Apr 15, 2021
The early months of my business were tough, there were a lot of tears, both from me and my 6-month-old daughter. I was trying to find my place in the new roles of mom and wife, and I was barely keeping my head above water. My journey into motherhood came a little sooner than I had thought it would. I was a sophomore in college when I found out I was pregnant. My pregnancy brought my collegiate rodeo career to a sliding stop.
Skyler was born in August we got married in October and I took on my first paid clients in February.
I’ll be totally honest my business was almost a way for me to escape these new roles I had suddenly found myself in earlier than I had anticipated. For the first few months, I threw myself into work, figuring out my camera, learning how to build a website, going on shoots. Thankfully Skyler was too young to realize her mom was pretty absent, but I’ll be real, my marriage was being strained.
We didn’t have outside daycare so I was leaning on my husband and my inlaws to watch Sky at the drop of a hat. Now I totally believe that both mom and dads can watch kids, it’s not just mom’s job but I was not being totally fair about things. Eventually, it all came to a head and I found myself crying on the bathroom floor feeling like I was going to have to give up my business to make things work with my family.Sky loved playing with my reflectors when she was little
I actually moved my desk onto the kitchen table so I could keep an eye on Skyler while I worked
I knew things had to change, I had to figure out a way to run my business without my putting my relationships in jeopardy.
Now when we talk about work-life balance I don’t think this looks like a perfectly symmetrically balance scale. So what does this mean?
If I place a 1 pound rock on one side of a scale, and 1 pound of feathers on the other they will weigh the same the scale is balanced right they both weigh 1 pound. But if you look at the rock that is just one rock the feathers that is going to be a lot of feathers to weigh 1 pound.
So we might end up spending more time on one thing and less time on another one day, but that thing we spent less time doing might have an equal amount of weight. Now this can go either way with family and work.
Somedays I can spend endless hours doing a lot of little things in my business that takes a lot of time, and not spending as much time with my kids that day. But when I sit down with my kids at the end of the day I get to choose how intentional I am with that time. Am I sitting on my phone scrolling Instagram, or am I building forts, watching them ride horses, or playing in the sandbox with them.
Now I can also spend a ton of time with my kids and just a few very focused hours or even minutes on my business that can really move things forward. The goal is to make the time you have count.
As I got more experience under my belt I started to focus on families first. I had read everywhere that it was important to niche down, and not to photograph everything and everyone. This helped me out a ton.
When I focused on one type of client I was able to create a standard operating procedure. — see I learned something from business school before I dropped out.
So a standard operating procedure is a set of step-by-step instructions compiled by an organization to help workers carry out routine operations. Basically, once I had booked a few clients I could start to see a pattern, they would reach out I would send them my pricing, they hopefully would say yes we want to book I would send over the contract they would sign I could get paid and then show up and shoot the session.
Now your standard operating procedure or client workflow as I like to refer to it can be super simple or you can get fancy and add more things into it, like welcome packets, thank you gifts, reminder emails, whatever that workflow is get it all out on paper so you can see what needs to be done when.
Once you get that all out on paper, look for things you can automate or streamline to keep things running quickly and simply. Basically, you want to look for things that take you a lot of time, or undivided attention.
So last episode I chatted a little about email templates and you guessed it I’m going to chat about it again.
I found that I was spending a lot of time on my computer emailing clients back and forth. The worst part is I was retyping the same emails over and over while Skyler played on my office floor behind me.
When I was photographing families these are the email templates I used.
An inquiry email, that had my pricing and packages, links to my portfolio, and then I would ask if when they wanted to book their session for.
I also created a reminder email. This went out about 24 hours before the session and let them know what to expect at the session. When I photograph kids I really like to chat with the kids first to kinda warm them up before I pulled out this giant camera and pointed it in their face. I realized that often parents felt like I was maybe wasting time getting started, and would often answer the questions I was asking the kids to break the ice. So in this reminder email, I explained to them that I would take a few minutes, in the beginning, to warm the kid up to me, get to know them so that we could capture those real smiles moms loved.
This was really helpful because it let me set expectations for my clients, so I could meet them and hopefully exceed them!
I also would send an email right after the session to thank clients for a great session, and then I would let them know when they would get their images back. Now this is outlined in my contracts, and we probably talked about it when they booked the session, but I was finding that clients would just be so excited to see sneak peeks, and to get their final galleries back.
So this follow-up / thank you email outlined when sneak peeks would be up on the blog, and when and how they would get their digital images. This is how I would set expectations for clients.– now, here is a little secret– if you know it will take you 7 days to edit a wedding or session or whatever you are photographing, DO NOT tell your client they will be ready in 7 days. Always give yourself more time than you think it will take. –ALWAYS– first life happens kids get sick, you get sick the dog has to go to the vet, or you have to run to town for parts. So you want to build yourself some padding on that timeline.
There is another reason you want to give a longer timeline. If things go according to plan and it does only take you 7 days to finish editing, but you told your clients it would be 10 days, then you get to deliver your images early! This is how you exceed your client’s expectations.
By finding these spots that were taking up my time and energy and streamlining them I was able to take that time back and pour it into other areas of my life.
One of the best and scariest things I did next to find some work-life balance was to pre-schedule my shoot days.
So what do I mean by prescheduling my shooting days.
I had to sit down and really understand that 1 I did not need to photograph sessions every night and 2 I didn’t want to, I wanted to spend Sunday at home with my family, I didn’t want to miss birthday parties because someone wanted me to shoot that day.
So I sat down with my calendar and penciled in all our family events first. Birthdays vacations, school holidays, all those things I was starting to miss out on when on the calendar first.
Then I looked at that calendar, and my husband’s work calendar and we lined up the dates that I could shoot. Those are the dates I offered to clients who wanted to book.
Now, this was really scary at first. What if clients could make those dates work, I’ll never book anyone, These are all thoughts that raced through my head until I put this into practice.
So when someone wants to book with me I give them the first three dates I have set aside for shooting. I let them know if these don’t work let me know and I can get you the next few dates later in my schedule. This does a few things 1 it shows clients that you have your stuff together. 2 It makes you sound like you are in demand. – Think about it if you were scheduling surgery on and they said well when do you want to schedule it we are available every day, that kinda makes them sound like they don’t have any clients– Why don’t they have other patients? when you are having surgery, you want your doctors to have other patients too, you don’t want to be the only one.
As moms our time is valuable, and we need to value it. When we predetermine our shooting days we have time to line up sitters, or get things lined up for meals, or rides to practice.
This also helped me to raise my prices when it was time. You see I was starting to book out pretty far in advance, there was definitely a demand for my service, there were only a limited number of sessions I was taking so this meant I could raise my prices with confidence! As photographers it’s not always easy to be able to figure out ahead of time how much money you will make, but when you re determine your shooting days you have a better chance at figuring out that number.
Okay so we chatted about how we need to create a standard operating procedure or a client workflow, we also talked about how we can use email templates to save ourselves from re-typing the same emails over and over. We talked about predetermining our schedule so we can line up child care easier, and how that can help us to raise our prices, now it’s time for the number one thing that helped me save more time, and create a killer client experience.
Outsourcing your editing sounds so scary I know. When I tell you to outsource your editing you probably are thinking, I’ll lose control, the photos won’t look like my work, or that is way to expensive. Hold your roll my friends lets break those down.
Okay, let’s talk about what it looks like first to outsource your editing. Imagine going home after a session and culling the images, then you send a lightroom catalog to your editor, and you get to take the next 4 days off. No endless nights staring at a computer, no more spending playtime with your kids removing telephone poles from backgrounds in photoshop. Four days later you get an email that images are done, you download them double-check that they look great and you then export images before uploading them to your client gallery.
Doesn’t that sound amazing! But you’re probably thinking but what about losing control, or it not looking like my work or the cost.
Okay, let’s talk about it. Losing control
If you’re not editing it can feel like your losing control, but your not. When you first start working with an editor, whether it’s a big company like Photographers Edit or an independent editor like Jenny Dakota Photo Editor you sit down with them and explain your aesthetic, you show them your editing style, then they take some of your raw photos and duplicate your style, then you go through and critic it, let them know what needs to change, what you like what you don’t like.
This takes some time. It takes communication, but it is so so so worth it in the long run. I know it sounds scary, but you are in control of this, and by outsourcing your editing, you are taking back control over your time! The better you are at taking your time in this process, and communicating the better the outcome. You will be able to ensure that every session or wedding you send off to edit looks exactly like your work.
Okay, let’s talk about the cost. Outsourcing your editing sounds like it would cost a lot of money, right? It does cost money, it’s called the cost of doing business. Photo editors charge generally by the image. Most editors and companies are charging about 25 cents an image right now at the time of this recording. The turnaround time will vary anywhere from 4 – 10 days.
If I’m shooting a session and I’m going to deliver let’s say 65 images at 25 cents an image that’s only $16.25 – now this is basic color correcting and using lightroom presets not complex photoshop retouching. Photoshop retouching will run about $2-3 an image so for things like newborn sessions that might cost a little more, but in my book, my time is way more valuable than 2-3$.
Whenever you start working with an editor whether it’s a private editor or a company expect it to take a little bit of time to get things straightened out. Have some grace, it took you some time to figure out your editing style, and a few trials and errors to get that style to work with the way you shoot images.
Most companies and editors will have some type of trial run where you will upload images from they will edit them based on your style and then you will meet up after to discuss what looks good, and what needs to be tweaked. It is a process and it takes some time upfront but friend this is going to save you so much time down the road it is so so so worth it.
Like I said in the beginning, work-life balance is not going to look like equal amounts of time spend on your work and living life, it’s going to ebb and flow back and forth on the amount of time. The key is to make sure that whatever time you are spending is time well spent. If you only have a few hours during nap time, or in between classes you want that time to be used well. So you can serve your clients well, and still enjoy your life.
If you want to still be in business 10 years from now it is so important to make sure that you are creating boundaries and systems that set you up for long-term success.Chelsy Weisz
Alrighty my friend that is it for this episode, I will see you in the next one!