Creatives of any kind tend to be more comfortable with the artsy side of things than with the business end of the deal–and that’s ok! Enough practice and experience tend to sharpen our business skills and help us develop a better intuition for dealing with things like contracts and money. Here’s a head start on some of the areas you might not be naturally inclined to excel at, but will help you to run a better photography business and have happier clients.
Don’t Price Emotionally
Creatives struggle big time with pricing, and a lot of it has to do with mindset issues around the concept of money. We struggle with a scarcity mindset, understanding value, and guilt about charging too much for our work. These feelings come from a good place since we want to be fair business people and serve our clients well. But in reality, we can’t effectively do our jobs when we are undercharging for our services. Pricing that accurately factors in your time and overhead expenses is pricing that leads to sustainable business and many years of serving your clients well. Photography businesses are expensive to run, so your prices should reflect that! It’s a service that other people need to effectively run their own businesses.
Want to go deeper on this? I wrote a two-part series on value that you can read here.
Don’t try to Serve Everyone
There is a time at the beginning of your career where it’s good to try out many different kinds of photography to find what works for you. Maybe you’re a wedding photographer at heart, or maybe food is really your sweet spot. It’s good to experiment until you find your passion, but then you have to niche down. Saying you shoot for restaurants and runway shows and you can also make Jane’s wedding video and take Steve’s startup’s headshots makes you look scattered and a little too “master of none.” Decide who your ideal clients are and what the niche is that you want to work in so you know how to market yourself.
As a recovering type-A controller over here, I’ll be the first to admit that I do not outsource well. I have a bad way of talking myself into thinking that I am the best person for every job, and that my photography agency will be better off if I can quality control every piece of it. The reality though, is that I am not always operating within my zone of genius, and am therefore wasting my time that could be spent on the work that is mist fundamental to business growth (aka my photography, podcast, and education programs.)
Write down a list of everything that you’re currently doing, and then figure out the items in the list that you’re really great at. From there, narrow down the rest of the tasks to find what you are bad at and also don’t enjoy (this could be anything from editing to doing dishes after a shoot.) Those don’t like/bad at tasks are the first things you should outsource to a contractor or a VA until you can hire employees.
It can be hard to outsource when you’re just starting a creative business, but you can still use some tools to help offload some tasks and automate processes that are bogging you down. You can get a list of my favorite tools here.
Negotiation is a skill that can make your life as a photographer that much easier. It might not seem obvious, but being an effective negotiator can lead to longer client relationships where both parties are happy and feel respected by the deal. A huge part of this puzzle is actively listening to clients and making sure they know that their needs are heard and understood. I like to do calls via zoom or even meet in person when possible so I can maintain eye contact with a client and really show that I’m listening to what they’re asking of me.
I’ve learned a lot about negotiation from Chris Voss on the podcasts that he’s been interviewed on. You can also grab some easy-to-implement tips from his masterclass here.
Place Boundaries on Yourself and Your Work
We treat clients how to treat us with the boundaries that we set with them. Clients quickly learn what they can get away with. if you answer emails during weekends or give in to their rush demands for your attention (when it isn’t called for) or allow scope creep, you’re letting people know what kind of treatment you’ll accept. Our relationships are better when we have a healthy level of boundaries and respect for one another, so make sure your boundaries are clear.
Along that line, if you aren’t respecting boundaries with yourself, you’re going to struggle to keep them intact when another person is brought into the equation. Set healthy boundaries for yourself around work hours, screen time, social media, or any other area where you could use a little more structure. You and your work will be better for it!