We previously talked in detail about taking some time to really sort out what each half of a married couple is going to do to help move the business forward.  This is a really important step because it will give each of you very specific roles in your business and will also prevent you from stepping all over each other when trying to accomplish the many tasks you have to do on any given day.

Patience and I sat down a couple of years ago and did this exact thing because we were doing things that were undermining each other and our business without us even knowing it.  It was painful at times to let go of certain tasks but in the end it was one of the most important steps we’ve ever taken as business owners.

Here are what we feel are the key elements to our business structure, who is responsible for each task and why we felt either me or Patience was best suited to accomplish each task.Bellingham Small Business and Photography Advice Email and client communication.  This is Patience all of the way.  She is the face of our business and the person that people always connect with from the moment they meet her.  She is able to communicate with brides and moms way better than I would be able to communicate with them because she has been a bride and is a mom.  Our entire business except for a small handful of instances revolves around future brides and moms so it makes complete sense for me to just get out of the way and let her run with it.

Scheduling.  It only makes sense that the person who is in charge of communicating with our clients would be responsible for scheduling as well.  We were concerned that things could be lost in translation if Patience was communicating directly with our clients and I was running the schedule.  The easiest approach is to not have a middle person.Bellingham Small Business and Photography Advice

Blogging.  This one belongs to me.  (Joe)  At one point Patience was blogging when we first started our business because I was working so many hours between my two other jobs but a few years ago I took over the blogging because I was able to do it more efficiently and I think it’s best to have only one person blogging.  We want to create a cohesive voice and writing style so it made sense that I stick with it while also keeping an open line of feedback about our content from Patience.

More recently with us writing about our experiences being full time we have been much more of a team with blogging.  I’m still writing 100% of the series but Patience is very involved in what we are writing about and how we are going from a rough draft to the final version that we are posting.

No matter who is blogging I think it’s very important for the other person to know what is going on with your content.  There are occasions when people will approach Patience about the things I’ve been writing and it’s in the business’ best interest for us both to be able to answer people’s questions.

Culling.  Patience has less of an attachment to images than I do and has a much easier time going through our work and eliminating photos that are either duplicates or just aren’t as flattering.  She truly has a gift in this area and if it weren’t for her we would probably be way over delivering.Bellingham Small Business and Photography Advice

Editing.  We outsource almost all of our editing but I will occasionally do smaller sessions or sessions that need a really fast turnaround.  We have been outsourcing our editing to www.weditoo.com since the end of 2013 and it’s been an amazing experience.  Here’s a post about outsourcing that covers much more than just editing.  http://joeandpatience.com/first-year-outsourcing/

The other editing I do is film scan editing.  This usually doesn’t take a lot of time because I can almost always apply the same settings to an entire roll and then make very small adjustments for photos that were in different light.

We decided that I would take care of the editing because I tend to be able to get more consistent colors from session to session.  One of the most important things you can achieve as a photographer is consistency with your work so definitely make this decision based on who is the most consistent.  

Along with consistency, another thing to consider is who is able to be happy with the session and doesn’t have the tendency to go back and edit more.  I know a lot of photographers, me being one of them early on in our business, who can adjust and tweak a single image for hours just to see how different presets and settings look.  It’s fun to be able to do that but it isn’t very good if you’re trying to run an efficient business.

Editing QC and touch ups.  No matter who is editing I think it’s incredibly important to have the person who isn’t editing do QC.  Patience does the touch up stuff like fly away hair and blemishes but even if the person editing is doing those as well, the other should be doing a QC.  Patience is great at noticing slight color and exposure variations and will either let me know which photos she is concerned about or will make the adjustment herself.  I think it’s a really good thing for both of you to see the product that is going out to your clients.  Big companies have multiple levels of quality control to prevent any kind of mistakes and I think that same approach is really valuable for small businesses as well.Bellingham Small Business and Photography Advice

Vendor relations.  This falls into the email and client communication category.  We want to build long term and mutually beneficial relationships with the amazing local vendors we get to work with and Patience is great at building these relationships.

Equipment maintenance and upgrades.  Let’s face it, I really like photography gear and Patience just wants to have a camera good enough to take photos of people.  I guess by default that puts me in charge of keeping track of what we need and what we don’t need.  Of course we have to make big decisions like this together since most camera related purchases aren’t cheap and Patience is really good at reminding of the difference between wants and needs.

I am also in charge of organizing all of our equipment before weddings and smaller sessions, cleaning all of our lenses, charging all of our batteries, downloading and formatting all of our memory cards, etc.  If we show up to a session or wedding without something it’s going to be on me.

That’s pretty much the bulk of it.  If you have any questions at all about how we have broken up these tasks please feel free to send us an email at info@joeandpatience.com.

Check out the previous posts in our First Year series here:

Personal Fear

Financial Fear

Marketing Part I

When Were We Ready?

Marketing Part II

Learning from Setbacks

Taking Risks

Outsourcing

The One Roll Project

Business as Husband and Wife Part I

The Journey

We hear it all the time…  “It must be so amazing to be able to work together!”  That or we hear, “I have no idea how you do it, I could never work with my husband/wife.  They would drive me crazy”.  It has become a super common thing that comes up during weddings or family sessions.

The truth of it is that it’s both of those.  It is amazing and there are days where we don’t know how we’re going to do it.  It’s also one of those things that needs constant work because things change.  Patience and I have gone through several different phases of our business where we did different things and sometimes it didn’t work out very well but we kept working at it.  We kept adjusting and learning because that’s what it takes to find success.Small business advice and photography mentoring from Bellingham photographer Joe and PatienceA few weeks ago we were asked this question by Cicely from Rusted Van Photography

“How do you balance your own creative and artistic vision while maintaining a brand and cohesive look? My husband and I are still trying to find a way to both play an active role in our business, but it’s a challenge! We both love to shoot, and we both enjoy editing – so, we are finding that we end up tripping all over one another and we aren’t sure who should be doing what. Sometimes I think this leads to one of us overstepping the other and one always feels artistically “slighted”.”Small business advice and photography mentoring from Bellingham photographer Joe and PatienceIt really got us thinking about how we got to where we are now and what we went through to figure this question out for ourselves.  A lot of it was trial and error and a lot of it was not giving up when we were discouraged about our place in the business.  Patience used to ask me after sessions, “What is my role in the business?  I don’t feel like I’m contributing anything to the shoots we are doing.”  That is a really tough thing to deal with because we both need to be involved for this whole thing to work and it took some pretty serious growing pains to get to a point where we are both pretty comfortable and confident in the part we play to make what everyone knows as “Joe and Patience”.

After several years of going around and around about the whole business role thing we finally sat down with a pad of paper and a pencil and went through every single part of our business we could think of.  Once we had all of the tasks and workflow steps listed we started assigning them to the person who we felt was the strongest at completing those tasks at the time.  This is going to be the point where you need to let go of your pride and be honest with yourself and your spouse.  These assignments are business related and are not meant to be taken personally.  If you have never done this I want you to say this to yourself out loud.  “These assignments are are for the good of our business and I will not take it personally.”  This is really, really important and like Patience and I, it may need to be saved for a time when you’re in the right mental state to take some criticism in the form of being taken off of doing certain tasks that you enjoy doing.Small business advice and photography mentoring from Bellingham photographer Joe and PatienceI completely understand that it may be pretty difficult to release some control but it will be a really good thing.  By doing this you’ll avoid the constant stepping on each other’s feet that we experienced in the first couple of years being in business together.  You’ll avoid sending nearly duplicate emails to the same client, paying your bills twice and ordering your client’s products twice as well.  Yep, we’ve done all of those and more.  This will literally save you money in the long run and it will help you to avoid embarrassing situations with your clients.  It’s 100% worth the time and potential of temporarily damaged pride to get it done sooner rather than later.

The most important thing to remember is that you and your spouse have a common goal with your business.  Maybe you’re trying to get to the point of leaving a 9-5 or you’re doing it on the side to be able to pay for vacations with your family.  Either way, it doesn’t matter, there is still a common goal and it’s worth taking the time to figure this out.Small business advice and photography mentoring from Bellingham photographer Joe and PatienceSo, grab some paper, a pencil because you’re probably going to want to erase some stuff and sit down together without any distractions.  Make sure you’re both emotionally ready to dig deep and start writing.  You’re going to want to make a list of every single thing that gets handled in your business.  Client communication, bills being paid, scheduling, who does what at every type of session you may shoot if you’re a photographer, etc.  Once you have all of those things listed you’ll need to go through each task and talk about it.  Some of them might be really easy while some of them might be a bit more difficult.  Just remember to be open, honest and that there is a common goal.  

Next week we’re going to go through our list of tasks and explain why we have assigned specific things to each of us.

Thanks for taking the time to read and like always, we’re more than happy to answer questions you might have.  Just send us an email at info@joeandpatience.com

Whoa!  It looks like this thing is becoming a whole series!  Check out the previous posts here.

Personal Fear

Financial Fear

Marketing Part I

When Were We Ready?

Marketing Part II

Learning from Setbacks

Taking Risks

Outsourcing

The One Roll Project

Photos of our 10 year vow renewal by the amazing Jonathan Canlas!

Life is busy no matter who we talk to.  In creative fields there are countless people working their normal 9-5 jobs while they try to build their businesses and it’s hard to find any time for themselves.  Even the people who are full time with their businesses run into time being an issue.  There are just too many things to do to run a business and there is rarely enough time in the day.

A little over a week ago we had the honor of speaking about our first year being full time to group of around 40 photographers at a photography conference called Photo Lush in Bellingham.  During our speech one of the talking points was about outsourcing and how it was really important for our business as we started to get more busy and we were trying to balance our business with my full time job, the Air National Guard and having a family.  During our talk we had a lot of ground to cover so we didn’t get to go as deep into our outsourcing process as we would have liked and I figured it would be a great thing to write a blog about.Small Business advice and photography mentoring by Bellingham wedding photographer joe and patience

We already outsource a lot of things that used to be done at home only 50 years ago.  As our technology has progressed the education level required to maintain the items we use in our daily lives has hit a point where we are no longer capable of maintaining them.  Cars are a great example!  How many people still take the time to change their own oil?  How many of us are even capable of repairing small problems with our cars?  I’m guessing not very many of us.  House projects are another big one.  Last winter we were having issues with our furnace turning on when the thermostat was triggering it to turn on.  We had to call someone out because the thermostat was too complicated for me to fix.  Even if I knew how to fix it I probably couldn’t have though because it was something completely separate and I never would have known it was an issue.  In all of these situations we are outsourcing a task to someone because we don’t know how to do it, know someone who can do it better or realize our time is more valuable doing other things than spending hours trying to take care of tasks that take a professional very little time.

A huge turning point in our business came in the thick of us working way too many hours and being spread as thin as we could possibly be spread.  We hit a point where there was almost no choice but to outsource some of our business tasks.  It doesn’t have to get to this point though.  If you can take a little bit of time to see where your time is best spent and then find the right people to outsource the things you are either not excited to do or aren’t good at doing in the first place you will free yourself up to do the tasks that you are best at.  For us that meant we needed to get rid of a few big things so we could give ourselves the time to do the things that would bring us the most business while also giving ourselves more time with our family.Small Business advice and photography mentoring by Bellingham wedding photographer joe and patience

We didn’t outsource our taxes first but it’s first on the list.  Hire an accountant!  We tried to do our own taxes for several years and it was like banging our heads against the wall.  As a small business owner it is a nightmare to try to navigate tax code and it’s easy to spend way too much time figuring it out.  It will also minimize the number of mistakes you will make.  The people who do this for a living know exactly how everything needs to be filed.  Even more importantly, if you don’t have an accountant doing your taxes you are more than likely throwing money away because they will know the small details in tax code that can save you money.  Seriously, hire an accountant!  I wish we would have done it the moment we started our business and it will literally pay for itself.

Outsource your editing.  I know that there are a lot of people out there that really enjoy editing and if you’re one of them I think you should stick with it.  I’m not one of those people.  Editing is exhausting and I realized that there were a lot of other things I could be doing that would help us bring in more business.

There is a bit of a rule to this though.  Well, it’s my rule but I think it’s a good one.  If you’re going to outsource your editing please make sure you’re sending your work to someone who is more skilled than you are.  I see a lot of people sending out there editing to some of the big names in editing only to get it back once the editing is done and still have to make changes to every photo.  There are a so many companies offering editing services now that it just doesn’t make any sense to me that people are sending their work out, paying for it and then still have to work on it.  Find an option that fits the style you are known for.

The other part of this is that you need to feel comfortable communicating with the person you are sending your photos to.  If you want a style that’s light and airy but you get back photos that aren’t done this way you need to communicate that.  We have been sending our work out to Weditoo for almost three years and I am in constant communication with them.  That’s the reason we are able to get our photos back and not need to make any changes to them.  We have built a working relationship with them where I can tell them the look I want or how I want my profile to change and they can tell me why I may not be getting it based on how I’m shooting and give me recommendations on how to adjust how I’m doing things.  It’s been a great working relationship!Small Business advice and photography mentoring by Bellingham wedding photographer joe and patience

Outsource your graphic design!  When we first started we typed our business name, Patience Ivory Photography at the time, into a Word file and went through all of the fonts on our computer until we found a cool one.  It wasn’t exactly a well thought out process.  Sure it worked for a while but it wasn’t the best fit for what our business was.

We also spent hours and hours for months trying to figure out building a website.  It was a huge waste of time and is probably one of the reasons our business growth in the first few years was so slow.

Just like we are passionate about photography, graphic designers are passionate about graphic design.  They love figuring out the design of a logo and brand based on what that business stands for.  When we finally decided to move our business in a different direction and go with Joe and Patience as a business name that was accurate for what we do we also decided to hire Caava Design to design our logo and build a custom website.  The process was awesome!  It dug deep into the style of brands that we liked and ultimately resulted in the logo we are using now.  Of all of the money we have spent for our business, the money spent on building our brand has had the biggest return.  We have to give credit to not only the Caava Design process but also to the fact that they love what they do.  Seriously, it’s worth every single penny!Small Business advice and photography mentoring by Bellingham wedding photographer joe and patience

If you aren’t sure where to start with outsourcing, take a little bit to sit down and figure out what tasks you don’t like doing.  There are always going to be things that suck away time at a rate that gets out of control quickly.  Those are the things you should consider.  Taxes, editing, graphic design, culling, etc.  We know people who have hired someone to do office work like emailing for an hour or two per day because they know that they are either not very good at that side of the business or because they have to much other work.  You might have to dig deep and it might not be an easy decision to let go of a little bit of control but if it means your business can operate more efficiently or that you get more time with your family it’s worth giving it a serious thought.

Thank you so much for reading!  We hope you have a great day!

If you want to check out the other posts in this series you can get to them with these links…

Personal Fear

Financial Fear

Marketing Part I

When Were We Ready?

Marketing Part II

Learning from Setbacks

Taking Risks  

This week we are talking about taking risks and it couldn’t be coming at a better time since we just signed a lease for a studio a few weeks ago.  I’ll just let you all know up front that this is also a very therapeutic post for me because a decision as big as signing a lease and committing thousands of dollars to something that we have never had as an expense is something that was incredibly difficult for me.  I just hope you know that while I hope this helps you as much as possible I also hope it helps me just as much.

First, I do want to say that I’m extremely excited about having a dedicated place of employment now.  I mean this completely seriously!  The place we moved into is incredible! 

One of the biggest challenges for me with our decision to go full time with our photography business was learning to be comfortable with the risks we had to take in in order to make this dream of ours a reality.  The earlier posts on Personal Fear and Financial Fear dealt with my fear in going full time but didn’t break our decision down into the step by step positives and negatives of what it would look like when we were making that decision.  

I think it’s very, very important to take your heart out of these matters and to make educated, well thought out decisions.  I completely understand that it isn’t possible to completely separate yourself emotionally from making life altering decisions but it has really helped me to look at how my big decisions would look from someone else’s, non-attached point of view.Bellingham Wedding Photography by Joe and Patience

This is what our process of weighing big decisions looks like.

These are the positives of sticking with my job at Pepsi and allowing photography to remain as a side job.

Having a steady income.  How many of us make our decisions based on a steady income?  There really isn’t anything wrong with this.  A steady income is what provides a roof over our heads and food on the table.  It’s something that I was really tied to and for good reason.  As the sole provider in my household the steady income I was making was what provided all of the basic necessities of life for my young family.

It felt comfortable.  Knowing that I was being taken care of and that the company I worked for cared about me and the work I was doing was really important for me.  Over time with just about any job it’s easy to become comfortable with where you are with your employment.

I had a good reputation and was being offered opportunities to advance.  After working for Pepsi for 8 years I had built a reputation of being a hard worker who was dedicated to doing my job as best as I could.  I had also been offered several advancement opportunities during the last few years of working there.  Knowing that my bosses trusted me and wanted to see move into higher responsibility roles within the company was a huge positive for me.  It meant that I had the ability to give my family a more comfortable life.

Next are the negatives of continuing to do what I was doing by working for Pepsi full time while our business remained as a side job.

It felt comfortable.  I realize you just read that being comfortable was a positive but there’s no reason that things can’t be a positive on one hand and a negative on the other.  This is the perfect example.  Sometimes when you get out of your comfort zone you are able to realize you are capable of doing things you didn’t think were possible.  

I knew our photography business had a lot of potential but there was no way I was going to see how far it could go without putting myself in the uncomfortable position of needing to provide based solely on our business.  On the outside and through social media I’m sure that things look perfect but to be honest, we have spent hours and hours praying that we would have the courage to continue and the wisdom to learn from our mistakes.  We have lost a lot of sleep and had some pretty rough times as a couple.  It definitely hasn’t been comfortable but it’s been in this discomfort that we have been able to work through our problems and build our business.

The lack of time with my family while I worked three jobs.  I guess this one doesn’t really need a lot of explaining.  There were days where I would work from 4 in the morning until 2 in the afternoon, go home to change clothes and immediately leave for a session and then leave for my military duty when we finished taking photos.  I barely saw my family.  Out of all of the negatives in doing what I was doing, this one was at the top of the list.

There was little room for our business to grow.  Just like maxing out my working time and losing time with the family, the same thing was happening with our business.  It was in a position where we didn’t have any more time available to allow the business to continue to grow.  We had maxed out it’s potential and our business was still trying to grow despite our huge time limitations.

I was exhausted.  Even when we found time to spend as a family if we had an afternoon free I was so worn out that I didn’t want to do much.  As a dad to a 4 and 6 year old this just wasn’t an option.  My work schedule had put me in a position that I wasn’t only sacrificing time with my kids by being away but also when I was home with them.

Based on all of these positives and negatives and the huge push from our family we decided the risk was worth it.  If we continued down the path we were on something was eventually going to break and while there’s always a chance for things to become really difficult in running our business and relying on it full time it seemed like the risk was worth it.  Not only that but the timing was really great.Bellingham Wedding Photography by Joe and Patience

The next big risk we have taken is the decision to move into an office space that’s separated from our home.  A year ago I didn’t even think this was going to be something we would consider but after seeing what running a full time, support our family from home business and the struggles with it that we faced it was time to take the idea of a studio seriously.

So, on to the positives and negatives with the positives being first.

Distraction free workplace.  This is the biggest positive to having a place away from our house to work.  I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who doesn’t get distracted from their work when they are at home.  There are always dishes to do, laundry to do, kids wanting to play, sweeping, vacuuming…  the list could go on and on.  Our home is one huge distraction for us and it got worse when we decided to give the bedroom we were using as an office to our son Noah since our daughter is getting to the age where she needs her own room.  Distraction free is a huge deal to us and an office space was the best option to give us undistracted working time.

More drive to complete projects due to us paying for the space.  Here’s another big one.  Financial pressure can give you a lot of motivation to complete big projects and we have a lot of big projects to complete.  The fact that we have to now book an extra session every month to pay for our space while also taking home the same amount of money is a huge motivator.

Separates us from the market norm.  In our first 6 years of business we have spent a lot of time in coffee shops!  A LOT OF TIME!  The problem with that is that we all spend a lot of time in coffee shops with potential clients and occasionally we run into each other as one of us leaves and one of us arrives to meet with the same potential client.

Time will tell on how this theory works out but we have the feeling that inviting people into a place that is branded for our business and has a unique look that is very specific to us will pay off in a big way.  Like I said though, time will tell.

Availability of an indoor shooting space in the PNW.  We didn’t get a big office but it definitely has the potential to be used as a shooting space in emergency, rainy day situations.  If we don’t have any other options we will be able to do smaller sessions with couples or small families which is going to be amazing!

We can separate our home life from our business life.  Our struggles with separating our home and business life have been incredibly hard to deal with.  It seems like I would sit down at the computer to check our email, check our Facebook, edit a few images, whatever…  When all of our business related stuff was at the house it was always calling at me.  There is never an end to the work that can be done and having a way to step away and live in a way where we can work undistracted and enjoy our home life undistracted is a really, really good thing!

And the negatives…

It’s a big added expense.  This is a huge one for me!  The added expense of paying for an office, paying for the internet at the office and paying for the lights to be on at the office is terrifying.  If having this space doesn’t motivate us to take advantage of the positives it’s just making us more poor.

We now have to drive to work.  See ya later working in my sweats.  Now we get to look the part and dress like responsible business people.  I always hear from people how much they love working from home because it’s so comfortable.

We work next to restaurants and coffee shops which makes it easier to spend money.  Our new office is one door away from one of the best pizza places in town.  We walk by every day with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in our hand and have to to smell that amazing pizza.  The temptation is a killer but saving money is a much bigger deal to us than eating that amazing pizza.  I am definitely concerned that the ease of going somewhere to eat and the quality of restaurants available within walking distance could damage our ability to save.

With this business decision there are a lot of positives but they are only applicable if we take advantage of them.  It will be easy to continue doing what we’re doing but the fact that things were so hard working at home should give us the motivation to work even harder now that we can limit distractions and give ourselves the financial motivation to follow through.
I hope our process in making these big business decisions will be helpful.  Like I said before, it helps me a lot to take my heart out of the matter and make fact based decisions as much as possible.

Thank you so much for reading!  We hope you have a great day!

If you want to check out the other posts in this series you can get to them with these links…

Personal Fear

Financial Fear

Marketing Part I

When Were We Ready?

Marketing Part II

Learning from Setbacks

We all have moments in our business journey that are extremely discouraging.  Things happen that make us question our direction and make us wonder if the grass might be greener somewhere else.

Patience and I had one of these moments last week.  I woke up early in the morning on Wednesday to work on a blog post for a recent wedding we shot and our website was gone.  When I tired to go to our website all I could get was a dreaded “Error 404” message that our website could not be found and I was getting it on our login page as well.  It was gone…Business and Photography Advice from Bellingham Photographer Joe and Patience

To say this was only a small setback when I first saw this message and when I got off the phone with our hosting company after being told it couldn’t be put back up without doing several things I had no idea how to do would have been a gross miscalculation.  I was freaking out and not just a little bit.  It was the freaking out and getting a migraine for two days kind of freaking out.  We are in our peak booking season right now and we didn’t have a website to show people our work.  90% of our inquiries come straight from our website and we had no website.  It was a terrible feeling and I had no idea what to do.

Setbacks happen and sometimes they feel huge but if there is one thing I can say about it after just coming out of what felt like a pretty big one it is that setbacks can be used as great learning opportunities.  We went into this website debacle not knowing how to do very much with our website but five days of panic is a lot of time that can be used to learn how to pull yourself out of your bad situation and grow from the setbacks you face.  A week ago I didn’t know how to do a lot of things with our site but I can confidently say that if we ever face this again I will know how to fix it and I will be able to fix it a lot faster than I was able to fix it this last time.

No matter what the situation is, you can view it from a chance to learn and grow standpoint and you can come out of it stronger.  Did you have a family who was unhappy with their session?  You can learn from it and do a better job in the future.  Did wedding photos not turn out the way you hoped they would turn out?  Break down what went wrong, learn from it and come out stronger on the other end.  As business owners we will always face setbacks but if you approach them with an attitude of learning and growing your business will get stronger and stronger.  If we can do it, you can do it.

Thank you so much for reading!  We will be getting back to our regularly scheduled Monday First Year posts now that our website is back to normal.  

Check out the other posts in this series:

Personal Fear

Financial Fear

Marketing Part I

When Were We Ready?

Marketing Part II