Today's guest post is by Kate Anderson of Plumeria Album Design. Kate started her album design business after realizing how much she enjoyed designing (and redesigning) her own wedding album. Kate's wedding photographer jumped at the opportunity to have Kate start designing client albums for her, and Plumeria was born. Read on to see how you can outsource as a way to grow your business. I am super, super excited that Kate is offering a FABULOUS giveaway for one PhotoMint reader, a 30-page wedding album design. Scroll to the end (I mean, read the entire article) to enter the giveaway.
Outsourcing can be one of the best things you do for growing your business. Outsourcing work like editing, color correcting and album design allows you grow your business faster, and have a life outside of your business. You may think outsourcing means losing all creative control of your art, leaving your art at the whim of some other artist. Of course, no one wants that. However, outsourcing has less to do with the artist side and more with the business side.
As a photographer, you're both an artist and a businessperson. Outsourcing allows you to be a better businessperson, by giving you time to focus on the business more, or have more time for your family and friends. This can have the pleasant side effect of allowing you more time to work on your art, too.
Planning for outsourcing
If you've read The E-Myth by Michael Gerber, you'll know that the basic premise of the book is to work backwards in your business. Decide where you want your business to go, then put things in place to get you there. <– Click to Tweet
You may want your studio to become a busy wedding studio with a full calendar of weddings and portrait sessions, so make it part of your plan to outsource parts of your business that keep you from growing it.
Unless you have a super-efficient workflow (most photographers struggle with this), chances that as you get to the point of having a fully booked calendar, you'll be too busy to do everything that needs to be done to run your business plus get sleep. Set up your pricing right from the start to account for the expense of outsourcing, so your business is ready to grow into it.
You're the business owner, the heart and soul of the operation. You should be focusing all your energies on growing the business and all the things needed to grow it. The big picture stuff. That's probably shooting weddings and sessions, marketing to new clients and networking with other vendors to build up your referral base. If you've been in this business for any length of time, you know that's a full time job right there! That's what working ON your business means. You are working on building the business bigger and better.
Album design or editing is work you do IN your business, and that's not the best use of your time or money. Say it costs $500 to outsource the album design and editing of a wedding, work that would take you 6-10 hours to do. If you take those 6-10 hours to network and do photography marketing, how many new clients could you potentially get? And how much would those new clients potentially spend? If you don't waste the time you get back that $500 that you spent could allow you to bring potentially thousands more in bookings and sales. Can you see how this can start to snowball?
One of the biggest problems that prevents photographers from outsourcing or taking on some extra help when they really need it is they haven't charged their clients enough. This is especially problematic in weddings.
Say your clients buy their wedding package in January of 2012 for $2000; the wedding is in June 2013. At this price, you may just barely be making money if at all. During 2012, you get a lot of success with bookings, and 2013 is a full schedule. Awesome! As 2013 gets well into the busy season, you're getting overwhelmed with editing and album design, and your customer service is starting to slip. You need to outsource, but can't afford it because you didn't build that cost into your packages booked in 2012.
Most of that money is spent on taxes, insurance, your costs for goods sold, your second shooter fees, and other overhead expenses; there's not even much for you to pay yourself. In fact, there might not be anything to pay you. Bummer! Now you're stuck; you raise prices for 2014 weddings, but that's doesn't help you make ends meet any easier in 2013. It's going to be a long year.
That's why it's important to think and plan in terms of where you want to be. Even if you're just starting out, you need to account for the cost of outsourcing right from the start if you plan to be busy enough to need it. And if you aren’t planning to be busy enough to need help, is your business plan strong enough?
What to outsource?
Outsource what you suck at, and what you don't want to do! Or the tasks that you can do, but takes you longer than it should take.
For some people, that's album design. It could be editing. If an editor can process a wedding and have it ready for you in a week or two, think of how impressed your client will be, especially if their friends have had to wait 4-6 weeks for their wedding photographs? Or it could be designing marketing pieces or accounting (I outsource this stuff). There's an option to outsource just about every business task out there.
Decide what you're really good at and love, and keep doing that. Let someone else do all the other stuff.
Why I know outsourcing works
When I started my album design business, I bought a website theme and customized it for my branding, and was putting together all my own marketing pieces. I could do it, but it took me weeks and months. Not because it was necessarily hard, but because I would be repeatedly changing my mind, tweaking this or that, coming up with a better idea. Little bits of everything were changing throughout a whole year. It was a huge time suck. So, I decided to outsource a brand new website and marketing suite (I used Braizen if you're curious, they're awesome!).
It was a far, far better business decision. By having them design the website and marketing pieces, I could stop spending hours redoing this or that all the time, and instead work on marketing and getting albums out faster. I gave them money, they gave me time, which for me is worth much more than it cost me in dollars.
Plumeria Album Design creates custom wedding and portrait albums, starting at $200 for a wedding album and $100 for a portrait album. With quick turn-around times averaging a week or less, think of how impressed your clients will be if you had a gorgeous album pre-design ready for them to view before they were back from their honeymoon?