Today we’re talking about something that we quite frankly didn’t do well for a long time. When we started, we didn’t have mentors, or anyone in our position to approach for advice, so we pretty much forged ahead the best way we knew how, which meant that we made a lot of mistakes. One of the biggest mistakes we made was never sitting down to clearly define our roles within the business. We both were trying to be and do a little of everything, which led to neither of us being able to:
A) do anything to the best of our ability, or
B) really learn what we were GOOD at and exploit that.
That also led to confusion and frustration because depending on the day, it felt like one or the other of us was carrying more weight than the other, which is a big deal considering we split our business 50/50.
Early in 2011, we decided we had to change the way things were being done. Things weren’t getting done in a timely manner, and there was general confusion over who was supposed to do what and when. It was neither of our faults, but things were slipping through the cracks because neither of us was technically ASSIGNED that role. We knew that in order to move forward successfully and to be able to serve our clients, we needed to clearly define our roles within the business. Working in a partnership is all about finding bottlenecks, the places where things are slipping or getting “held up,” and finding ways to conquer those and get the business moving again.
Doing this was definitely one of the most beneficial and awesome things we have done. So, how did we do it?
We wrote down every single thing we do in our business! Yep. EVERYTHING. From the very beginning (initial client inquiry), all the way through the very end. We covered all bases. Client care, inquiries, contracts, accounting, retainers, invoicing, image delivery, sessions, editing, uploading, blogging, mailing…getting tired yet? It was exhausting to sit down and think about all the things we do as photographers, but it helped us map out where we needed to divide roles. Then, instead of randomly assigning roles, we talked about our strengths, our weaknesses, our passions, and things we absolutely hated to do. From there, we were able to see who needed to do what, and which roles suited each of us.
For each partnership, this will be different. But for us, there were clear cut things that we were good at as individuals, and some things we were not! For example, I am NOT good at math. I’m just not. I don’t “get” numbers and I have a hard time thinking in numbers. Jen on the other hand, is really good at numbers. Because of this, she took the role of handling accounting/bookkeeping/paychecks/contracts/invoices etc. We just signed on to use Pixifi, but even with that program, Jen is responsible for all things money.
I LOVE social media, I love writing and blogging, and I’m definitely the “talker,” so I took the client care role and handle most blogging. I handle initial inquires, setup meetings, write and schedule the blog posts, and handle Facebook (We still have separate pages but hopefully not for much longer!). That is just ONE example of the hundreds of things we do, but it was important to align our roles with our strengths.
What did this mean for our business? First, we know where the buck stops. If something doesn’t get done, we know exactly whose responsibility it is. It also allowed us to get things done efficiently, which in turn allows us to serve our clients better. This has been huge for us as our number one priority is our client relationships. It also gave us a sense of ownership and pride as we’re able to not only do things we love, but see how our contribution positively affects every piece of the business.
Although we’ve defined our roles, it’s also important to note that sometimes, things need to be adjusted. We’ve RE-defined roles several times as we’ve found things that needed to be changed. Sometimes what someone was doing doesn’t make sense anymore, and it’s okay to shift tasks around as needed! There are also certain times of year or points in a client relationship where one partner may be doing more work than the other. As long as you’ve fairly divided roles, this is normal and the pendulum will swing back the other way.
If you’re working in a partnership or thinking about starting one, definitely take time to clearly define roles! In fact, make it your FIRST step. It will start your partnership off on the right foot and ensure that you’re able to serve your clients and yourselves from the get-go. If you have any questions about partnerships or how to define the roles within YOUR partnership, leave us a question in the comment box below or email us!
About the Author
Jen + Ashley are a two-woman wedding photographer team specializing in modern, fresh, and timeless wedding images. Ashley loves sprinkles, the color mint, living audaciously and dancing to The Wobble on wedding days. Jen is a persian cat collector, out eats all her guy friends, watches a mean game of tennis, and knows just as much about her car as she does her camera!