How To Incorporate Outsourcing Photo Editing Into Your Business Budget

Outsourcing, it's the new buzzword.  Pull up just about any podcast or new blog post and one thing that is frequently recommended is outsourcing or building a team for your business.  Creatives can outsource SO many things in their business, and depending on what they do exactly it can be difficult to know where to start.  

But YOU my friend are a wedding photographer, and a darn good one. You have one place in your business you can start outsourcing immediately, and you know already know what it is.  Your photo editing.  

how to add outsourcing to your photography business budget

It's a scary thought - sending your precious images off to someone else and trusting that they can create something as beautiful as you do in post-processing with every single session.  Or it's not scary at all - you despise editing and would love for nothing more than to hand over responsibility on those 800ish images after every wedding.  Less time behind the computer screen, more time to take care of you. 

Your only issue is, you don't know how to budget for it.  Everyone tells you that outsourcing will increase your return on investment.  Well, that's a yes and a no.  There will be a return on investment with outsourcing your editing, but it may not be an immediate financial return like investing in a course would be.  You know what it will be though?  An immediate return of your TIME.

Less time at your computer frees up more time to care about other things that matter in your life.  You could reinvest that time into your health.  If it takes you six hours to edit a wedding that could be five morning workouts and an afternoon of meal planning.  That could be two afternoons at the park with your kids.  That could be a date day with your husband, no business strings attached.  

Or it could be time invested elsewhere in your business?  No longer editing?  That frees up roughly 20-40 hours per month to invest in blogging, e-mails, client experience, marketing, submitting weddings for publications - I think you see where I'm going.

Whether your return is monetary or not, it's STILL a big investment.  Obviously a bigger one if you do not see the financial return immediately.  So how are SO many photographer's outsourcing when you feel as if you're barely keeping your head above water?

If you are running a new(er) business and you're just not at a place where you can start outsourcing, then you probably already know that.  If you're not sure if that's the place you're in then this post may be a great place to start: How And When To Start Outsourcing.

Budgeting for it

A business budget is an entirely separate blog post (OK, really a series of blog posts).  So we're not going to get that in depth.  But if you REALLY want to do something with your business whether it's hiring an assistant, outsourcing, investing in education, then you NEED to start budgeting for it.

If you are barely paying yourself in your business, then you can't expect to suddenly be able to afford investing in education and/or any form of help.  You need to re-evaluate your business finances, create a solid budget, and then (and here's the key) stick to it.

Planning Ahead For Outsourcing

1) Evaluate Where You Are

Chances are good, you are even reading this post because you're at a place where you're currently burnt out OR you want to avoid being like Sally Photographer in your Facebook group who is burnt out.  

Take 10-20 minutes to evaluate where your business is currently in these five areas:

  • Finances
    • Do you currently manage your finances well?  Income & Expenses?  Are you just tracking them or do you also budget for fixed and variable business expenses?
  • Systems & Productivity
    • Are you accomplishing what you want to accomplish on a daily basis?  Editing, albums, blogging, e-mails, social media?  Is that due to a lack of systems or a lack of time management?  Do you simply have too much on your plate?
  • Customer Service
    • Is word of mouth one of your biggest referrals for business growth?  It probably should be.  Are you creating a beautiful experience for each of your clients so that they leave simply gushing over you.
  • Creativity
    • Do you have time for rest and recovery in order to inspired creatively and grow in your business?  Or are you stressed out to the point that sessions are now lacking compared to what they used to be.
  • Growth
    • Do you plan out future business and personal goals?  Or are you just trying to get through today?

2) Plan For Where You Want To Be

Outsourcing is an investment.  You wouldn't send your child to daycare and then spend the day accomplishing absolutely nothing, would you?  OK maybe you would do that on occasion - but my guess is when your little one went off to the sitters that day you KNEW your plan was to rest and do nothing.  Typically, when your children are at daycare or school, you have a to-do list for the day and a plan for accomplishing it.

Make sure to treat outsourcing the same.  Are you investing your money in this in order to have a little more R&R time?  Or are you hoping to free up an opportunity to tackle some other part of your business that has been neglected for the past several months?

It can be very difficult to send your money off if you do not feel like you can see some sort of return on investment.  Whether that return is in time or in monetary value - creating a future plan is the only way to help you get there.

For a monetary return, some ideas could be blogging, improving your turn around time, enhancing your client experience, building your community and marketing - all of which should allow you to increase pricing and/or take on additional work.  

3) Set a Solid Budget

When was the last time you evaluated your wedding photography prices and what do they include?  If you just looked around, saw what your competitors were charging and settled for somewhere in the middle then we need to go back to the beginning. 

Your prices for your business should be a direct reflection of your expenses, your time,  and the profits you need to make in order to be sustainable.

Therefore, when preparing to outsource your editing - it's no surprise that this number should be included in your business budget.

Wedding photography and the way that payments are received can make this just a little bit tricky.  As you prepare your budget and develop a plan here are a few questions to consider - What is the average cost of outsourcing?  How much are you willing/prepared to spend?  What can you do to guarantee that the money is set aside and protected for this investment in your business? How can you directly control your outsourcing budget based on your business model? Where should this money come from in your business?

As your prepare your budget, let's walk through those questions together:

  • What is the average cost of outsourcing?
    • On average, most private editors working in Lightroom charge at a rate of .30-.39 cents per image.  This will vary depending on the editor's experience and what particular edits are being applied to the images.  
    • Therefore, at a rate of .35 cents per image, a 700 image gallery will cost $245
  • How much are you willing/prepared to spend?
    • Now that we discussed the average cost of a 700 image gallery - how does that number sit with you?  Are you willing or prepared to invest $245 per wedding?  
  • How can you directly control your outsourcing budget based on your business model?
    • As I mentioned above, your business budget should be a direct reflection of your expenses, time, and profits.  So, let's break this down and pretend we are reviewing your 2016 wedding budget.
      • 5 hours - Client Communication (Email, Phone Calls, etc.)
      • 2 hours - Engagement Session
      • 3 hours - Culling, Editing, Blogging, Uploading Engagement Images
      • 10 hours - Wedding Day
      • 8 hours - Culling, Editing, Blogging, Uploading Wedding Images
      • Total Time - 28 hours @ $50/hour = $1400
      • Avg Expenses Per Wedding - $800
      •  Average Budget (prior to adjusting for Profit and Ordered Products) - $2,200
    • There are several ways to control the direct expense of outsourcing as well and these include only outsourcing a portion of your weddings.  If you take on 6 weddings per month, and know that you personally can allocate time for 3 weddings, then you can plan to outsource the other 3.  If on average you send your couples 1,000 images - you can plan to edit 300 images prior to sending the  gallery to your editor.  
  • Where should this money come from in your business?
    • The above number is a VERY rough, quick estimate and will most likely need adjusted up in order to reflect additional business time, expenses, products, and profits.  Each person and each business is very individual according to their needs, time, experience, and income.  
    • Now, imagine we are incorporating outsourcing into your 2017 budget.  The 8 hours set aside towards wedding images, can now be reduced to 3, assuming you will still cull, edit a portion of images, and upload to the blog and gallery.  This frees up 5 hours of work time at $50/hour leaving us with $250 - the estimated amount it will cost to outsource a 700 image gallery.
    • From here we can do one of two things - leave the wedding budget alone and simply allocate this expense to the editor.  This would assume that you are NOT investing this 5 hours into your business and are instead taking a small reduction in profits.  The less you work, the less you get paid - correct?
    • Or we can add the estimated cost to your wedding budget (preferably with a 10% margin).  This would assume that your profits need to remain the same and you will reinvest the time in your business elsewhere, or that you are simply cutting the hours worked and maintaining the same income.
  • What can you do to guarantee that money is set aside and protected for this investment in your business?
    • Here is where things get tricky.  Sometimes, we can create all of the plans in the world and they simply don't work out.  Couple's cancel weddings, unexpected expenses arise, etc.
    • If you want to guarantee that you can invest in outsourcing, you need to treat it as a necessary expense just as you would your camera gear and business equipment.
    • We are coming in to 2018 and bookings for the coming year's wedding are well underway.  If you want to outsource in the coming year, now is the time to evaluate prices and adjust accordingly.  Again, without going too in-depth into business finances, your expected expenses should be appropriately separated or planned out.  When you receive payment for an upcoming wedding, set aside your outsourcing budget in a separate account.  
    • When business expenses fluctuate, this is where adding a percent margin can be helpful and also considering how your time can be best spent to re-coop these expenses.  If you continue to outsource, can your 5 hours saved per wedding be directed at increasing time spent blogging, marketing and increasing client experience in order to increase word of mouth referrals?  If you plan to resume that 5 hours spent per wedding, how will this reflect your business and future plans?

Phew!  That was a lot of information.  What do you think?  Has this been your experience with outsourcing?  If you have never outsourced before, is this what you expected?  I'd love to know your experiences and if this was helpful in building future plans and moving your business forward!