In this first episode of the scaling series, we’re going to talk about when it’s time to scale your photography business, as well as what scaling actually means for your life and business. I have had many conversations around the topic of scaling, but through that, have found that there is not a lot of education out there around it, and there are a lot of misconceptions around what scaling actually means.
In this 5-episode series of scaling your business, I will be showing you how your life and business can look different whenever you decide to scale so that you can avoid burnout year after year.
During this first episode, I will be sharing the 7 different ways you will know it’s time for you to scale, and even a bit about my personal story about why I decided to scale and start that process back in 2021. I will be sharing some things I have never shared before, so if this topic of scaling is something you are intrigued about or interested in learning more about, then buckle up, my friend because these next 5 episodes of this scaling series are going to be so powerful for you, and I truly believe it has the ability to change your life and your business just like it has changed mine.
So, what do you say we get into this first episode of the scaling series?
Welcome back to the show, friend. Before we get into this episode, I want to pause and just say that we’re at 30 episodes, and that feels huge to me. When I started this podcast back in May 2022, I had no idea what would come from it. So many of you have shared that you love how the podcast episodes are short, but actionable and packed with valuable information.
I knew there was such a need for this type of podcast specifically for photographers, and I’m just so happy you’re here, so I just want to take a minute to say, whether you are a new or old follower, thank you so much for tuning in.
Because of this milestone, I would love to do my first-ever giveaway for podcast listeners. All you have to do is leave a 5-star review on Apple Podcasts or Spotify, send me a screenshot of your review on Instagram @clairehuntphotogprahy, and you will be entered. I will be giving away my Notion template for free, as well as a little gift card for you to enjoy all of your pumpkin spice lattes, chai lattes, or whatever you enjoy the most. The giveaway is open until October 1st and I’ll announce the winner on my stories on Instagram, so don’t miss out! And thank you again for being here.
Now, let’s get back to the episode!
Let’s first talk about what scaling means. It can be described in many subjective ways, and some people will use scaling interchangeably with growth or building, but in my opinion, scaling your business is the next level after you’ve already grown after building out your business foundations. I truly feel it’s hard to build upon something that’s not already strong, and that’s where scaling comes into play.
If you Google the definition of scaling, you will find a lot about what it means to increase revenue without a significant increase in expenses, which means you’re making more and you’re not necessarily spending that much more. Whenever we talk about scaling your photography business, there is often a focus on the business income and profit, and while the money follows, I want to reframe this to be more about the life that you want to live and setting your business up in a way that supports that dream life.
For you, this could look like having more weekends available with your family, friends, or spouse. Maybe you want to make more money so you can pay off all of your school loans or your car loan. (I just did this, and let me tell you, it feels so good). Maybe you want to start thinking longer term about the physical effects that a double or triple header takes on your body and the toll it can take on your mental space and emotional energy. Maybe you want to feel relieved because you have advanced marketing and advertising strategies in place that don’t require you to post on Instagram 3-5 times a week. Maybe you only want to work 3-4 days a week, but right now you’re working at least 65+ hours just to keep up.
Whatever inspires you most, let me just say, you deserve to build a business that supports that and it’s possible. You left your 9-5 for a reason. Oftentimes, a 9-5 is easier than running your photography business. So let’s get into when it’s time to scale your business so that it supports how you actually want to operate your life.
Something I could talk about for hours is creating a work-life balance because 60% of photographers give up on their businesses in the first year. Of the remaining 40%, another 25% quit in the second year, an the remaining 15% are the ones who endure throughout the third year.
My goal is to give you the education and guidance you need so you end up being in the 15% who continue pursuing their business and not in the 85% who quit.
If you look into why only 15% of photographers make it to their third year of business, it’s because they’re not booking enough in order to make the income needed or their marketing is not great. While that may be true in some cases, this is why I teach the foundations of booking out your photography business in my program Book It. I personally believe it also has to do with how well you scale your growth in order to avoid burnout.
There’s plenty of education out there around building your photography business – think about marketing, client experience, etc. But whenever it comes to scaling your business in a sustainable way, where is the education?
I can’t tell you how many times photographers I’ve talked to who are burned out. On the outside looking in, it all looks like a dream. They’re full-time, they’re booked out working with their dream clients, and making more income than they had ever imagined, but their whole business has become who they are. It’s no longer about the dream life they wanted to build alongside their business, but rather their business has become an enemy to that dream life.
And I’m about to be really honest with you friend…
For a moment, I lost myself in the midst of building my business.
I booked 33 weddings for one year and after experiencing about half of that and still looking forward to the rest of the 15+, I knew that something had to change. All I could think about what the need to automate my business more so that I could work less, but I had no time to implement any of it because all I could do was shoot and edit. I would pull late nights just to feel “caught up.” I couldn’t pursue any other thing because even though I’ve always been an organized person, it was too much for just one person. I forgot what my hobbies were, and ti was taking a toll on my life and relationships.
So, how did I create that work-life balance? How have I been able to increase my revenue and work 30 hours a week rather than 65+?
I’ll be talking more about this in episode 33, but if you’re finding yourself in a place of burnout right now, here’s what I want you to do:
Plan one day a week to be your CEO day. This day is just for you to work on what is going to move the needle forward in your business. This doesn’t necessarily mean working on your marketing or bringing in new inquiries. It may mean just working on a passion project that is going to bring you a lot of joy. It could mean spending time on educating yourself on topics you want to learn, even if it’s diving deeper into scaling. Whatever your CEO day looks like, just put the hard drive away and work on something that’s going to bring you closer to the business that supports your life. Just as growth doesn’t happen overnight, neither does scaling. Take it one step at a time because small things like this go a long way.
For many photographers, the dream is six figures, and in order to reach that six-figure goal, you probably need to book more than you would think. I can’t tell you how many times photographers in my program Book It fill out the pricing worksheet I give them and they realize for the very first time how much their expenses actually are, how much they need to save for taxes, how much they need to charge per wedding in order to make enough to cover expenses, and how much they need to book in order to be able to pay themselves or pay their taxes.
So let me ask you this: Do you know your numbers?
This goes back to what I was sharing about when I was in the middle of those 33+ weddings, I knew I needed to automate and have better systems, processes, and funnels in place where I wasn’t having to keep posting on Instagram in order to get inquires or not having to be in my inbox every single day responding to questions that could’ve just had automation set up to answer before they were even asked.
Client experience is of the utmost importance to me. Serving my photographers, and even my couples, is of the utmost importance to me, and yet, it is okay to want a business that requires less of you, and it’s totally possible to do it in a sustainable way too, and that’s where scaling comes in.
A word you may hear me throw around quite a bit is sustainability, and I want to just say that this can look different for every single person. Sustainability is something you have to grapple with yourself of what feels good for you. It comes down to what is a good place for you to be at in your business where you’re not going to burn out and where you’re still making the income needed.
We want to build a sustainable business that is profitable. However, yours may look very different than mine. I don’t want to book 30 weddings a year, but maybe 30 is your sweet spot and you feel great about booking them. So, just think about what sustainability looks like for you. What does that income look like? What does that work-life balance look like?
It is not possible to run your business forever just by yourself, and this is something I see most photographers doing, and it burns them out faster. If you can outsource the things you don’t actually need to be involved in, or you can train somebody else to do those things for you, this is going to give you more freedom. It will create more of an actual work-life balance for you.
Part of scaling is learning how to outsource in an effective way that actually supports you rather than creating more work for you. I’ve had bad experiences with outsourcing and I’ve had wonderful experiences, and it really does come down to being patient and understanding that what you’re working toward is more freedom and an actual work-life balance again.
There’s a lot of talk about passive income and I think that’s wonderful. Passive income is so fun and so cool to see the Stripe notifications come in on the daily. However, scaling isn’t all passive.
In episode 34, I’m going to be talking about a few more myths about scaling. We’re going to dive deeper into how scaling is not all passive because it does take time and strategy to get to a place of more passivity.
The biggest thing I want to be sure to be really realistic with you about is that it’s possible to create multiple streams of revenue and get to a place of more passivity, but it doesn’t happen overnight. There’s a lot of planning and processes that need to be in place, as well as strategy to market those multiple streams of revenue in a way that actually will be profitable for you rather than it stealing away that freedom and the work-life balance you’re trying to create.
One example of a myth that I’ll be talking about more in episode 34 is owning a studio. If you’re a photographer who wants to own a studio, that has significantly increased your expenses. That’s not scaling. It also means more shoots on your calendar. That’s an example of how creating multiple streams of revenue can be wonderful but also can end up burning you out in the process if you’re not strategic about it.
Your marketing and your website are incredibly important whenever it comes to your inquiries and bookings, even your client experience and organization, and having all of those foundations of your business built, out in a way that truly does call in the kind of clientele you want to work with, and if you’re not there yet, I do not recommend implementing any kind of advanced marketing or advertising strategies. You simply don’t know who you’re talking to yet.
I feel like in the online space, ads are becoming the solution to everything, and I say that very sarcastically because it’s not the solution to everything, especially if you haven’t built out those foundations of your business. You have to have those foundations built out before you can scale upon your growth because otherwise, let’s just say we run an ad for you, you’re not calling in the right people through those ads either. That’s money wasted.
Understanding those foundations of your business and the very fundamental pieces of your business is required before you can ever have inquiries and bookings coming in on autopilot without requiring you to be on by the use of advanced strategies or advertising.
This one is pretty simple where in scaling in some different ways, it means you’re not actually the one that has to show up in order to get paid, and I’ll be diving into more of these modern ways in the next episode. If you want a little sneak peek, I do have a freebie called The Secret to Scaling Your Photography Business While Working Less and Making More.
If you have loved this episode so far and this topic of scaling and you’re really excited about taking your business to the next level and implementing things starting now so that next year you can be in a totally different place, you’re definitely going to want to snag that freebie. I created it for you and it is full of so much goodness!
And if after listening to this episode, you have any pressing questions or you can really relate to what I shared about being burnt out, please drop me a DM. You know I love to get to know you and there’s never any pitch to join my programs.
I hope you related to at least one of the points of how you will know when it’s time to scale your photography business, and I’m just so stoked you’re here and I can’t wait to dive into these topics even deeper.