Work-Life Balance and Handling Company Growth

It’s hard (especially when first starting a real estate photography business) to not devote 100% of your time to your business. But as you grow and become successful, you may need to look at what direction you want to take your business. Your happiness is important, and for some people that means growing their business into the biggest entity possible. For others, they realize they don’t have to create a huge business to be happy.

Entrepreneur’s Startups

I went to Barnes & Noble this weekend to pick up copies of D Home and Southern Lady. Both magazines have articles that feature my photos. I started looking in the Business section and picked up Entrepreneur’s Startup, a magazine catering to the startup business owner that can relate directly back to us real estate photographers. Inside is a very interesting article on company growth and they showcase how staying small can improve your bottom line and your state of mind.

Why Stay Small?

It’s easy to think that growing your business to do more photo shoots and service more clients will bring in more money. However there are hidden outcomes of growth that might make the additional revenue not worth it. Of course every business owner has their own version of success, so these reasons of staying small may or may not resonate with you.

    We are entrepreneurs. We are small business owners who have a vision of what our company should do. We know how we want to treat our clients and we know how we want our brand to be perceived to real estate agents in our market. Growth can limit how much passion we are able to transfer to our clients through our company if we start to remove ourselves from our normal operations.
    Although for our industry it may not seem like it would cost more money to grow our businesses, there are probably hidden costs that we don’t think about. In some businesses in order to grow, they may have to purchase new machinery, facilities, etc. For us, we can hire additional photographers and require they have their own equipment so the direct cost may not be that great. However there will be more expenses relating to a bigger company as we have to manage our photographers.
    Although the article doesn’t state it, I think expansion could be expensive if we are unable to keep up with the additional work. If our customer service diminishes, it could be very expensive if we lose clients and don’t have enough work to keep everyone busy!
    This one resonated with me the most. When you grow, your responsibilities will shift from being in the trenches and doing what you love, to handling administrative tasks, managing employees, etc. One of the main reasons I don’t want to grow is I don’t want to have to manage employees! I personally enjoy shooting/editing, and don’t want to wrap myself up in finances and other aspects of the business. Staying small allows me to keep those tasks to a minimum and continue to be involved with the things that drove me to start the business in the first place.
    When you grow your business, you start to limit how easy it is to control your schedule. One of the reasons why I don’t allow clients to book shoots in an online scheduling system is I want to remain in control of my schedule, 100%. It’s a huge benefit as I can get errands done or work on other parts of my business when needed. It’s much easier staying on top of your schedule if you stay small.
    Do you really want to try and find someone to hire? Do you really want to then manage said hire? The article states a deterrent for growth by a lot of small-business owners is the lack of interest in hiring and managing. To grow the business and get bigger, hiring more employees will create more work for the business owner. The increase in profits may not justify the increased work load. I fall along the lines of having psychological issues with hiring employees. I would either have trust issues, or more likely I just don’t want to feel responsible for somebody else’s livelihood.
    The article states that growing too fast can lead to a business going under from running out of cash. I don’t think this really applies to real estate photography because there isn’t much cost associated with bringing in new hires. Most likely the new hire would be required to have their own equipment so you would only be responsible for training time.
    Again I don’t think this would relate to real estate photography – or at least not at the beginning stages. The article points out regulation like the Affordable Care Act, Family and Medical Leave Act and Americans with Disabilities Act. Depending on how many people you hire, you would be required to meet the requirements of these state and federal regulations. With the Affordable Care Act and Family and Medical Leave Act, the regulations don’t hit you until you have more than 50 full-time workers. That’s a heck of a lot of photographers – and if you were running a business multi-state you could make sure the photographers are only working part-time perhaps.

My Thoughts

I wanted to write this post because I think it’s important to understand that you don’t have to be a massive real estate photography company to be successful. You may be like me and want to stay small and not worry about hiring help. You’ll be able to control your schedule better to suit your needs and work only when you want to. You also won’t have to worry about making sure the business is constantly busy, to make sure you have work for those that you hire.

On the flip side, it’s perfectly acceptable to build and grow a real estate photography business by expanding and adding employees! This is by no means an article stating you shouldn’t – but rather if you don’t want to, don’t feel like you have to. There are many routes to success and it’s important you follow the route that makes you happiest.

Your Thoughts

Have you hired help? If so, what positions have you filled and how do they help your company?

Want to share? Have at it!

1 thought on “Work-Life Balance and Handling Company Growth”

  1. Great read, Lance. Thanks for sharing.

    I think about this very topic all the time. I’ve been doing photography full-time for almost a year, with most of my business being real estate photography. When business is good and my days are packed with shoots, it can be tough finding the time to spend in post. As a result, I’ve thought about the possibility of outsourcing the post-production side of things, but even that’s a hard pill to swallow. Why? Because the post-processing part of what I do is just as important as being behind the camera. Some might argue that color correction, straightening verticals, etc. is something that could easily be handed-off to someone else, but I’m more comfortable managing that part of the process myself. Every shoot is different, and I want to be able to make edits where and when I feel they need to be made. And leaving that up to someone else means that it’s their eye or artistic direction that’s being applied, and not mine.

    There are times when I could certainly benefit from having an assistant while on-site, and that might be the first place I decide to add manpower at some point down the road. But again, I’m with you on wanting to stay small and nimble.

    I’ve also considered taking my laptop with me during the day, so that if I have some extra time between shoots, I can set-up shop somewhere and get a head-start on the jobs that have already been shot.

    I’m a family man, with a wife and four kids, so when I get home from a long day of shooting, I have other responsibilities that come into play. I can’t just dive right in to editing, and that means doing some work late at night after the kids are asleep and I have some time to myself. But it’s easy to let that get out of control, and I think that’s where time management and also setting client expectations comes into play.

    Anyway, thanks again for the post…as well as your great tutorials on workflow…it all helps!!


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