Photographers often feel swamped by the demands of running their own business – with not enough time to actually focus on photography. Being a photographer can involve more paper pushing than shutter pressing, so it may come as a relief that many of the boring-but-necessary stuff can be easily outsourced.
From a financial perspective, if you’d make more money from an extra hour photographing that you’d lose by paying someone to take on the admin, it can be a no-brainer to outsource that work.
I started outsourcing some of my work a few years ago, and it’s been a liberating experience. I feel more able to think about the big picture now, and to work on developing my business rather than simply chase my tail. Here are five easy places to start your outsourcing journey – each has had a terrific timesaving affect on my business.
Taking calls and diary management
Virtual PA companies can take your phone calls when you’re unavailable, and even act as you.
Some photographers swear by VA companies, but I found them a bit impersonal and surprisingly time-intensive to set up. I moved swiftly onto employing a part-time assistant to manage my bookings instead.
For several years, we managed bookings using a cloud-based calendar (Google calendar) which was simple and cost-effective – you don’t necessarily need to invest in software.
My assistant discusses potential dates with clients, takes their bookings and enters the details in my calendar. Although we now use Tavé for managing bookings, we still collaborate on cloud-based documents using Google Drive.
Once you’ve established your own editing style, consider outsourcing some of the editing work. This might sound counter-intuitive, but having someone else take on at least the basic colour correction for you, or even taking on more detailed retouching work, can save you hours – time that could be much more productive spent on building your business instead.
I outsource the basic colour correction, along with applying a few adjustment brushes that I always use. It took a while to reach a point where I knew the part-edited photographs would come back to me just as I expected them, but since reaching that point it’s been a seamless experience.
These photographs are returned me in a Lightroom catalog, so I can easily continue the retouching process, fine tuning the details to my exact style and preference. At the moment, I'm using Lavalu and loving their work.
Use cloud software to manage your invoicing and payments. Specialist software for photographers like SproutStudio, Tavé and Studio Ninja can create financial reports, and automate invoicing and payment reminders to your clients.
Admittedly, I was a little surprised at how long it took to set up a system like this – it took a good few months to move all the client data from spreadsheets into the database, but it was time well spent. Once set up, it became easy for an assistant to keep track of transactions and I have a clear picture of the finances at any given time.
Regularly posting fresh content to your website is key for your SEO rankings but can be incredibly time-consuming. I established a template for my blog posts and outsourcing website updates became straightforward.
My assistant can now duplicate an existing blog post and follow the same steps for every blog post to create a new post: adapt the URL, the page title, the page heading, the client testimonial, my description of the portrait session, and insert links to other relevant content.
Web updates used to continually slip down my to-do list, it’s great to know that new web content is now being published regularly and consistently.
It’s not something I’ve done myself, but you can even have content written for you – there are lots of companies who you can commission to write thought-pieces on niche topics and Cinnamon Wolf is one worth looking at.
Keeping your social media networks active and full of content is great for your SEO ranking and for reaching new clients but can feel like a real time black hole.
You can easily outsource this part of your photography business – establish a social media strategy outlining the various channels to be maintained, how often and with what kind of content.
I recently did this with my assistant, and it’s working well – we’re both clear on what kind of content will be shared on different social media channels, and how often. Again, we use Google Documents to pool research like hashtags for particular images, and accounts to tag with particular content. We use Hootsuite and Tweetdeck to schedule some content ahead of time, so I can still check in and monitor what’s being broadcast.
Give it a try
Creative and administrative flair do not always go hand in hand, but it needn’t cost the earth to outsource some of the bits you’re not so good at. So long as you know who you’re employing and on what basis, extra help can be very cost-effective. There are plenty of freelancers who will take on ad hoc or part time work. The key is identifying where your time is best spent – if ploughing through spreadsheets isn’t your thing, it's probably better to find someone to do it for you so you can concentrate on your primary skill – taking beautiful photographs.
Louise Downham has photographed over 1000 babies and children to date and her photographs have been exhibited internationally and published in national magazines. She runs an award-winning family portrait business, Louise Rose Photography