Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Old Equipment - Sell, Trade, Rent, or Donate?

As I've been taking a look at all the assets I built in my photography business and what I might do with them now that I'm focusing more exclusively on consulting and reiki work, here's the process I've been going through...

1.  Decide How Long You'll Keep the Equipment As Backup

Maybe you're just upgrading equipment  and want to keep some backup equipment around.  In my case, I decided that I'd hold onto my equipment for 6 to 12 months after announcing to my clients that they'd need to start finding another photographer.  I created a timeline on how long I'd keep gear so I could really gauge for myself how much I'd actually use my gear for my own personal fine art or creative interests once I wasn't doing commercial photography work full time.  Gear loses value pretty quickly as new gear comes out, so months eventually become dollars lost too.

If you've already got great working backups but still have a few pieces of equipment laying around after your upgrade, act sooner rather than later to help get a return on your upgrade cycle.

I needed to know if I'd realistically have any desire to pull out my professional equipment, after some time and distance from the daily work of commercial photography would open up my creative juices again.  It took me about 4 months, but today I actually thought of a photography project I would need my specialized equipment for and might actually want to spend time doing when I need a break from working on other things.

I share this just as an example of how sometimes we can feel really, fully, done when we make a decision about something, but given some extra time and space, we may change our mind about a few things.  I can always rent equipment whenever I want, but that takes some planning, and I didn't want that to be a barrier for those spur of the moment creative ideas I might have.

2. Assess The Remaining Value & Demand

Once you've decided what pieces you're definitely willing to let go of, take a look at what it's actually worth right now when sold as a USED piece of equipment.  Also, take into consideration how old that piece of equipment is with regard to how in demand it would be for someone to search for it online and want to purchase it.

For example, if it's a digital camera body that's more than 5 years old, you might try to sell it, but it may be highly unlikely that anyone will actually want to buy it.  A lens is likely to hold more value over time, but take a good look at your equipment to see what kind of shape it's in and if you'd considering buy it in that condition from someone else.  Taking a look at the USED sale value of items should help give you a more accurate picture of what is actually worth selling and what has such low value or demand that you might as well keep it or donate it.

3. Listing What's Worth Selling

I'm not a fan of craigslist because of the number of scammers that seem to troll the site, so I'm more a fan of the Facebook Marketplace or specialty Facebook Groups for selling equipment under a certain manufacturer from one person to another.  At least there's a little more accountability and specialized interest in the equipment you have to offer and a better idea of where people are located when they're inquiring, but if you can't sell it there, try EBay next, then Craigslist as a last resort.

Buyers are 10x more likely to buy used equipment that has fully accurate, detailed photos of the actual condition of the equipment.  They want to see any scratches, worn paint, dents, etc.  Don't try to hide these things or make it look better than it really is, just be super real in order to establish trust with a future buyer.  If you use stock photos or don't show detail of equipment, expect less interest and more questions.  Accurate photos save you time in your effort to sell.

4. Trading In What Has Value but Isn't Worth Listing

If listing your equipment and managing inquiries about sales is your least favorite thing in the world and you don't care that you'd be losing money, one last ditch effort to get some value out of your equipment that might be using it as trade-in value for something else.

Best Buy has a trade-in program that will take working equipment and provide a trade-in value that you can use at Best Buy toward a current product in stores.  This is a great way to get rid of your equipment soon and not deal with shipping hassles or negotiations.

5. Renting What's Worth Keeping

In the last few years of crowd-sourcing, we now have the option to also crowd-source our gear and rent it out to other image creators and professionals.  As photography rental outlets become more difficult to rent from and require more up front business identification and insurance, crowd-sourced rentals become easier with insurance options built into the renting process.

One of the companies currently pioneering this effort is KitSplit.  Before listing your own gear, you can search for the gear you're thinking of renting and see what options are already available in your area.  If you're outside of a major city, my guess is that you may actually dominate your local area as a rental option if you want to, otherwise you can see who else is in your area and how often they appear to be renting out their equipment or equipment similar to yours.  This is also a great option to share with the other image makers in your area who know you already- and may want to rent some of your gear when you're not planning to use it.  Do you know of any other crowd-source rental options available?  If so- post them in the comments!

5. Donating What's Not Worth Keeping, Trading-In, or Selling

If it's really old gear that no one is likely to search for, and it's just taking up space as a hazard or liability sitting in your storage area, it would be much better put to use as a donation to a school or a youth organization that doesn't have the budget to update electronic equipment each year.  Schools and youth organizations absolutely value any working gear that could be provided to help students with their projects, and think about how much happiness your equipment can give someone else when it isn't sitting in your storage area.

Before clearing out my portrait studio, I got in touch with the local Boys & Girls Club and asked them if they'd like my office supplies, old photo equipment, and other odds and ends like markers and poster board, etc.  They were SO HAPPY to get so many creative tools donated!  They turned around and gave me a tax-deductible donation form that I could record with my accountant that year, which was worth way more than letting it all continue to gather dust in my closet.

6. When It Isn't Even Worth Donating

Sometimes schools or youth programs will actually take equipment that doesn't work in order to be used for electronics dissecting or other electronic repair projects, but always ask first before dropping off something that doesn't work.

One last way to make your old equipment do just a little more good in the world, is to send it to Recycling for Charities, which takes old equipment and donates any income earned from the donation to the participating charity of your choosing.

If you aren't going to use it, give it a chance to get into the hands of someone who will.

If you have other great resources for selling, trade-ins, rentals, or donations - please add yours to the comments!

Anne Ruthmann is a constantly evolving creative soul based in New York City. With over a decade of success as a full-time professional photographer, she spends any extra time she has helping others find smart solutions to business problems and finding more ways to travel the world. Stay in touch on InstagramTwitter or Facebook.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Maximizing Productivity with Time Blocking

*This blog post was originally written on The Photo Life Blog - ShootQ on May 9, 2011.
The company has since stopped updating, so it is being saved here for preservation.

When we work for other people, having work hours, weekly meetings, and daily tasks is practically expected.  However, when working for ourselves, it’s very easy to let time slip by if we don’t create a schedule for our productivity.  The great thing about working for ourselves is that we can create a schedule that works with our own peak productivity and distraction times.  If we know that we are most productive with post-production late at night, and we have the freedom to wake up later in the day, than we can create a schedule that allows us to focus in this way.  If we know that we’re most alert to responding to emails first thing in the morning, than we can create a schedule that works with our peak alertness.  By simply planning out when we will deal with our regular tasks for a typical week, we can quickly increase our efficiency.


1. Shooting Days and Times – Stay in control of your schedule and your time by letting clients know when you’re available, rather than asking them when they’re available.  Designating shooting times in your schedule allows you to easily provide clients with your next three available times and days.  If you’re a wedding photographer, you may not want to schedule engagement shoots on Saturdays during your peak season in case a wedding opportunity comes along at the last minute.  If you’re a portrait shooter who works outdoors with natural light and you prefer to have your weekends free, than you may only want to schedule portrait shoots during the week during your golden light hours.

2. Post-Production Times – Once you know when your possible shooting times are, then you know that you will also need to designate an appropriate amount of time after each shoot for post-production like backing up images, culling, editing, and enhancement.  Whether you do this, or you give this task to someone else, there needs to be time set aside in your week to deal with these tasks.  Once you make time for this in your schedule, it’s easier to enjoy an evening out because you know that you’ve set aside post-production time the next day to move the project forward.

3. Marketing Times – Whether it’s blogging, Facebook, Twitter, emailing vendors, or working on a newsletter, there needs to be time set aside in your schedule to help market yourself and share your work with future clients and referrals.

4. Communication Times – As tempting as it is to check your email as soon as something new comes in, you will be much more efficient if you designate time in your day when this is appropriate.  Since email can easily take more time than we’d like, it may also be helpful to set a timer in order to make sure that your time spent on email isn’t leaking over into times you need to work on other tasks.

5. Meeting Times – If you do in-person sales after a shoot, or meet your clients in advance of their shoots, you need to make sure you have room in your schedule to make these happen at a time and day that works for you.

6. To Do List Times – Inevitably there are tasks that fall outside of the above categories and will need to have time set aside in your week to be dealt with.  Perhaps it’s running to the store to get supplies, entering your financial numbers, updating software, researching your next piece of equipment, or following up with inquiries that you haven’t heard back from.  Allowing yourself a time during the week to catch up on things you’ve placed on your to do list means that your to do list will never get too long.

Below are just a couple examples of how a 9am-6pm work schedule could be broken up differently.  Obviously, you want to create a schedule that works best for you and takes advantage of your peak working, communication, and distraction times.  It’s also good to designate other productive tasks that would be appropriate in each time slot in case you don’t have post-production, shoots, or meetings during the times you’ve set aside for them.  When you know what’s coming next in your schedule, it’s harder to get distracted and lose track of time.
What does your weekly schedule look like?  Share your answers in the comments!

Sample Schedule A –  Portrait Photographer
Monday – Friday
9am – 11am Post-Production
11am – 12:30pm Communication
12:30pm – 1:30pm Lunch Break
1:30pm – 3:30pm Marketing/To Do List
3:30pm – 4:30pm Communication
4:30pm – 6:00pm Shoots/Meetings
Saturday – Sunday – Off (or premium shoots only)

Sample Schedule B – Wedding Photographer
Tuesday – Friday
9am – 11am Marketing
11am-12pm Communication
12pm – 1pm Lunch
1pm – 3pm Post-Production
3pm – 5pm To Do List/Communication
5pm – 6pm Meetings/Shoots
Saturday – Shooting
Sunday – Monday – Off

Written by Anne Ruthmann

Anne Ruthmann is a philanthropist and visionary, who makes a living as an international award-winning wedding & lifestyle photographer.  She geeks out about business strategy and finding ways for artists to make a living doing what they love, which is why she feels strongly about developing community at her Boston PUG and sharing information onPhotoLovecat.  She also recently started offering the Smarter Business Workshop in order to provide hands-on help to photographers in several different cities around the US.  When she isn’t working or helping others, she enjoys traveling the world with her husband and trying foods she can’t pronounce.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Money Management Made Easy

*This blog post was originally created on The Photo Life blog at ShootQ.
Since the company has stopped updating, I'm saving it here for preservation.

You’ve just received a check in the mail- YAY!  You run to your bank to deposit it into your business account (or you see that Pictage has automatically deposited it there) and now you feel like you’ve justified your next big equipment purchase, right?  Think again.

If you’re really taking care of your business and your personal life, you’ll divide that money up before you start spending it.  To make it super simple, take half of that check you’ve deposited into your business account and transfer it immediately into your personal account (assuming you’re a sole-proprieter business structure with no employees).  This quick & easy method helps you make sure that you’re bringing home the bacon while still taking care of business.  By maintaining a 50/50 split on your revenue, you’ll gain a clear understanding of when you’re dipping into your personal income to pay for a business expense and when you’re borrowing from your business to pay for a personal indulgence.  If you’re like 85% of Americans, you’ll spend whatever you have in your account- so separating the money right from the beginning will help save you headaches later on.

To take this a step further, it’s also wise to set aside 30% of your personal income to pay self-employment taxes as well as any funds that you’d like to set aside for your retirement.  You may choose to pay your health insurance out of your personal account or your business account, but liability and replacement insurance are generally business expenses to be paid from your business account.  Any credit you give clients toward products, deposits, and retainer fees paid in advance should be set aside in your business account so that they cannot be spent until the service or product is delivered.  Sales Tax should also live in a separate business account so that it can be written as a simple check to zero out the account when your sales tax is due.

Here’s a sample breakdown for a $2500 job that requires a $500 retainer and provides $500 in product credit in a state with 7% sales tax:
100% Revenue = $2500
7% Sales Tax = $175

1. 50% Personal = $1250
a. 30% Income Tax Account = $375
b. 10% Retirement Account = $125
c. 60% Household Account = $750

2. 50% Business = $1250 + Sales Tax of $175
a. Sales Tax Account = $175
b. Retainer Account = $500
c. Product Credit Account = $500 (in reality you’ll probably only need to save $200 of this if your products have the appropriate profit, but it never hurts to save more and have back-up funds for emergencies.)
d. Overhead Account (Equipment, Insurance, Rent, Education, Marketing) = $250
With only $250 left to spend on that shiny piece of equipment- you might see why it’s important to save up before the next purchase, or you could just skimp on your groceries and cancel the cable connection instead.  It’s all a matter of what’s most important to you!

Written by Anne Ruthmann

Anne Ruthmann is a philanthropist and visionary, who makes a living as an international award-winning wedding & lifestyle photographer.  She geeks out about business strategy and finding ways for artists to make a living doing what they love, which is why she feels strongly about developing community at her Boston PUG and sharing information on PhotoLovecat.  She also recently started offering the Smarter Business Workshop in order to provide hands-on help to photographers in several different cities around the US.  When she isn’t working or helping others, she enjoys traveling the world with her husband and trying foods she can’t pronounce.

Friday, February 23, 2018

How to Create an Internship Program

*This blog post originally appeared on The Photo Life - ShootQ Blog on February 20, 2013 (which is no longer active, so I'm reposting here to save it in case their blog goes down):

As I’m getting ready for my next internship opening announcement, I thought I’d share some tips about finding an intern and making the most of having them learn while working in your business. This is the first of two posts. (The following image is from an intern.)
Intern Workstation in Home Office

How to Prepare for Your Intern:
  1. Review the United States Department of Labor Guidelines on Internships to make sure that you are creating an experience that qualifies.
  2. Identify three of your closest photography schools and/or high schools that offer photography classes. Contact the teachers or intern coordinators to learn about their student internship requirements and expectations.
  3. Decide exactly what the intern will be learning during their internship and what tasks will help them learn while they work with you.
  4. Outline the basic qualifications they need in order to work at a level that doesn’t require extensive remediation.
  5. Create an office procedure manual of any tasks that you prefer to have done a specific way, such as how you name & organize digital files, how to print a custom disk, what settings to use for blog images versus portfolio images, etc. This manual is something an intern might contribute to as well in order to create a more complete reference document.
  6. Set up an intern workstation that will be comfortable and allow you to easily and quickly help them if they are sharing a physical space with you.
  7. Create your announcement that itemizes:
    What will be learned during the internship– What qualifications are needed to apply– What days/hours will be required each week– Start and end dates of the internship– Deadline to receive applications
    – Link to your website and work
    – Contact information
  8. Send your announcement to the coordinators at nearby schools and post to your blog or newsletter.
  9. Based on the applications received, select your top three candidates and schedule in-person interviews.
  10. Once you’ve decided on your intern, let everyone who applied know that their application was appreciated but another candidate was selected.

If you’d like to read some of the thoughts and reflections from my interns, as well as my announcements for internships, head over to my blog.

About the Author
photographer anne ruthmann
Anne Ruthmann is a philanthropist and visionary, who makes a living as an international award-winning wedding & lifestyle photographer. She geeks out about business strategy and finding ways for artists to make a living doing what they love, which is why she feels strongly about developing community and sharing information on PhotoLovecat. She also recently started offering the Smarter Business Workshopin order to provide hands-on help to photographers in several different cities around the US. When she isn’t working or helping others, she enjoys traveling the world with her husband and trying foods she can’t pronounce.

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