Work Less, Earn More – a Simple How-To Guide for Photographers
In order to succeed in business, you need to do two things: Make More Money and Work Fewer Hours. In this simple how-to guide, we will lay out the steps to do both of those things as a professional photographer. We have broken the process down into ten easy-to-use methods that, if applied faithfully, are certain to help you make more money as a photographer and work fewer hours as a photographer, editor, designer, marketer and business owner. To keep things tidy, we will approach these two goals separately.
It has been said that Time is Money. Nobody ever bought a Rolex with time, but there are plenty of hotshots down on Wall Street who would gladly trade their Rolex for a week off. So to some, time is more than money. If we offered you $1,000 to miss your firstborn’s first steps, would you take it? If we offered you $10,000 to miss your daughter’s wedding, would you do it? Nah, you wouldn’t. Because some time is worth more than all the money. So, with that in mind, here are five ways you can dial back the hours of your life you are spending on your business.
1. Social Media Sucks. Facebook is the opiate of the masses, and if you let it, it will sap the hours from your day like nothing in the history of time-wasting. Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, these are all–for the most part–your enemies. As a pro photographer, your inspiration should come from the world around you, not a competitor or some California show-off. Photographer groups are rarely beneficial, constructive criticism is rarely constructive, and unless you’re directly marketing your business or building your brand, Social Media is the enemy of your time.
2. Editing Is Ridiculous. On average, wedding photographers edit two or more hours for every one hour they shoot. At last check, one statistic showed the ratio at 2.6:1. So for an 8 hour wedding, editing time hovers just north of 20 hours. Right. So, that’s a massive time vortex that you really need to get out of. A great photographer does not need to be a full-time editor; outsource your editing. Or, if you cannot bear the thought of anybody else touching your precious shots, focus on speeding up the process. Hone your workflow through the mastery of keyboard shortcuts. Upgrade your RAM. However, if you cannot compress your editing time down to something closer to half of your shooting time, it’s time to re-think your time.
3. Streamline Your Album Design. Want to hear a joke? Some photographers are spending 5+ hours while others are spending $400+ on album design. It’s 2015, this is akin to hand pumping water from the well, hand churning butter or feeding your cave-dwelling children with herbs you gathered from the wilderness. And no, this is not simply a pitch for our $50 album design service. This is not even a pitch for our awesome, simple, easy-to-use, FREE album design tool. Nope. There are a handful of other pretty decent album design softwares available, and we don’t really mind if you use any of them. Just stop doing it in Photoshop; it’s just craziness.
4. Be Honest About Your Marketing. Either you’re working toward getting new clients, cultivating referral relationships and growing your business, or you’re just wasting time. We’ve already hit on the Social Media thing, so, obviously, you know not to do that. But what other ways are you wasting time, calling it marketing? If you’re spending time blogging, that’s great. Clients can find you through your blog! If you’re tweaking the pixels on your website or photoshopping your profile pic, you’re wasting time. Productive marketing is great, anything else is a waste of time.
5. Stop When You Are Done. You are a professional photographer, not a professional Laptopper. Not a professional Social Networker. And definitely not a professional Time Waster. When you hit a productive flow, stay in it. Ride that flow. But when you’ve finished what you sat down to do, put it down and walk away. Set achievable goals, achieve them, and then stop. Stop replying to emails at the dinner table. Be productive, then be restive. (Just kidding. Restive actually means restless. Don’t be restless; be playing, or resting, or throwing recreational objects to and/or at children.) It’s easy to keep working on the current shoot, because it feels like you have a job to do, a purpose. But it’s far better to be done so you can do something else. The point being, when it’s time to stop working, stop working.
It has been said that money cannot buy happiness. It has also been said that money can buy Jet Skis®, and have you ever seen a sad person on a Jet Ski®? No you have not. The love of money may be the root of all kinds of evil, but you are worth more than average, because you are above average. And while we’re on the topic of money, you should have more because you do good things with it. You give to those in need, you buy the homeless newspaper, you keep your camera fresh and your #OOTD fresher. You are worth it, you deserve it, and you are going to work hard to get it. So let’s get you some more money, shall we?
6. Charge More. This seems simple enough, right? Increase your prices. It is, actually. But simple is not the same as easy. There are quite a few factors in effectively accomplishing a rate increase. But the main thing about increasing your prices is simply this: determine that you are worth more money, and then be worth more money. A wise man once said, “If you’re going to go broke, it’s better to charge too much and work too little than to charge too little and work too much.” The trick is to charge more and not go broke.
7. Increase Your Perceived Value. Hire a designer who costs more than you can afford and let them create your brand identity. Or, you know, do it on your laptop and look like you…did it on your laptop. Aggressively cull any questionable photos from your portfolio; keep only the very best. Dress well. (Bathe.) Don’t just invest in creating a false image, but become the professional that your clients want to hire. Be the hero Gotham deserves, and the one it needs right now. Believe in your value, invest in your value, charge your value.
8. Improve the Quality and Value of Your Work. Want to make more money? Provide a better product. This means better photographs, but it also means better service. High-touch customer care, pre-emptive communications, fostering the perception that you always know what is going on, because you are in total control. Create fail-safes for every aspect of your business, from backup hard drives to backup cameras to backup photographers. Create a plan for every conceivable calamity, so you and your clients will always be covered. And yes, definitely take better photos.
9. Be Critical Of Yourself. Be brutal. No, not when you look in the mirror–as a matter of fact, you do not look anything but awesome in those pants–but when you look in the professional mirror. Ravage your workflow searching for flaws or potential hazards. Scour your email responses to ensure perfection. Vet your clients so you can avoid the bad ones. Pamper your best referral sources. Take a hard look at every aspect of your operation, and be honest about areas you need to improve. And then improve. And then repeat the process until you cannot find a single flaw to fix. And then…
10. Seek Professional Help. Get yourself a mentor. Find somebody you trust, and place yourself and your business under their microscope. And then take their advice. Go to workshops that address the areas you have the most room for improvement. Make use of high-end professional services. This is actually a deeply philosophical point, so hold on tight. You want your clients to invest in your expertise, right? You want them to spend top-dollar to get top-quality, right? If you believe you are worth hiring, you should probably believe that other professionals are worth hiring. And you should express that belief with your hard-earned cash.
The greatest professional achievement is to master the zen balance of time and money; accomplished by doing all of these, all equally well and with due harmony and circumspection. So let this be your goal: all of them, all of the time. However, if you cannot do them all, all at once, all the time, at least do most of them, most of the time. If you do that, over time, you will find yourself earning more money while working fewer hours. You will feel better about yourself, your clients will feel better about what they receive, and you will be on the path of success and growth. You will have more money and more time to spend with family, friends, pets, and yes, even your beloved jet ski®.