For the real estate photographers out there - are you so crazy busy working on photo shoots for your clients that you barely get time for anything else? That sounds like a great problem to have, but it could be a sign of some systemic issues in your business that you need to get fixed ASAP.
In this episode I looked at the four questions I ask photographers who are crazy busy (I can almost guarantee that all of you busy photographers will resonate with one or more of these) ... and we looked at some solutions for how you can fix your business.
Here's what I covered in this episode (you can jump to the different sections in the video timeline):
0:00 - Intro
3:18 - You don't have a team?
5:24 - Not good at time management?
7:04 - Too slow shooting and editing?
10:11 - Too cheap?
12:14 - Summary
12:59 - Q&A
Too busy? This is how you fix it.
One problem I see with a lot of photographers is that they get too busy, but in a bad way not in a good way. So their issue is not that they are struggling for clients, but they are struggling for time.
Quick example, I was chatting online with a photographer recently who said that they were way too busy to set a time to chat with me about their business, and at first that sounds great – we all think it’s awesome when we’re busy.
But if you’re a photographer and you’re so busy that you can’t spare the time to talk about your business then that’s something that we want to fix, and there are 4 questions I’d ask a photographer in that situation:
The first question is: are you super busy because you don't have a team around you, or maybe you don’t have the right people in the team?
Two: is it because you struggle with time management or you don't have the right systems in place in your business?
Three: Is it because you spend too much time shooting and editing?
Or four: is it because you're too cheap when compared with your competition?
Now if you are running everything beautifully and the work you send out is fantastic and you're priced really well, you should not be so busy working IN the business that you can't fit in time to work ON your business.
I think a lot of photographers struggle with this, especially if they come from a background of being an employee for other people. When you’ve got your own photography business you are not THE photographer - you are the business owner.
So your role, as the owner, is to manage the business, not DO all of the functions that other people could do.
Now of course, when you’re getting established as a photographer you might need to do everything yourself because you’re still building the foundation, and that’s okay. But if you get to a point where you are swamped with work then that says to me that you need to make some changes, so let’s look at a few things you can do.
If you don't have a good team ...
Firstly, if you’re busy because you don’t have a good team around you then it might help to start thinking about your business like a bowl that can take on a certain amount of work, but there’s a limit to what you can do.
So maybe your bowl is quite small at first because it’s just you in the business, but eventually you get to a point where you’re consistently hitting 100% capacity in terms of the number of shoots you can do each week, your bowl is overflowing or close to it, so that’s when it’s time to make your bowl bigger. And we do that by bringing on extra team members who can take on different functions within the company, and now you have a bigger bowl so you can do more jobs.
So if you are too busy to work on your business, perhaps you need to take a look at making your bowl larger, and that might seem quite scary but it will open space up and you’ll be able to work ON your business and give it the attention it deserves, and if you do it right that will lead to business growth so you slowly fill up that new bowl.
Now if you've already added extra people and you’re still busy managing your team then maybe you don’t have the right team members, so that might be worth looking at as well, so look at your hiring process, how you’re training your team and also look at what you’re paying them and think about increasing the salary or the percentage they get so that you’re attracting the top talent.
So what you want to do is expand the capacity of work you can do by bringing in other people, and that will allow you to do more work or get more time where you’re not shooting but you’re being a business owner. Ok, does that make sense?
If you're not great at time management ...
Alright, the second reason you might be busy is because you’re not great at time management. Now there are lots of reasons for this but one of the common ones is that you’re getting distracted and you find it hard to stay focused on the things you need to work on. So maybe you’re editing a photo shoot but then you decide to take a quick look at Facebook or YouTube, and 40 minutes later you realise you’d better get back to editing. Hands up if that’s you?
So maybe when you’re doing certain tasks you need to shut down your browser until you finish the editing, or whatever it is you need to work on.
Now another time management solution is to put systems in place to simplify the things you do every day. So you might look to simplify the booking process for clients, the photo delivery, the posting of content on social media … look at everything you do, and set up templates or automate certain actions so that things still happen, but they happen quicker. I'm a big fan of automating the booking and payment process and there are some great tools out there for doing this.
Of course, it takes time at first to get those systems in place, but once things are operating well then it can make a big difference to how smoothly your business operates, so well worth looking into.
If you spend too much time shooting & editing ...
The third reason you're too busy could be because you spend far too much time on location shooting a home, and then you spend hours and hours editing your images. Is that the case for some of you? I know this can be a really big problem, because it’s stopping you from taking on as many clients as you need to make your business viable.
I mean, if it’s taking you 3 hours to shoot a home and 3 or 4 hours to edit, then you can only do 1 or 2 jobs a day and you’re hardly going to have time to work on growing your business.
The obvious thing here is that you just might need to get more confident in the way you shoot a home. So find a technique that is quick, and that might involve shooting a mix of ambient exposures about 2 stops apart that are blended together during the editing stage, and that can be quite a fast approach on location which can be really helpful.
Or you might get comfortable with using multiple flash exposures, and that’s a great way to shoot – the image quality there is fantastic, but it’s a matter of doing lots of practise away from your clients so that you can move fast enough onsite and you don't need to take too many shots to get right. A lot of photographers seem to overdo this and they'll take way too many shots, and it's just not necessary.
A process I like is to get a reading for inside the room then underexpose by 2 or 3 stops so that you're getting some ambient light but not too much. Then you want to take your interior shots, and you might shoot with a flash on one side of the room bouncing off the ceiling, then another shot with a flash on the other side of the room bouncing off the ceiling.
So that's your interior lit up, but then if you have a view that you want to show then for your next shot you'll set your exposure for the view, depending on how strong you want the view to be, and then you fire your flash straight at the window to light it up because that makes it easier when editing. Then when you get the images into Photoshop you'll blend those 3 images using layer masks.
Using that method you have full control and you've only taken 3 exposures so it's nice and quick. Shooting that way I’d do 25 images in under an hour and then spend about the same amount of time in post, so roughly 2 hours per property. That should be your goal, and if you’re slower than about 25 images in an hour then you really need to work on your speed.
Does that all make sense? Let me know in the comments if I need to clarify any of that. OK?
If you're too cheap ...
So moving on to the final reason for photographers being overloaded with work, and I think this is the big issue for a lot of you, maybe you’re too cheap for the value you deliver. I mean, your clients are smart and they can see an awesome deal when it’s in front of them, and if they can get your photos and your service at a stupidly low price then they will, and it can just overwhelm you with work and you become like a low-wage factory worker, just churning through the photos.
Now the solution here is to raise your prices. When you do that it’s either going to reduce the number of jobs you do each week, and you might even keep the same revenue coming in which is great, or you’re going to still be busy but now you’ve got more money to play with so you can afford to expand your team and outsource some of your day to day activities, and that’s going to give you more time to work ON your business.
Of course, there is a risk involved in this and I think that’s why a lot of photographers hold back, but if you do this right then things should be OK for you. If you go back to episode 13 of my show I spoke about how to get paid what you’re worth, so have a look at that if you want to know more, but what’s important here is that you increase your prices if you get too busy. That’s going to allow you to work on your business and get the coaching you need or work on your skills or chase new clients that are able to pay more, or even work fewer hours so you can spend more time with your partner or your kids or go hiking or do whatever it is that you want to be doing – it’s just going to give you the options to do that, instead of being chained to your clients for like 16 hours a day or whatever it is you do.
What will you change?
So now it’s over to you. First of all, are you too busy working in your business that you don’t have time to work on your business or get away from your business?
And secondly, if you are too busy, what changes will you introduce to make things better? Do you need to expand your team, get better at time management, spend less time shooting or raise your prices?
Let me know what you’d like to do, or if you’re not sure send me a message outlining your situation and I’d be happy to look at some ideas for you.