Real estate photographers: your time problem is expensive.
Now if you're a real estate photographer or an architectural photographer, you might have a time problem, and if you do then it’s an expensive problem to have and you need to get it fixed.
So what do I mean by that, and how do you fix it?
When I’m talking about a time problem, I mean that a lot of photographers out there, and I speak here from personal experience because I used to do this as well, you are not charging appropriately for your time or you’re wasting time doing things that other people could do or that other systems could do automatically.
How to tell if this is a problem you have
How do you know if this is a problem for you? Well, if you feel like you’re always super busy, but your bank account doesn't reflect that level of busy-ness because it's nearly empty, then you have a time problem.
If you’ve hit a ceiling on what you can make in your business and you can't expand any further, then you have a time problem.
If you can’t take time off from work or spend the day with your kids in the middle of the week, then you have a time problem.
Now if that resonates with you then I want you to imagine you could fix this time problem, and I want you to think of the emotions that you feel when we talk about what it would be like to get this right. So for example:
How would you feel if you could get your personal time back again so you could spend more time with your kids or your partner in the evening or during the week? What would that be like for you?
How would you feel if you had the time to dream about where your business could go, set some big goals and plan how you will implement those goals, and feel like you can do that because you have the time available during the week?
How would you feel if you were able to reconnect with the fun of being a photographer again, instead of just racing from one client to the next, like bang bang bang, and then you collapse in a heap at the end of the week?
If that’s you, then the solution is to fix your time problem.
Now a lot of photographers when I ask them about the biggest issue they face, they tell me that they have a marketing problem. They don’t know how to market and they think they don’t have enough in the bank because they don’t have enough clients.
That might be true for some of you, but what’s important is that you acknowledge that you can’t fix your marketing problem until you fix your time problem. By that I mean, you need time to do the marketing, and you need time to deliver those services to all of those new clients, so to do that you need to get your time problem fixed first, and then you’ll be able to work on marketing.
So what do I mean when I say that your time problem is expensive?
Basically I mean that when you’re not charging for all the time you spend working on projects for your clients, then you’re losing a lot of money because you’re spending time working on things basically for free, but you don’t even know you’re doing it.
Let me give you an example – a couple of weeks ago I saw a post from a real estate photographer on Facebook where they were talking about their pricing structure. Another photographer commented on the cost of editing, and said that although photographers need to factor in the cost of editing if they outsource to another company and pay a rate for each photo that’s edited, they don’t have to consider that editing cost if they do the editing themselves.
Now I think that's a real problem, because it assumes that since there is no external cost for editing, then there isn’t any cost at all, but of course there is a cost because it’s the photographer’s own time that they are putting into editing those photos.
And this is one area where a lot of photographers go wrong – they don’t factor in the time they spend editing their own images in the same way they would if they were outsourcing their editing.
I mean, if you’re spending even 1 hour editing a photo shoot, then you should be charging for that time. It’s not something you can give away for free, so what would you like to charge for that time? Would it be $50 an hour? Maybe $100 an hour?
Whatever it is, it’s probably more than what you would pay an editing company to do it for you, so at the very least, add the cost of outsourcing your editing onto your rates so that the client is paying you for the editing, rather than you basically doing it for them for free. Does that make sense?
So now let’s go through 5 things you can do that will help you overcome your time problem:
Get your prices right
The first one is to get your prices right, and to do that you need to know your numbers – all of your numbers, not just how long you spend on a photo shoot. So how much time do you spend editing the images? Build that cost into your fee.
What are your business expenses each year? You’ll want to spread the cost of that across your photo shoots, and in coming up with that number, include things like the cost of replacing your gear, and importantly, the depreciation in the value of your car, since that can be a big expense you’ll want to include in your rates.
So go through all of your numbers, and make sure all of your services adequately cover your expenses, your own time, your team members, taxes, and a profit margin. Now if you can do all of that, then that will go a long way towards overcoming your time problem because you’ll be in a strong position to implement the next tip …
Hire people or setup systems
… and that is, hire people or setup systems that will help you with your time. Now which option you go with will depend on what you need to have done, but I’d probably start with setting up automated systems to manage the booking and payment part of your day, if that’s not something you’re doing yet. If you can at least pass that off to an automated system then that’s going to save you a lot of time each week.
Then once you have that in place, you’re going to be in a much better position to build your team, so the second part is about bringing in the right people to help you. Maybe you need an extra photographer, or maybe you bring in someone to shoot the videos while you do the still shots.
Whatever it is, having great people is fantastic and completely changes your business, but, and this is really important, this only works if you get your numbers right. I mean, if you bring people in just because you’re crazy busy, but in reality the reason you’re busy is because you’re too cheap and you’re barely covering your own meagre wage, let alone a salary for another photographer, then you’re just going to crash and burn.
So get those numbers right, as I mentioned, and make sure they still work even when you add extra team members. That’s so important – the numbers have to work for a growing team, and not just for you.
Make decisions quickly
Ok, the third thing you can do is to make decisions quickly, because you can waste a lot of time simply being indecisive. For example, let’s say you’re trying to figure out if you should go this way or that way with a particular decision. You spend time learning and soul-searching and trying to figure out what you do, and weeks go by and you still haven’t made a decision because you’re worried about doing the wrong thing, and those fears are holding you back.
But here’s the thing – there will be times where you make the wrong decision, so acknowledge that it will happen sometimes, and move fast.
All you can do is make a decision based on the data you have now, not on the data you will have in 6 months when you can look back on this decision and judge yourself harshly for making the wrong call. That’s not going to help, because you don’t have that information now, so don’t judge yourself now for something you don’t have, and that’s hindsight. You don’t have that hindsight just yet, so be okay with that. We’re operating in the now – so work on what you can, make a decision and do something, and if it turns out to be the wrong call then you can adapt later.
I know it can be difficult to move forward knowing that you could be doing the wrong thing, but this is business, and there are risks involved. Some of your decisions will be bad decisions, but some of your decisions will be awesome and you’ll look back and go, wow, I’m so glad I took this opportunity! So right now, if the two options that are in front of you seem equally good, then choose one of them and see what happens.
You control your time
Alright, the fourth thing to do is to acknowledge that you have control over your time. You are responsible for you and all that you do, but you can’t control other things so be okay with that. But in the things you can control, like how quickly you make decisions, whether you waste an hour on Facebook or spend that hour working on stuff that matters, those are the things you are responsible for. Your time is under your control – stuff that happens outside of your control is not.
Be willing to pay for speed
Ok, the last one on our list is to be willing to pay for speed. Okay, be willing to pay for things that will help you move faster. So whether it’s someone managing your office so you can focus on other things, whether it’s hiring a business coach to bring you clarity and provide you with tools and resources to help you with business operations, whether it’s upgrading your internet speed so you can send your RAW files off to your editor in just a couple of minutes instead of waiting for hours, be willing to pay for speed so that stuff gets done and you can move on to other things.
Alright, so there’s our list of five things you can do:
- Get your prices right.
- Hire people or use systems to get more done.
- Make decisions quickly, instead of wasting time.
- Acknowledge that you control your time.
- And finally, be willing to pay for speed.
Now if you do all five of those, and that might take a lot of work so don’t expect this to be easy, but with those five steps in place, you will overcome your time problem and you’ll get to a point where you can spend more time with your family because you'll either have systems or people to help you, you'll be able to work on your business instead of being stuck working in it all the time, and you'll enjoy photography again because you'll be able to slow down.
And I think that’s the most important benefit of this – when you fix your time problem, life is good again. You’re back in control, you’re charging well for the work you do, you feel positive about things and that’s when you can give the best version of you to your clients and really enjoy the work you do.