As a business of one, you have to wear all the hats. You are the creative director, the vice president of finance, the marketing director……It can start to feel overwhelming.
Outsourcing may be your answer.
One of the hard realities of being photography business owner is that only a small percentage of the time you put into your photography business is actually spent shooting. But what if you had the opportunity to get some of that creative time back?
Just because you can do it yourself, doesn’t mean you should. It can be hard to let go of something you have built from scratch with your time, sweat and tears. Further, it can be hard to accept that you have reached the point where you simply cannot do it all with your photography business. You may find yourself facing the reality that the greatest limitation on your business is the amount of time you have available.
Outsourcing can be the answer you have been looking for. As an artist, time is your greatest resource. Even if you are on a tight budget, outsourcing should still be considered when trying to grow your business. Outsourcing is all about freeing up essential time so that you can put your efforts into the core activities that drive your business, increase your profit, and fulfill you creatively.
From cost advantages, to basic sanity, there are many reasons why outsourcing can be beneficial for your business.
Cost Advantages: Outsourcing can save you money. By outsourcing a task at a cost that is less than the rate you earn on profit driving activities, you free up essential time, thus creating the potential to make more money by spending money.
Increase Productivity & Efficiency: By outsourcing you are able to get more done in less time. With time as your greatest resource, outsourcing can help you optimize your time utilization in your business. For example, if you outsource your culling and editing, you may find you are able to take on more weddings each summer than you could have managed without outsourcing.
Quality Of Service: If you are able to turn sessions around faster by outsourcing your editing, or you are able to deliver a greater product experience for your clients by outsourcing your selling, your overall quality of service will increase. Great service leads to happy customers who come back year after year and provide money-making referrals.
Focus On Your Strengths: No business owner is good at or loves to do every element of their business. Don’t like numbers? Outsource your accounting. Don’t like selling? Outsource your sales. Outsourcing gives you more time to focus on the areas you are good at and the areas that bring you the greatest satisfaction.
Elevate Your Brand: Outsourcing can have the indirect effect of elevating your brand. If you deliver a greater product (due to increased time devoted to your craft) and increase service (due to faster turnaround and overall improved client experience), you are working indirectly to elevate your brand. The greater your brand is perceived within your market, the greater your opportunity for sustained bookings and profitability.
Peace Of Mind, Balance: Sometimes you may find that what you need most can’t be quantified. Outsourcing can help you find balance when you are overwhelmed, and peace of mind when you are feeling burdened by the stresses of running all elements of your business. If what you are seeking most is to get a little time back in your day for you or your family, outsourcing may be the answer.
How To Know It’s Time To Start Outsourcing
While every business owner will have their own unique set of circumstances that lead to outsourcing, here’s a few clues that it may be time for you to consider this option:
- You are taking it down to the wire on delivering client galleries or meeting other client deadlines.
- You are cutting back on sessions because of time you need for administrative tasks.
- You are working more than 40 hours a week or more than the hours you would like to be working.
- You feel like you don’t have enough time for your family or yourself.
- You are dragging your heels to complete certain tasks simply because you don’t enjoy doing them.
Let’s Look At The Math
If it takes you 5 hours to edit a session that would cost you $30 to outsource to an editor, that editing service effectively costs you $6/hour. It goes without saying that your time is worth more than $6/hour. Now, what if you then took those five hours and invested the time in an income generating activity such as shooting an additional session or conducting an in-person sales session. It only takes one extra sale to more than earn back what you have invested in editing services. Alternatively, you can invest those 5 hours into activities that don’t earn you a direct return but instead give you the opportunity for future growth, such as taking a class to improve your shooting skills. Outsourcing is all about focusing on the tasks that earn you the greatest return for your time investment and outsourcing the tasks that earn you less.
What You Can Outsource
When you are looking to outsource, everything is on the table. Further, you can decide to outsource a little or a lot. It’s all about fitting the unique needs for your business.
Culling, Editing & Retouching: Editing/culling are often the largest time investment for any business owner. There are many great vendors out there (such as The Image Salon, RDFL and Retouchup), but be sure to do a trial edit to see if you are a good match.
Accounting/Bookkeeping: You can outsource all elements of managing your books or just certain pieces, such as your quarterly and annual tax filings. Even if you outsource your bookkeeping it is still important to have full knowledge of your financials on an ongoing basis so that you are aware of your spending and profitability.
Studio Management: You can hire a studio manager who responds to all leads, emails, follows up on open invoices, counter-signs contracts, categorizes bookkeeping, etc. Your studio manager will flag important stuff for you and have you only respond to those. It helps if your studio is organized using an all-in-one program that can handle lead management, project organization, project documents, invoicing, payment and bookkeeping (such as 17 Hats or Tave).
Selling: If you want to offer in-person sales but dread the selling piece, consider outsourcing your sales to a sales expert or interior designer who can sell on your behalf. It is essential to have the right sales partner who truly understands the value of what you are creating and how to best showcase it.
Graphic Design/Promotional Materials: A graphic designer can help you with monthly promotional materials or specific one-time projects. You may also want their help creating material for your social media accounts and your IG stories to keep all areas of promotion in line with your brand.
Web Services & SEO: It takes a certain skill set to properly manage SEO and optimize a website. There can be a lot of value in outsourcing this, especially if you operate in a market where web traffic and ranking is important to your business.
Social Media Management: Consider outsourcing to someone who will set up your social media posts through an app such as Planoly. They can help you plan out a month or so in advance, and will ensure you are using all relevant hashtags. You can have this person handle the responses and interaction on your platforms as well or just have them do the layouts so that you can continue to connect directly with your followers.
Blogging: To keep your business blogging consistently and timely, consider outsourcing blogging to a writer who will post your images, add content, and optimize for SEO.
Other Small Tasks: There may be other small tasks to consider outsourcing that take time or that you particularly procrastinate doing such as album design, packaging or mailing/delivery. In these situations it may be best to hire an assistant who knows you, your product and your business well.
How To Decide What To Outsource
When deciding what you should outsource, it can help to walk through the following steps:
- Evaluate where your time is spent noting all tasks, both profit generating or not.
- Write out your detailed workflow, then determine what can be delegated to others and what has to have your attention.
- Identify your strengths and weaknesses. Acknowledge what you good at and what is a struggle for you.
- Ask yourself what you enjoy doing and what you wish you didn’t have to do. Make note of any tasks you particularly dread or procrastinate doing.
- Identify the ideal person to have on your team. Think about what training and characteristics will be a good fit for your business, as well as where this person should be located.
What Not To Outsource
When thinking about what to outsource, it’s equally important to identify what not to outsource. Have a firm understanding of your value proposition and what makes you unique within your own market. Think about your passion and what got you into the business in the first place. Break your business down to the critical elements that must have your personal involvement for the business to maintain the brand you have established for it. Whether it’s editing services or social media management, when deciding what to outsource, and how to do it, make sure the “you” that made your business what it is, is still present.
And remember, outsourcing should make your life easier, and your business more efficient. If it doesn’t, you likely have not found the right partner. There could be some trial and error involved, so you will want to continue working on your outsourcing relationships until you are confident they are most effectively benefitting you and your business.
Outsourcing: Perception vs. Reality
|The Perception||The Reality|
|I can do it myself.||You don’t need to. Outsourcing gives you the ability to focus your time and energy on the areas of your business that matter most to you, and the areas that will lead to the greatest growth.|
|I don’t want to give up control.||Letting go opens you up for growth. When you have worked so hard to build something with your own two hands it can hard to give up control, but don’t lose sight of the benefits of a team mentality.|
|Outsourcing is admitting defeat.||It is a victory. You have hit a major milestone in the growth and long-term success of your business. Give yourself permission to trust others.|
|I can’t afford to outsource.||You can’t afford not to. All small business owners are on a budget. Outsourcing can actually help you make MORE money by freeing up the time you need to grow your business further.|
|They won’t do as good of a job as I can.||They might even do it better! By outsourcing to a specialist, they are able to give more focus and attention to a task you were dividing time to complete.|
|Outsourcing is just for wedding photographers.||Outsourcing is for anyone. Outsourcing is for anyone who is needing to put some extra time and focus back into their business or their daily life.|
Not Ready To Outsource But Need Some Help?
On the road to outsourcing there are many tools and platforms available to you that have the potential to transform hours of work into something much more manageable.
- Photo Editing: The Image Salon, RAW Digital Lab, RetouchUp, ShootDotEdit, Photographers Edit, Freedom Edits, fotofava, Lavalu
- Business Management Software: 17hats, Honeybook, Studio Ninja, Tave, Iris Works
- Accounting: Quickbooks, Xero, Wave Accounting, FreshBooks
- E-commerce: Pic-Time, Zenfolio, ShootQ, Pixieset, ShootProof
- High-Volume Photography: Calotype, Netlife Photosuite, Timestone Software
- Selling Software: Shoot & Sell, Pic-Time, Fundy Designer, Swift Galleries, ProSelect
- Album Design & Sales: SmartAlbums, Pixellu-SmartAlbums, Fundy Designer, Album Design Store
- Social Media: Planoly, Tailwind, Plann, Hootsuite, IFTTT, Iconosquare
- Slideshows & Video Marketing: Animoto, Pixellu-SmartSlides
Relationships That Can Save You Time, Reduce Stress & Lead To Growth
While not technically outsourcing, there are other areas where you may want to invest in help from others in order to grow your business, improve your craft and maintain your sanity.
- Childcare: As a business owner you will need reliable and dependable childcare, so that you are forced to only work nights and weeks, which can burn you out.
- Interior Design Consultant: An interior design consultant can help you come up with creative and unique ways to showcase your images that are inline with today’s design trends.
- Business Coach: To help maintain financial health of your business it can be beneficial to work with a business coach who can assess your pricing, profitability and the overall efficiency of your business.
- Mentor: From both a sanity and a creative growth standpoint it is invaluable to have a mentor that you can turn to with your questions, concerns and ambitions.
- Personal Assistant: A personal assistant can help to take care of simple daily tasks such as managing email, inputting expenses into bookkeeping, etc, thus freeing up your time to profit driving tasks.
Don’t wait until you are desperate and drowning to think about outsourcing. You can always begin small with just outsourcing some smaller tasks and then work up to more. You may not immediately grow your bottom line, but give it some time and you will. First you have to invest the time you have created for yourself through outsourcing. Start planning for tomorrow’s growth today, and let outsourcing free up the space, both in your day and in your creative mind, to make it happen.