I arrived at the party, having had my hair blow dried and a coral pink ruffled dress picked out especially for the occasion. The doorman walked up to my black cab, opened the door and welcomed me to The Dorchester. I made my way up to the very top floor in the opulently decorated elevator and, after having my coat taken care of, was offered a glass of bubbly. I was to brush shoulders with the ‘Best of British’ that evening. This was a party hosted by none other than Mark Niemeirko, the UK’s top wedding planner, in honor of Darcy Miller the editor of Martha Stewart Weddings. A selection of the best UK bloggers where there too, including the lovely Kat of course, as well as florists, hair & make-up artists and best of all the big name bridal designers.
This is networking at it’s finest ladies and gentlemen!
How did I get here? I can tell you that it wasn’t just down to spending every waking moment in front of my computer. While, of course, I’ve worked hard to get here, one of the best things I did for myself and my business last year was to not do everything myself.
In the first two years of my wedding photography business I did absolutely everything myself. I found it hard to let go. I felt as though I was the only person who could ever possibly work on my on RAW files. I thought nobody else would ever be able to design an album for me – even if I guided them through the process. I worked as a high end retoucher for years and it has only recently dawned on me that those fashion photographers would not be where they are now if they had to sit and work on each and every image that they have shot themselves! Do you think Mario Testino would have the time to travel the world, shooting front covers for Anna Wintour and worldwide advertising campaigns if he was shackled to his desk with a pen and Wacom tablet permanently attached to the end of his arm? I think not. You have to have the time to network and meet people in the industry in person and not just from the safety net of a twitter handle.
I eluded to the topic of avoiding burn out in my round up/end of year blog post. 2011 was my third full year in business as a photographer and now, at the start of 2012, I feel very happy with where I am with my price point and how I am progressing my business. I would like to share some of what I’ve done to get here with you all. I hope my advice can span any business and that this article is not only useful for photographers, however most of my examples in this piece are specific to what I did in my wedding photography business.
My basic lesson is this: life is short and working into the wee hours of the night, not having a break and feeling overwhelmed is why people ‘burn-out’ or loose their passion for something they once loved. After all most people start their own businesses to get away from working in a job that stresses them out!
“If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right” – Steve Jobs
Begin with the easy things and then work towards the ones that are harder to let go of.
Firstly I don’t do well with numbers, so outsourcing my accounting was a no brainer and the first thing I did back in my freelance retouching days. No way was I going to sit down and fill in a tax return or enter a bunch of receipts and expenses into Excel (which is not a program I am familiar with – my background is graphic design and I just never had the need to learn it). I used to hand over a big bundle of paperwork to my poor accountant and he had to sift though everything and make sense of it all. However now file everything myself into subsections for each type of expense (i.e. album printing, travel, consumables, gear etc etc).
The second thing I outsourced was bookkeeping. I know I need to have a running total of my turnover in order to keep an eye on the VAT threshold. Remember to keep in mind that if you go over the threshold in any 12 month period (not just the tax tear April to April) that you have to start charging your clients 20% VAT. This includes future wedding clients, even if they booked you before you had to go VAT registered! It is super important to plan for this.