Is it to fill the need for a creative outlet? Is it a hobby? Is it a career? Is it for philanthropic purposes? Is it for profit? Is it just to get out of the house and away from the kiddos for a bit? This is the first question you need to ask yourself as a photographer….WHY do you photograph? What is the draw for you?
When I first started, it was to get out of the house….to have a hobby. That hobby took off (thank goodness), and my business grew like gangbusters, but I wasn’t really making any money at it. I LOVED it…I LOVED (and I still love) all of my clients, but I was barely breaking even at the end of the day.
After two years of playing around with my business….i got serious. I got serious about pricing, serious about charging rather than giving away my talent and serious about making a profit. I find that the money issue really is an issue for most photographers who are just starting out – especially for those whose photography business is born from a hobby.
Many people are afraid to admit that they like money. Artists seem particularly apt to dismiss any interest in money. Almost like there is shame in confessing that you create art for money. Well, I’m here to publicly admit, I work for money. I’m not embarrassed by this in the least. My business is not a charity. Though I do charity work and make charitable donations, I work for money. I don’t work and spend time away from my own children because I enjoy it (I do enjoy what I do…I enjoy it immensely), but if given the choice to work for free or sit around and read magazines for free, I would choose to sit around and read magazines. I don’t know many people (aside from clergy members and missionaries) who want to work for free (if they’re being completely honest with themselves).
Soooo…….I’ll ask you the question again, why do you photograph? Do you want to make money with your photography business? Is this why you started your business? Are you making money? What can you do to change your business if you’re not making money?
By getting my business organized, I was able to start turning profits. Though I still created works of art, unique for each family, I focused on analyzing sessions from a numbers standpoint. I paid attention to the amount of time I spent with a family while photographing. I paid attention to how I posed or loosely guided the children to the correct lighting situations for the portraits, and I paid attention to how many unique poses I did at a session.
After analyzing factors such as these, I was able to determine how much I made per session. I had mental checklists to help me maximize my profits. I stopped letting clients dictate when I would photograph for them….i learned to set boundaries for when I could photograph. After my business awakening, my sessions would only be offered on the mornings my son was in school. Then I didn’t have to worry about paying for childcare or worry about missing key events in my son’s life like soccer games and birthday parties. I found that clients respected these boundaries. T hey would pull their child out of school for the session once they understood why I didn’t photograph on the weekends.
I encourage you to really analyze your current photography workload. Do you feel that you are making as much profit as you can? Are you managing your time effectively? Do you see any areas in your business that could use some fine tuning to better benefit you? And the big eye opener for you…..what is your hourly rate? Do you know the answer to this? Do you know how much you make for every hour you work? This is not unlike attorneys tracking their billable hours. Start tracking this data. I promise that after you start paying attention to the figures, you will start earning more. Be aware of your time…value your time….and value your family’s time.
Bio: Kelly Mcmahon Willette is a photographer based in Ghent, Norfolk ,Virginia, and she helps other moms with cameras and photographers with her business products and workshops geared towards them. Her products include a series of seven posing guides, her business workshops, and her newest product, the photographer’s marketing calendar. Her blogsite contains weekly free downloads and photo tips. She makes a mean beef stew, can still remember/sing all the words to the Beastie Boys’ “Paul Revere” and has learned to do most things with one hand since having her second baby this year. You can find her work and products at www.willettedesigns.com