Studio Spaces Q&A
Wendy DeKramer had asked, "What are some other daily, practical step-by-step "that I could take, big or small, to start designing "or redesigning an existing studio "into your dream studio space?" Maybe what are some additional questions you could ask yourself or that day-by-day get there?
I've touched on it here and there, but start with just a sketch, the most ideal thing in the world. I have no barriers whatsoever to anything as it relates to money or where it can be or how big it can be or who else is in it. Back to the idea of dreaming out your ideal life. You do that, you create the ideal space and then I want you to think about a couple specific tangible things when you do that. Any square inch of space that you are designing out, how's it being used? Be really specific. What exactly is it being used for? Can it be used for anything else? And can you use that same space somewhere else that's cheaper? I talked earlier about having storage. I think having a big space that's dedi...
cated just for storage is quite an expensive way to go on a retail space. The only storage we have in our studio right now is-- I don't know if I showed you, behind the shooting space, I said there's a bunch of storage back there. It's a really narrow spot that goes really tall, tons of vertical storage. So you have to go in there and get on a ladder to get this, this, this, and this. But now, I'm only paying for this part. They're not charging me for this part. And I'm thinking about that. So if you have square foot that you wanna maximize, think vertical storage. You don't pay rent for vertical storage. Anything you're doing that way, if you can vertically align it, you can get two, three times the amount of footprint. So, literally that. Pulling stuff up from the wall and figure out how you can address it that way and save money on rent, if you're renting. Another thing is to think about whether you want to buy or rent a space. For us, with the whole life situation, we had no option to get what we wanted and buy it. I would've loved to have bought this space. I would have loved to. I'd still love to. If anyone wants to sell to me, great. But we couldn't because we wanted a space that we could walk to from home. Our current space by the way, is a four minute drive, a 12 minute bike ride, and a 19 minute walk and that's on purpose. That was the dream. On that dream thing, it took me 12 years to get it. So 12 years to circle back to being somewhere where I could actually walk to work but not be in my home. That didn't happen overnight for me either. It's also ideally located between all the kids' schools, back to the idea to fitting into the life you want. But, I can't buy that. If I had an option to buy, I would've absolutely have done that because there's so many more things you can do from that from an investment perspective with that. Rent is just throwing money out of the window. You're only renting for what you can do that month and the next month. And you're not obviously gaining any equity. The other thing I would think about when building out a studio space is are you going to shoot in there? Do you need to shoot in there? If it's something that you're hardly ever going to do a shoot, why build a whole space out for it? Why not have a section in your studio where you can modify it quickly for shoots here and there but aren't dedicated spaces? You saw we had a dedicated shooting space because it's also set up as a conference room and a sales meeting area. And because we can use it for all those things with very little physical effort to transition that makes a big difference. Lighting is huge. If you don't have a lot of window light, maximize the light you have with daylight-balanced everything. Some people used to say, "I love my studio, "but all the pictures come out wonky." I'm like, that's because that's a tungsten incandescent light and that one's a fluorescent light and that's a-- and you have 1600 different Kelvins going on right here. You're going to have a problem consistently shooting. Thinking about the lighting in your situation. I prefer very, very bright, shiny, friendly, sunshiny light. There's a lot of people that like a very moody, darker light too. Whatever the case might be, that's one thing I'd spend a lot of time focusing on. That's a lot right there, but-- And lastly, I'd have to say this, ergonomics. The actual flow of your movements through a space, kinda track it. Where are you spending most of your time in the space? Where are clients coming in, like we talked about that. How easy is it for you to open things up and break things down? I would be really considering that too. Okay, that's a lot. Is anybody here have any restrictions in their head, right now, about how to build out space or get a space or why they won't get a space? You all done? Psychologically solved?
Just money. (laughs)
Let's talk about that. Let's talk about that.
I still have more questions for you.
Okay, yes, I'm sure it all ties to money anyway.
Exactly, exactly. So, this is from Laura D. who said, "How do you feel about meeting clients at a coffee shop, "like at Starbucks for an ordering session, "for the clients to view and order the photos, "if you don't have a studio space?" She says she's a location photographer and edits her photos at home, but doesn't have her clients actually come to her home for ordering.
A, I think it's a great idea and it's what I did for years, to meet at a coffee shop and I would meet at my coffee shop. But to meet at a coffee shop. B, is there a space in your home-- she said she edits from home. Is there a space in her home that could be her dedicated work space? There's a lot of people who work from home, but that means their laptop's on their bed and then they put it on the corner after they're done and then leave. I'm not saying you have to have a lot of space or a lot of money to dedicate a portion of your space for you and the reason why is the amount of time you waste gathering everything up, repositioning it, setting it down, trying to figure out where you put that drive and where you put that USB cord and where you put that charger. You're wasting way more time than you think. When I talk about process flow and systems and how long things are taking, I geek out like crazy about my current office, my personal office that I step into at work because I can't believe how much time I save knowing where everything is. It's insane. I have spent an hour looking for this one cable for this one drive. It drives me nuts, you know? Think about where you're working and do you have a space that's all yours where you can really cleanly store everything. 'Cause it's not too tough to be able to work from home because everything can be done so remotely right now and just that you'll meet people out on a shoot. But, how do you feel when you're in that environment? There's a lot of people who say I work from home but I get kind of depressed and lonely. I don't feel like I'm in my cocoon, I feel like I'm shut off from the rest of the world. And I remember feeling that a few years in, that I can't believe how little human interaction I have from my attic up here, you know? And I think a lot of people can feel that way too.
Just another one, just to reiterate. This is from-- doesn't put the name, but--
What are your thoughts on, again, co-sharing with another photographer? I don't know if--
If this person is nervous about competition or if it's not gonna have your own space. Just reading more--
I have a lot to say about that. I love it. I love it because I think there's this mentality that if I open up to other people, they're gonna steal from me. Or they're gonna get better than me or they're gonna steal my clients. What am I doing right here with you? I'm telling you literally all the things I know about business-- well, not all the things, 'cause we don't have two years, but in these two days, we're gonna go through a ton because I am not necessarily worried that you're going to steal from me. There's a book out there, anybody ever read Rich Dad, Poor Dad by what's his name, Robert--
[Male Audience Member] Kiyosaki.
What is it?
[Male Audience Member] Kiyosaki.
Kiwosaki, yeah, yeah, yeah! Is it Robert Kiwosaki?
[Male Audience Member] Kiyosaki.
That guy. Someone's gonna answer that for us. I remember reading that book thinking, "Oh my gosh, this is so good, "I can't believe he just put all this out there. "Anybody can do this now." It was all about how to maximize your footprint in real estate and how to really make money off real estate. It was very specific, very tangible ideas. I read the whole thing and was like, "This is amazing. "He just gave all this away for free in this book?" And then I went back and glanced at the first opening chapter that I'd kinda skimmed through and he said, "I'm gonna tell you everything here "because 98% of you will never do anything with it. "You'll think this is great news, "you'll want to make an impact "and you won't do anything with it." And I was like, "Well that's not true for me." I never did anything with it. I am not a real estate mogul yet. But it was great information and I think that's part of it. I think we have these fears of what if this, what if this, what if this and if you can just push all that out the window and say, well, what if we collaborate? What if instead of worrying about competing, we collaborate and we both lift each other up and let's have a conversation up front about how we can do that. And I would go the next step, which is to have not just to have a conversation, but a written agreement. A written agreement about how you will collaborate, what you will do and what you will not do and everybody agree. And I always say written, like write it down because you could be honestly thinking one thing, I could be honestly thinking another, but when all is said and done, we both heard different things. We both thought we were agreeing to different things. That's why you write it all down, agree, and both sign. A huge fan of agreements for that reason, and contracts. But I have, gosh, since the beginning of my studio, I think I've employed 25 associate photographers. I'm just gonna throw that number out there. Quite a number. Several of whom were with me for four years, five years. Some who came and went within nine months. It's been definitely a variety of experiences with them, but overall really good. I say a variety because I also had a couple really bad ones that were just super bummers. Like, one of those things where you sit down and you're like, "You are mean. "I did not expect you to be mean." But a lot of them were great. And people that, to this day, they went out in their own business after three, four years and I cheered them on and I do support them now. I cheer them on on their Facebook pages and people ask me about this market, I'm like, "Oh, you need to go see her" and "He's a great guy, I'd definitely check him out." I definitely feel like there's enough to go around and the more you keep putting this out-- I have never hurt, I don't think I've ever felt the hurt of putting a bunch of information out. I've seen copycats. I've seen people use my language. I've seen people do certain things and attribute it to them, but it's never hurt my career. It's been more of like a bummer against humanity. So generally speaking, I think there's way more ways that they could lift each other up and better support each other by having a really clear agreement ahead of time how they can do that.
Yes, well, thank you for that. That was from Linda Bell who chimed in--
Oh hey Linda. I know her, she was just showing me her studio space.
Exactly, who chimed in and said, "I would love to collaborate with other photographers," and everything that you're saying is what she wants to do. So, awesome, glad that we could hear back from you. Do have another question for you. This one is from R. Ruffer who says, "Should you wait to lease a space "until you have a steady flow of income? "I feel like I can't justify paying for a space "while I'm still breaking "into the family photography market."
I love that question because it speaks to another part of my mindset about money, which is, "Oh, be careful with your money." Be careful with your money. Spend wisely and thriftily while you're building up. One of the major reasons people go out of business is they spend way too much in the beginning and they burn through their cash and they're done well before they should've been done. I really believe in that. So even though I moved into that kind of expensive space, it was three years later. I wanted to leave my attic six months in. I stuck it out and I kept planning and I kept strategizing how to do it and I was saving money up for it. And by the time I actually made the move, I had the business in place to do that. I had three associate photographers working for me. I had some good visibility for cash flow for at least six months or so, five months actually, specifically. And I knew that I was also gonna get a double whammy of marketing, with people seeing the sign. If I had done that while I was still doing another job, that would've been a horrible mistake on my part. Definitely transition in slowly. I mentioned my studio director had started out with eight hours a week, eight dollars an hour. Then it got to like 15 hours a week, 15 dollars an hour and it kept going up from there. I didn't go full time with somebody until I'd had about three and a half years of somebody working with me. Just being so careful about where you spend as you're transitioning. Photography is amazing for that. Photography is one of the most friendly businesses for you to just keep ramping up. Don't just dive and nothing being there. The first thing I would say, more than any of these other things, is everything we're covering here: have a solid business structure first. You start there, you've saved yourself so much time, money, heartache, stress. Start here before anything else. Get the groundwork in place so that when you leap, you have somewhere to land.
That's quotable. I like that.
I need something to write that down.
Let's see, we have more people that are chiming in and talking about what they would create, what they would do. McCall Claridge says, "I could convert the garage, "or dedicate part of the basement, "or build a small studio in the backyard, "but I actually worry about "which one would reflect best on my brand. "So do you think that some spaces are more impactful "for clients than others "and I worry about how they would think or feel, "what they might feel, and if I should just stick "to meeting them at the coffee shop."
The coffee shop. See why I built a coffee shop? Everybody goes there. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, I have an idea. But it depends on if you're looking at the same thing in your head as I'm looking at in my head. In my head, what I'm looking at, is when you say build a space outside, I'm thinking about all those amazing tiny homes and sheds that are highly customizable, that are really lovely and gorgeous and all on trend right now and go on Pinterest if you haven't seen one and write in "tiny home boutique" or something. They're gorgeous! I love that idea. If you don't need a big shooting space to be able to have a private space that's on your property that's actually designed really beautifully, I think that is gorgeous. Now, if you have a home where you walk in and part of your dining room or garage is really well-lit, it's very inviting, especially if you have a separate way in to get to it, that's really cool too. I spent the first couple years on the third floor looking for every way possible to have people get in to my attic through anything other than my front door. I couldn't do it. I really wanted to. I mean, I'm kidding, I was playing with firefighter poles and "What about one of those portable ladders "that you throw out a window?" Nothing was working in that regard, but that to me was a major drawback to where I was. So if I could've had a really beautiful tiny home slash studio out back, ugh. Not only would that be brilliant, but it would sell well. You would market well. You'd have a really cool brand and I could think of about a million ways to market that brand to other people who are gonna book you just to go into your tiny home. I would love that.