How to Business When You're Not Business Minded - Part 3 | Emily McGonigle Photography

A few weeks ago I posted part two, "Organization", of my three part mini blog series "How to Business When You're Not Business Minded." I covered topics like studio management software, templates, and routine.

In this blog post I want to cover how to preserve your mental health as a business owner, and a few other general business practices that are important to mention.

Mental Health

This is a really important topic. There are a lot of people, like myself, who suffer from anxiety or other mental health issues, that can get in the way of running a smoothly productive business. Some days you wake up and you just DON’T feel like you can do it. I totally get that feeling. I really do. 

But the thing is, despite you waking up with a heart rate of 95bpm, or with that gut-wrenching, “If I get out of bed the world will crash around me” feeling, you’re still a business owner, you still have a responsibility to your clients, and things still need to get done.

Does that mean you CAN’T take a day off? Absolutely not. I take mental health days all the time, but that’s why the previous articles are so important. Having templates in place to respond to clients keeps you from having to spend emotional and mental energy coming up with a new response every time. Having a studio management solution allows you to visually see your tasks in small chunks, as needed, so you can breath easier knowing that while you have things that need to get done, you have a few days before your hard deadline, so you’re allowed to take some time to yourself.

A couple other sure-fire ways to help your mental health are some of the following techniques.
 

 
 

Overpromise/Underdeliver

Wait… didn’t we talk about this already? 

Why yes, yes we did. You read about this in the “Customer Service” blog post, but it *also* has a place under mental health. Why?

Because not only are you overpromising/underdelivering in order to make room for multiple clients at once, but you’re ALSO doing so that way you can take days off in between, whether planned, or impromptu mental health days. If I woke up this morning feeling like everything was wrong, and I have one more day of editing to do on a client’s session, but they’re not expecting their session for another week… I have time to take a day to myself, if I need it. Isn’t that awesome?
 

Set Realistic Deadlines For Yourself

This goes hand in hand with the above school of thought. Not only are you overpromising/underdelivering, but you’re basing that quoted turn around time on a realistic amount of time you know it takes you to get something done.

So what if Joe Smith can edit a portrait session in 2 days? Are you Joe Smith? No. You’re your own brand, with your own style, your own products, your own images, and your own turn around times. If it takes you 5 days to edit a portrait session, own that. Own that and then set your deadlines around that fact, and as long as you’re *setting proper expectations* with your clients, they won’t have an issue with it. I promise.
 

Office Hours

Have office hours and display them on the contact page of your site. Not everyone will see them, but at least you have the piece of mind of knowing that they’re there, and you can refer to them if needed. These office hours denote the times you are available to respond to your clients. This allows you to keep your evenings and weekends sacred (or whatever time you hold dear), without being bombarded by people who don’t realize that “freelance” doesn’t mean, “She who is at your beck and call every second of every day”.

 
 

I have found that since I put office hours up on my website, the number of clients who email me, then text me an hour later, then call me an hour after that, then email again… has declined. I love excited and enthusiastic clients as much as the next gal, but you still need SOME portion of your day to be “off the clock”. A least a little bit…

In addition to that, always give yourself a large window of response. I typically respond to my clients within a few hours, if not immediately (depending on what I’m doing), but SOMETIMES… sometimes I’ve had a long day. Sometimes I get home to an inquiry after a 12 hour shoot, and I’m tired, and I just need to be dead to the world for a little while. I give myself 24 hours to respond to clients, and it says so on my website. 

Again, it’s about protecting a little of your personal space to allow yourself to breath and keep a healthy mental state.

 

General Business Practices

So we've talked about good customer service, solid organization, and good mental health. There are just a few more things I want to address that don’t *necessarily* fit into those categories.


Pricing

“FINALLY. She’s gonna talk about pricing!”

Not really. The only thing I want to say about pricing is that it varies from business to business. There are definitely industry benchmarks to look at. For example, if you’re charging $50 to your neighbors for shoot and burn services, you’re not a sustainable business, nor are you anywhere CLOSE to industry benchmarks. Sorry. But price *does* vary by business. 

Things that affect different pricing across photography businesses are things like overhead, desired income, services offered, etc. 

I’m sure you’ve heard this A MILLION times, but DO NOT. JUST PULL. RANDOM NUMBERS. OUT OF YOUR BUTT.

I hate math. A lot of people hate math. Math gives me a nosebleed, but the fact of the matter is BUSINESS IS MATH. So sit down and do your homework. Figure out what your cost of doing business is, figure out what your cost of living is, and set your pricing based off of those numbers. You’ll never have a sustainable business otherwise.

When I first started out, one of the guides that I found online that really helped me to wrap my head around things and start on the right path of creating my pricing was: “Photographer’s Pricing Guide Series” from The Modern Tog:

https://www.themoderntog.com/free-photographers-pricing-guide-overview/

 
 

If you have no idea where to start, check that out. I used that as a starting point. I had a lot of other resources that I’ve taken from and thusly my business structure and pricing has evolved over the years into what it is today, but that series is a really solid start.


Contracts and Model Releases

The only thing people seem to hate almost as much as Math is paperwork. Why? It’s not that difficult. Just like you’re going to have your email response templates made up, have contracts and model release templates ready to go too. Because here’s the thing: You need to have paperwork for EVERYTHING YOU DO. E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G. PERIOD.

Doing spec work? Write up a contract.

Doing a test shoot? Model release.

“What if she’s my best friend?” 

CONTRACT AND/OR MODEL RELEASE.

“What if it’s my sister?” 

CONTRACT AND/OR MODEL RELEASE.

“What if it’s just for fun?” 

CONTRACT AND/OR MODEL RELEASE.

“What if it’s my first time shooting a wedding?”

CONTRACT AND/OR MODEL RELEASE.

Are you picking up what I’m putting down here? You have LITERALLY NO EXCUSE to NOT get paperwork done. It’s to save BOTH parties from headaches, and it’s to cover your butt should something go awry. Most of the time it won’t, and good for you if it doesn’t, but for that ONE TIME that it inevitably will… you’ll be glad you had that paperwork done.
 

Conclusion

So there you have it! There’s obviously a lot more detail that we could go into on any of the 4 major topics we covered, but there’s only so much attention span you (and I) have. If you have questions about things, that’s good! That means you’re thinking. Use your resources to find the answers and become that much more business savvy. Use Google, use photo groups you have access to, use colleagues with more experience than you… but I’ve given you a solid start here so go forth and business!

I believe in you!

Until next time, fam!