You’ve been a solo operator for awhile now. Customers trust your brand because your brand is YOU. But working in the business as a a one person show has its risks and pitfalls.
What happens if you get sick?
What if you’re already booked and have to turn anyway prospective customers?
In an industry (especially if weddings is your specialty) that is seasonal, saying no doesn’t make economic sense but when there’s only one of you, there’s not much you can do. When you reach that ceiling, you need to make a decision. Do you scale or do you stay small? How do you go from being the “creative” that they hire to being super successful boss-person of a company that can operate without you, without the quality dropping or the customer perceiving they’re getting a substandard product?
Your brand should stand on its own.
That’s why we recommend for those starting out who have aspirations of scale that using an independent name (rather than your own) is the way to go. As an industry that operates in the personal Branding industry, it a bit surprising that we don’t turn the mirror back on ourselves more often. Have you got a distinct proposition, does your brand (voice, words, imagery) reflect this? Personal Brand specialists help you to define your why and how to present yourself… the soft skills that get you your customers and make you stand out from the crowd.
Know where to source and vet quality crew.
For seasonal industries hiring full time or part time staff isn’t always viable because of the off season. If you are hiring contractors, make sure you vet their quality and seek out independent opinions on the quality of their work.
Work out what parts of your business can be represented by someone else and what you need to control
ie can you outsource editing? As the owner you should always be across the sales and marketing (even if you have support in the day to day operations). Marketing and Finance are foundational elements you need to be across as they are the levers you can pull to grow your base or cut back on your costs.
Time to move from paper to digital tools.
This includes CRM (we recommend Studio Ninja), accounting (Xero), credit card payment facility (Stripe) … essentially all the tools which integrate and help you manage your pipeline most effectively. For our photographers, invest in time saving tools like Pixellu SmartAlbums for layout of albums and for videographers Mediazilla for sharing complete videos. No more dvds, no more usbs. If you want to send something via snail mail, it should be something that goes above and beyond and exceeds the customer expectations … Like a box full of handpicked photos or a thoughtful “just because” gift.
If you don’t have supplier contracts, it is time to get them.
Whilst we aren’t lawyers, and you should seek your own legal advice, our experience shows that a verbal contract may have been made, but it’s always better to have your expectations clearly articulated in a written form and agreed by both parties. This should extend to elements such as key performance indicators, expectations and payment terms. Agree contracts is a great solution for our industry.
Every event needs a schedule and it should ideally be issued 72 hours before the event.
A schedule highlights to both the customer and your contractor when and where your company will be. It also works to manage expectations of customers who book you for a five hour shoot and then request you film from 9am to 9pm. Either the schedule has to change or if it permits, the contracted hours. Having this conversation days before the event helps get the admin out of the way.
If you’re not on instagram or Facebook you’re missing potential customers.
Some photographers swear by Pinterest and YouTube too. Choose your channel and know it well (including understanding the algorithms when They change)
You need a website and it needs to be interactive and reflective of your brand.
Hosting can be outsourced but the content is often your customer’s first interaction with a brand. You need fresh content and your photos need to showcase your work. If you often second shoot, this is why it is so important to discuss with your hiring business that you have the rights to showcase your photos or video segments. Without a portfolio, breaking through to customers’ Hearts and minds becomes nigh impossible.
Disputes resolution process
with scale means more customers and potential for complaints. Have you got a process documented? Is it in your end user and supplier contracts? And do you know which bodies to go to when things go wrong.
Too much work is a great problem to have. If you are ready to scale, make sure you have the tools and support networks to make the process smoother.