Should You Become a VIP – Pt 3
Part 3. Why you should become a V.I.P. (Volume Imaging Professional)
Here is the final installment of this article which continues to make a very compelling case for adding Volume Photography promotions to your business marketing mix.
Your studio is mobile. You can take it to your client’s location to improve convenience to them and make new customers available to you. Because of the specialized nature of volume photography operations, there are far fewer “local” photographers in a given area that provide these services. This means that many communities have to resort to hiring photographers from outside their local area to do the work. That’s where you come in. The fact is that being local is not a necessary prerequisite to get many types of high volume photography promotions. You can provide a service they might not be able to get anywhere locally.
“Scalability” is another advantage of doing high volume photography. Once you develop the techniques to handle the business, these types of programs can allow you to grow very big, very fast; if you are inclined to do so. Once you have momentum as the go-to photographer for these types of programs in your region, the opportunities may develop faster than your ability to manage these as a small 1-2 person operation. This may necessitate looking at an additional staff member or two (or three) to assist as your business grows. This might seem frightening for you at first, but the growth of your business and the accompanying increase in your personal finances and improved lifestyle will make it all worth it.
Build a better database. If you already have a portrait and wedding business, volume photography can help you build an unbelievable database for your more traditional client profile; families and children, high school seniors, and more. Perhaps you currently have difficulty coming up with prospective client names, phone numbers, and email addresses to use for your studio marketing. With every event photography program you do, you will have clients voluntarily giving up this information up to you which can be used to in enhance your year round studio database. You just have to be sure to include those data requests on all of your printed and online forms.
Build support staff so you don’t have to do it all, yourself. Volume photography may also help you with your long-term staff retention, recruiting and skill development. Many traditional photographers have hired part-time help or “second shooters” in the past to assist them. In some cases they have provided much education and mentoring to these people along the way; only to lose them as workers when they cannot provide enough work to keep gainfully employed. Worse yet, some of these people may become competitors of yours when they leave because you can’t keep them busy.
You can help mitigate your risk by keeping these part-time employees or contractors busy year round with volume photography promotions. Even if you cannot develop a business to keep someone busy full-time, year-round, often having a permanent part-time position will do the trick and keep them loyal to you. And of course, providing them with additional skills and experience makes them more valuable to you in the long run as they can be cultivated to do the types of assignments you normally wouldn’t want to do yourself. You’ll find that having a core of good people to work with will go a long way in making the business of photography fun again.
End your business seasonality. Financially, there is no doubt that volume photography promotions can play a significant role in your income picture. Look at the cyclical nature of the business that most photographers experience today. You might be very busy during the peak wedding months, the key senior portrait months, or the holiday rush at the end of the year, but see very little business at other times of the year. This typically means that you must save as much money as you can during the busy time of the year to sustain you during the slow periods.
Now, consider what a difference it would make if you could do either of the following. A) you fill in the gaps in your marketing plan with profitable high volume promotions, or B) you book these promotions at the same time as your traditional promotions utilizing additional part-time help as needed. In the first scenario, the cash flow from these new programs might mean that you did not have to tap into the profit of your seasonal promotions just to survive. You could use it to improve the quality of your lifestyle without as much worry about where your next “paycheck” will come from.
In the second scenario, booking additional business at the same time you might already be busy with seasonal promotions can have a dramatic multiplier effect on your income. For example, look at your Studios schedule for the months of September and October. Most seniors or families to be photographed will not be able to come in for sessions in the early morning or early afternoon. This time might be unproductive to you. However, consider that if you were to book a program with a local elementary school, or a local preschool which are normally photographed in the early morning hours, there is not only no conflict with your regular schedule, it’s a big revenue opportunity to supplement your other studio business photographer later in the day.
Even if you chose to hire a part-time photographer/contractor to do the additional work under your supervision, you’ll likely have a much higher financial outcome than relying on your current studio business alone. At the same time, you can be cultivating the additional help / staff you’ll need later to help your business grow exponentially.
Finally, expanding in high volume photography can help you secure your retirement. Many photographers are under the mistaken impression that if they build a successful studio business they will be able to sell that business at the time they are ready to retire; providing the additional funds needed for retirement. They might plan to sell it outright, or on a contract sale to family or a current Staff member who can’t afford a cash sale.
In reality, this seldom works out because either the studio does not provide a high enough bottom-line profit to interest or sustain a buyer, or the business value will be discounted by the potential buyer because the studio brand is too closely associated to the name of the original owner. For example, “Photography by Smith”could be a good name for a photographer named “Smith,” but there is no guarantee that the reputation of the “Smith” brand will transfer to a new owner named “Rogers.” Any prudent buyer doing their due diligence prior to purchase will probably recognize this and negotiate a reduced value on the business of accordingly. This is likely to diminish the net proceeds of the business sale you need for retirement.
Now, look at how the outlook could change when your studio also offers a component of high-volume business, especially when that business is operated under an alternate brand not directly associated with a family name. While your traditional wedding and portrait studio business can be operated under the “Photography by Smith” brand, your high volume division can be established and operated under a more generic and re-sellable name such as “Tri-City Photography.” A would-be buyer would be more interested in, and be likely more willing to pay a higher price for a business without as much fear of business attrition upon purchase.
Consider too that many types of high-volume business provide an opportunity to contract for repeat promotions over multiple years. For example, it’s very common for a school or sports portrait contracts to be written for a 2-3 year period. A would-be buyer with consider this a premium asset of your business, a “guarantee” so to speak of future business, and you will likely get a premium price for your Studio because of this.
Finally, having a large number of high-volume photography accounts to buy from you will be particularly attractive to larger local, regional or national competitors with the cash reserves to purchase your business quickly and at the best price. Most of the large companies find it more cost-effective to purchase a block of business from an independent photographer than to build additional business from the ground floor up. Your business could be worth much more to them than to anyone else with lesser financial means.
Yes, having a solid core of high-volume business will undoubtedly affect the retail price of your business to help fund your retirement. We will address strategies to value and sell your business in a later installment on this site.