“I’d love to grow my photography business, but I just can’t seem to find the time to sit down and plan how to do it”
That’s a common theme I have heard from fellow photographers over the years and that’s why I want to discuss photography and the 80-20 rule.
I know exactly how they feel as I was stuck in that same rut myself when I first started my Wedding Photography business in 2009.
I was fortunate to have a background in IT and had been developing websites and online businesses before Google was even a twinkle in Larry Page and Sergey Brin’s eyes. As a result, I was able to get my business out of the starting gates very fast and by year two, we already had 44 weddings lined up.
But I was about to hit a brick wall.
You see, running a Photography Business can be extremely time-consuming and unless you can get that side of things under control you may struggle to ever grow your business and feel you are constantly chasing your tail.
If you think about it, a wedding will probably consume at least 8 hours of your time just to photograph it. Then there’s the editing; the meeting with the clients; perhaps a pre-wedding shoot; a pre-wedding meeting; then the post-wedding meeting to present the finished product.
When it comes down to it, that one wedding is probably consuming three to four full working days.
Then you need to find time for your marketing efforts, dealing with social media, and the usual mundane things like accounts and basic record-keeping.
Before you know it, you are basically running just to stand still.
Well, I was in that exact same place in 2010 and I knew something had to change to allow my business to grow any further.
I had big plans.
The year before, I had walked away from the corporate life. Leaving a Board-level position with a large salary, a company car, and a great pension scheme. I needed to match that income level but ensure I did not get into the same position where work had become such a chore that I hated going to work in the morning.
Photography was my passion, and I did not want that passion to burn out just because I had made a business out of it.
Photography and the 80/20 Rule
It was at that point I had an epiphany. I remembered a concept I was taught in Management training about the 80/20 rule (also known as Pareto’s Principle).
The 80/20 rule states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. The rule is often used to point out that 80% of a company’s revenue is usually generated by 20% of its customers.
Another way to think of it is that once you have got something to 80% perfection, that last 20% will probably take you longer than the first 80% did, but will it be of more value?
Within my own photography business, I started to adopt that same principle. However, I went further and developed my own 80/20 rule:-
80% Business 20% Photography
I knew that if I were to properly grow my business, I had to have the luxury to be able to commit 80% of my time to the business strategy side of things and just 20% to the photography.
So how did I do that?
Delegate or Stagnate
Well, I remembered another key management principle – you can’t do it all yourself, and if you don’t delegate responsibility you will stagnate. So, the first thing I did was to outsource the main part of my editing process.
I can be a huge procrastinator and found that doing the basic editing of my wedding images took me ages, mainly because it was quite boring. I am talking about the basic colour correction process where you cull your images down to the final set (in my case from about 1200 down to around 300), then do the cropping, correcting any white balance issues and levelling out the exposure.
I discovered I could get a professional editor to do this for me for just 80 Euros a wedding (Nowadays with online editing services like imagen-ai.com it’s even less expensive).
This was literally going to save me 4-6 hours per wedding. I knew I could do the final “creative” editing in less than an hour, so this was huge.
For every minute spent in organizing, an hour is earned
Next, I turned myself to the basic organisation of my record keeping.
I was trying to manage things in spreadsheets and emails and keeping track of things was a nightmare.
This meant that getting prepared for a wedding took a LOT of time. Where did that list go of photographs we had agreed with the couple? What’s the address again? I’ve got a copy of the booking form, but didn’t they email me three months ago saying the ceremony venue had changed?
It was then I discovered Light Blue, the amazing piece of software developed by fellow wedding photographer Tom Catchesides.
Light Blue was able to pull together ALL my records, including my emails into one place and the basic organisational side of things became a breeze.
Not only that, but Light Blue made me more efficient as I was able to create “Workflows” with the software that laid out every “To Do” step in the Wedding Process and helped avoid missing any vital key stages. The software was basically telling me what to do and when. It was brilliant. It was like having my own P.A.
Repetition can be repetitive
Light Blue has a wonderful “template” system where standard emails and text messages can be stored and re-used to that you can quickly reply to an enquiry without having to type the same thing over and over again.
I also use a wonderful tool called TextExpander. This is another amazing way of using software to make your business more efficient.
TextExpander allows you to create little “abbreviations” which the software then expands into full text.
For example, rather than typing out my full website address “marketingforphotographers.com” I can simply type “mmfp” and it instantly replaces that text for the full word.
I remember mentoring a fellow photographer and he was watching me replying to an email and he was flabbergasted. “How are you doing that!”.
You can program it with common phrases or words that you use often such as:-
ilfr = “I look forward to hearing from you further”
kkr = “kindest regards”
I even have entire emails programmed into it as it can also be set to prompt for names and dates etc.
Social Media Sucks Time
For me, this was the Elephant in the room. I knew I had to get the time I was spending on social media also under control.
I knew that for my business to be successful I had to be on social media. But it was taking so much time.
It was at that point I discovered there was a fledgling industry building Social Media Management tools. Today that industry is huge, and you can now fully automate your social media posting schedules.
I currently use a product called MeetEdgar (you can find out more at meetedgar.com) and I can now focus on my Social Media postings just once a month. I spend about two hours planning what to post and looking back at what old social media posts I may be able to recycle.
MeetEdgar maintains a “library” of all your posts and allows you to re-use posts from the past. It also manages posts across all my main social media channels including Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter.
It is a massive time saver and easily freed up hours of my time to focus on business strategy and marketing.
Efficiency changed my business
Thanks to changes like this I was able to start focusing more on the business side of things and by the end of our third year in business, we had already opened our own studio with five members of staff and a turnover of over a quarter of a million.
In summary, efficiency is the key to success. If you can be more efficient in your business, it will free up time to focus on the important things that will help grow your income and give you the photography business you may have only dreamed of.
Remember: 80% Business 20% Photography
This article was previously published in Professional Photo Magazine as part of Alan’s monthly “Marketing Matters” column