January 2020 marked TEN YEARS since the start of my little business, and I am so proud of how I have turned my passion into a thriving, successful business that brings me so much joy. I get a lot of emails from new photographers asking for advice, so I thought I’d share some helpful tips and business advice for wedding photographers that I wish I had known right from the start…
The wedding industry is a very friendly community and I highly recommend joining some facebook groups and getting involved with the chat. Not only are they great places to ask questions and learn from your peers, but also it’s a wonderful way to meet other people in the industry.
build a referral network
Over the years I have met other photographers who have become valued friends. We are a sounding board for each other, and are always there to support and help each other out. I don’t think I would still be doing this job without having them to keep me sane, offer advice, meet for brunches and Facetime chats and vice versa!
It’s a great idea to build a small network of like minded people who you can share referrals with if you are booked, cover for each other if you are sick or have an emergency, or just to have friendly faces to chat to & meet for coffee 🙂
book time off
It’s very easy as a solo entrepreneur to let the business run you rather than you running the business! I remember my 2nd and 3rd summer wedding seasons, they were crazy busy juggling shooting a multitude of weddings alongside entertaining the kids all day during the summer holidays, and watching the ever growing mountain of editing pile higher and higher.
It was stress city. If I was focussing on work I felt like a bad mum, if I took a day off to focus solely on the kids I felt like I was neglecting my business with niggling guilt that I was falling behind on my work. It was a no win situation and by the end of the summer I was completely frazzled, being mum by day and working on the business until the early hours of the morning. I vowed never to end up in that situation again!
It was time to take back control, so now I look at my calendar a year in advance and physically block off time for myself. Precious family time, without the guilt trip. I aim to take time off to coincide with the school holidays, and I always have a two week break during the summer. Does this mean I have to turn some wedding bookings away – yes. Is that hard – yes! But when my holiday time rolls around I am always so glad I planned for it.
be prepared for the up’s and downs
Boy, I wish I knew what a rollercoaster being a small business owner is when I started! Our work is seasonal, so its normal for us to be manically busy during the spring/summer and then have a quiet autumn / winter.
This means that our booking rate can vary throughout the year and it’s only natural that we will have quiet spells with an inbox that feels like a ghost town. The amount of times I’ve found myself stressing about not having enough bookings in the diary, only to book 5 weddings the following week!
Enquiries can be a bit like buses, none for ages and then they all come at once. So don’t panic, keep marketing and working on your business and the bookings will come, believe me.
save for a rainy day
This is probably THE MOST important piece of advice I can give to any small business owner. As a wedding photographer I make most of my yearly income during the spring / summer when final balances are due, and see a drop off in income during the autumn / winter.
One of the best things I ever did for my business was to set aside 20% of everything I earn and put it in a separate savings account. When it’s time to pay the tax man you will be giving yourself a big pat on the back knowing that money is there and you don’t have to scrabble around for it. Which leads me on to the next point…
pay yourself a set wage
This is a must in my opinion. As I mentioned before, I have a regular stream of cashflow during the summer but very little during the winter. It would be very easy for me to look at my healthy summer bank balance and pay myself a big bonus every month, but if I did that then by the time winter rolls around I would have nothing left in the pot to live on.
The easiest way to be in control is to pay yourself a set wage every month and stick to it. This means knowing your numbers, and projecting your yearly income – which luckily for wedding photographers is pretty easy, as we book so far in advance. I always sit down at the beginning of each year and work out my projected earnings forecast, then take off 20% for tax, minus my business running costs, and the amount that is left gets divided by 12, which gives me my monthly wage. It’s a pretty basic way of doing things, but its worked well for me over the past 10 years and means I have a steady wage throughout the year.
never stop learning
It’s so important to constantly be pushing yourself to learn new skills. I usually invest in some form of training or workshop at least once a year to improve my business, learn something new or just simply to get inspired!
Take a look at all aspects of your business, and if there is something you can improve then invest in the training to get you there. It will always pay off to invest in yourself, and it’s tax deductable, so win win!
There are so many great courses out there to choose from. I offer one to one mentoring either online or in person, so if thats something you think you would benefit from then I’d love to help you take your business to where you want it to be! You can find out more about working with me HERE.
back up, back up, back up
I cannot stress this enough. Make sure you back up your images, and then have a back up of the back up!
In the 10 years I have been running my photography business I have never (touch wood) lost a single image. I hear horror stories all the time of photographers loosing memory cards, or accidentally erasing images. It makes my blood run cold just thinking about it!
I ensure at each step I have multiple back up’s. How do I do this?? I’ll explain :
- Back up 1 – I shoot a wedding with 2 camera bodies on my person
- Back up 2 – I have a 3rd spare camera body in my gear bag
- Back up 3 – My cameras have dual card slots – meaning as I am shooting its making two copies of every photo incase a memory card should corrupt
- Back up 4 – Once home from the wedding I back up to my mac
- Back up 5 – Then I back up to my external HD
- Back up 6 – Once the photos are edited I back them up again to the cloud (only then do I wipe my memory cards)
Making sure you are covering all your bases and backing up in multiple places will give you and your clients peace of mind.
Invest in client management software
For the first two years of business I organised and kept track of my clients with multiple spreadsheets and pieces of paper everywhere. It was not the most efficient way to keep track!
I pretty soon invested in a great CMS (client management software) called 17Hats, and looking back I seriously don’t know how I managed without it! It’s so user friendly, I open up the dashboard each morning and it gives me an overview and list of tasks I have to complete for each client. I have email templates, contracts and questionnaires all saved and ready to send to my couples at the click of a button. It just saves me SO MUCH TIME, keeps everything in one place, and I know I won’t forget anything because it reminds me daily!
You have to invest a little bit of time setting up your workflows, but once thats done then you can rest in the knowledge that it will help you run a more streamlined organised business.
There are so many CMS options to choose from, and I tried and tested most of them but settled on 17Hats because I love the user friendly interface and it suits my way of working. If you want to sign up with them here is a referral code for you to get 50% off!!
follow your own path
It’s very easy to get caught up in the comparison game, especially when we are bombarded with so much on social media. It’s hard not to feel like your not good enough, or X is a better photographer, your not doing things right because X does it this way, or X charges this amount so I should be too etc etc. I still get caught up in comparing myself too.
Just remember – You are YOU, and your business is different to everyone else’s because your needs, lifestyle and dreams are different. There is no “right way” of doing things, only the right way for you. Make sure you keep in clear sight the reasons for starting your business, your goals and ambitions and stay true to those. What anyone else is doing doesn’t matter. Don’t get sidetracked, just stick to your own path.
If you found this business advice for wedding photographers helpful and want more business tips, you might like to check out my top time saving hacks for busy photographers HERE.