I have never run a business by myself and I can not image ever doing it. I recently led an open forum discussion with a group of photographers. The ongoing themes I heard were, “I’m overwhelmed. I’m having a hard time doing this without any help. Coming tonight was what I really needed as I need to get input from others.”
Hearing all of these comments reminded me we all need to work with a team at some level. If you had the chance to read my last post: Things to Know Before You Go with Associates, you have gotten a look at the associate photographer part of my team. Not only do I have three wonderful photographers, who are all employees, but my team extends to other employees, free-lance contractors, outsourcing companies, business advisors, and friends. Of course I also have my co-owner and wife, Whitney, who is the most essential part of my team!
If you are feeling overwhelmed and/or alone, you need to consider how to grow your team. I don’t expect anyone to grow their team to the size of mine over night. It took me seven years to build this one. Here are my steps to building a team that will build your business.
1) Involve Your Spouse
The PPA Financial Benchmark Surveys have discovered that photography studios who are run by married couples are more successful than those owned solely. The obvious should be: two people can get more things done than one. However, I feel there is more to this. Healthy married couples complement each other. Often one member is more analytical and business minded while the other is more creative. What more could you ask for in a industry that runs on both art and business?
If you are in a relationship with someone, try to get him or her involved on some level. Even if it’s just advice. You may be surprised by what your loved one brings to the table.
2) Look to Friends
Friends will be more excited about your business than anyone else. Look to friends to spread the word about your business. Look to friends to act as models to build your portfolio. Look to friends to help connect you to others who may be a good part of your team. Look to friends to be there for you when you have those days where you just hate being a photographer and/or owning a business.
3) Find Business Advisors
A business advisor does not always have to be a coach you hire. Look to friends who own businesses. They do not have to be photography related. Most small businesses have the same struggles. Connect with other photographers in your area. If you feel lonely and are looking for advice, it’s guaranteed others are out there feeling the same thing. Utilize your local PUG or other local business groups. Take someone out to lunch from time to time.
5) Utilize Outsourcing Companies
Find companies you really click with and stick with them. Think of these companies as part of your team. Don’t waste your time doing things you can get someone else to do. Start making “Don’t Do Lists” along with your “To Do Lists.” You will be surprised by how many things you can give up. Check out how many different things you can outsource to just Pictage alone. Are you utilizing all of the services they offer?
Of course outsourcing costs money, but the biggest thing I see that holds business owners back is their ability to let go.
We live in the era of “free” but recent studies are now showing that these “free” things (mainly social media) have become the biggest time wasters for most people and do not produce the outcomes that most of us expect they would.
6) Find Dedicated and Trustworthy Free-Lance Contractors
Free-lance labor is best utilized to help you grow your business or focus on a specific area of your business. Consider hiring a book-keeper just once a month. Find photographers who want to assist and second shoot. ALWAYS write contracts with your free-lance contractors to be sure you are both on the same page. When you find someone you love working with, adjust your budget to be able to pay them what they feel they are worth. The cost for their dedication to you far outweighs what you can potentially go through when trying out new help.
7) Hire Someone
Start out with a part-time studio manager. Someone else can answer most of your emails and screen phone calls. Once you have booked your client, they will not have any problem making wedding day timelines or talking billing questions with someone other than you. Keep all the creative-based questions yourself and let your manager deal with all the ones that bore you. Better yet, let your manager talk to those clients who stress you out. You will love your business so much more!
Building a team is not only about efficiency. It’s a lot of fun to have a team and it will keep you from burn-out! If you’re just starting out, be sure to schedule those lunch meetings and attend community groups like PUGs. You will make some friends that understand your business. You will have someone to vent to and someone to get advice from. As you grow your team, you will have even more fun. We LOVE having full-time staff! We love going out to lunch together, attending conferences as a team (especially the parties), hacking into each others Facebook accounts to leave creative status updates, shaving mohawks on the heads of interns, razing the new boyfriends who come by for lunch dates, etc… This keeps us creative and inspires everyone to contribute ideas that help make us succeed.
What About You?
How do you build your team? What are your favorite aspects of your team? What limits you from starting your team? What other questions do you have about building a team?
About Peter Carlson
Peter Carlson’s outgoing, laid back, quirky personality is the main reason both brides and photographers love working with him. Through photography, he and his wife Whitney focus on the unique personalities of every couple as well as the joy and happy emotions that are felt on each wedding day. Photographers find their classes fun, inspirational, and easy to implement.
Peter & Whitney run their own studio Dove Wedding Photography as well as own The Collection and The Nashville Photography Class.