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.