Why You Should Always Think About Scaling Your Business (Even If You Never Want To)
Creative Rising Episode 307
Want to know the best advice we ever received in our business?
It was to FIRE OURSELVES.
As wedding photographers, we wear a lot of hats. We’re bookkeepers, salespeople, accountants, and marketers just to name a few.
But if you want to run a business that’s efficient and sustainable, you need to fire yourself from being a photographer, and promote yourself to the most important role – that of CEO.
In this episode, I walk you through exactly how to clearly organize the roles in your business so you can always be wearing the right hats (and letting go of the wrong ones).
- How to see your business from the view of a CEO
- Which roles you should be spending all of your time on (and which ones you definitely shouldn’t)
- The proper mindset you need to successfully outsource
If organizing roles doesn’t sound exciting to you, then I explain how getting organized and creating systems actually creates the most exciting – and profitable – brands.
GRAB OUR FREE ORGANIZATIONAL & ROLES CHART HERE
- (01:51) An All Too Common Story
- (06:21) It’s Time to FIRE Yourself
- (12:20) How Boring Systems Create Exciting Brands
- (15:40) The 10 Most Common Roles for a Wedding Photographer
- (18:08) The Unbranded Roles
- (21:13) SPONSOR: Freedom Edits (Thank You!)
- (22:52) The 90/10 Roles
- (31:31) The Branded Roles
We trust Freedom Edits whenever we outsource our editing across all of our brands. We absolutely LOVE their simple, easy, and totally customized approach to editing and how quickly they got our preferences juuuuuust right! They save us tons of time! Right now, they’re gifting all Creative Rising listeners with their first job entirely for FREE! So that’s a complete wedding, edited for FREE. (Not a test wedding, either.) This is exclusively for Creative Rising listeners! Get your first job free at the link above!
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**Listen to the podcast episode above or read the blog post below.**
Here’s the Truth
You are a photographer.
BUT you are also a bookkeeper, accountant, photo editor, writer, album designer, salesperson, CEO, COO, CFO, CMO, and all of the other O’s that you can possible think of because if you are a solopreneur, you are THE employee of your business.
You wear ALL the hats.
And this can be incredibly overwhelming.
This is a story that I hear all too often…
You are working a corporate job that doesn’t feed your soul. You want to do something with purpose. Something that will give you flexibility and the choice to live the way they want to live.
So you pick up a camera, fall in love with it, and leave your corporate job to be a wedding photographer full time.
At first, it’s amazing. You take advantage of all of the freedom: you work in you PJs, you sit on your couch with coffee and your laptop, and it all just seems too good to be true.
But then, things get busy. And they get really busy. And the inbox starts filling up. Clients start needing more. They starting needing a lot from you.
The nights and weekends of shooting increases. The hours start expanding, the laptop stays open longer and longer… and before you know it, you’re not working on the couch in your PJs by choice, but you’re working on the couch in your PJs because you don’t have time to get ready and put clothes on.
And there comes a moment when you realize that you have traded one boss for another. Your business has become a really demanding and really overbearing boss, and the freedom that you thought you had, has actually slipped away.
This is a story that is far too common. I’ve experienced it myself.
When you’re business takes over and decides your life for you.
We’re smart, capable people. (I know that because you have to be smart and capable to run a business.)
Nobody means for their business to take over. It kind of just happens.
So the big question is this: how can we free ourselves from a business that’s taken over?
The Solution: SYSTEMS
I know that ‘systems’ is not the sexy solution you want to hear.
But the reality is there is only one of you, and there’s only so many hours that you’re willing to work.
If there’s only so many hours that you want to work, and if you want to build the business you dream of building in those hours… there’s only so many things you can do.
So we need to decide what the important things are that you should be doing with your time, and then figure out how to pull you out of the rest.
And the key to that whole puzzle is systems.
In this post, I’m going to walk you through the process of understanding the roles in your business so you can set up support systems to free you up do the things you love most.
This process of freeing yourself from your business starts with a really counterintuitive step.
First, you need to FIRE YOURSELF from your business.
This is the best advice Jeff and I ever received.
Jeff and I had been shooting weddings for a couple of years when we were ready to make the jump from our full-time corporate day jobs and support ourselves with photography.
Before we did, however, a friend gave us the book, The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber, told us to create an organizational chart of our business, and to fire ourselves from being photographers.
She said that if we were going to build a business that was going to last longer than just a few years, we needed to fire ourselves as workers and promote ourselves to CEO.
We needed to learn how to work ON our business instead of working IN our business.
This advice single-handedly changed our lives because we suddenly viewed ourselves not just as creatives, but as creative entrepreneurs.
If we didn’t do this in our business, if we hadn’t taken the important time to structure ourselves properly, we never would have been able to scale to the point that we’ve grown to.
Even if you’re the only one in your photography business, and you never want to scale beyond that, but you do want to grow your income while experiencing more freedom, putting on your CEO hat and knowing how your business breaks down into it’s different roles – will help you tremendously in knowing what to outsource, when to bring in a contractor or employee to help out, and where you should be spending your valuable time.
So that’s the first step. Fire yourself from your business – as a photo editor, as a photographer, as a studio manager – and you hire yourself on as CEO.
BORING SYSTEMS = EXCITING BRANDS
Now that you are the newly hired CEO of your business, your job is to grow your income while only working the hours you want to work.
That is the challenge and the goal that you’re working towards.
In order to grow your income, you need to book great clients that will pay you the money you want to make. And in order to book those clients, you need to create a really strong brand that your clients will love.
There are two components of your brand – the external component and the internal component.
Your External & Internal Brand
The external component of your brand is your marketing.
It’s your website, your logo, your social media, your copy, etc. All of the things you do to bring in new clients is your external brand.
And when a bride becomes a client, then that external brand, all of those brand promises you made to them before they hired you, need to carry over into the client experience that they have with you.
That’s the internal component of your brand – the client experience.
Your brand is actually a series of client touchpoints.
It’s a conglomeration of all of the times your couple comes into contact with your business, and all of those touchpoints begin to tell a story.
What story is your couple experiencing with your brand?
Is it consistent? Are all of those touchpoints sending the same message?
- Is your Instagram feed telling the same story as what they’ll see on your website?
- Is the email they get back from you when they inquire supporting that story?
- Is the client experience after they hire you delivering on that story?
Every email, every phone call, every interaction, the way you are on the wedding day, the images you deliver, how you deliver them… those are all touchpoints.
This is what your brand actually is. It’s a series of touchpoints.
I’ll admit, being that consistent across your entire business can seem a little daunting.
Which is why you need to set up your business to support that brand, and the way you support it is with systems.
All of those client touchpoints, every interaction along the way – whether it’s external or internal – can be tied to a system that backs it up behind the scenes.
Think about it in terms of Starbucks.
No matter what Starbucks I walk into anywhere in the country, I know exactly what I’m going to get. They are going to deliver on their brand promise, and that’s because they have systems to back up every step of the process.
Jeff and I both worked at Starbucks years ago – back when we were in college – and they had secret shoppers.
You never knew when they were coming in, but they had certain drinks they ordered, and then they would take those drinks out to their car where they had a scale and a thermometer they would use to weigh and measure those drinks.
And based on the measurements and the temperature, they could tell if you steamed the milk correctly, if you put in the right amount of syrup, the right amount of espresso, etc.
Now, the reason I tell this story is because Starbucks knew – and they still know – that their brand depends on the success of their systems.
Exciting brands and sustainable businesses are built on boring systems.
A successful brand is one that infuses their brand personality into every single client touchpoint. And this is only made possible using systems.
Map Out the Roles
Let’s tie in this idea of systems as your brand with organizing the roles of your business.
Put on your CEO hat and look down on your business from above.
If I were to look down on a typical wedding photography business, here are the most common ten roles I would see:
- Studio Manager
- Photo Editor
- Album Designer
When it comes down to it, a wedding photography business is very simple. That doesn’t make it easy – running a business is challenging – but this is a simple type of business.
Even so, thinking about doing all of these roles is daunting.
So let’s organize these roles into different categories.
The Unbranded Roles
My first category of roles is what I call The Unbranded Roles.
These are the roles in your business that do not impact your brand, whether it’s your internal or external brand.
The client will never be impacted by these roles which means, these are the ones you shouldn’t touch.
These roles are:
You need to fire yourself from these roles completely, and permanently…
…then hire a specialist.
It’s actually surprising how inexpensive it can be to hire a bookkeeper and have someone do your taxes for you. It’s not going to break your bank and it will free up loads of time.
Even if you’re really good at finances and bookkeeping is easy for you, you still should not be spending time on it in your business!
Same goes with hiring a lawyer.
You need to have a lawyer that you can call on to review your contracts and that you contact with questions when any issues arise. Obviously this is not something you should be doing yourself.
If you buy a contract from someone else (including our wedding contract that’s in our shop), you need to have a lawyer look it over so that you can make sure its compliant with any of your state laws or local laws that may be in effect.
But you will save a lot of money if you buy a template contract and have a lawyer look it over instead of having a lawyer write one from scratch.
The 90/10 Roles
The next category of roles for a wedding photography business are what I call the 90/10 roles.
These are the roles that you can heavily outsource and systematize, but you also need to infuse your brand and put your special stamp on these.
The 90/10 roles are:
- Studio Manager
- Photo Editor
- Album Designer
These are big time-consuming roles in your business that can either drag you down and chain you to your laptop or free you up in major ways.
How these 90/10 roles work are someone or something else does 90% of the work, and you only do 10% of the work
The 90/10 model means that you partner with companies and invest in software that build robust systems for you.
The software and companies do 90% of the heavy lifting, then you get to add your personal touch to those systems – the 10%.
The 10% is your brand and your voice.
We’re afraid – artists are afraid – that systems will ultimately kill your voice and the brand that you’ve worked so hard to create. You don’t want to systemize the heart and the soul out of your business.
But the 10% is the secret sauce.
The 10% is what takes something lifeless and boring, such as an email template, and transforms it into your voice.
The 90/10 roles are basically all of the roles underneath the net of the COO.
With these roles, you need to see yourself as managing the process instead of being the process.
Even if you are the one that is pushing the buttons and doing the things, you still need to approach the systems as CEO and not as employee.
Let’s talk about Photo editing.
You guys all know that I’m a huge believer in outsourcing our editing. We use Freedom Edits for all of our editing and they are amazing!
After a wedding, I pull 10-20 of my favorite highlight images right away, and I edit them for Instagram sneak peeks, We send some sneak peeks to our couple and to vendors a day or two after the wedding, then we send the wedding off to Freedom Edits. They edit according to our specifications, and then we QC the job when it comes back.
So we’re making sure that the images are delivering on our brand promise, but it’s taking us a fraction of the time than when we do it ourselves.
For the Studio Manager role, we use our studio management software, TAVE, to do 90% of the heavy lifting for us.
We have 42 email templates that we use on a regular basis for weddings and engagements, we have proposal templates that make sending quotes incredibly fast, and our workflows keep us on track.
The Branded Roles
The last category of common roles for a wedding photographer are the Branded roles. These are the roles that need your time, focus, and energy. This is where you should be spending the majority of your time.
The Branded Roles are:
No one else can take your images or create your art.
No one else can sit down with a couple and book them for their wedding.
And you really should be the one to focus heavily on your marketing – that should be where a lot of thought and attention goes.
But instead of trying to wear all ten of the hats in your business at all times, you can wear these three the majority of your time. Plus, this gives you clarity on which roles you can immediately outsource and get the most help with when you need it.
If you’d like to see a typical organizational chart of a wedding photography business, then download ours here. Plus, this freebie includes an empty chart for you to use in your own business.
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