Chapter 3: Outsourcing
You can't do it all! That part is simple. Doing it all is a sure-fire way to drag yourself down and is not the way to create a sustainable business long term. I'm going to present you with some of the most obvious tasks and projects you should consider outsourcing. I'm not saying you should, but consider the option and revise you choices every time you start to feel burnt out or overwhelmed. Is there some way you can relieve your workload.
The most obvious outsourcing area is editing, as that has become an entire little industry on its own and there are some really awesome companies out there.
During the years I was running on a desperate overload, I tried out a handful of different editing companies, as most of them offer a free trial. But I was never really fully happy with the result from any of them, and I often had to re-edit many of the photos myself afterwards.
Furthermore, the time it took me to upload and download a 15 hour wedding day's worth of images was insane. I could have edited half the wedding myself in that time.
Since I finally decided that I wanted to keep control of my images, this is what I worked on instead:
Shooting the best images possible in camera. (practice practice practice!)
Learn speed and the most basic Lightroom short cuts. (Google is your best friend)
Giving up on perfectionism. (Buy an incredible set of Lightroom presets that you love and tweak them until they feel like you, then stick to 3-4 presets and realise that detail stuff like heavy skin retouching shouldn't be a part of your normal editing routine, but an extra service the client can pay for by an hourly rate.)
So for this aspect of the business it just didn't make sense for me to outsource editing. But I know lots of photographers who do it with great success. Some do it only during the very busiest part of the year. So if editing is slowly killing your creative spirit, then hurry up and send those images off.
Before I started insisting on shooting exclusively natural photos, meaning no retouching or manipulating, I did, however, outsource that. Any special requests for tattoo removals, waist, arm or neck slimming, removing dark circles under the eyes etc I passed on to professional retouchers who charged me by the hour and I then charged my client the same amount + a small administrative fee)
Emails, Copy and Social Media:
Some people advocate outsourcing your email correspondance, or social media management to a virtual assistant or an expert. But I strongly feel that as a personal business, as long as you are a one-woman operation, selling your services to individuals for one of the most private days of their lives, authenticity and personality is key. And not something to hand over to others.
It is important that your clients have a consistent experience and hear a unique 'voice' throughout, and only you can provide that, and that includes emails, blogposts, website copy, social media posts, and so much more.
If you at some point decide to expand and include an assistant or office manager who knows and gets you, that's a different thing.
As we went through earlier in the course, there are lots of ways to keep your communication with your clients and the outside world systematic, consistent, and time saving without losing that personal touch.
A common thing to outsource is web design. And we went over this in detail in an earlier Module.
The only thing I would always always always advise that you outsource, no exceptions, is your book keeping and taxes.
I didn't do that until year 6 of my business and although it felt like an insanely scary investment that first year (I was sure it would put me out of business actually) I have never regretted it since. All that time and energy released by me not having to spend one second worrying about that aspect of the business, I put to good use in other areas and projects instead.
My accountant (of course) had tons of knowledge that saved me several thousands in deductables already in year one. And I am not sure I could have ever grown my business the way I did, if I'd had the tax rules, payments, deadlines etc hanging over my head.
If there is one thing I could go back in time and do differently, it would be to hire an accountant from the very beginning. There might not be much to do for them in the beginning, but you pay by the hour so guess what, you also won't be paying very much. And you can sleep well at night knowing that your business is legit.
What my accountant can do perfectly in 4 hours, would take me at least 3-4 days to poorly, and with no guarantee that it'd be 100% by the book. I can do several shoots in 4 days that can bring in much more than it costs me to pay my accountant for those 4 hours of work.
At a certain point it may start to make sense to think about getting help with the cleaning or other house chores. Consider if what you're spending your time doing is the best use of your time. Not because cleaning the house or doing the laundry is not meaningful or worthy work, but because it will release alot of energy to not have that hanging over your head, energy that you can use to do another shoot that brings in money, or something pleasant that brings new ideas into your head and helps you grow creatively.
Find an accountant right away! Ask around and find someone who comes personally recommended. This person will, after all, be handling a very delicate and important part of your business. If you want this to be your business, start treating it like a business and not a hobby!
If you don't care much for editing, start testing a few companies by using their free trials (find links for a variety of photo editing companies in the Resources section)