Most of the time when we hear the word outsourcing, we immediately think bad thoughts. In our current collective vocabulary, outsourcing usually equates to big companies who ship jobs overseas in order to find cheap labor. You know, things that are good for the bottom line but that harm our overall economy.
We don’t often equate outsourcing to anything that’s relevant to our photography, but the truth is that if you do it right, outsourcing can help you be a more efficient photographer and run a more successful business.
In the context of running a photo business, don’t think of outsourcing so much in the context of labor costs, instead think of it as a way to let go some of your daily, weekly and monthly tasks by passing them on to people and businesses who can do them for you. It’s not about money, it’s about time. OK, so in the end, it is about money, since time is money.
Get out your little idea notebook or boot up the brainstorming app on your iPad and think of some of the tasks you can let go. Believe me, I know that it’s not always easy to let that stuff away from us. We often want to be in control of the whole entity and personally oversee every single aspect of our business. Does that make us control freaks? Maybe, but that’s a discussion for another blog. Being in control of the entire business mechanism can make us inefficient.
Consider your website, for example. Did you build it yourself or did you hire someone to do the job? If you did it yourself, how long did that take? Did you make use of templates or a service like Photoshelter or Livebooks?
Using one of those web/online portfolio services can actually save you a huge amount of time. You may incur a larger cost up front, but in the long run, it could very well end up saving you quite a bit of money, as well, when you add in all the features that you get with some of these ‘pre-made’ website services.
Also, many of these sites, like Smugmug, even include a full service store that will take care of your printing, shipping and billing needs. How much time do you spend making trips to the photo lab and the post office? Even if you use a local lab, make use of ftp and mailing services that they may offer.
What about your accounting? If you’re a busy shooter, the last thing you probably want to do is sit down and deal with bookkeeping. Even if you don’t hire someone to take care of your money and taxes, using the right software for bidding and billing, such as Blinkbid or Fotobiz, can really help iron out your efficiency.
Finally what about the really simple stuff, like moving lights, packing up gear, running errands retouching, captioning and keywording or labeling and stamping post cards? This is where an assistant or intern can really make a difference.
I realize that when you’re just starting out, you want to try and do as much as you can in order to save money. This is certainly admirable, but there comes a point at which your time is much better spent doing dealing with clients, processing and editing select images, writing articles and blog posts, and of course, shooting assignments.
Spend some time on this, because it will probably require some careful cost-benefit analysis. The more successful you become as a working freelance photographer, the less time you’ll actually end up having for many non-photo related tasks. If you can figure out how and when to let some of them go, you’ll manage your time much more efficiently and you’ll be able to spend more time on the crucial, money making activities.
Take it from me, because I’m writing this post for myself as much as for you!!
Dan Bailey is a professional adventure, outdoor and travel photographer based in Anchorage, Alaska. He just published his first eBook, How to Become a Pro Photographer. Follow his own blog at danbaileyphoto.com/blog and see his daily updates at facebook.com/danbaileyphoto.