when i first started freelancing full time, i was completely overwhelmed by all the hats to wear. i finally understood what everyone meant when they told me that being a full time photographer often meant shooting 10% of the time, + the other 90% was spent behind a desk. i was swamped with book keeping, client meetings, emails, blogging, edits, keeping backups to date, web maintenance etc. i was thrilled by all the work coming through the door, but losing my mind with how to handle it all + still feel like i had a life. i needed some systems in place + needed them fast. i spent an afternoon googling + researching "workflow" + hashed out what new workflow rules i was going to follow. the learning process was steep, but i did come away with a few valuable nuggets of wisdom when it comes to handling it all + still finding time to cook dinner, walk my dog, + go out for brunch. so in no particular order, here's a few things that worked for me to make my work more efficient + effective:
finding a great workflow process : downloading a job, renaming the images, backing it up, culling fast, getting a handle on quick + quality editing, + being diligent about staying on top of the editing process. i made it a personal goal to edit every wedding + get it out the door in under two weeks my first season of full time shooting.
learning to take sundays off : i was getting burnt out fast my first year... because i was working all the time. i knew things were bad when i started envying people with 9-5 jobs... who could just leave their work at the office, until the next clock in time. i felt like i could never turn it off... i was working at night, through lunch, from bed, 7 days a week... the truth is that when you're freelancing full time, you're never really ever fully caught up... so learning to turn it off was actually a huge productive boost in my work ethic. i worked harder during my working hours, because i knew i was shutting it down at 5 or 6 pm... + absolutely not working on sundays (except for occasional shoots that is... but shoots don't really feel like work, + sundays work good for lots of clients)
here's my big one; the one that's really really hard to do when starting out
paying others for what they're good at, so that you can be better at what you do: as the ultimate DIY'er, I used to be of the mentality that i'd rather save the $$$ + find a way to do it myself. i learned dreamweaver + built my first website from scratch, i did my own taxes, designed not 1 or 2, but three different brandings for my business over the years, + tried to shoot solo most of the time, so i could save on hiring an assistant. i was broke + trying to be thrifty with the money i was making so that i could have more of it to pour back into equipment mostly. somewhere a shift happened, + i realized the value in paying someone else to do work that i not only didn't like but wasn't that good at. i love my tax lady much more than she knows. i'm so happy to pay her to keep ontop of filing stuff or just have her as a resource for tax related questions etc. so i don't have to spend my time googling the answers myself. i bring an assistant to every wedding + happily budget for it. i love having someone on hand to get some add'l shots + help me carry my gear. trudging around NYC with 40+ lbs. of gear doesn't make me a better photographer... just a tired + more cranky one. i signed on with an agency to rep me to clients + book me work. this was a hard lesson in letting go. i was terrified about turning over my communications to someone else... letting someone else handle my bookings, invoicings, + contracts. learning to trust someone else with my business, my baby, was so hard. but now i count myself as one of the luckiest wedding photographers out there. work comes in, + i still get to meet with clients + shoot their weddings. my two favorite things... + the time saved me in all the back + forth emailing, question answering, general client communication is priceless. in fact, our photographer/rep relationship is so strong that she can answer 95% of questions for me, knowing what my answers would be. i also just recently hired a totally awesome designer to do some re-branding for me. i cannot wait to unveil it + talk more about the process, but i'm holding off till we're all done. i will say that paying someone else produced a result far better than i could have ever come up with on my own. so worth every dollar. here's a sneak peak:
time is money, + my time is valuable... so i'm pretty happy to pay someone else if it's going to free up more of my own time + they're better at it anyways. it's also part of the yen + yang of a thriving business. designers, coders, CPA's, + photographers just starting out need to make a living too... so i'm pretty happy to help them out in that regard.
lastly i learned a couple of things i shouldn't have done the hard way. here's a huge one :
don't say yes to every job: i had a client meeting my first year, + in my gut i felt so strongly that we weren't a good match. but i didn't want to turn away the work, + i didn't know how to say no. i also wanted to disregard my feelings + feel like i had triumphed over our business relationship by proving myself wrong + winning them over. always trust your gut. after the work was done we both left our working relationship incredibly frustrated + deeply unhappy with the results of working together. it was such an enormous headache + heartache + time + time again i told myself i'd never again disregard that initial feeling of saying no. no amount of money was worth that experience.
don't let allow taxes to get the better of you: i owed the man over $16,000 in taxes my first year. enough said.
don't forget your first love: i fell in love with photography as a way of capturing the world as i saw it. i loved travel + shooting for myself. my first year was so consumed with client jobs, that i realized it had been months since i'd pulled out my camera for myself. so i took one month off to reset, retool, travel, + fall in love with photography all over again. (you can view images from that journey to india + sri lanka here, or a week long getaway to iceland here) i felt so restored afterward, that i had double the drive + energy to put forth into the coming business year. i think it's a tradition that will be practiced from here forth.
seeing as that's my 2nd long + very verbose post within a week, i think i'll cut it short here. my man + i have been curling up in the evenings + watching BBC's human planet this week. highly recommended... our world never ceases to amaze me. speaking of travel here's a shot that i took in ethiopia a couple of years ago...