| Starting & Maintaining My Small Business |

As the Northwest Ohio weather decides what it wants to do, snow one day and 60 degrees the next, I’m prepping and planning for warm weather and exciting outside sessions!  This year is bringing many business changes in both photo sessions and graphics projects, from a Client Loyalty program and a Client Referral program to a new Senior Rep program and now providing digital print images for graphics clients!

I never imagined that I would own and run my own business, let alone be the photographer and graphic designer and get to combine many different medias. I took a huge leap and it’s been a wonderful experience that I can’t wait to continue to grow with!  I’m often asked what it takes to run a business, why I charge what I do, or how do you know/learn what to do, so I thought I’d take a bit to share my workflow(remember every business’ will be different) before the busy season really picks up!

Photo shoots and sessions, a lot of people don’t realize that a shoot is so much more than a shoot.  There are lots of little and big things that go into each photo session, all culminating in the outcome of your customized session!  There is time spent…

1)  Talking with a client.  This usually first consists of emails or Facebook messages where a potential client will inquire session pricing and availability.  Then if we are a good fit for one another, there is more emailing of date, time, location, clothing suggestions, etc.  Sometimes one or two emails will do it, but most times it’s 10-20.  On occasion, especially with weddings, I will meet with clients to discuss what they are looking for at their session, I’m always game for meeting face to face rather than emailing, it’s more personable and gets everyone out in the fresh air!

2)  Prepping for sessions.  Here I spend time deciding if I am going to be bringing props or if the client is providing them.  If I am, I like to have a little time to pick a few things that will work with their location and the number of family members.  This part is essential for newborn and little ones sessions.  Most of these sessions are done on location, which then requires me to load up my car with 2-3 props, materials trunk, backdrop holder(which we made out of pvc pipe and is collapsable, yay!), lighting gear, camera gear, and anything a client may happen to mention that I may be able to surprise them with.  There is unloading at the clients location, reloading to leave, and unloading again once I return; lots of in and out of the car!

3)  Travel to and from sessions.  Some sessions are only a few miles down the road, while others can be 30+ minutes away.

4)  Shooting the sessions.  No session is ever going to last exactly the same amount.  Families run from 1.5 hours-2, newborns about 3 hours, seniors 2.5, it really just varies on each session and how we are customizing it to you.

5)  Once back in the office there is loading the pics from my camera to the computer, culling images(or weeding out the good from the bad) and editing a few for facebook and website sneak peaks.  Then once those are up, it’s editing the remaining session images!  Time for this will also vary depending on the session, number of family members, etc.  Here I also back up all images to a second hard drive.

6)  Gallery.  Once all images are ready to present to a client, I upload to an online proofing gallery where clients can view images, choose their favorites, and get ready to place their print order.

7)  More emailing, lol.  Sending the gallery and explaining how it works can always be a task.  Some people catch right on and others need walked through a bit, but that’s ok!  In today’s technological world, it’s always changing and sometimes I have to retrain myself on how to use it!

8)  Once in a while a client will ask for a couple additional edits and I’m always happy to do that!  While basic edits are included in the session pricing, those that are going to take several additional hours are charged by the hour.

9)  Placing orders.  Once a client has decided on the images they would like to order, they email their list to me, I pull those images from my files, upload then to my pro printer, and order.  Depending on the number of images ordered, this can take quite a bit of time; I also like to combine multiple orders at once, that way things are bundled together, arrive on the same day, I separate and label each order, and this allows me to get clients their prints in a much more timely fashion.

10)  In between much of this there is also accounting things to do.  Keeping track of retainers, payments , invoicing, tax, running to the bank, and more.  I also have to file sales tax twice a year as well as file normal taxes, which we all know takes far too much time to figure out!  lol

11)  Once prints arrive it’s back to emailing to set up a pick up time!

Graphics Projects/Orders.  Like photo sessions, there are many steps to these…

1)  Talking with the client…inquiring emails from potential clients on what it is they are looking for, what they want to see in the final outcome, colors, halftones, and so very much more.  In most of these situations it is best to meet face to face and go over things, especially with large projects and designs.

2)  Designing.  No two graphics projects will be the same, even for the same customer.  Some are logo design, starting from scratch or tweaking an already existing logo.  T-shirt layouts, wedding invitations, programs, and thank yous, birthday party invites, baby shower invites, promotional artwork, signs, digital prints, you name it!  Art time for any project can range anywhere from 15 minutes to 8+ hours, it all depends on what the project is and how involved it will be.

3)  Edits.  Once the project has been designed, it’s sent via email for proofing to the client.  I always expect edits, it’s just part of nailing down a look or layout.  I consider the first layout a starting point, we edit from there to focus in on the direction we need to continue to go.  Sometimes there are just 1-2 edits, others can be 15-20; while many think edits are a click here and there, they are actually much more time consuming.  So what may seem like a simple edit to a client, may in actuality take half an hour; more often than not, that one change isn’t going to affect just one part of the design, but rather the entire design and will require adjustments to everything.

4)  Order placing.  Once a final layout or design has been determined and after art approval forms have been received, the artwork is off to the printer for production!  For projects such as logo design or things to only be used online, it’s a matter of finalizing the correct file formats and making sure it is usable for the client.  Since designers and printers work in specific art programs, exporting or saving to the right format is a must.

5)  Accounting.  Just like with photo sessions there is accounting.  Keeping track of art time, material costs, application time, etc.

6)  Final product.  Some projects like invitations, promos, or t’s don’t require application by me.  But orders that include vinyl application on a car or digital print application on a 35″x95″ piece of plastic are going to require some dedicated time.  This is one of my favorite things to do, apply!  I don’t get to do this as often as I would like, but there’s something relaxing about applying graphics big or small!

7)  Pickup schedule.  Like photo sessions, finding a time that works for both parties to pick up is never easy.  Our lives are all so busy and full, that it can be a challenge, but I do my best to make myself as available as possible for everyone.

 

And one for both…education.  I am constantly learning, seeking new information, experimenting, watching tutorials on graphics, etc.  These are two ever changing fields and staying as current as possible is incredibly important.  I try to spend as much time as possible finding something new or studying something each week.

There it is!  My work flow!  While there are more steps listed for photo sessions than graphics projects, that doesn’t mean those will always take longer.  Nothing is consistent in these fields, some days my graphics projects are simple and to the point, other times, they take weeks.  Photo sessions can go smoothly or they can take extra time to edit out a random fly fling in front of the camera.

Owning a small business isn’t just a 40 hour a week job, it’s more of an 80+ hour a week job.  I do my best to limit myself and allow as much time for family as possible.  I love getting to meet new people and take on new designs, I’ve met and learned from so many amazing people in the last few years and look forward to continuing to do so!

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s