Today’s episode actually had to be broken down into two parts because this conversation with Sara was so valuable. I didn’t want the learning and the talking to stop, but we went on for well over an hour. In this first part, which you’re going to hear today, Sara is going to share how to know when you’re ready to outsource depending on the level of business that you’re in. And Sara gives examples for the brand new newbie photographer through being an advanced photographer with 2-4 years under your belt.
Sara is also sharing how niching down doubled her income, as well as the specific way to outsource editing and culling without compromising your client experience and without compromising your work as an artist.
With 11 years of experience under her belt, Sara Monika is a documentary wedding photographer for free-spirited and adventurous couples, as well as an educator. With her photography work, she loves giving couples the gift of being free on their wedding day to do what they want when they want, while she focuses on authentically documenting in between an unexpected moment. Sounds a lot like birth photography, right?
On the education side of things, she is passionate about empowering photographers to build a sustainable foundation in their business through her Outsourcing Made Easy online program so that they can trade in the overwhelm and burnout that comes with wearing all the hats for a life of more time and financial freedom.
She is also the host of the Shine + Thrive photography podcast, which I was recently a guest on as well. So make sure and go check out that episode. And on that podcast, she shares personal and business growth methods to help photographers like you create a business on their terms.
This is such a great episode. Let’s get into it.
Tavia: Okay, Sara, so excited to have you on the show. So before we get into all things outsourcing and getting a VA and all that stuff for photographers, would you please introduce yourself?
Sara: My name is Sara Monika and I always find this question so funny. I’m like, how do I introduce myself? I’m such a deep thinker and I’m like, “There’s so many levels to me.” And there’s so many things in my subconscious and conscious and I’m like, “Sara, stop it. Just say who you are, what you’ve been doing just to give people taste. I’ve been a wedding photographer for 11 years now and I specifically specialize in photographing couples that are free-spirited and adventurous because that’s kind of who I am at my core. So I really love working with people that are like-minded because it just makes working together so much more effortless – I can be myself, they can be themselves.
And then about halfway through my photography career, I was super excited to just start sharing everything that was working with me with other photographers. And I couldn’t keep my mouth shut. I’m just like, “Anyone could use advice? I have answers for this, for this, for this.” And then I’m like, “Ooh, this could be another pillar to my business.” So I’ve also been an educator for about five years now. And I have my own podcast. It’s called The Shine + Thrive photography podcast, which has been around for two years now and I love it. I love just talking and I just can’t hold all the advice that I have inside me. I get to just talk to a mic and then people message me being like, “That helped me or that helped me.” And I’m like, “This is amazing.” So I’m so passionate about that as well.
A random couple random facts about me: I’m actually Polish and my first language was Polish. But I was born in Sweden because my parents were leaving Poland, then I came to Canada when I was 2. Another random fact, just for fun, I can’t burp and people are like, “What does that mean? Does that mean you fart more?” And I’m like, “No, that does not mean that. It means that I have heartburn.” So I can’t drink anything like fizzy, so wine and tequila are my go-tos.
Tavia: Ooh, yeah. Drinking soda or something would be terrible.
Sara: I have this weird frogging sound that comes out of me, which wants to be a burp, but it’s not.
And also to add, three things that I’m really passionate about, teaching other photographers. So I’ve created three courses that I’m really passionate about. So one of them is teaching photographers how to market themselves from who they are at their core to attract and book their dream clients pretty much.
And then also I’m obsessed with documenting weddings with a storytelling documentary approach so that couples can feel free to be themselves on their wedding day and not feel like it’s a production or feel that it’s about the photos, because I really believe it’s not it’s about them enjoying their day how they want to, and then the photos should be a by-product of that. So I teach photographers how to intuitively storytell. Basically unlocking that intuition and pretty much tuning into each individual at the wedding like a radio and you get to kind of like get on their frequency and feel what they need and anticipate what they’re about to do next. And so I love teaching how to story tell through intuition as well.
And also lastly, the topic that we’re jumping into today is I’m so passionate about teaching photographers how to outsource in their business so that they can actually have more time freedom, more lifestyle freedom, and on top of that financial freedom, because I think a lot of photographers believe that if they outsource that means it’s going to cost them so much more money that they won’t get to keep and their income is actually going to go down.
But as we can talk about today, it’s actually the opposite. It’s counterintuitive, but it’s opposite because if you are not able to take on as many shooting bookings as you want to, That means you’re kind of capping your income at, let’s say, 20 weddings a year because you can’t handle any more work. But if you start getting help in your business and outsourcing, then you can actually increase how many bookings you take on and how you market yourself, which can increase your pricing that you demand because there’s a higher demand for you – it all kind of like comes together. So you’re actually able to cut your working time in half pretty much and double your income.
So I’m so passionate about sharing that because at the end of the day, we got into business to be free and not be chained to our computers and chained to our business. Life is way too short for us to just feel that the only way for us to be a photographer to do everything ourselves and we need to actually have the time and space in our lives to enjoy our lives.
I found myself down that rabbit hole of working 12 to 15 hour days, being my unhealthiest version of myself, losing out on relationships. And I was like, enough is enough. And I figured out how to create those systems and workflows that actually work. Where you’re actually happy with the results that you get when you outsource, right? It’s like, instead of you being like, “No, why does this person not understand what I need?” And then it’s frustrating, you feel like you’ve missed out on money. It’s like, no, it can actually work for you. So I went down that rabbit hole, figured out the solution for myself, and now I teach that to photographers. So that’s kind of like where I’m at right now.
Niching Down from being a Generalist
Tavia: That’s awesome, I love everything that you touched on. And I think that outsourcing is something that people aren’t really talking about as much, you know what I mean? The marketing and the presets and the how to shoot and that kind of thing, but like outsourcing specifically to a virtual assistant, I think is something that not a lot of people are talking about in the education space, so I’m really excited to dig into that.
But before we do, you briefly mentioned something that is very off topic from what we’re talking about here today, but it jumped off the page to me because it’s something I talk about all the time. And I’m curious to know when you started out shooting weddings, did you start out shooting…how did you describe your couples?
Sara: Free-spirited and adventurous.
Tavia: Yeah. Did you start out niched down that specific with your weddings or did you eventually like get there?
Sara: Oh, I definitely eventually got there because initially I was exploring. You’re like, “Oh, I’m going to shoot a family session and a wedding and a boudoir session and events and a bar mitzvah, right? So I was like more of a generalist being like, “Yeah, I can do anything,” because that’s how I thought I could, number one, make the most money. Because when you first start your photography business, it’s pretty scary to be like, “Okay, I need to make an income out of this.” So you’re thinking, I think priority is how do I make money? And you assume that if the bigger population in the world has all these different needs then more people will need me and I can make more money, right?
But then I found that to be not true because you’re kind of like spreading yourself so thin and you can’t really get good at one thing and you then have to figure out different workflows for all these different genres.
So I was generalizing and then I realized I wasn’t really happy because I would go to certain types of shoots and I’d be like, for some reason, I’m not as excited for this one. And that slowly got louder and louder and louder until I kind of listened. And I realized, if I just paid attention to how I was feeling going to shoots and coming back from them, weddings and engagement sessions were the ones that got me the most excited.
I hired a business coach, I actually invested. This was I think 9 years ago now, about 2 or 3 years into my business. I invested $10,000 for a business coach for six hours of his time. And it was terrifying. But he specialized in helping photographers specialize in their business.
And it was just like I had got him as a referral and I just saw the results that that photographer had. And I’m like, I’m just going to trust, and I’m going to dive, and I’m going to dive into the deep end, and just go with it. And that changed so much for me because I discovered more of who I was at my core. And then I knew how to attract those specific clients.
And then everything, hand-in-hand, grew – my happiness grew, and being able to only document specifically what I wanted for who I wanted, and my income skyrocketed as well. So it definitely didn’t start off that way. I was a generalist to start, and then I found my way here.
Tavia: Amazing. I couldn’t let that go because niching down is just what I talk about all the time has made such a huge difference in my business and being known for something really specific. And so when you were really specific about your couples, I was like, Hmm, maybe there’s a story there. So thank you so much for sharing that.
And I hope that listeners hearing this, hear that it’s more than just me saying that niching down has so much power in your business and how it can feel scary and it does feel safe to be a generalist because you think you’re able to reach more people, but when you can really niche down and find your people, you learn how to speak to them, and they in turn find you and being really specific with your business and your messaging and your ideal client – do you think it sped up your success, like niching down, even though like you said it felt counterintuitive?
Sara: Actually, to be very straight up, my business coach at the time told me this, “Sara, as soon as you show up as that authentic version of yourself and specifically speaking to that one type of person, you’re going to experience a dip in your business for about3 to 4 months where it’s like crickets and you’re like losing more of like your Instagram followers. You’re losing more interest. I’m telling you now to expect this. So you continue on the path and you don’t freak out and out of fear make the decision to pull out and do things how you did before. So there is a dip and that’s only because the people that were following you were following you for the version of yourself you were beforehand.”
I was this person that felt that they couldn’t swear or make dirty jokes or wear what I wanted to wear because if I wore something more like boho, I would be seen as too young or not taken too seriously. So I tried wearing freaking pantsuits.
And so those people are following you for that reason and they like that version of you. So you have this kind of a transition phase. And then as soon as you just keep going, you move through that discomfort initially, that’s when it pays off. And so it took me a year. But I pretty much doubled my income in a year.
From the dip, it was kind of like the 3 to 4 months were crickets. And it was over the winter too, so I like had these like depressed episodes. I was telling my partner, “Did I make a mistake? No one likes me. I don’t feel accepted. It’s hard,” but then he’s like, “Continue to move through. You did all this work up until this point. You can do this.”
And then spring came and it’s like a rebirth for myself and everything. And then that’s when everything just started skyrocketing – the inquiries, the bookings, how I shot my portfolio changed and grew. It took me a year, but I was able to double my income from that.
And I love that you’ve mentioned “I don’t want my listeners just to hear me talking about it.” I think it’s so important that you mention that because it does help to see multiple examples.
And I think for those of you listening, if you ever get stuck in a point where you’re like, “Yeah, I really want to do this one thing, but I don’t think is possible for me,” a trick that I do is I’m like, “Okay, let me find a person that is doing it,” use them as an example, and I’m sure you can find so many photographers that are specifically niche down in different areas and it’s working for them.
So even if it’s working for one person in this entire world, that means there’s a path that works, and that means that you can make that happen for yourself.
Tavia: Yeah. Find that person. And if you’re listening to this, you likely are in our free Facebook group that has 5,000 birth photographers and, you know, there’s somebody in there like that that you can look at and say, “They’re specializing in birth, or they’re specializing in newborn, or they’re specializing in home birth,” like even taking the birth niche and getting really, really specific and thinking like, “Okay, well I’m specializing in birth, but maybe I want to specialize in home birth.” And it’s like, “Okay, there’s people who do that too. And so that’s available to you. Somebody else is out there doing it. You can totally do it too. So I love that you said that.
3 Quick Ways to Know If You’re Ready to Start Outsourcing
Tavia: Little bit of a tangent there, but I think it was an important one for people to hear!
Sara: And I feel like we can keep talking for hours about this, so I’m like, I love that tangent too.
Tavia: I know. I absolutely could. But I’m going to restrain myself so we can stay focused kind of-ish here.
I have all ranges of photographers listening to this, and some not photographers to be honest, like creatives. And so some people are brand new baby in their business, you know, maybe they’ve only photographed a handful of sessions. Some people are six figures. So at what level do you know that you’re ready to start outsourcing things in your business?
Sara: Okay, this is a great question because it there’s kind of like two answers to this to keep it very simple. Number one, let me start at the newbie level. So let’s say you’re like starting your business out.
So let’s say, you figured out some things that you need to do on repeat in order for your business to continue to be managed or growing. And then you realize, if you pay close attention, you realize that those things that you’re doing, if it’s not shooting and if it’s not marketing, it’s probably not going to find you more clients faster and sooner to build your portfolio, and then to continue to book more clients, then continue to grow your demand where you can continue to grow your prices and your income.
So I would say if I was kind of starting over, I would actually start noticing those little tasks that I’m like, “Oh, I’m doing this on repeat.” If I learned this task myself that means that it’s teachable to someone else and that means that I can get a virtual assistant for a couple hours a week to start. And I could just train them on how to do this and have them do it for me so that I can spend my time on things like shooting, because no one else can do that for me. Unless you’re trying to build an associate team down the line, right? That’s different conversation. Or marketing your business. So showing up more, learning how to maybe write a copy or messaging that actually helps convert and intrigues people into your services and all of that.
So you want to be spending your time in areas that only you can, and that actually are the revenue-generating activities. I didn’t do this. And it took me so much longer to grow my photography business.
So if I was starting over, as soon as that task is on repeat and you’re like, “Oh, okay, this is just part of my like daily or weekly work schedule,” free up that time for yourself, spend a little bit of money as an investment in your growing business, and with you having more time, you will notice that you’ll be able to grow your business faster and make a bigger income sooner.
The other part to when you’re ready to start outsourcing for those that have been a photographer for 2 to 5 years, and you’re finding yourself in burnout central, you’re an overworked photographer and you know you’re literally wearing all of the hats. I would start noticing what your mind is saying when you sit down to do a task.
So if it says, “Oh, I have to be doing this.” If you’re going to do a task in your business where you’re like I have to, and it feels so tiring and draining, and you’re missing out on time with family and friends, your health is declining, maybe you’re not moving your body as much as you need to stay healthy, then that is a huge sign that it’s time to let that go.
If you are like, “Oh, I want to do this. I’m excited to do this,” that is the energy that will continue to propel your business forward, your happiness, your energy, and all of that. So you want to stay as much as you can in those types of tasks. And as soon as it feels like you have to do it, or like you’re over it, you’re procrastinating it – procrastination is another huge, huge sign that you need to outsource that thing.
Oh, actually I’m going to throw in a bonus one, number three. Also, if you want to make more money in your business, honestly, I do believe that outsourcing is pretty much one of the most effective ways to do that. Because if you are able to let go of, for example, you’re editing, you’re culling, creating slideshows for your clients, those types of things. Especially, even if you just let go of editing, that takes the most amount of time for photographers, you’re freeing up so much more time for you to take on additional bookings. And I’m not saying like, book yourself up crazy where you’re again finding yourself in burnout. It’s just take on those additional bookings that you’re able to take on to even like offset the outsourcing cost. And then once you have your outsourcing systems more in place and you feel confident about them, you’ll notice that, “Oh my God, I still have so much more time to give, to offer. So I’m going to take on maybe five more weddings this year or five more birth sessions.” And be able to make even more money than that.
And what I typically find my students, what happens for them, is kind of like the first year they kind of settle into that outsourcing workflow because they didn’t trust the process. They don’t book too many additional things because they don’t want to end up in burnout. And then a year later when their outsourcing systems are in place, they have the same amount of bookings they had the previous year and they’re like, “Oh, I have all this extra free time. I could have booked so much more and I could have made so much more money.” And then that’s when they go on the whole path of booking more and also increasing their prices because they’re marketing so much more, which creates more demand. So then they easily start skyrocketing their income from there. So those are kind of like the three signs that you’re ready.
How outsourcing can improve how you show up for your business and clients
Tavia: Amazing. So, can you talk a little bit about when you were saying like the tasks that you’re procrastinating, the tasks that you feel like “I have to do this” versus “I want to do this,” what’s the trade-off energy-wise? Because I know that this is like huge for you in your world too of not only the time, but the energy that I’m spending procrastinating, something feeling like, “Ugh, I have to do it,” and then when I can outsource it, what does that make available and free up for me?
Sara: What you focus on, whether it’s subconscious or conscious, is what continues to perpetuate in your life. And if you’re focused on that feeling like “I don’t want to” or “I’m too tired” or “I don’t know how I’m going to get all this done,” that’s going to be your reality. But if you focus on, “Okay, I’m going to be able, I can get help in my business from these things. I’m going to put my energy and effort towards that,” then pretty much – it’s so funny, I’m literally having a mom brain moment right now. I had this whole profound thing. I knew what I was going to say and it escaped me.
Tavia: We didn’t even tell people that you’re a new mom.
Sara: 3-month old baby, peeps!
Tavia: It’s exciting. It’s not exciting. But it is a new feeling to be like, “Oh, I’m literally mid-sentence…”
Sara: So funny, I’m just like, I swear I’m intelligent. I’m like what? Out of nowhere, empty in my mind.
Tavia: My audience will a hundred percent understand exactly what you’re saying.
Sara: Oh my gosh. That’s so funny. Okay. So the way I’m kind of thinking about it is if you’re focusing all this mental energy on complaining in your mind that you’re tired or it’s hard, that’s what’s going to perpetuate in your life. It’s a never ending cycle until you do something different to create a different result. You have to take a different action.
If you just think about it, for those of you that are listening right now, right now where you are, just say in your mind or out loud, if you’re alone, “It’s so hard, I’m so tired,” just say it. Think about how that makes you feel right now. Me saying that is like lowering my frequency, lowering my energy for this podcast recording.
But if you change that up and you’re like, “I no longer want to be in this perpetual cycle of being exhausted and of believing that there’s no other way.” If you choose to get curious even, and just be like, “You know what? I’m resourceful. I figured out how to grow my business up until this point. I can figure out how to get myself out of this never-ending cycle.”
And so what you want to do is focus your energy on the possible solutions and focusing your energy on even using discomfort and fear as a compass. If you feel uncomfortable or nervous about getting some help in your business with some tasks, because you’re scared of letting go of control, you’re terrified, you think your income is going to go down – all those things, I strongly urge you to lean into it just as uncomfortable you were when you were first starting to learn your camera on manual, or for those of you that shot your first birth, you were terrified, you were uncomfortable.
And if you’re already documenting births for a couple years now, you can see the progression, you can see like, “Oh yeah. Now I go in confidently. I know what I’m doing.” But the initial feeling you have to move through that. And actually one metaphor that I think is so powerful for this is if you think of going tobogganing, and I hate talking about winter because winter’s not my…
Tavia: Umm, Sara, I literally don’t even know what that is (laughs). I’m sorry.
Sara: That went through my mind. I’m like “There’s people from all over the world tuning into this.” I’m like, “Some people will be like, ‘Haha, winter, sucker!’” But I’m sure everyone knows what snow is. And you’ll be able to understand this metaphor.
Tavia: I do know what snow is though (laughs)
Sara: I do know what snow is (laughs) that’s so funny. So yeah, so if you imagine a hill, and if you look to the right, it’s kind of like you see this path of the toboggan that you’ve been taking up until this point in your photography business. It’s fully engraved in, you see this clear path because the toboggan kept going down and down and down, that is like where your neural pathways in your brain are programmed right now with how you are running your business.
It’s comfortable. You’ve got to this point, it’s like on autopilot, in a way it’s habitual. And that is now the comfortable path, because guess what? You don’t have to push through and try to get through that initial heavy snowfall. You could just smoothly glide down. So what I encourage you to do is look to the left and look to a brand new surface that you’ve never been before.
And initially, when you choose to go toboggan down that part, there’s going to be resistance. You’re going to have to try going down and the more and more you just start making those small incremental steps towards you letting go control, towards you training that person, to get help in your business, the easier and easier it’s going to get. And then you’re going to get that result that you want, which I’m a hundred percent sure. Every single person listening to this wants more freedom in their lives, wants more time freedom for themselves. Because again, I really do believe that’s why we got into business. Probably number one, because we’re passionate about photography, but I’m pretty sure close number two is you want to be able to do what you want when you want, you want to be able to be your own boss, right?
But if you are chained to your computer and you feel like you have to do all these things and you have to say ‘no’ to family events, ‘no’ to yourself, ‘no’ to your kids, then guess what? You’re just an employee. You’re actually not a boss and your business is running you. So I would highly suggest you take a look to the left and get excited.
Instead of getting nervous, what I do as I get excited about what those new neuro pathways I build in my brain by sledding to the left and that new space can create for me in my life and every single time I make a new decision to make that path more smooth I know I’m getting closer to the end result I want, which is more freedom, which is time and financial freedom. Because again, outsourcing actually can create much of a higher income for you.
Scared to make the huge decision to outsource?
Tavia: And going down that new path is uncomfortable or it can be uncomfortable, right? Because it’s like bumpy, maybe you hit a rock under the snow that you didn’t know was there. And it’s like, “Oh, is this even the right thing to do? Because I just hit a rock,” you know? And like, “Is this even the path that I should go down,” but the more and more and more that you go down it, the smoother, it becomes the less obstacles there are. And before you know it, you’re looking to the left again at a new path.
And so I love that if we can just keep in our minds that just because we’re doing something new that’s someone suggested to us that makes sense no matter what it is, whether it’s outsourcing or niching down or posting on TikTok or like whatever the thing is that somebody told us we should do that makes sense to us and it’s new and different, expect for there to be some rocks under the snow like it’s a new path.
And when you expect it, like your mentor told you that you might have three months where nobody’s talking to you and nobody’s people are unfollowing you. And to expect that, that’s when it starts to become like, “Okay, I’m actually on the right path, even though it’s uncomfortable,I knew it was going to be uncomfortable, but I have faith that this is where I’m supposed to be going.” So expect that kind of friction when you’re thinking about outsourcing or anything else, new.
Sara: Yeah, I love how you added the rocks underneath. I’m like, “Ooh, that just takes the metaphor to another level! Love it.
Tavia: See! I know Canadian stuff (laughs)
Sara: If you say ‘eh,’ if you say like, “I know Canadian stuff, eh,” that’ll make me really happy.
Tavia: I know Canadian stuff, eh. (laughs) That’s the first time I’ve ever said!
Sara: I can tell too! (laughs)
Guilt-crushing insights when outsourcing our photography tasks
Tavia: Oh no, you can tell. I’m so natural! (laughs) Oh, I thought I had you fooled that I said it all the time. Okay. So I think we’re going to make this a two-parter because I still have lots of questions and I think that we have covered so much awesome stuff already. But when you were talking about outsourcing editing, because that’s something that I started doing many years ago, culling and editing. And it was like baby steps for me to where I was like, “Okay, I’m going to outsource portrait editing, but I’m still going to cull it.” You know? So then I would do that. And then I was like, “Okay, now I’m going to outsource newborn editing.” That felt hard and scary. So I was like, okay, I’m going to do that. And it took me forever to let go of culling as well as letting someone else edit births for me, like births were the last thing that I let go.
And at this point in my business, I don’t do any of that for anything – culling or editing or the ordering appointment either. After I take the photos, I’m done. Somebody else orders it, everything. And it’s such a beautiful thing because all of that is so much work and I did it for so long.
But I know what comes up for photographers, I’m sure you hear this all the time, when they think about letting somebody else cull and edit for them, it’s like, “But that’s what they’re hiring me for.” They like my style. What if they don’t pick the right photos to cull through? There’s a little bit of an arrogance there. I love you, if that’s you, because it was totally me, but there’s a little bit of an arrogance there, right?
So what would you say to the photographer who’s like, “I want to let go of editing. I dread editing. It’s the thing I procrastinate. It’s the thing I feel like I have to do. It’s the thing taking me away from my family, but nobody’s going to do it like me.” How would you help that person?
Sara: Oh, there’s so many directions I could take this, because this is a big one. It’s a big like feeling that I had to move through. The first thing that comes to mind is I remember this so clearly. You know those moments in your life that you just remember so clearly, and you feel like you’ll never forget. And you feel like if you close your eyes, you see all the detail in sharp and vivid color in front of you.
So I was sitting, editing a wedding at one point, and I was just like so miserable. I was there clicking through the sliders in Lightroom. I was probably like watching a show on the side or listening to a podcast or learning on the side. I was usually learning. And I’m just like clicking through. And I realized that for in this moment, for the last like probably a hundred photos, I moved the exposure slider this way a little bit. I moved the temperature down this way a little bit. I added a little bit of sharpening. Like I had the presets already in, but once I batch applied the preset, I had to like adjust slightly.
And I’m like. “I am a freaking robot.” I’m sitting here adjusting the exposure slightly and the temperature slightly over and over and over again times 800 times. And it’s taking me maybe 10 hours, 9 hours. And I’m like, “This can be taught. This is a formula. There’s no rocket science behind this or around this.”
Somebody can do it as well as you can, because if you are doing it, that means that on this planet, you are a human that figured out how to do it. And there’s other humans on this planet with a brain and that even are trained to even do it better than you sometimes. If you weren’t trained in editing as much and you kind of like have a look that you want, but you’re like, you keep struggling trying to figure out how to get there, guess what? You can just tell your editor what you want it to look like. Show visual examples, explain why (the why is very powerful), and then they will kind of get that for you. Or if you know how you want your photos edited, that’s where I was, I knew exactly, so I would just train them on that.
But then to touch on the point of photographers being scared that they won’t be seen as an artist, I had that too once and I decided to do a little experiment because I felt like I had to, for some reason, keep it a secret from my clients that I don’t edit the photos. Because again, it’s like, “I hired you for this. I’m paying you thousands of dollars to do the work, why aren’t you doing the work?”
Those are the little bold thoughts that my mind was creating. And so I decided to do a tiny experiment at the end of one engagement session, because usually couples would be like at the end of the engagement session, I’m like, “Okay. Your photos will be ready in like two weeks,” And the guy was just like, “So what do you do now when you go home, do you go through them and then edit them?” And that’s when I was already starting to outsource my editing, I was still culling at that point, but I was already outsourcing my editing. And this feeling guilt and all the fearful thoughts came up being like, “Do I just lie? Do I just make him feel fine? Or do I just experiment and see what would happen if I was honest?”
And so I was like, “Well, I used to edit all of my work, but then I found myself working 15-hour days, I was burnt out, exhausted, had no life. So I ended up actually hiring an editor and I train them to do it exactly like I do. And so I have help there.” That’s what I said. I was waiting and waiting and waiting. He’s like, “Oh, that’s awesome. Good for you. I think that’s so smart. I’m so happy for you, that way you have more energy for us probably!” I’m like, “Yeah!”
I have so much more energy. I have so much more inspiration. I can create better photographs. I can grow as a photographer – all these things and it did not faze them one bit. And ever since that moment, I’m like, “Wow, I don’t have to actually hide that. I’m still an artist. I’m still the person who actually is documenting those photos, creating those photos, and using my intuition to connect with my clients and create those photos from that place.” That is me being an artist. No one else can replicate that. But someone else can replicate how I move the sliders in Lightroom. So I pretty much had to detach from that.
And also I found it was like a lot of ego too. It was like, “Oh, what will they think about like me as an artist? And kind of like holding onto this identity. But at the end of the day, when I’m like lying on my deathbed, am I going to want to be known as the artist who spent 15-hour days editing nonstop or am I going to actually want a bigger variety and quality in my life? Do I want to travel? Do I want to have a ton as much time as I want with my future kids? That’s what matters so much more. And then if I’m caring about what other people think, or my clients think that, “Oh, you’re not an artist if you’re not editing your photos,” then I’m like, you know what? I’m at peace. Those are not the clients for me.
I already learned how to specialize. So if I can just add on being vocal and talk about that, I mean, you don’t even have to, I’m only vocal about it because I actually teach photographers how to outsource. I want to talk about that to help change photographer’s lives. Those couples that trust me enough to do my thing, document wedding days for them and want me to have a balanced life, those are the couples for me. And I’ve honestly, after that moment, I’ve never had one couple ever come to me and say, “Oh, it’s too bad. How do you make sure that they’re edited?” All those fearful questions that I thought they would ask, none of them asked and I shoot about 30 weddings a year. So that’s about over a hundred couples that have never asked me that.
So my friends, you have nothing to fear but fear itself.
Tavia: Yes! Oh, I love that you touched on the kind of shame piece that we make it at. We feel guilty that we’re doing this and that our clients are going to find out, because I think I had stuffed that feeling down and forgotten about it. I had never felt that way until you just now brought it up. I also was the same, I didn’t want people to know that I wasn’t the one editing.
But think about yourself as a client. If I hired a photographer and they did great work and I got my images and I was thrilled and I found out they didn’t edit them, but they hired someone to edit like they do, I care 0%. All I care about is getting good photos and that’s what I got. So as long as your quality is there, you have your standard being met, all of that, then who cares? So I love that you touched on that sort of guilt piece too.
Tips on How to Increase Your Revenue with Outsourcing
Tavia: I would love to know, what are some specific things, and you might say everything, that you have outsourced that has made your business more money? Because I think that a big concern that people have when it comes to outsourcing, and we’ve kind of touched on this, is like, “Well, I just can’t afford to outsource. I’m new or maybe I’m not new, but I just don’t have the profit. I can’t afford to pay someone $50 or $100 to edit every single session or whatever you pay.” So, what do I do if I don’t have the money, is it actually going to make me money? So what have you done that has actually made you money more than it cost you?
Sara: So what I’ve done is I have traded my money that’s sitting in my bank account for more time and the extra time I have is what makes me more money. It’s so counterintuitive. I’m going to use another metaphor. You’re starting off your photography business. You have $0. You’re like, “Well, for me to actually build a photography business, I need a camera, but I’m scared. It’s thousands of dollars, right? I don’t want to lose that money.” This is where the fear-based thinking comes in: “What if I get a camera and I offer my services and no one wants to book me? No one ever, I won’t make any money.” And so if you were to follow that, you would’ve not started your photography business. And then you would’ve been probably unhappy in whatever job, maybe you would’ve found another area in your life you’re passionate about.
Basically, I like to think of it as spending money in your business for outsourcing is one of the smartest, most powerful investments you can make in your business because it will totally pay itself back over and over if you do take action afterwards in a way that you will increase your income by improving the experience you can create, improving how you market yourself, and increasing the amount of bookings you take slightly, or you increase your rates by a significant amount that then you can still shoot the same amount. So there’s just so much you can do. There’s so many options. You just have to be in action.
But the reason photographers are stuck in this glass ceiling of income of like “I’m working so hard, I’m shooting so much. And I’m still not making my dream income that I want to make or even the income I actually need for my family baseline,” is because you’re stuck in this perpetual cycle where you’re working on tasks that aren’t actually driving income or revenue to your business. So the only way to get yourself out of that cycle is to get help.
And as soon as you put those dollars down, and I know how this feels, I know how like counterintuitive it feels because I remember the first year I wanted to do this, I think it was 2015 or 2016, and that’s what that was about two years into my relationship with my husband, Rory, now. I only had 15 weddings that year and I was like overworked and burned out already. And I told him like, “I know I need to do this. I need help. I need to outsource my editing.” He’s like, “How much will it cost?” “About 300 per wedding on average.” He’s like, “Yeah, but why wouldn’t you just keep that money for us and do it yourself?” And I’m like, “Trust me, I can book so much more if I just get help here. And if I can double the amount of weddings I’m shooting,” which is I was shooting 15. So that means I could shoot 30, and at the time I think I was charging about 3500 per wedding, I could easily like double my income and more than cover the outsourcing costs. So he was like, “Okay.” He was still kind of uneasy about it, but I’m like, “Trust me.”
And then that’s what happened. I literally doubled my income the following year. So it’s because I was able to take on more work by not working as hard. And so anything that takes up the most amount of time in your business, especially editing, that’s where I started. It was the thing that took up the most time. Anything that takes up the most time you want to free up, so you can market yourself more so you can improve what you offer and all of that.
So if you’re asking me what I outsource to start making me more money: 1) it’s editing because it freed up the most time for me. So I want you all to look at it as the more time I free up for myself, the more money I make. It’s so interconnected.
I think you can see why I needed to break this down into two episodes, right? Like there was so much in that first part already. And in the second part, which will be released next week, we are digging into the eight tasks that Sara outsources to her VA. And we talk about specifically how to find a VA, what to pay them, what tasks she outsources, and how much time it has saved her. It is such a great part two.
So make sure and make a little list for yourself of things to do after this episode. Go connect with Sara. We’re going to have all of her details in the show notes, as far as where to connect with her and how to find out about some free offers that she has for you guys on this topic of outsourcing.
And my friend, if you have a passion, it is not an accident because not everyone loves the thing that you love. So whatever your passion is, I hope that you will get out there and make it happen. Have a great week!