In this second episode of the scaling series, we are talking through the 5 modern ways to scale your photography business. I began scaling back in 2021 and realized very quickly how impactful scaling could be. Just to scratch the surface, I am now booking a max of 15 weddings per year instead of 30 and I’m still hitting $25k months consistently while working 30 hours a week rather than 65.
I’m strategically marketing and advertising so that I’m always generating new inquiries on autopilot without having to post 3-5 times a week on Instagram, and I’m finding fulfillment in each piece of my business without burnout.
I truly believe these 5 ways to scale are your ticket to a better work-life balance, more freedom, and more profit while still working less and still enjoying your life and your business.
So, without further ado, let’s get into these 5 ways to scale your photography business.
I am so stoked to share these 5 ways to scale your photography business because I believe these 5 are the secret to scaling your business in a way that creates more revenue, is actually enjoyable and fulfilling, and enables you to book less while hitting those consistent 5-figure months.
Before getting into that, I want to say that scaling really isn’t about the business, but more about the life you want to create. It’s so easy to lean towards what can make a lot of money because when we hear scaling, we think it’s an increase in revenue without a significant increase in expenses, so many photographers have thought that increasing their pricing, adding services, or having a studio is a way to scale.
However, you end up booking multiple weddings each weekend and you feel scattered because you can’t deliver on the luxury experience or you have to fill up your calendar with a bunch of sessions just to pay for the studio rent. None of these ways are actually scaling. I believe it’s just taking the money and running yourself and your business to the ground.
When you scale your business based on what lights you up, you are able to support your clients and your business better. It’s all about the work-life balance and the freedom you get to create in a way that not only serves your clients, but yourself as well.
I truly feel these 5 ways to scale are more foundational and can be adopted and applied by basically any established photographer.
The very first way you should scale is by having systems, funnels, and outsourced tasks in place. Just like in a photography business, systems and workflows are necessary whenever it comes to scaling, especially when we talk about sustainability scaling.
Systems do come with a lot of work at the beginning. If I’m being honest, some of my most daunting work days have been around getting systems set up, whether it’s my CRM or creating email templates, but it’s so worth it! I know my clients are well cared for while also taking the time to care for the future me who has scaled massively.
Additionally, with having systems and workflows in place, you need to outsource the things that are not in your zone of genius. Outsourcing is such a pivotal part of scaling. I know there’s a lot that goes into outsourcing, but I want you to figure out what you need to delegate, eliminate, automate, or simply do yourself. Once you figure that out, you’ll know what needs to be outsourced and then you can work on the things that actually bring you joy.
Your need for outsourcing can also change as you grow and evolve. For example, I have always done my copywriting for both my photography and education websites, as well as my mentorship program Book It. However, with Scale It, I’ve decided to not do the copywriting myself because I knew I wanted to put my time into creating the program material rather than learning how to speak about it.
The last point I want to mention is just simply creating time for a work-life balance because it’s not given, it’s created. You really do have to prioritize creating that time for you just as much as you spend on pursuing your endeavors.
If you’re interested in more about this topic of productivity and work-life balance, you can listen to episode 6 of All Angles where I talk a lot about emails specifically, but time blocking and productivity as well.
While it’s wonderful to have inquiries coming in on autopilot and implementing advanced strategies, I want to be sure to say that you can’t just skip the step of understanding basic marketing principles. Those business foundations are so important whenever it comes to having inquiries and bookings.
If you’re not currently in a place where you’re getting your dream inquiries and your dream bookings, then ads will not be a solution for you. For example, if people aren’t booking with you, there’s a deeper reason than just visibility. If you start an ad and it leads them to your website that has inconsistent branding, inconsistent portfolio, inconsistent packages, and inconsistent messaging, they end up going through a jumble of emails that do not match the quality of experience they need in order to book a higher package.
I want to be sure to be completely honest and transparent with you that mastering those foundations of your business first is pivotal. Once you are bringing in those dream inquiries, that’s when it’s time to implement those advanced marketing and advertising strategies.
There are many ways to market yourself and understanding buyer psychology is the first point I want to make. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “If you’re speaking to everyone, you’re speaking to no one,” and that’s true. The same is true when it comes to sales because there are 4 buyer types, so you need to speak to each buyer strategically in your marketing, website, and even emails.
One of the most underrated ways to market as a photographer is by email marketing. If you start building your email list with a freebie that offers value to your dream client, you can book those clients. I have booked dream clients. I’m talking $6k plus packages by serving through an email list, and I would be confident to say that could happen to you too. To start, I would recommend Flodesk because they make it so easy to start an email list, and with my link, you can get 50% off your subscription.
So, don’t sleep on your email marketing. Start your email list today!
The last point I want to make about utilizing advanced marketing and advertising strategies is to go back to the way to scale and have those systems and funnels in place before utilizing ads. You need to understand your goals and how well your marketing efforts are taking place.
Understanding your goals and how your marketing is performing as a whole and implementing buyer psychology are all important before utilizing ads so your money isn’t wasted.
First, you need to create awareness around your prints and album AND you need to create that awareness at the right time. This is one of the biggest mistakes I see photographers making. If you can create awareness at the right time when it’s most valuable to them, you can do it effectively.
The second thing you need to do is set and sell at your prices. Albums are an investment and should be priced as such. You should never just be charging what it costs for the lab to print your album or photo for you. We’re going to give an experience with your albums and prints by designing them, helping choose the best images that tell the story of their day, ordering them, packaging them up, and so much more. It’s necessary you set your prices to be strategic for offering a discount as an incentive.
However, you don’t want to set your pricing too high where your couples will just purchase from Walgreens or Shutterfly before even considering your offering.
If you create awareness, market the transformation behind the album or print, and you have a seamless album workflow, you’re going to receive consistent sales and upgrades.
This leads me into creating the album workflow. This album workflow is the secret sauce for selling prints and albums on repeat. This workflow should include all of your next steps. You want to map out every single step from knowing what discounts you are offering to what’s included in a package, all the way to designing and ordering your album.
Setting up a workflow will ensure you’re truly scaling instead of adding more to your plate. I’ve personally made over $6k in just one month from album sales, and that’s totally possible for you too.
I know whenever I say this, many of you are going to freak out, but let me tell you when it’s time to start a team.
I’ve heard people say they need to be maxed out before building a team, and that’s simply not true. If you have enough dream inquiries coming in that could be a great fit for a team, then that’s great just by itself.
Building a team really does ensure you can create a healthy work-life balance and avoid burnout.
One of the biggest hesitations I hear when it comes to building a team of photographers is who to hire for this team. Rather than looking for one-off associate photographers, you want to hire a photographer or two that you would personally want to hang out with and communicate with regularly because trust is huge when it comes to building a team and sending them off to photograph the most special day of your couples.
My biggest suggestion is to hire those who have the same dedication and drive for your business as you do and hire someone who shows signs of being skilled, trainable, and excited to serve couples for you as if it were their own business.
When it comes to marketing your team, you’ll want to take the “I’s” off your website and trade those for “we” and “our” and actually market them as a team. It’s important to communicate the value of having a team photographer to potential couples on your website.
You’ll explain the entire process, introduce the team, and adjust any of your emails or questionnaires to contain the information they could possibly wonder about a team prior to having to ask.
I call it a pivot because it’s really more like creating a whole other business alongside your photography business. I know most of you probably won’t relate with pivoting into being an educator, and I can say this confidently because I asked many of my past Book It students what they thought about scaling, and so many of them thought education first, and maybe even solely.
Throughout this podcast, I’ve been talking a lot about scaling your photography business specifically, and that’s what I’m going to be focusing on inside of my program Scale It because I want you to be able to just scale your photography business, and introducing this pivot into education is just a bonus.
If this is something that interests you, starting to pivot into education is simply by beginning to position yourself as an education. This may mean changing your marketing schedule to be 80% photography and 20% education. It may mean offering mentorships and starting to get some experience teaching. It could mean launching an email list for photographers so you have a warm audience ready to sell to.
Taking the first step is how you will start to pivot, but just as with anything in your photography business, you have to do a gut check to see what feels good for you, what excites you, and what you will be consistent with.
No matter where you are in your photography business, I hope hearing these 5 ways helped you understand how much it can change the game for you as far as your work-life balance goes, or even your income.
In the next episode, I’ll be sharing how I was able to take off an entire month and still make 5 figures!