work is almost non-existent by 5:00pm.
That was a lot of stuff I just typed. Sorry about that.
Edited on Jun 13, 2013 at 08:46 PM · View previous versions