by Christian Scully
As a small business owner, I understand the difficulties that come with trying to establish your own company. There are so many things to do, so many aspects of the operation to manage and endless costs to cover. You need to market your product or service in order to earn new business, but you need to afford the costs of marketing. It’s the old dilemma of “what came first?”
It takes time and continued effort to devise a marketing strategy that works best for your particular business. We are constantly trying new things, testing campaigns, and evaluating what will cause the phone to ring and your website to flood with traffic. As business slowly starts to roll in, you might have an opportunity to bid on a project. This is one of the most difficult parts of business that I have encountered, and I don’t feel alone in the experience. How you price will impact every other part of your business.
Know Your Costs
So how do you price your product or service? Do you compete on price? Do you compete on quality alone? What you charge says a lot about your business. I can speak personally to the creative industry, one that is packed with everyone from well-established industry veterans to high school hobbyists. As a professional that tries to represent a trade with respect and pride, I don’t want to just offer the lowest price to win a job. I want to offer a thoughtful price that covers my operational costs, my desired profit and one that is fair for the value of my service.
Plan Ahead Marketing
Marketing is an operational cost often overlooked, or neglected until a need arises. If you plan for marketing costs from the beginning, you will be able to afford it when the time comes. I often speak with potential clients that need professional photographs of a completed design project, but they don't really have a budget for it. Planning ahead for marketing is the solution. The budget for professional photography can be established before the need arises. If an interior designer considers the cost of photography when estimating a project, that operational cost can be built in to the designer's fees. Then when the project is completed, funds are already set aside for professional photography.
I highly suggest to anybody looking to hire a photographer, or build a new website, or start a pay-per-click campaign, that you plan for it from the start. If not, then you are forced to pay out-of-pocket, and you reduce your profits. Cover your costs of doing business from the time of estimating and pricing, and you’ll never have to worry about affording your marketing again.
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by Christian Scully
Whether I am on a shoot, in a meeting or portfolio showing, at a design show or making cold calls to potential clients, I try and always find out if a designer has worked with a professional photographer in the past, and if so, what went wrong. As I meet more and more talented designers letting their projects go un-photographed, I find I receive the same answers. Here are the top 5 reasons I have been given for not hiring a professional architectural or interiors photographer, and my response to how Design Imaging Studios can help:
1. "The cost of professional photography is just too high."
It's not surprising that this is the number one reason designers don't hire a professional photographer. And I completely understand why. The way most professional commercial photographers price their service makes it very difficult for a small design firm to take advantage of that resource. Let's face it, most interior designers are not working with million dollar budgets. So how can a one or two person firm afford to spend $1500 or more up front every time they finish a project? Most projects might only be a one room remodel, not an entire home. But if a project does not get photographed, a designer might miss out on so much more in potential business that those images could have attracted. Now that $1500 doesn't seem so high, but it doesn't change the fact that it is difficult to afford in the short term.
At Design Imaging Studios, we are changing the way interior designers are able to pay for and invest in professional interior photography, by seeking to grow a designer's portfolio over a career, not just photograph one project. We create custom packages that make our photography affordable in the short term, not just the long term, and give designers the freedom to schedule a shoot when they need it, without the pressure of cost distracting them from the long term benefits of professional photography.
2. "I don't have the energy to make sure the photographer capture's my designs correctly."
Negotiating the cost and parameters of shoot, scheduling between the homeowner and photographer, purchasing accessories, and then the shoot itself... Professional interior photography can be a lot of work. The more effort you put in, the better the resulting images are. But you shouldn't have to worry about choosing which angle of a kitchen works best for the camera. You shouldn't have to worry about making sure there is no glare on the counter you spent months searching for and having shipped in from Italy. You shouldn't be thinking about how the paint colors are going to translate on a computer screen. I have heard countless stories about designers hiring a photographer, then also being responsible for making sure the right photo is taken, just to be disappointed by the poor results.
There are definitely certain types of people that aren't able to work together. Some personalities just don't mix. Your relationship with a photographer should be one of positive collaboration. But a photographer should not be hired just to press the camera shutter. You should be hiring a photographer for their talent, for their creative eye for composition, for their ability to display colors accurately. I want a designer to make a space that they are proud of and excited about. Then I take that space and translate it into a photograph that I feel will capture the attention of viewers and potential customers. Both the designer and I have skills and creative vision, and together we can create something wonderful. It takes team work.
3. "Professional photography takes too long, I simply don't have the time."
This one I have some difficulty understanding. I photograph interior projects that have taken anywhere from two months to two years to design and build. That is two months or more of time and energy, effort and care, pressure and production. We can then photograph it in one day...
I understand that we live in a very fast paced society, and things are constantly moving. But if you don't take one day out of your schedule to document the last two months of your hard work, you have nothing to show for it, and you miss out of the opportunity to show that off to the world. You won't get business from impressive images on your website or marketing materials. You won't be published in any quality magazine. Now all you are relying on for marketing is word-of-mouth, customer referrals. Don't get me wrong, that is very important. But there is so much more you can do! The potential is so great! If you just take one day...
4. "I don't need to. I have a friend or family member that enjoys taking pictures."
Well this post is not going to be about hiring a professional over an amateur, we'll save that discussion for another time. But the bottom line is you are a talented professional running a business with your heart and soul. You might have one chance to get into a home after you complete a project. Do you want someone who has experience, talent, knows what to do and will create the best possible images of your work? Or do you want your friend or family member just to take a few snapshots and go out for lunch after. What do you you want to achieve with the images, what are your goals? Make the best decision for your business.
5. "I haven't hired a photographer in the past, why start now?"
You might have been working 10 years, 15 years, even 20 years or more and never have professionally photographed a project. So why do you need to do it now? I believe growth is important in business, learning new things, adapting to change and a more competitive industry and finding ways to stay current. Try photographing one of your newest favorite projects and see how much you love showing those images off. Then look back at your years of completed work, and the quick snapshots you took of them. It's never too late to make a change, especially when it can become such an asset to your business.
To learn more about how Design Imaging Studios can help grow your interior design business, and make professional photography a more affordable investment, send us an email or give us a call.
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