Having systems is key for Success and sanity.
It may seem crazy to think that you could shoot 40 weddings a year and actually be caught up on all of them, but Brian and Katrina believe in systems to get the job done. They also want their couples to feel fully supported from the start and continue to build their relationships throughout the process.
In order to shoot 40 weddings, they've divided tasks, outsourced and continued to fine tune all of their processes. They also have two days per week dedicated to their own family which helps keep their sanity in tact. Which benefits everyone involved.
Starting out, Brian worked another job for the first 7 years and the last 3 he’s been full time with photography. He was burned out at all ends - work, family, photography. They both worked in the school systems, so having summers off allowed them to pursue their wedding photography. Their income has increased dramatically once they focused solely on their business. Brian now shoots 90% of the weddings solo while Katrina handles all the behind-the-scenes tasks.
Getting to 40 Weddings a Year
2013, best of The Knot. Also rebranding and investing in the business. Hiring a designer - new logo and website. Brand yourself alongside The Knot, advertising on the front page - booked a wedding within the first 24hrs that covered the cost of the ad. Building up reviews on The Knot. 118 5-star reviews now. Seeing the awards on your profile year after year builds trust with your brides.
Word of mouth from past clients and relationship building with other vendors and photographers has been key for building their businesses. We have met them and we can definitely say they are all about relationships. Averaged 1 inquiry per day / 370 last year.
They believe that marriage is a big deal and they love rooting on their couples. Brian and Katrina know that marriage can be hard but after 10 years, they still think it’s pretty awesome.
That Sweet Number
Averaging 1 inquiry per day, are they looking to shoot less and increase their prices? Last year all of their 40 weddings were occurred May - November. This year they have 41 spread between Jan-Dec. They continue to fine tune their calendar every year. Their rule now is only 6 weddings per month. As their kids grow, they would love to take on less weddings, but it is a year-by-year adjustment. Sell more albums on the backend. Not about how much they charge, but how much they can make. They are looking for ways to get more creative with what they can offer couples and corporate clients.
They do plan around Katrina’s and their kids’ birthdays, as well as their anniversary in July. But they do look to see how things are booked out and then plan trips around that.
Logistics and Outsourcing
Currently 27 weddings complete this year and they are completely caught up. Thursdays are full work days as they have a nanny for the kids. Katrina’s main goal is managing emails through Shootflow, blog posts around their shoots and their calendars for meetings and shoots. Tuesday & Thursday are for engagement shoots and the other nights are for their family. Katrina is good with the details to make sure they don’t over book on the weekends and stick to 6 weddings per month.
Editing is all outsourced, but Brian does cull his weddings. They use Evolve Edits in Chicago and Pass with Pass Plus. It doesn’t feel like a lot of weddings to them because of the systems and shared tasks they have in their business. They established these systems out of necessity when they were working other jobs. They believe every client and session deserves their full attention and they can do this because of their systems.
Maintaining Their Sanity
Brian and Katrina choose to have a Sabbath day of rest and family on Sunday. This is super healthy for their family life and allows them to be fully present with their kids. They turn off all notifications on Sunday, even though they get many inquiries on Sundays, but they believe God will take care of them. They also choose another weekday when their oldest is out of school and have that as a family day as well. If they’re healthy, then they can be there fully for their clients. Having Shootflow and Sabbath days have helped keep their sanity.
If a client asks for a second shooter, Katrina may step in and she loves it, but with 3 kids in this season, she is stepping back. Unless it is in the Dominican Republic, Katrina is all in. If a wedding is pushing 220 or more, Brian has 4 associates he will work with. Sometimes, though, too many cameras can ruin the intimacy of the day.
Advice for You
You have to decide if you’re going to be in it for the long haul or not. You have to want it.
It’s going to take time. It takes time, effort, knowing your market, and finding your sweet spot.
Brand yourself really well and knowing who is a good fit for you.
If you’re a side business, poor everything back into your business as you can.
Develop systems that are consistent. Under promise and over deliver. Think about everything - from initial contact to post-post-production
Inley - for invoicing