I started outsourcing parts of my photography business a couple years ago, and I will never go back. It has been such a game changer to be able to work ON my business instead of just IN my business.
So many people are overwhelmed in their photography business. And for good reason! As photographers and business owners, we have to be photographers, stylists, editors, project managers, bookkeepers, accountants, and more. It’s exhausting! Many of us began these businesses as fun, creative outlets (myself included), so when our businesses grow and we have to wear all the hats, we’re not totally sure what happens next.
While the idea of outsourcing can be scary, giving up the hold you have on every single part of your business is amazing. It can help you really determine where your strengths lie, and how you can use those strengths to scale your business. Here are five areas where you should be looking at outsourcing next year if you are a photographer.
If you’re just getting your feet wet with outsourcing, this is a great place to start because it frees up so. much. time. Outsourcing editing was the first thing that really allowed me to start working on my business (as opposed to just getting through the days), and identify how I could scale without working myself to death.
I think outsourcing editing scares a lot of photographers because they don’t want to give up the control. So let me say this loud and clear: YOU ARE NOT GIVING UP ANY CONTROL! No, seriously. All of my images are still edited in 100% my style – it’s just done by someone else who also happens to be faster than I am when it comes to editing. Not to mention the fact that she is a professional editor, so she just simply knows more than I do when it comes to editing. I have actually learned SO much from her (hey, Sarah!!).
Still not convinced? Here’s what my wedding workflow looks like now that I have Sarah on my team:
- Dump memory cards within 24 hours after the wedding (usually Friday or Saturday) to get RAWs backed up.
- Cull entire wedding (3000+ images) on Monday.
- Import culled images into Lightroom and begin selecting favorites for the blog post.
- Edit 100-300 favorite images myself for previews/blog post. Make sure these images are labeled so Sarah can see what ones are already edited, and how they look.
- Blog, resize images, and create blog collages on Tuesday.
- Publish blog post Wednesday (4 days after the wedding!).
- Package up Lightroom gallery smart previews and upload to Dropbox for Sarah to edit.
- When the entire wedding gallery is finished (usually just 2-3 days later – WHAT!), I’ll download the gallery, go through every image to make sure everything is in tip top shape, and begin exporting from Lightroom and uploading to my digital gallery delivery site (Shootproof).
That’s it! This process has made it so my average wedding delivery is three weeks, instead of the 6-8 weeks it was taking me. It’s a serious game changer during busy season, when I’m already bogged down with portrait sessions. Honestly, all of my turn around times are so much faster because I don’t let weddings put me behind. This is something I’m really planing on honing in on in 2019. I’m ready to slash turnaround time!
How To Outsource It: I highly recommend a private photo editor as opposed to a company where you’re always paired with someone different. I truly feel like Sarah is an extension of me, and I don’t think that would be the case if my editor were always different. Check out edit-source.com to start connecting with potential editors that fit your style.
2. Album Design
I use AlbumStomp to make designing albums super simple. All it takes is a bit of direction and someone with a decent eye for design. However, designing them still takes time. This was an area I happily outsourced to my studio assistant and she does a fantastic job putting albums together. She also uploads them to Dropbox for me so I can submit them for client approval. It’s such a seamless process!
How To Outsource It: First, invest in a platform like AlbumStomp or Fundy to make album design easier. Then, look into hiring a virtual assistant or studio assistant to help you out. You can start with Google, Facebook groups, or even local colleges or universities to find help.
3. House Cleaning
My favorite thing to outsource of all time ever ever ever. And if you want to argue that this has nothing to do with photography – you’re right! But guess what? Instead of spending 5 hours deep cleaning my house every other week, I pay someone else to do it. And because she is quite frankly better at it than I am, and doesn’t get distracted by Schitt’s Creek, she does it in less than half the time. And all that time I’m no longer spending scrubbing showers? I’m working. Or spending time with my kids. Maybe going for a walk. Honestly, LITERALLY ANYTHING ELSE.
I think people are scared to admit they need help in this area because it feels privileged. And it is privileged. But that is why we work hard! We bust our butts in our jobs as career women, and also as wives and mothers, and being able to outsource something like this can be a beautiful thing.
How To Outsource It: You can use apps like NextDoor to find cleaners near you who are taking new clients. Getting referrals from friends and family is also huge for something like this – it’s a vulnerable thing having someone come into your home!
I decided to use Priceless Priorities, who I would recommend in a heartbeat. Not only do they do a stellar job cleaning, they load and unload my dishwasher, wash and fold laundry, and let my dog out if I’m not home (and deal with all her crazy). They can also run errands for me or tackle bigger organizing projects (hello, dozens of Rubbermaid tubs in my basement filled with kids clothes from the last three years). They are amazing!!! Call them, tell them I sent you, and have your life changed.
4. Email Management
My inbox is a terrifying place. I recently started only checking it once a day (as opposed to just keeping the window open all day long), and it’s improved my productivity immensely. However, I think the next step is to outsource some of the management of my inbox to my studio assistant. For so much of my client communication, I use templates or canned responses, so it would be very easy for someone else to start to take over. And I would love to have someone else take care of inquiries, technical questions, and junk!
How To Outsource It: Start putting together email templates of how you respond to your most frequently asked questions. Gmail canned responses are game changers. You shouldn’t be drafting a new email every time you get a wedding or session inquiry if you are doing it multiple times a week. Create your templates, leaving room for customizations of course, and start saving time. Then, this is an easy task to hand off to a virtual assistant.
5. Accounting and/or Bookkeeping
A good accountant is worth their weight in gold when you own your own business! I have virtually no accounting training and while I’m proud of what I taught myself, I rely on my accountant to steer the ship. I usually meet with my accountant, Pam, throughout the year to make sure I know where I’m at, so it’s easier to know if I can spend more to invest in my business, or if I need to cool it. She also helps me plan for what I’ll likely pay in at tax time so I’m not taken off guard. I have had other accountants and they’ve all been great, but I REALLY appreciate the hand holding Pam does to help me really understand the numbers and where I sit.
I don’t currently outsource my bookkeeping, but it’s definitely something I am considering. Those who do outsource this usually have someone come into their office every 2-4 weeks to reconcile books, pay bills, and often pay sales tax. This is something I currently do myself, but it’s really hard to find the time. I think hiring a bookkeeper might be on my own list for 2019.
How To Outsource It: First, get a grasp on your finances by tracking your income and expenses through a program (I’ve used Pixifi and am moving to Dubsado) or even a spreadsheet (I have a massive Google Sheet set up – and it’s free!). Then, join local Facebook or small business groups and ask around for accountant and bookkeeper recommendations. Talk to industry friends and see who they recommend.
Is there anything you’d add to this list? Have you outsourced anything that has changed your business? Let me know in the comments or on Facebook!