What is your favourite part about being a photographer? Is it taking photos? Editing? Finding new clients? Business planning? Selling? Marketing? Bookkeeping?
I’m guessing not one of the latter ones.
My favourite part of being a self-employed professional photographer is shooting, editing photos and interacting with my clients. Oh, and learning new things. I could do all of those all day every day and be a happy bunny.
But clearly I can’t run a business by only doing the jobs I love to do: the creative side, the fun interaction, the thrilling photographic challenges and the joy of helping others. If that was all I needed to do work wise, I would be working for someone else. I’d have a job, rather than my own business, and my boss would be the one taking care of business finances, getting new clients, business planning and day-to-day admin.
I don’t want to have a job, though – I want to be my own boss! And that means I have to do all the things that a business owner does as well as the creative fun stuff. I didn’t go to business school, though, and I didn’t know anything about running a sustainable profitable business, to be honest. I didn’t want to first and foremost become a business person, either – I wanted to be a photographer. So what’s the answer to this dilemma?
If there’s one thing I could change about how I started my photography business nine years ago it would be this: outsource every job that I’m not good at, or don’t like doing. If I’d done that right from the beginning, I would have avoided a lot of frustration, overwhelm and stress over the first few years.
For example, I had written a blog post that was very popular and my business coach recommended that I should turn it into an ebook. That way I could start growing my list of followers to help raise my profile as a photographer. To save money, I thought I’d create the book myself – surely it can’t be that hard – I’ll just whip it up quickly… maybe it’ll take half a day. I spent weeks making this book. It took loads longer to make than I thought it would. And as a result I have an ebook that looks exactly what it is: something put together by a person who doesn’t know anything about graphic design or making ebooks. The content is good, but the book looks a bit rubbish.
But I learned from the experience. Next time I created an ebook I sourced a graphic designer immediately without doing any of that work myself. I paid a bit of money for it, but I got it made in a couple of days and it looks great. I had it printed and I’m happy to hand it to people without feeling any embarrassment about the quality. Yes, I did pay for someone to make it, but in actual fact I saved money by not wasting my precious time doing something I’m not even good at.
Save money by hiring a specialist
Most people think that they can’t afford to outsource the jobs that they don’t like or are not good at. Are you one of them? The thing is, you may be losing a lot of money by not hiring a specialist. You may be spending days doing something that a specialist would do in hours – and like me with the first ebook, en up with work that isn’t up to par anyway, despite the extra long time it took to do.
How do you know when to outsource?
First of all, work out what your own hourly rate is. You can find a quick rough guide to your hourly rate on a website called www.yourrate.co Type in your desired annual income, billable hours a week, and how many weeks you want to take off a year. That gives you the amount you need to earn a week, day, and hour.
Let’s say your hourly rate is £100. Would it then make sense to spend hours and maybe days doing something that you are not good at, in effect losing £100/hour? Or course not. What you should do is hire someone who is brilliant at that particular job to do it quickly and well, and while they are doing an excellent job for you, you can spend your precious time doing what you are brilliant at – whether it’s shooting, editing, attracting and connecting with your ideal clients, or whatever else may be your best strengths in your business.
Always think what is your time best spent doing to better your business
You may need to do some work that is essential and isn’t worth outsourcing. Bookkeeping is one of those jobs for me; I don’t particularly like it, but I don’t feel it would save me any money to hire someone else to do it for me. I use an online accounting software called Freeagent and the amount of time it takes for me to record all my business expenses in the software is so minimal that it wouldn’t help if I handed all my receipts to someone else to input. I’ve got into the habit of entering all expenses in Freeagent immediately after I pay for them, so it doesn’t feel like a chore and doesn’t take much time at all. I do it myself, even though it’s not something I particularly love doing.
Bigger things, though, like creating a website, designing brochures, marketing or whatever it may be for you, think very carefully whether it is worth it for you and your business to spend the time to learn the skills and take the time to do a beginner’s / amateur’s job of it. Would your time be better spent doing what you do best and creating more business for yourself? Most of the time the answer is yes.
Thinking that you can’t afford to outsource may well be a fallacy. If you think you can’t afford it, the case may well be that you can’t afford NOT to.