Creating Your Ideal Photography Business

 

Lesson Info

Track Your Session Counts

The next thing that's really important after you've identified what your product lines are, is tracking your sessions, how many of 'em you can do. So you've got to keep track of the number of sessions that you do and what kind of session they are. And what this will tell you, this is like the early warning signal to your business. If you know what each session is worth because you know your target sales average; we already calculated that, right? And you know that you have to make so much money in the year because we're gonna write a business plan before this class is over, then knowing how many sessions it takes to get there is critical. And as you track your session counts, you can see if you're on track, you're making the progress that you want to, or you're ahead of the game and you're going to have a bigger year than you anticipated, and you better get ready for some extra work, or hold on, you may not be able to pay yourself this month, and we need to do some different marketing ...

strategies. Okay? So the session counts are your early warning signal for your business. They also help you maintain a reasonable workflow. I don't know about you guys, but that workflow thing is always an enigma to me. It seems like it's either no business or more business than I know what to do with. And I'm sure it has to do with the intensity of marketing efforts that I'm putting in. When things are grim and I don't have any sessions, I charge ahead on marketing, and then I get more work than I know what to do with, and I forget to market, and then all of a sudden I don't have any sessions anymore. So, I'm sure you guys monitor that better than I do, but it'll help you maintain a reasonable workflow by planning that out a little bit. And, it'll help you keep an eye on your sales averages to know if your sales strategy is working. Okay, so, it's really complicated; here's how we did it. We had this big whiteboard in our office, and I wrote it with a dry erase marker on how many sessions I planned to do, and how many sessions I actually did. You could do it on a spreadsheet; you could do it through a software, but the whiteboard worked great. And I put it on a wall in my office, and it was the first thing that I looked at every day when I went to work. It was either red or black. Either I'm good to go; I have enough sessions, or no I don't. So, whatever method you use, make sure that you're keeping track of your sessions by product line. So, I included in the bonus materials just a quick worksheet. This is what our whiteboard looked like. So, in the bonus materials, this is there, and it's just a calendar broken down by month. And it's broken down by product line. So you can fill out whatever your product lines are, and then if you look at each monthly column, there is one line that's in red. Or there's two columns under each month. The first one is for the sessions that you plan to do, so this is a planning tool. In December, this business planned to do zero sessions for weddings, and portraits, and seniors. Wow, nice. Maybe they're going to Jamaica, who knows? But as you look at this, and then the column next to that will be how many sessions are actually booked. Okay? So, as you look at this as a whole picture of a year, you can see there's not a lot going on in November, December, January, February. This is very typical for a Colorado portrait business. It's snowy outside, right? There's not a lot going on there. It happens all over the country. But starting in May, things start to thaw out. People are going outside again, and so this is when our business would ramp up. And so I projected that these different sessions would happen. Now these are, again, happy numbers that all add up to an end goal, but this is roughly equivalent to what we did as our business. So, what is important to pay attention to here is: look at September, holy cow. Three weddings, six portrait sessions, and seven seniors. That's gonna be a month you pull your hair out, right? Whereas here, you're not doing any sessions. So, it might be that you need an assistant during these months, and if you plan this ahead of time, you can say, "Alright, it's gonna be crazy; I've got three months of "crazy work. "But, I'm either gonna buckle down and tell my family I'll "see 'em in three months, or I'm gonna hire somebody to help me." You know it's coming, and you can prepare for it, okay? So this is all you need, really, to track your sessions, and you just update it every time you book it. Now if you're doing a hundred sessions or a thousand sessions a year, if you're a bigger business than that, we were a small boutique business, then you're gonna need a more sophisticated way of tracking it. But for just starting out or a low volume business, this works great. Alright, so, the last part that's really important about where the money comes from is your sales average. We talked about a target sales average, now we're talking about the real sales average. What is happening in your business? So, knowing the dollar value of each session helps you with marketing; it tells you who you need to market to, what kind of expendable income do they have. It tells you your projections on what you can expect to earn as a photographer, and it helps you balance your workflow to make it all happen. And I'll tell you, the most powerful thing you can do as a sales person is know what each session is worth. So when you can walk into a sales room knowing that on average you earn $800 per portrait session, you have a different type of confidence than when you don't know that. When you know that over the past three years this is what's happened, then of course you walk in expecting that to happen again, and you have a different demeanor about you, a different kind of confidence; it makes a difference. It's power in the sales room. So, here's the tricky part. The session count, it must include all sessions, even the ones you know that you're not gonna have a sale from. So what that means is, if you do a special three times a year where you waive the session fee, those still have to be included in your session count because they still take the same amount of work, okay? This is really important.

"If you're struggling to figure out the business process of photography, this class is one of the clearest and most concise I've ever seen. If you're experienced but the business side and pricing are eluding you, you will find clarity here. I own at least twenty CreativeLive courses and hands down, this one explains pricing and strategy better than any others I've purchased or watched live." - Julie, CreativeLive Student 
 
Join Kathy Holcombe as she shares techniques and strategies to develop the photography business you desire. Whether you’re making the leap from part-time to full-time or starting your very first business, the amount of work can be overwhelming. From what products to offer, how much to charge, how to pay yourself or the legal considerations - start ups often sink before clients are even booked. Kathy will show you the ways to grow your business from the start. This class will cover: 

  • Defining what product you are selling and how much you should charge to make a living 
  • Photography business basics and how to track your income compared to other businesses 
  • How to write and create your business plan 
Kathy Holcombe and her husband Peter built one of the top wedding portrait studios in Colorado, then jumped in an RV with the entire family and began traveling the country full-time, and added a successful commercial division. Together they have built multiple successful businesses and have honed in on the important factors that every photographer should consider when building a business. 

 
 
 
 

Reviews

  • I started my business a year ago with little formal technical photography education. It's hard to admit but I've been winging it, figuring out each small task that goes with photographing a session, editing one, and working with clients as I go. I may be doing things backwards, but now that I feel like I'm more comfortable in those small, specific parts of business, I need to figure out how to make this business sustainable and profitable. Kathy's class felt perfect for this time in my business to take a step back and look at the bigger picture of what I want to focus on and where I want to go (and how much I want to pay myself!). She uses realistic, specific numbers: something that's SO helpful and I feel like I rarely see in the photography community. And she breaks everything down in an organized and easy to understand way. The classes were easy to follow along with and Kathy's positivity and patient manner is inspiring and motivating. The fact that she used to be a school teacher is clear. Thank you so much Kathy (and the rest of the Holcombes)!
  • I am so glad I was able to attend this course in person and receive all the wonderful and practical information Kathy shared with us. I also really enjoyed the connections with other audience members and side conversations with Creative Live peeps as well as the Holcombe family. What an inspiration this family is--lots of practical info, but also a great pep talk to not sell yourself short and get out there and do what you love, but use sound business practice while doing it. Thanks so much for these incredible two days.
  • Fantastic course! Very helpful instruction and how-to guide for anyone considering starting up a photography business. Kathy was an excellent instructor, with a wealth of knowledge and experience. I gained a good understanding of the practical everyday aspects of running this kind of business, and how to create my own vision.