6 Signs You’re Ready for an Associate Photographer in Your Wedding Business
Are you feeling burnt out with the number of weddings and elopements you are photographing? Are you turning down leads because you are already booked? If you’re ready for new possibilities in your photography business, whether you’re starting an associate team or pitching yourself as an associate for another photographer you admire, here are six signs you’re ready for an associate photographer. I spoke with lovely Jessica of Build and Bloom, a really great community full of photographers where I answered all the unspoken questions of how to build an associate team into an existing photography brand.
What is an associate photographer
An associate photographer is another photographer you book through your brand to photograph weddings and elopements in your absence. Having an associate photographer under your brand doesn’t have to be intimidating. I dive into the nitty gritty details to give you the confidence you need to run a successful associate photographer team.
You feel burnt out from your thriving photography business, but want to get your life back. Your family time is spent behind the computer, editing for hours on end. You have perfected the art of photographing weddings and elopements, but you’re spread too thin. How can an associate photographer benefit your business?
How an associate photographer scales your business
Our associate story
In case you relate, here’s our associate story. I started photographing weddings and elopements a long time ago, and went full time in 2017. At that point, I created and maintained a successful wedding and elopement photography business. I perfected our client experience, received great reviews from our couples, and we turned down more weddings than we were booking due to being unavailable. We are now a six figure business turning leads away. I worked all the time, I barely spent time with my husband when he got home, very burnt out. I recognized the demand from all the leads flooding our inbox, but we couldn’t be in two places at once. That’s when I took a step back and realized that I could train a team of photographers as associates. It was a chance for me to scale my business while getting my life back at the same time.
If you’re reading this and thinking, “Yes,that’s me!” then you need to see the 6 signs you’re ready for an associate!
Our process: Me prewedding, associate takes over for wedding, I do post wedding. Client experience before and after the day, I have control over that. Inquiry calls, super helpful inquiry emails, informational email, getting them booked, packages. Once they book, they get drip emails about helpful tips (albums, location scouting, gear, etc.)
6 Signs you’re ready for an associate photographer
The biggest indicator of whether or not your business is ready for an associate photographer is the amount of leads you generate. You’ll need enough leads to book yourself as well as turning down ⅓ or the leads that are coming in due to unavailability. If you’re turning down leads, it’s one of the signs that you’re ready for an associate photographer. It means your brand can sustain you as well as another photographer who will work for you.
Automation // Systems
Without automations and systems, you’re likely feeling stressed, overworked, and you spend way too much time in your inbox. If this is the case, you’ll want to set up automations in a CRM. A CRM is a customer relations manager that you can subscribe to. We use Tave for our business, but there are others like Honeybook or 17 Hats. These systems allow you to automate your client experience with helpful tips, inquiry emails, and so much more.
How does this relate to having an associate? You’ll need more time to create timelines, location scouting, etc. for these additional weddings you will be booking. Emails are the first thing that can clear up a LOT of time. An automation system helps you do that.
Most photographers love the full control we have over our business. You are an enterprising entrepreneur, self starter, and attached to your art. You guide your clients step by step through the inquiry process, getting to know them, helping them with timelines and location scouting. The wedding day arrives and you’re there every step up the mountain and down the aisle. You capture the artful moments, the happy tears, and the first dance. After that, you carefully curate their images in your style that tells the best story of their wedding day.
How can you possibly trust another photographer to deliver that experience to your couples? It’s arguably the toughest part of scaling your business with an associate photographer. As scary as it sounds, surrendering control and giving trust into another person is the best thing you can do when adding on an associate. The straight fact is that you can’t be in two places at once. If you could, you’d be scaling your business with an associate already. Finding the right fit for an associate photographer is challenging. When you find that person, give them the guidance they need, and trust them to fulfill your brands’ values.
The most important element to consider is pricing. Your prices need to be high enough that you can pay another photographer to photograph the event, business expenses are covered and make a profit. The philosophy of Profit First by Mike Michalowicz is an excellent resource for how to structure your pricing in a profitable way. While the best thing you can do is cut unnecessary expenses, another powerful tool is setting aside a percentage of every package price to profit.
How to price your packages for an associate photographer:
- Look at your bank statements for last year and calculate your business expenses. When you have the total, divide that amount by how many weddings you will reasonably book. This is the number that you’ll need to load into every package you book in order to break even.
- Calculate your total revenue from last year. Your expenses should amount to about 30% of your total revenue. If the expenses are higher than 30% of your total revenue, you should be charging more or cutting down your expenses.
- Calculate 15% of your revenue. This is the number you want to add into every package for profit. You will take this number, divide it by how many weddings you want to have. Add this number into your package price. This allows you to put profit where it should be – first.
- Calculate 25% of your revenue. This is the percentage that you’ll want to put into a savings account for taxes. Take this number and divide it by the number of weddings you want to have. This number is the cost you’ll want to integrate into every package.
- Research the associate photographer costs in your area. Ask your fellow photographers what they would charge to be an associate. This number will be 30% of your package price.
- Add up the expenses, average associate rate, tax rate, and profit. This number will be the base of your associate package. You can’t go any lower than this number and expect to scale your business.
When you bring on team members into your business, you need to take a step back and become the CEO of the company. The CEO mindset is sometimes tough to develop when you’re used to working for yourself. Think of your photography business as a restaurant. There are several people who fulfill all sorts of different roles in order for that restaurant to function. Of course you wouldn’t expect the CEO of the restaurant to be the same person seating the customers, taking orders, cooking the meal, delivering the meal, cleaning the dishes, doing the taxes, managing the social media account, running the payroll, ordering all the ingredients for dishes, creating menus, making the logo, etc. The same principle applies to you and your photography business.
The first step you can take is to make a list of all the tasks you do in your business. This includes editing, emailing, inquiry follow ups, taxes, blog writing, photographing, social media posts, etc. Now, think of the things that you could outsource. Editing can be outsourced. We use Photographers Edit. Taxes should be outsourced to a CPA who is knowledgeable in your area. Emailing and inquiry follow ups can be automated in your CRM (Tave, 17 Hats or Honeybook). Keep going down the list and see what talented people you can bring on for these smaller projects that the business owner doesn’t have to do.
Now that you take things off your plate, you can focus on the high level aspects of your business. This frees you up to manage your team better.
If you love leadership, teamwork and building a community, it’s on of the signs that you’re ready for an associate photographer in your business. When I was learning the wedding photography industry, I craved a local mentor and a community closeby to bounce ideas off of, get support, and learn. I’m not in the place in my own business where I can be that mentor and create that community for new photographers. Giving back is so fulfilling and I create a space with my associate team for them to learn and get support. You can empower your team with regular zoom meetings, open up a text chain where your associates can ask you questions, and provide them with helpful resources to grow their skills.
If you want to give back to your community, having an associate is a great opportunity.
Are you reading the signs that ready for an associate photographer?!
If you’re putting both your hands WAY WAY UP, I am SO excited for you! You are opening up an entirely new stream of revenue to scale your photography business, and it only goes up from here. Now that you know you’re ready, leave your questions in the comments! I will answer every single one of them so you can reach your potential!