Monday, January 31, 2011

How Much Do You NEED To Make?

This is usually one of the first questions I ask people before I start consulting with them on their pricing. Some people don't even know what they need to make before I ask that question, so it's the essential first step to determining what your goals and prices should be. Most newer freelancers just pick a price based on what they think other successful people are doing- but that's the kiss of death. You have no idea how successful those people really are, how much they're working for that price, who is actually buying that price, what kind of expenses they do or don't have, and what other sources of income they might have in order to support their price. This is why the most important question to answer for yourself is: How much do YOU need to make?

What would your annual gross salary be if you worked for someone else? $30,000? $60,0000? $120,000? $250,000? What salary amount do you need to maintain the quality of life you have right now? Just for fun, what salary would you need if you're going to live your dream life?

Once you know what you need your salary to be, you can double it to find the amount of revenue your business needs to make in a year (this is the super simple method for sole-proprieters and for the sake of keeping this easy). If you were working for someone else, everything you make can be taken home and contributed to your household income. If you're running a freelance business, it's good to aim for taking home 50% of your business revenue so that the other 50% can be reinvested, cover overhead, COGS, expenses, upgrades, emergencies, and benefits (note: income taxes may be deducted from your salary and from the business depending on how you account for it.) If you have employees or if you outsource part of your service, you may take home less than half of your revenue, which simply means you need to earn more in revenue in order to take home what you need.

If you'd like to go one step further to help you budget: consider how many weeks you'd like to work each year- so that you can make sure you're leaving time in your schedule for vacations. Do you want to work 50 weeks with 2 weeks off? 48 weeks with 4 weeks off? 26 weeks because you're only part time? Once you know how many weeks you want to work, we can find out what your business needs to make each week.

Now let's do the math... oooohhh.... calculators.... ahhh....
[Annual Salary Needed] x 2 = [Annual Revenue Goal]
[Annual Revenue Goal] / [Working Weeks per year] = [Weekly Revenue Goal]

Example:
$60,000 salary x 2 = $120,000 annual revenue goal
$120,000 / 48 weeks = $2500 weekly revenue goal

Want to go further and find out what your hourly rate should be?
[Weekly Revenue Goal] / [Weekly Working Hours] = [Hourly rate]
$2500 / 40 hours per week = $62.50 per hour

What can you do with that number?
Determine if the hours and costs you're investing into a product or service are being covered by the price you're charging. So, if it takes you one hour at $62.50 to fulfill a print order and you have a $2 print cost, $3 packaging cost, and $5 shipping cost and the client paid a total of $25 for the product & delivery, than the hour that you spent on ordering, receiving, and packaging that product just made you lose money on your sale. In order to make that print order worth YOUR time, you should have charged $72.50.

Now, you could have hired someone else to do it at a lower rate- let's say $15/hr, which means you can now just charge for the $15 hour + $2 print + $3 packaging + $5 shipping = $25, and now you've just broken even and not made a dime on that print order. As long as you weren't counting on that print sale as part of your total revenue, you're probably fine. If you count on print sales as part of your revenue to support your salary, than you need to figure out how to make them profitable and how they factor into your revenue goals. If you work with a lab who does print fulfillment, you only need to make sure you've accounted for the costs plus commission for them to produce that product- and you might even have some profit left over because you didn't need to hire someone and you didn't have to do it yourself - saving you both time and money.

Is this scary? Eye opening? Informative? Confusing? Let me know in the comments below!

Anne Ruthmann is a lifestyle & wedding photographer from Boston, MA. She spent 10 years practicing marketing & management in corporate and non-profit businesses before pursuing her passion for photography as an independent small business. She loves helping others find creative and low-cost solutions to business problems. Follow her on Twitter to see her daily adventures and thoughts.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Photo Lovecat WPPI 2011 Happy Hour!

Come meet the lovecats and make some new friends (and reacquaint yourself with old ones) over a tasty beverage on Sunday night after classes end.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Budgeting for the Year Ahead


image source

If you're on top of your business, you're probably doing your year end finances right now and planning for the year ahead. If you're not on top of your business, you'll probably put this off until the last minute and maybe even pay late this year because you'll realize at the last minute that you hadn't set aside enough to pay your income taxes. Well, my lovely lovecat- let's make this year better than the last, OK?

Here's how I generally like to budget in order to help me appropriately manage my income to cover my current and future expenses:

- 30% personal salary & quality of life
- 30% planned for IRS (whatever is left over becomes bonus or retirement)
- 25% business expenses
- 10-5% education/conference/workshops/networking
- 10-5% giving back
- 10-5% savings for emergency repairs/replacements and/or retirement

This means, for every $1000 that walks in the door...
$300 goes to me personally
$300 goes to the IRS
$250 covers business expenses
$50-100 is invested in my education
$50-100 is paid forward or given back
$50-100 is saved for a rainy day or future

There are more breakdowns within each category- especially business expenses to cover overhead and operational costs, but this is a good guide toward making sure that you're setting aside enough from each little piece of income you earn in order to account for everything you need to pay for when you're self-employed. If I've missed a larger picture item that you like to budget for, feel free to share in the comments below!

Anne Ruthmann is a lifestyle & wedding photographer from Boston, MA. She spent 10 years practicing marketing & management in corporate and non-profit businesses before pursuing her passion for photography as an independent small business. She loves helping others find creative and low-cost solutions to business problems. Follow her on Twitter to see her daily adventures and thoughts.

Friday, January 21, 2011

How Do You ShootQ?

Like many photographers, I use an online studio management software to keep my books straight, my clients happy and my life simpler. There are quite a few options out there - Studio Cloud, Tave and ShootQ. I have used all three and eventually settled in for the long haul with ShootQ. One of the main reasons that I ended up with ShootQ is due to the way that how you use the software is highly customizable to your needs and how it makes most sense for you to use intuitively. I always am interested when I see discussions on online forums about how people use their ShootQ - it's neat how everyone has tweaked theirs to be a bit different. I thought perhaps some folks out there would like to hear how I've personally tweaked mine and hopefully some of the other Lovecats will join in with what they do as well. Below are some ways that I've tricked out my ShootQ that may not be the "norm."

I do not use ShootQ's contact form

This is probably the biggest difference between how I use ShootQ and most others use it. When I initially signed up with it, I used the contact form, despite how ugly I think it is (sorry! it just doesn't fit my web presence at all!). However I quickly became frustrated with how much clutter it was and it wasn't easy for me to sort the true leads from the "hey I'm a fan of your work" and the like quips that come in that are not related to booking a job at all. I also had some issues with emails going back and forth and getting lost in translation between ShootQ and emails. Finally, I do a LOT of my work via the iPhone (especially when I am out of the office) and I prefer to be able to see all the inquiry information in the email rather than click I link to load ShooQ to see it (this may have changed since then). Overall, it just didn't work for me.

The next phase of the incoming contacts was that I eliminated ShootQ's direct contact page but would input every "real" lead via their lead from email tool. While it was very helpful and a quick way to input contacts, I found that I was still having issues with the emails to/from clients via the ShootQ app and it was time consuming for a lead that often ended up dead. My time is valuable and I want to focus my time on the good leads and clients that have already invested in me.

Finally after trying the self importing of leads I decided to call the whole thing off. I don't use the leads in ShootQ at ALL. It makes my life much easier and for me, I like it this way. The only thing I miss is seeing where all of my referrals come from that do not result in bookings but to be frank, the referrals that matter the most are the ones that BOOK. When I do get a client that is ready to book, I will then import their lead via the lead from email tool and send their contract and proposal at that time.

I don't use the workflows

While I imagine that this tool is quite helpful to the photographers out there that like lists and organization, I am not one of those types of people. I also found that I would let these lapse for ages and then spend a good hour going through and checking off tasks that had already been done but hadn't been marked as such during the process. Again, for some these are very helpful but for me.... I think I know to format cards before a shoot and charge the batteries.

There was also a step down of this process as well. I initially overhauled the entire section and customized it to the the key elements and took out all of the "duh" boxes to be checked. I left things such as "schedule engagement shoot" in but took out "clean camera sensor" and the like. However, I still found that I NEVER referred to these tasks to stay on top of things and again, was spending time checking off the boxes to clear out my homepage. Wasted time for me.

I now only utilize it for products, which is a handy thing (and I believe you can't remove that from the tasks if products are involved in your package) but do not even select workflows for anything else. The only downfall to this is that I can't set up my questionnaires to go out after a certain step in the process like it is set up by default by ShootQ.

Questionnaires

This is where I rock out ShootQ like nobody's business. Besides being able to e-sign contracts, this is one of the key elements of ShootQ that has kept me with them. I have a set of 5 questionnaires that I send out. Since I have eliminated the workflow, I have a reminder on my calendar to send them out 2 weeks before the wedding (often I will send them out a month out but not any earlier unless they request them since things change). Here are the 5 questionnaires I send and some questions from each:

  1. Questions about the Bride & Groom or Couple: I have two of these questionnaires that are identical, the "couple" one is specifically for same-sex couples. Examples of questions from this section are full names, email and mailing addresses of the couple, if the bride plans on changing her name and if so, what to (this plays a part in the proof book making as I had a client early in my career tell me that she did not change her last name so the Bride & Groom Groomslastname on the cover of the proof book wasn't her true name, whoops!) and mailing addresses for the couple after the wedding.

  2. Wedding Vendors: Whenever I blog, I also list the vendors I work with so this information is key to me for that aspect of the process. I also like to know in advance if I'm working with particular vendors I love (or to be honest, don't love). I also like to know ahead of time if I'm working with a vendor that has been known to mess up the timeline of a day (make up artist, hairstylist) so I can plan ahead. Make sure to include the easy-to-remember vendors such as florist, baker, venues and entertainment but don't forget key players that can make your day fantastic or miserable like the videographer, transportation and salons. Note: I do NOT use the wedding vendor files that ShootQ has in relationships, I use plain text entry for these.

  3. Ceremony and Reception: These are the key places you have to be the day of the wedding and I dedicate an entire questionnaire to them to get the most information I can so I'm not asking questions later. Examples of questions I ask are name, address, phone numbers and main contact info for both venues, start time for both events, approx length of ceremony, if there are any restrictions for photography at the ceremony (this is key as you need to make the couple aware BEFORE the ceremony that there may be restrictions), if there is a receiving line, what time the couple want to be at the reception by (since this often is different than the start time, some miss cocktail hour, some do not want to) and if I am being fed and if so if I'm seated with guests or in a vendor room (another key question so I know ahead of time where to look for a seat if I have one and to also put a bug in their ear that they need to think about where I'll be during dinner).

  4. Photography Questions: This is an obvious one that gets its own section but one that definitely needs to be addressed! Examples of questions are time, location and address of where I am to arrive, if the couple is seeing each other before hand and if so, where and when, how much time is set aside for photographs, which family formals they want taken and I suggest having a "point person" to round everyone up (this is a HUGE help, since I started including the snippet about having a point person my formals have been MUCH easier as there is always an Aunt Betty that is DYING to help with the wedding somehow), if there are divorces or deaths I need to know about so not to embarrass someone and if there are divorces if they are willing to be in a photograph together or will want to be photographed separately (some divorced parents are cool with being photographed together with their son, some react like a cat being thrown into water), locations chosen for photographs and addresses and if there are any special details I need to make sure to photograph.

  5. Misc Wedding Day Questions: The final questionnaire is one that is somewhat of a hodge podge of items but all things that I like to know ahead of time. Examples of questions I ask are for a timeline of the day, wedding colors, style of dress, if the online gallery needs to be password protected or not (some don't want to bother with guest requests for the code, some want the privacy) and an open question about anything else I need to know.
Whew! I know that is a lot to take in but I hope that maybe I helped you figure out how to make your ShootQ work better for you or figure out a new tweak or two you want to try yourself.

How do YOU ShootQ? Anything I should consider doing? Let me know in the comments! I'd love your feedback!


Corey Ann is a wedding & lifestyle photographer from North Canton, OH. She is a mix of everything - fashionista (runs Clothes for Pros, clothing suggestions for photographers), travel guru, deal hound and geek rolled into one. She's had a website online since 1997 and a blog since 1999. When not plotting world domination or her next trip, she can be found reading one of the 100+ books she reads a year. Follow her on Twitter.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

WPPI: What to WEAR?!?

You know that horrible feeling in your gut when you show up to a party and are woefully underdressed? That happened to me quite a few times during my first trip to WPPI. I had virtually no clue going in how fancy people got trussed up for events and I also had never been to Vegas before - two dings against me! While we've covered a LOT of WPPI topics here, this one hasn't been discussed before and while it's not remotely photography related, I thought I'd pipe in and hopefully save at least one person from the mortification I felt my first year!

Daytime

The key element for your clothing during the day should be comfort! Not only will you be doing a lot of walking (make sure your shoes can withstand being walked in for many miles!) but you will be going in and out of warm/cool rooms. One thing I have quickly found out in Vegas is that they don't use their heat often and it's not really well regulated. If it's cold again (which it has been during WPPI time the past three years) you will be going from warm to cold and back again fairly often so make sure you wear layers! A room may be cold when you initially enter it for a platform class but it will quickly warm up the more and more people pack in. The Trade Show floors are always hot - last year almost unbearably so at times. However, to get to one of the trade shows you have to go outside so keep that in mind! Finally make sure whatever you are wearing can go through the sit test - don't wear anything you can't sit in for at least 2 hours comfortably!

HOWEVER! Don't dress lazily or in something that you wouldn't leave the house in. Think of what you wear for engagement sessions or meetings with clients. Something that looks good but you can move in as well. Dress smart but this isn't anything you wear a suit to (although some do!).

Bottom line: jeans, t-shirts, sweaters, button-up shirts, casual shoes and sneakers are what you'll find most of during the day.

Nighttime

This is where my downfall happened. I had no idea how fancy it gets in Vegas, none. This small town girl from Ohio thought jeans and a cute shirt would cut it for dressing up in Vegas. Ha!!!! Some of the parties get fancy - and the awards show with WPPI has always been a dressy affair. Beyond that, most of the restaurants within MGM are classier places where you are going to want to dress up a bit (no jeans!) when dining. Make sure you check with the host of the party to see if they mention the style of dress (i.e. Airplanes and Blazers is black tie this year) to plan accordingly. If a style of dress isn't mentioned, you are still going to want to make sure you have some fancier duds on hand. Guys, make sure to bring at least one 'snazzy' outfit - shirt & tie and pants. Girls - make sure to have one dressy outfit as well. It's Vegas, so bling it out if you so desire. One year I even wore shoes that lit up!!! Ha! While it is possible to overdress (Yep, I've done that at WPPI too) I'd always rather be the one in the crowd that is overdressed rather than underdressed.

Ladies that will be donning heels: if your bag is big enough, make sure you tuck in a pair of shoes that you can slip on if your heels become unbearable. Make sure to walk around in your heels before bringing them to Vegas. I made the mistake of NOT doing this the first year and I had horrific blisters for my lack of preparation!

Bottom line: suits, shirts & ties, dress shirts, dress pants, cocktail dresses and evening gowns are what you'll find when the sun sets in sin city.

SMILE!

As my childhood icon Annie said, "you're never fully dressed without a smile!" Never forget to bring your smile, no matter where you're at!


Corey Ann is a wedding & lifestyle photographer from North Canton, OH. She is a mix of everything - fashionista (runs Clothes for Pros, clothing suggestions for photographers), travel guru, deal hound and geek rolled into one. She's had a website online since 1997 and a blog since 1999. When not plotting world domination or her next trip, she can be found reading one of the 100+ books she reads a year. Follow her on Twitter.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Joystart Your Year

Here at PhotoLovecat.com, we love anything we can help you get for FREE - especially education. I'm pretty excited about this event, which was launched a couple weeks ago to help small photography businesses get that little spark of inspiration or set of ideas that will propel them forward. I didn't want to share it on PhotoLovecat.com until I had personally gone through the experience of participating and listening to make sure it was good content and to see where "the catch" was in providing so much quality content.

Now, of course they have options that you can pay for and they smartly make it super easy to pay for them without hardly thinking. That's where your willpower and smarts needs to come in so that you don't drop your entire education budget for the year on one day of internet surfing. (What do you mean you don't have an education budget?! Hmmm.. maybe you should think about that.) There are a few Wednesdays over the course of several weeks that you can sign in and listen to all of the content for FREE- and that's what's awesome about the program. These are successful photographers and great motivational speakers to really help you achieve your best in your photography business. I'm not one to just jump on any bandwagon out there. I believe in these speakers and what they stand for, so you know it's good, quality stuff. Check it out today, to catch some of the quality content for free! If you miss it, read the full description of content before purchasing anything so that you're only getting info you NEED, and not just because you missed it. If you're attending WPPI - many of the people listed in Joystart Your Year will be speaking there as well, which is included in your conference registration- so there will be other opportunities to hear them for "free".


Anne Ruthmann is a lifestyle & wedding photographer from Boston, MA. She spent 10 years practicing marketing & management in corporate and non-profit businesses before pursuing her passion for photography as an independent small business. She loves helping others find creative and low-cost solutions to business problems. Follow her on Twitter to see her daily adventures and thoughts.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Hotel Deals WPPI 2011

As with last year, here's some deals for hotel stays during WPPI. As codes come out, I will be tweeting them as I see them and updating this list so keep it bookmarked. I know from the past that MGM is pretty easygoing with canceling/rebooking when finding better deals.

MGM Grand
The main hotel where the convention takes place. West Wing rooms are notoriously small and most people don't like them so keep that in mind when booking. Many various suites. Smoking and non-smoking rooms available.

$159/night + up for Premium Suites (ideal for suite parties)
Code: MKT312

Winter Warm Up Sale
Code: FALL10

20% off + 2-for-1 Buffet (expires 2/3)
Code: WARMUP11

$90/night +up, $50 Spa Credit
Code: MGMSPA10

30% off + 20% off Spa

30% off
Code: SUPER2011

The Signature @ MGM Grand
The 'elite' section of the MGM Grand, set of three towers with an entrance closer to the convention area. Non-smoking and its own deli, Starbucks and bar.

Up to 25% off New Year Sale (expires 1/31)
Code: SIG927

Don't forget to also check VRBO.com for offers which may be cheaper than rooms direct through The Signature.

Nearby Hotels

Located diagonally across the street from MGM Grand, quite a hike but able to get to/from MGM without crossing street by using elevated crosswalks.
$65night + up

Located across the street from MGM's lobby entrance. I hear there's girls there in skimpy outfits and large... shoes.
$80/night + up

Located across the street from MGM, connected via a direct walkway from MGM. Has a roller coaster inside.
$75/night + up



Corey Ann is a wedding & lifestyle photographer from North Canton, OH. She is a mix of everything - fashionista (runs Clothes for Pros, clothing suggestions for photographers), travel guru, deal hound and geek rolled into one. She's had a website online since 1997 and a blog since 1999. When not plotting world domination or her next trip, she can be found reading one of the 100+ books she reads a year. Follow her on Twitter.

Monday, January 10, 2011

WPPI 2011

It's that time of year again, convention time!!! Imaging USA/DWF is almost upon is and WPPI is biting close at its heels. To go or not to go - that is the question in many photographer minds right now.

In the past we've covered a lot of WPPI, here's a list of the blog topics in the past. Do you have any burning questions that you'd like covered before we hit WPPI? Comment and let us know!

General Tips:


Money Saving Tips:
Hotel Deals (will be sleuthing out deals for this year and making a new post)


Reviews:


Corey Ann is a wedding & lifestyle photographer from North Canton, OH. She is a mix of everything - fashionista (runs Clothes for Pros, clothing suggestions for photographers), travel guru, deal hound and geek rolled into one. She's had a website online since 1997 and a blog since 1999. When not plotting world domination or her next trip, she can be found reading one of the 100+ books she reads a year. Follow her on Twitter.
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