Last week it seems I started a storm… That is really good: It is exactly what I wanted – good or bad. For the benefit of those who missed it – you can find the blog post here: http://www.ianabdilla.com/blog/something-to-think-about/
As Promised There’s More!! Just a couple points which I did not include last week since I had to cut a line somewhere and not let it be even longer than it was. So Let’s call this Part 2.
I want to add a few things to the 2 main points of last blog Post: There is a real reason why so many photographers and videographers calculate wrongly their costs and their timings – I am going to mention a few and tackle some of them too –
Know your costs:
The biggest and most common mistake I find re-occurring on a constant basis falls under this category. It occurs mostly with those just starting out in the industry but also some who have been in the industry for quite a while fall for it (and do it on Part-time basis but even some who do it on Full-time Basis). Most of us are real enthusiasts who enjoy shooting photographs/videos for ourselves and all of us already own equipment and so starting to take on paid jobs is a nice prospect and when it happens we are happy to just charge an hourly rate similar to what we earn in our full time job (or maybe a little more) and be happy with that – after all we already own the equipment… (mind you, I have met people who have been many years working as photographers/videographers who still treat equipment as something they already own from their hobby and which should not work out in their final Profit and Loss Sheet) but here lies the biggest mistake!! Any equipment you use to work with, has a cost wrapped to it. If you do not own a lens and need to rent it, you need to pay money for it. If you do not own a car and need to rent a car to do this job you have coming up, then there is a cost tied to it.
Just placing an example out there – (If you do not want to read this part just skip 2 paragraphs down) Using your own personal car to go on photo shoots/weddings has a cost to it – and a rather specific cost – not just fuel spent on the journey, but actual wear and tear on the car which must be added to depreciation cost of the car and also the risk of getting into an accident while on this job God-forbid! a simple maths will get you these figures – Imagine you have a used car maybe 7 years old – when new it cost 15,000euros and now it costs 4800euros (worked out at 15% per year depreciation). I know that I do 2 services every year on my car and they cost me 150-300 euros each on average plus a huge bill every couple of years when a big fault happens (my luck is not the best out there) and I know that I do 7,000 miles every year = so roughly 6-10c (let us use 8c for clarity’s sake) wear and tear for every mile I drive. From this we can also apply a price per mile on depreciation cost – roughly 800 euros per year at this stage (more if it was a newer car but obviously newer cars require less to maintain)= 11c per mile I drive. Fuel cost – My car makes 34mpg which adds up to 18c per mile (in summer using AC this cost goes up by around 30% and since most of our work – wedding photographers/videographers- is concentrated in the hot months then we will use the upper limit as reference – thus 24c) – finally insurance and license cost – I pay 1100euros for both = 16cents per mile. Grand total is 8+11+24+11= 59c per mile. Now I had weddings relatively near to home and many weddings relatively spread out across the island… anywhere from 22-60miles traveled on a single wedding day – so 13eur to 35eur cost. That does not factor in the time spent travelling to meet up with clients and and do all your business errands. Also if the car cost we are using is of a new vehicle and not a 7 year old car – in which case the depreciation cost will go up to 15% of the new car’s value = 32c per mile which brings the grand total to 76c per mile driven (and most probably even higher for under 25 year olds with higher premiums for insurance. If you are to rent a car instead of using your own, you will have a much higher cost – 12-15eur per day minimum + fuel.
You might tell me “all this for 35eur?” to which I will tell you – if you charged 500 euros, that is a hefty amount to reduce out of your final bill. why? because this does not apply simply to the vehicle you own but to each and every piece of equipment you own. Everything has a cost to it, even if you originally purchased it for your hobby. What will you do once it breaks up? what will you do once you need to purchase a new one because you have work booked and need that part to use on the job you have coming up? from were will the funds to re-purchase it come? What cost 5,000 euros when you bought it new 5 years ago, now it only costs 2,200euros if you are lucky enough to have taken good care of it and also lucky enough to find a buyer. And more than anything lucky enough to not have a replacement product already out on the market which further devalues your equipment further. there is a real tangible cost. Everything you use on your job is an asset which has a cost to it which has to be accounted for or else you are on your path to failure.
Know your Time:
Tonio Lombardi reminded us of why in a comment on facebook on my previous blog – Realistically you do not have more time available to do more than 23-25 Full Weddings each year! You don’t! Unless you work well over 40hour week schedule all year long, then you cannot possibly ever deliver in time or deliver with high consistent quality each wedding you take more than 25 per year. You need to create a brand and more importantly you need to create a want for that brand. Both take a lot of time! Time to perfect the art of your own brand – unique in it’s own way and of consistent quality and always creative and seeking new approaches and new views! Time to market your brand – time to create a want! you need to spend time selling your product and making future clients “WANT” you to shoot their event/wedding! And mainly, like I said last time, you need time to run the business/office side of the business you have! All of this only gives enough time for 23-25 weddings (maybe 30 for those of us who are a bit faster or are willing to work overtime for it) but nothing more than that.
So how to achieve all of this? First of all is by taking the time to know your own cost to do business! I gave plenty of examples on how to get this answer – and also Know your time! From there you know how much you should be realistically charging to cover your basic costs. Add to this what you want to earn as a wage/salary! Remember to pay your taxes. Save something extra for slow months and save extra for re-investing in your business an/or for when shit hits the fan!
Then How to project – Once you have a realistic handle on your current situation, Start Projecting – see what equipment you need to add and when you need to add it, Make sure you have proper backups and proper finances to pay for these backups – if Not project for them to be TOP MOST Priority before buying any other new equipment. Project your Salary!! This is important – once you know how much it costs to run the business, you can then know how much you are realistically earning – from here you can project – so Maybe right now you are realistically earning 5,000euros yearly Net (before taxes) and you need to push this to 15,000euros yearly! then simply divide 10,000euros which you need to add yearly by the amount of weddings you are doing – and there you know how much more you need to add. You have to fine tune all of this depending on the kind of work you offer and what packages you have… But I believe that you can easily take it off from here… Each one of you should Know how much he/she is worth! and we are definitely worth WAY more than what we are selling ourselves at! definitely and by a long shot!
New Points to thinker about
Do not be foolish to feel good were you are or where you managed to achieve! Dream Big! Aim for the Stars and hopefully you will reach the Moon! Do not be satisfied ever with your current self. Strive to achieve more and build yourself even further. We have a HUGE Problem in Malta – Mediocrity – We are happy to stay put in mediocre conditions – we find a spot, the first spot which we find to be precise, and we stay put there – it is a safe zone – once we feel that we reached a safe place were we can just “play it safe” – not too much risk, just good enough of a product and we can consistently repeat the result, and we are happy with that! WHY? I ask you to ask yourself – WHY? why not risk? you are never to achieve your dream from staying put under the ledge or overhang of a cliff looking down only and not looking up forcing yourself to believe that you are already at the top – when reality is that you still have a lot to climb to even be near the top!
Why do we fear? because we find ourselves in a comfortable spot were we “seem” to be selling like ‘pastizzi’ and think to ourselves that we are doing good! when you turn the other side to see what the results are – you find only mediocrity – mediocre finish, mediocre or really loooong delivery times, and mediocre customer service! Then I ask myself: ‘ why did we even think to start off in this path at all? Why not just go and find a decent paying job and not worry about anything other than spend 8-5 working and then have 5pm-8am and full weekends for you to play around?’ ‘ Why All this hassle to run your own business and work 24/7 all week long including all weekends, if in the end you are failing miserably at even the basic elements?’ Because we force ourselves to believe our own shit! We tell lies to our own selves and we force ourselves to believe in them. What pleasure is there in staying put and being happy with your current lack of achievement? Be Creative! Force yourself out of your closed cell! Force yourself out of your safe space! Risk! Create new possibilities! How is it possible that allover the world Photographers who believe in themselves are able to sell 2 hour photoshoots for 3000eur, 5000eur and even 10,000eur! Tell me how is this even possible? How is it possible that there are people who charge 5000 -20,000 euros for a Wedding day shooting fee (no prints or prewedding shoots are included in these – simply just Wedding Day shoots)? How is it possible that we have in Malta people spending Millions of Euros on a wedding and we are unable to grab that market while foreign Photographers and Videographers come here and shoot these weddings instead of us? Why? because the majority of us have stopped dreaming big! While standing at the second floor of the building, we just aim for the Basement in the hopes of reaching the Ground floor! This is the reality in Malta! This is Mediocrity!
So back to Projection – Project your dreams – make realistic plans – project were you would like to be in 1 or 2 year’s time and strive to achieve that! This has to be reflected in your COSTS! You must know that to achieve your dream, there will be realistic costs to it – So let’s say you’re a single person living with your parents – Your first projection should be to be able to have your own condo – eventually your own house – So start to project – you cannot expect to keep on charging peanuts and then one fine day you decide to move out of your parent’s house and go to the bank and ask them to loan you 100-200,000 euros while earning 10,000euros yearly and without ever doing real accounts. Change your working schemes to show this change that you require! you need to know where your target is so you can set your aim and calculate your business costings accordingly!
Declare your VAT – if you keep declaring you are selling less than 15K so you do not pay anything and even maybe pay no taxes as well, I am sorry to break it out on you – this is plain stupidity. First of all when you go to ask for any loan, you need evidence that you are earning money, secondly you would not want to have IRD or VAT officials ruining your party and have you sentenced to pay all the undeclared VAT and accumulated interest and fines – We all know of those who were found guilty and ended up with 200,000+ (or even millions) euros in unpaid VAT and fines needing to be paid off. Be a gentleman and pay your taxes. After all the taxes are used to have our country up and running. If you do not pay your taxes you have no right to complain!
Secondly – save money – realistically speaking this is the most difficult thing to do – but you have to start saving money. Saving for the taxes and VAT which need to be paid off on Time and also saving money for the deadly winter period where we see little to no work. How much to save? well a good place to start is seeing all your “cost to do business” and add to that your required income to live (including taxes), divide that by 12 and multiply x 3months so you have 3 months of Gross income saved up for those times when work is slow!! You have to do this otherwise you will end up needing to find another job to pay off this businesses’ expenses – which is totally counteractive!!! And I am telling you this from experience – I have been there year after year and I know how bad it is and how quickly 12,000 euros evaporate in 3 months!!!
The most Valuable part in managing to achieve all of this is – Education – both your own education to increase your knowledge and perfect your art, but also most importantly Educating your clients! Our Clients cannot possibly know any of all of this. It is not in their interest to know it as it is not their job. It is our job to know how much we are worth and Our Job to believe in how much we are worth and NEVER undersell ourselves for anything less – even in difficult times of little to no Income! Know how much you are worth and stick to it. You need to learn how to educate your clients about what they will be receiving. It is not simply 100 5×7 prints! they will be buying an experience! The experience which you are going to deliver – they are paying an artist to narrate their once in a lifetime event in their own artistic way – Obviously, your final product must match your promise and make sure that you can deliver a product of enough quality to match the price! You have to educate the client by showcasing a constant flow of work of quality through your social media – you need to create a fan base which follow you no matter what and who promote you by sharing your work and by suggesting you to their friends ect… But obviously to achieve this you need to back up your claims with constant quality, delivery times and outstanding client service!
So make sure you have a Good deliverable product with constant and repeatable level of quality, technique and workmanship; Make sure you have an impenetrable dual or triple firewall as with regards to backup and redundancy; Make sure you offer an outstanding quality of client service! These three together are the foundation for a good quality fan-base who will promote you (for free) and will stand by you no matter what! You cannot expect to be given everything unless you give out yourself!
Invest in learning – be constantly on the lookout for new teachers from whom to learn how to deal with clients, how to tell stories, how to market yourself – even look in education in other industries – you will be amazed at what you can learn from their industries and apply to your own business model then!! Dedicate an amount each year to education – attend workshops abroad with other foreign photographers! You will be taken to a whole new level by simply networking with other people who are in your own situation or maybe more knowledgeable than you are.
Next Point in education – Never Stop teaching – even for free – educating your competition will help raise the standard of your own work! create new opportunities. Do not keep back from sharing your knowledge!!
Never compete on price!! The day you do that will be the day you condemn your business to self destruction! There is a bottom most price which you can never sell for less than that without risking your own closure! Instead find your own style and compete with that. Be creative and be always open to see the world in front of you with new eyes and from new angles. Look for light. Do not settle down for mediocrity! Be INNOVATIVE! recently a good old friend told me that to be innovative one does not need to re-invent the wheel – but taking something that works and improving ever so slightly on it to make it more efficient and more attractive -that is Innovation! So Go out there and be Innovative.
Create a WANT for what you offer!! You are the educator. Your product is worth as much as you give value to it. So believe in your product and make others believe in it. By selling it cheap will never instill a sense of confidence in the clients. If you value yourself so little to sell yourself for peanuts, then you are not worth the risk for their wedding/event!
Be PROFESSIONAL! a professional is not someone who has decades of experience! I have met “professionals” in every field of work some with few years behind their back and other with decades to back them up and yet only a few deserved that title! A professional is someone who has just 1 thing! He/She is prepared! The professional knows that anything and everything can go bad and he/she is prepared for that eventuality and has backup plans ready for when things go wrong (not just plans in the air but real backups – backup equipment; backup people to replace them in case of injury ect; backup of data; backup of everything). A professional Is a person who knows how much he/she is worth and does not undersell him/herslef because he/she knows that if the work is done at a lower cost, he/she will be paying himself to do it instead of the client and no one wants that! Everyone at the end of the day works to earn a living! SO know your Worth! Know your value! How much are you worth? How much is all the time which you spent preparing and learning for this wedding worth? how much is your professionalism worth? is it worth taking the risk to work for free and end up loosing your name for it because you did not have enough money available to have enough backups? A professional does not need a good branding strategy or a huge office or 20 people working for him/her!
So Know your Costs, Know Your Time, Project, Educate, Know Your Worth – Be a Professional!