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How to Routinely Dial in Your Photography Contract & Cash Flow 

POSTED IN : Business & Client Experience, Photographers
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This is a crucial action-item in any off-season of your business: update your photography contract and dial in your cash flow.

When we asked a crew of successful photographers what they are prioritizing during the COVID-19 crisis, this subject was TOP of mind. 

We’ve spent the past four weeks of our blog series, How to Audit Your Business in the Off-Season, digging into alllll the most important steps successful photographers should be taking during ANY off season, but especially during this current season of COVID-19. 

This blog series has been jam-packed with really valuable information and steps you should take during the off-season to level-up your business.

Check out the first four posts in the series here:

 

This week, we are going to dive into some of the nitty gritty that comes with the financial and legal areas of your photography business. 

If this subject has felt totally overwhelming lately, this post is for YOU.

Let’s not waste any time – I’m ready to dive in!

 

Build a Strong Financial Foundation for Your Business

 

There are two very important, foundational areas of your photography business that will make or break it:

Reliable contracts

AND

A healthy cash flow

 

But for many photographers, these areas can seem daunting, because let’s face it: not every photographer feels comfortable calling themselves a “business person.”

Add a global pandemic as fuel to the very-frustrating fire, and both your photography contract and cash flow can feel oh-so-vulnerable.

I’m not denying how hard this is, friend.

You’re feeling it. Jeff and I are feeling it. 

We are alllllll feeling it. 

But those (very) scary feelings do not give us permission to give up and allow everything to crumble. 

I ADORE the attitude that my friend (and fellow photographer), Sarah Bradshaw, takes:

“Difficult times have a beautiful way of clarifying focus.” (Sarah Bradshaw)

It couldn’t be more true.

When the fire gets hot, will you allow it to mold your business into one that is even stronger than before?

We are going to dig into two key steps to reinforcing the foundation of your photography business. 

Update Your Photography Contract

In a season where things feel very uncertain, the last thing you want to be worried about is your photography contract. 

It is an action item that many other successful photographers take during the off-season – make sure your contract is up to date.

“I recommend an annual review of all contracts by a legal professional in your state. Typically, each year I have a new circumstance or event (hello COVID-19!) that prompts me to include a new provision in my contract. I will have it reviewed to ensure it’s up to snuff and ask my lawyer to add any necessary provisions needed.” (KT Merry)

During your off-season (and especially right now, in Coronavirus season), you’ll want to take action in two ways: 

Review and update your photography contract with a lawyer

I want to be clear: we are not giving legal advice to anyone. You must talk to your own lawyer before modifying, cancelling, or making any changes to contracts. We are not lawyers.

However, we strongly recommend getting into the habit of sending your contract to your lawyer for review on a yearly basis.

This habit could save you from a LOT of hassle and stress when unexpected circumstances arise. 

RESOURCE: Check out all of our contracts in our Photographer Shop!

 

Become familiar with exactly what your photography contract says

Second, you’ll want to study up on exactly what you (and your clients) are agreeing to in your contract.

When sticky situations arise (though we always hope that they don’t), it is important to have the proper language to share with your clients that accurately reflects your contract agreement. 

This doesn’t only apply to communicating about postponements or cancellations — oftentimes clients come in with a LOT of questions about the logistics of your contract before they book with you.

So it is crucial to have the knowledge and language to explain your agreement without any confusion. 

Struggling with How to Respond to COVID-19 Cancellations?
We’ve taken the guesswork out for you in this article here
How to Respond to a Wedding Cancellation or Postponement During COVID-19

 

Get a Handle on Your Cash Flow

If you’re like us, the COVID-19 crisis has rapidly turned our calendar of shoots and weddings into a whole-lotta-nothing.

Let’s be really real – it has been HARD to see things disappear off the calendar. 

Thankfully, many of these events have simply been postponed and not cancelled, but what does that mean for the time being, when little to no money is coming in?

“We are looking to see what items we can cut back on during these times, and how we can be more efficient with our cash flow as a business moving forward. I would advise all small businesses to do a check on their business and see how they can be more efficient with their cash flow and production.” (Duke Images

It means that this is an opportunity to get CLARITY.

I’m going to give you three steps to get you started: 

Step One: Get clear on the numbers

If you’re not sure of exactly what’s coming in and out of your business bank account over the next few months, then the first step is to get clear on the numbers RIGHT AWAY.

If you’re just guessing on the numbers, the uncertainty will eat away at you MUCH more than facing the reality of your bank account, my friends. 

So sit down with your bookkeeper, map out the numbers, and get clear on what’s coming in and going out. 

My friend, I can’t guarantee that seeing all the numbers right in front of your eyes will always feel comforting. (In fact, it might feel like a punch to the gut.)

However, I can assure you that it will bring clarity. 

This exercise will make it abundantly clear which numbers you need to hit in order to keep your business alive.

You’ll need to get really honest with yourself about what’s is possible during this season – and what simply isn’t. 

Step Two: Temporarily reclaim outsourced services or cut back on subscriptions

After you’ve gotten very clear on your cash flow, you’ll likely need to find ways to cut back on expenses during this season.

“I’m reading the book Profit First and switching back to that accounting system. I’m taking a hard look at subscriptions, expenses, and time spent to see what really generates profit, and what is simply expensive busy work.” (Sarah Bradshaw)

An important part of running a life-giving photography business is proudly claiming your position as CEO. Beyond that, you probably have many other roles (editor, marketer, content writer, accountant, etc) that you take on, and perhaps some that you outsource.

However, you may need to think hard about cutting any expenses that you’re capable of completing internally. 

As the CEO of your photography business, you may need to decide which roles inside your business you should step back into temporarily – always with the plan in mind to take yourself back out again. 

    • Are you currently outsourcing your editing? 
    • Are you paying for a social media scheduler? 
    • Do you rely on a copywriter for all of your blog posts?

Consider bringing these back internally during the off-season.

After you’ve analyzed the potential for cutting back expenses and increasing efficiency, create a clear action plan for what you will cut. 

Once you are VERY clear on your plan, you’ll want to ask yourself two questions:

    1. Which cut-backs are necessary as part of the emergency plan?
    2. Are there any adjustments that you can take into your busy season? Are these changes doable for the long-term, if they will benefit the overall health of your business? 

You may uncover areas of your business that have been running on autopilot for too long (and wasting you money), so now is the time to analyze how you can help your business for the long-term.  

Step Three: Brainstorm ideas for generating revenue NOW

Unfortunately, there isn’t much we can do about government-mandated social distancing and the disruptions it causes.

But you have NOT lost all control in generating revenue. 

There are still ways we can still be making money TODAY in your business, and now’s the time to put on your thinking cap, my friends! 

If you’re feeling stumped on how to generate revenue right now, do not underestimate the power of a good brainstorming session. 

When this crisis hit, Jeff and I sat down with our team and simply went back to the drawing board. Each of us brought ideas to the table – no idea too silly or outlandish – and we zeroed in on the ideas that could create revenue for us now (and later). 

You’ll have to decide what is best for your clientele, but here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Create “Buy Now, Use Later” offers for your clients
  • Run a print sale through your gallery provider
  • Offer a sale on physical products, like albums or canvases
  • Promote gift cards for your services
  • Offer a booking incentive for 2021 wedding clients to sign their contracts now

Write them all down, circle the best ideas, and map out a game plan! (We LOVE a good whiteboard session!)

To Recap: 

  • Use the off-season to reinforce the vulnerable areas of your photography business, including dialing in your photography contract and cash flow.
  • It is important to routinely meet with a lawyer to update your photography contract and familiarize yourself with exactly what it says. 
  • In order to get a handle on your cash flow, start by getting clear on the numbers with your bookkeeper, then look for ways to cut back expenses and brainstorm fresh ideas to generate revenue now. 

 

My friend, if you’ve been with me for all five weeks of this Complete Business Audit, I want to give you a standing ovation!

You can catch up on the first four posts in the series here:

These tasks are not always easy to accomplish (and they can be super easy to put off).

Which is why you should be VERY proud of yourself for digging in, especially in times that are stressful and overwhelming.

What are you carrying with you into your next off-season? Which area of your business received the most rewarding audit? 

I’d love to know! Drop me a line – I read and respond to every email that you all send my way!

I’m rooting for you!

Hugs,
Erin

 

WELCOME

Hi there! We’re Jeff and Erin Youngren, a hubby and wifey wedding photography team in San Diego. We shoot together. We travel together. We dream together. And we believe the best thing to hold onto in life is each other (+ a great glass of wine…)

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