Killing the Weeds in Your Photography Business

Photo Credit: Joe Edwards (Flickr)

Photo Credit: Joe Edwards (Flickr)

Back in November, my family and I moved into a beautiful new home in one of the most desirable neighborhoods in Chandler Arizona.  We absolutely love our new home.  But there’s one small problem.  The backyard is enormous!  It’s a third of an acre of pure dirt.  Soon it will be a haven for our kids, complete with a pool & slide, a basketball court, a half-pipe for skateboarding, and a sport court.  But, until then, its all dirt and the weeds have started their attack.

So, for the last few Saturdays, I’ve spent an hour or so spraying weed killer on the weeds and killing those boogers.  But the darn things keep popping up.  Last week I went down to the local home & garden store and asked for something to PREVENT the weeds.  Turns out, they have some spray that will keep the weeds away for at least 3 months.  Hallelujah!  I was getting pretty sick of always killing those weeds.  So, today I spent a few extra hours spraying the ENTIRE backyard with the weed prevention spray.  It was much more time-consuming than just spraying the weeds, but it will pay off for the next 3 months.

As I was spraying and spraying, I got thinking about the many weeds that creep up in photographer’s businesses.  Surely there are things in your business that you just don’t enjoy as much as shooting.  Chances are, you avoid those things like the plague – they build and build and eventually you have to go get the weed killer and spray them dead.  But, you’d much rather not have to deal with them at all, right?  So, think about how you can PREVENT the weeds from coming in the first place.  In most cases, you can either automate or outsource.  By doing one of these two things, you can probably prevent just about any weed in your business.  This frees you up to spend more time doing what you love – shooting.  It also allows you to live a more stress-free life – Something we can all use.

Here are some examples:

  • Accounting, Billing and Collections – If you’re like most people, you hate collections.  You probably hate keeping your Quickbooks up-to-date as well.  No doubt, there are tools out there that allow you to automate these things, and you can certainly outsource these tasks to someone else.
  • Shoot Prep – I spent a couple of summers working as an assistant to my dad.  I remember on occassion feeling overworked and underpaid because as the assistant, I did 95% of the prep work for the shoot.  All he did was walk in and pull the trigger.  But, now I realize how smart this was for him.  He was up in his office, finding more work, cutting deals, marketing himself – doing stuff that made MORE money – all while I was making him money too.  Bottom line: find someone that can work for you as an assistant or an apprentice.  You don’t have to pay much if part of what you do is teach your trade.
  • Tech Stuff - It seems that most photographers these days are fairly tech saavy.  But, if you’re one of those fat-fingered souls that doesn’t jive well with the ol’ computer, the thoughts of maintaining your site, setting up your blog, creating a Flickr account, and social networking are enough to make you noxious.  There are plenty of ways to outsource this stuff.  If you don’t know anyone or cant find anyone to do this stuff for you, check out elance or rent-a-coder.  Caution: unless it comes naturally, don’t try and learn this stuff.  It will take you away from your focus – photography.
  • Post-Processing - Maybe you’re not the best at Photoshop.  No biggie.  Focus your efforts on shooting and find someone else to do the dirty work.

At first glance, you might think to yourself, “Hiring people is expensive, and I can’t afford to outsource”.  If you let those thoughts dominate your thinking, then you’re right and chances are, you won’t move beyond where you’re at right now.  But, if you want to take your business to the next level, you’ll learn to leverage the people and the tools out there to automate and outsource the weeds in your business so that you PREVENT being overrun by the weeds.

Please share with me and other readers the weeds that you’ve run into in your business and how you’ve overcome them.  Just comment on this post to share.  Thanks.

Written by Tyler in: business planning,photography | on Feb 17 2009
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12 Comments »

  • GAH! You speak the truth.

    Most recently after shooting a 5K run, I had to process every photo by the runners bib # with each runner having multiple shots.

    I spent COUNTLESS hours into the early morning doing this for a week straight.

    I’ve learned from this mistake and have since outsourced those tasks to others to do it at price im happy to pay.

  • Stephanie Fleming says:

    Years ago, my sister-in-law hired a teenage girl to come in clean her house, and make dinner every night. I thought my sister-in-law was just being lazy. Now I realize she was able to spend her time focusing on the really important aspects of life.

    Whether it’s business or personal, I think everyone gets caught up on the mundane tasks that really don’t get you anywhere. You’re exactly right. We all need to find ways to get those not-so-interesting, time-consuming tasks out of our way so we can do what really counts.

  • Tyler says:

    Justin,

    I’m laughing because last year I built a little software program to track racers during a triathlon – logging their times as they passed through the gates at the end of each leg. What a pain!!! I’ll never do that again. I can’t even imagine having to go through all the photos and categorize them by bib number. Yuck.

    Stephanie,

    Thanks for commenting. You’re right. I think people like me (tight-wad problem solvers) like to save money by doing everything ourselves. In the end, we can be more productive be getting other people or automated systems to do the work for us so we can focus on what’s most important.

    Thank you both for your comments.

  • This is sooo true. Some “weed” areas for me are things like Twitter and blog reading. I have made some good contacts with both and am driving more traffic to my photography site, but it is easy to get carried away and next thing you know, the 3 hours you had planned to finish processing the photos from a company softball tournament has turned into x new followers or a new blog post.

    “Make the main thing the main thing.”

  • Dan Bradbury says:

    Tyler, you are a genius!

    Keep up the great work my friend, your marketing advice is a miracle for photographers everywhere!

    I can’t wait to see what you do with Over(Exposure)- KEEP ME POSTED!

    Dan

  • Debra says:

    Great info, Tyler! I found it very helpful. I am still new to the business aspect of photography, so my weeds are the billing and also the editing. I guess it’s time to start leveraging my resources in order to get to the next level!

    Thanks again!

  • David Rankin says:

    my biggest problem is time management – there just isn’t enough time in the day ! I start off with a list of things to do and I find the first job takes twice as long as I thought

  • Mark McGowan says:

    Great post – I recently decided to rip up my Aperture workflow and start again – if I could have found someone to outsource putting every single image into a different project and re-keywording it, I would have, it took me days but was a necessary evil.

    My biggest problem is flickr and the photoblogs I’m signed up to – it’s easy to spend more time admiring other peoples photos than focusing on managing your own!

    • Thaddeus says:

      True Mark, very easy to start checking everyone’s work but your own. I’m guilty of that habit…. I still use aperture to manage my images. But, I’m also guilty of not editing down the images reducing the space they take up on my drives. WAY too many shots that I need to simply get rid of. I finally started only keeping my 5 star images and trashing everything else. This was my easiest way to catch up with some of my project editing.

  • Tyler says:

    David & Mark,

    You both referred to main the problem entrepreneurs face: discipline. Time management, getting lost on Flickr, all of that stuff basically comes down to discipline. We all struggle with it. No doubt, its super hard to crank out that blog post at 1am, or do the post-processing work you’ve been dreading, or your taxes, or any number of other things that you just don’t like. But, the ability to buckle down and do it, because you know that’s what it’ll take to succeed, is what separates those who stay in business from those who go out of business. Keep on fightin’.

  • I know from experience that getting traffic to blog can be quite frustrating, especially if resource is completely new and you haven’t been getting backlinks regularly and steadily. There are lots of options, surely, to increase website traffic, but many of them are pretty labour-intensive and frustrating. Personally, I am convinced that the only approach to compete today on the web is to automate the backlink building. Seo services and gurus are pricey, hence they are out of question, at least in my position. But there’s a much better solution – automated link-building services. They are less costly in comparison with SEO experts and you have full control of how many links you generate and how quick you will generate them. To me it is the the most effectfive solution these days, especially in highly competitive niches. That’s what I think. Don

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