How to Scale a Photography Business | Key Concepts to Consider
Getting started in photography is “easy.” Staying, thriving and growing a business in photography is the hard part. The barriers to entry are low for someone to call themselves a “photographer,” and it seems like everyone with a camera and an Instagram account is doing it. But when you actually make it a full time job and rely on it to feed your family, the mindset and approach is different. In this article, we’ll give you an overview of how to scale your photography business. While this broad topic is impossible to fully cover in a single article, we’ll provide you with a high-level overview of the primary concepts that you’ll need to consider.
In this article on how to scale a photography business, we’ll be covering the following topics:
- Do You Have Enough (Sustainable) Leads?
- Have you Streamlined All of Your Processes?
- Have You Documented All of Your Processes with SOPs?
- Are You Mentally Prepared For Additional Stress?
- How Much Do You Actually Want to Scale?
Do You Have Enough (Sustainable) Leads?
The first step to scaling your photography business is analyzing your leads. You can have the best product and the best systems in the world but that means nothing without demand for your services.
Is the current number of leads sustainable? The best way to ensure sustainability is to diversify your lead sources so that if one of them goes away, you’re still able to support and grow your business. We review all of these in our look at how to market your photography business, which discusses the primary lead sources for photographers as SEO, Vendor Referrals, Client Referrals, Social Media, and others.
The exact number you’re going for in terms of qualified leads depends on the overall conversion rate of those leads, how many shoots you and your team can handle in a day, and other factors. If you’re struggling to fill your lead pipeline, then it might mean that your efforts should be focused on the lead generation strategies mentioned above rather than on scaling your business.
How to Scale a Photography Business: Have You Streamlined All of Your Processes?
In order to scale, you need to outsource and be willing to give up some control over many processes. With better technology and services being released every year, more and more aspects of your business can be outsourced with fixed rates or done quickly with the help of software. While the list is extensive, here are a few things to consider:
CRM: A good CRM is one of the most critical components when it comes to how to scale a photography business. A good CRM automates your processes, gives you a clear view of your leads and bookings, allows you to assign team members to jobs, and more. See our list of favorites here.
Post-Production (Color Correction): Using good Lightroom Presets or outsourcing your edits to a good post-production company can save you tons of time and stress. Regarding the latter, you can send a single job to a few of your top choices to compare results.
Album Design: Professional software like Fundy Designer can help you get your albums done quickly, and the learning curve for mastering them is usually pretty shallow. Or, if you prefer, design services like ones offered by Zno can handle most of the album design process for you.
Password Management: While often overlooked, managing passwords and sharing them between team members can be a hassle. Consider password management tools to ensure that you use good passwords and share them safely with your employees and contractors.
Client Galleries and Print Sales: Online galleries for photographers play a critical role in a photographer’s workflow. The best online galleries will allow you to quickly and easily deliver photos to your clients, as well as give your clients an opportunity to select their favorite images, build an album, and place their orders whenever they’re ready.
Email Reply Manger: Use tools like Boomerang to help you stay on top of your emails and remind you if someone hasn’t replied to you.
Much More: Look into each of your processes and research tools that can help speed them up. You can find time-saving features in everything from email to organizational apps, all of which should help make managing your business more…manageable.
Have You Documented All of Your Processes?
If you feel comfortable with all of your processes as you determine how to scale a photography business, the next step is to ensure you’ve documented each one with standard operating procedures (SOPs). These documents will be your operating manuals for running your studio that you can use when training new employees or outsourcing to a virtual assistant.
To create these, we recommend using Google Docs since it is free and provides you with online access to all of your files. You can also easily manage access and organize the documents as you need.
How to Scale a Photography Business: Are You Mentally Prepared For Additional Stress?
When you start your own business, you soon discover it can be hard to find the “off” switch. As a creative who’s merging artistic passion with business goals, the new venture can prove even more consuming, not to mention stressful. Photographers already commonly struggle against “burnout,” due to a number of reasons, from working too many hours (physical stress), struggling financially (financial stress), or simply feeling uninspired (mental or emotional stress). Add in the stress of scaling your business, and burnout can happen sooner than later. Learning to manage your stress early on can help you long-term.
Here are some basic steps you can take to minimize the inevitable stress of scaling your photography business:
Time-Management: Set limitations up front to manage work-life balance. This includes limiting the hours you check emails, answer calls, schedule meetings or shoots, and so on. We recommend outsourcing tasks whenever possible to help in this area.
Organization: Take adequate time to detail workflows and processes during the initial stages of building your business (mentioned above).
Education: Whether through accessing mentors or online classes, continue to educate yourself in areas of the business in which you struggle, and give yourself time to develop new skills.
Stress Management Tools: Be sure to invest in the tools to help you manage stress, like traditional therapy or wellness apps like Yours App.
Scaling Back: Understand that it’s okay to scale back if the stress from scaling your business becomes unmanageable. Your mental health should always remain a priority.
Outside Interests: Maintain other hobbies or interests so that your entire focus does not shift only on your business.
How Much Do You Actually Want to Scale?
One important factor to keep in mind regarding how to scale a photography business is that the term “scaling” is subjective. To some, scaling means dozens of photographers working under your brand, while others consider scaling to simply mean taking on more business. There is no right or wrong approach. Even from a financial perspective, a solo photographer can bring home more than a multi-shooter studio if the multi-shooter studio doesn’t have the right cost control measures and decent margins.
So, take things step by step and scale as much or as little as you want. Ensure that you are mentally prepared for additional stress. The amount of business you take on and the more employees you hire can be directly correlated with the amount of potential stress in your life.
Conclusion and Next Steps
We hope you found the tips above on how to scale a photography business helpful. At the end of the day, scaling a business is not for everybody, but it’s at least worth your consideration. As is true with any decision-making process, it can help to make a list of the pros and cons and then determine if scaling your business is the best option for you. If you ultimately decide that scaling is the right direction, run through our suggestions above and start checking those items off your to-do list. Take advantage of the tools you have available as well. At some point, you might want to consider taking on partners if it helps put your goals in reach, but that avenue includes its own potential hazards as well. Whatever route you take, keep each new step of the scaling process manageable in terms of the time and energy you can give to it, and continually re-assess your goals as you go. With enough time, patience, and effort, you’ll reach your destination.