Incredible Shrinking Photographer

photographerDownsizing?  WHAT?????  I began a new series on my personal blog called “The Downsizing Photographer”.  While I have a few new articles coming up for these Honest Articles, I figured for those who are considering downsizing or are in the process of downsizing or even closing their studios or businesses, these may be helpful (I will link below)

For a moment, let’s talk about downsizing.  When does it make sense to downsize?  In the state of the current industry, it ALWAYS makes sense… but to what extent is the question.

You will see three basic groups of professional photographers right now (I’m talking about the ones who started 10 or so years ago, those who have been in business a short amount of time – that’s another story altogether).

GROUP ONE – The WORKAHOLICS

photog_character051The first group has nose to the grindstone and are working themselves like crazy to keep revenue flowing and are generally not on social media and are oblivious to a lot of the industry related drama.  They are either doing well or are hanging by a thread, but you won’t tend see them publicly on the internet as they absolutely do not have time for the shenanigans.  They are all consumed by keeping their businesses afloat – this could be a good or they could be wearing themselves thin.  I chose not to become part of this group, as for me personally (does not apply to all) to continue the road of keeping my studio afloat, I had to work 60-80 hours per week.  I did not become my own boss to have to work those types of hours.

What caused this shift from normal weekly hours to overtime?  I call it “the hustle”.  When photographers realized things were over saturated and they were being undercut left and right, the hustle began to bring in more clients, to be noticed, to do whatever was in their power to pull in revenue.  For me, this would have had to be insane amounts of marketing.  Don’t get me wrong, marketing is HUGE…  however, I wasn’t about to spend 30 hours a week on marketing (and Google Ads are not the type of marketing I am speaking of).  The hustle for me would have also included in person ordering something that does not fit in my lifestyle (or most of my clients’ lifestyles).  In person ordering works great for some areas, but not mine – my clients are usually career oriented and busy busy busy and don’t have time to come back to the studio three times for one session (pre consult, session, and ordering).  Some will argue with me on that – and that’s fine, but they don’t have my clients.  I do.

GROUP TWO – The POSITIONERS

photog_character041The second group has realized that they are not interested in the hustle, but they have found that it’s all about who they associate or position themselves with.  If they can get into teaching through big name places like PPA, WPPI, etc., they can use that publicity to sell to photographers. You can see some “big names” are palling up with other “big names” to take advantage of each of their rockstar followings.  Photographer A buddies up with Photographer B, and Photographer A has just gained all of Photographer B’s following and vice versa -now they both make out on the deal.  Affiliate programs are also involved in this Group Two.  It’s all about draining these popularity pools to bring in revenue.  Much of it is a bunch of using… I couldn’t stomach that for myself.

GROUP THREE – The TRUE EVOLVERS
photog_character011The third group has decided to downsize and evolve and recreate their businesses.  This group has realized that revenue is down – however, they can still narrow their client pool, but cut their massive expenses down to where they are still making a good salary from honest-to-God photography – you know, like the olden days where photographers made actual revenue off of cold call clients, not off of other photographers.

This word “evolve” has been thrown around a lot by “big names” who teach photographers – the problem is, many of them are not true evolvers.  They have evolved themselves into teachers and using newbies to make money off of and not true evolvers of the PHOTOGRAPHY business.

I believe I fit into this group as a downsizing photographer.

There are several ways to downsize.

  • Getting rid of the commercial space, going back on location (or opening a studio in the home) – for me, that freed up about $35,000 per year in revenue.
  • Restructuring prices  – get rid of the waste.  Find out what the client actually wants and sell it to them, keeping costs of goods down, and keeping a well-thought-out pricing to still maintain a good profit.
  • Restructuring the business – Cutting expenses……. Stop the hemorrhage – stop buying props, backgrounds, upgrading to every new piece of technology that comes out.  Keeping what you have and using it and loving it.
  • Getting a day job – sometimes when restructuring the business, you lose clients.  Many have found out that getting a day job takes the stressful burden off of needing to make ends meet and taking any photography job that comes your way.  I took a day job because I knew it gave me the leverage and flexibility to charge what I want, and profit what I feel my work is worth, and take only the type of work I want to take.  (I also took that day job knowing that one day, there may not be many photographers left, and I never wanted to be without a career – keeping up a great resume is key for future.)

There are many ways to downsize, but first, you need to prioritize – What do you want or need out of your business?  What do you want out of life?.  I don’t know what I would do with myself if I didn’t have the time to shoot what I want to shoot, and enjoy my life….. that’s what began my journey to evolve my business after 12 years.

So those are some of my thoughts about this downsizing thing…..