I’m making money as a wedding photographer, but I’d prefer to do more portrait work. What should I do?

QUESTION

I am a professional photographer and the mother of two young children. I started my business about two years ago, in large part, because it gave me the ability to earn money while still being home with my kids most weekdays. I feel lucky to have built my business mostly through word-of-mouth recommendations, and my favorite projects are portraits – families, newborns, engagement and senior pictures. The problem, though, is that most of my new client inquiries are for wedding photography.

Don’t get me wrong – I love weddings, and I know what an honor it is to be asked to photograph the biggest day in many people’s lives. But, from a business standpoint, weddings are not my favorite. There’s a lot of pressure to capture all of the moments perfectly, and both the shooting and the editing (Oh God, the editing!) are VERY time consuming. I charge by the hour, and I’d rather do eight one-hour portrait shoots, than one eight-hour wedding day. Unfortunately, that’s not what my clients seem to be after right now.

Any ideas on how I could get more of the business I want? OR – do you think I should just suck it up and be grateful for the work I’ve got?

Sincerely,
NOT SMILING FOR THE CAMERA

ANSWER

Dear Not Smiling,

I wish I had a magic answer for you where I could simply tell you exactly what to do to get the perfect customer, at the perfect price, doing the work you love the most. But, I don’t. Instead I have a few thoughts that will hopefully guide you in the direction of your answers, and ultimately, your biz-owning dreams.

DON’T BUILD SOMETHING YOU’RE GOING TO HATE
I always tell my clients this, and it is HUGELY important to your health and success as a business owner. After all, you’re the one that has to steer this ship, so it had better be one you want to be on. If the thought of doing ANY weddings EVER makes you want to puke, then don’t do weddings! Pour your heart and soul in branding yourself as THE go-to portrait person, and say ‘I don’t to weddings.’

REFER BACK TO YOUR ‘WHY’ AND YOUR VISION FOR THE BUSINESS

In a previous post, I discusses the importance of knowing WHY you want to be a business owner. It sounds like you wanted to be able to bring in some income while having the flexibility to be a mom at the same time. If that is true, then it might turn out that doing one wedding per month, along with editing, will ultimately be less time consuming than drumming up lots of smaller portrait jobs that would take more time away from your family.


REMEMBER YOUR BOTTOM LINE
Your business-owning experience is not all about the bottom line — but it has to be at least a little about the bottom line. Otherwise we just have an expensive hobby on our hands. Again, while it might be your most dreaded job of the month — or even every other month — you might feel differently when you crunch the numbers and realize that this one job will cover all your business expenses for the rest of the month.

Sit down and crunch the numbers to really know what portion of your revenue is made up by weddings, and that might change how you feel about loving or leaving this portion of your business. Only eight percent of your annual revenue? You can probably make that up by going full on portraits. Forty-eight percent of your annual revenue? You might decide that you don’t hate weddings as much as you thought you did once you have all the information in front of you. And don’t forget to charge extra for the extra pressure of the big day — there is a reason that weddings are so much more expensive than just an hourly portrait studio…

At the end of the day, it is your business! You can do what you want! But that also means you will be the one to deal with the consequences – both financial and mental – of the decisions that you make.

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