Guest Tip • How, Why and When to Outsource

Bryan Caporicci is an award-winning wedding and portrait photographer, and the founder of Sprouting Photographer, an awesome educational website and podcast dedicated to actionable “how-to” education for photographers. This week he shares his advice on outsourcing for photographers including how, why and when. All photos © Bryan Caporicci

Your time is valuable.

As a photographer and business owner, you wear many hats.

Deciding which hat to wear, when, and for how long, is challenging. It’s a constant balancing act without any way of measuring what’s working and what’s not. There aren’t any real hard-and-fast rules for which hat to put on and when.

There’s an art and science to this balancing act. Thankfully, there are solutions to help you along your pursuit of balance. An obvious one may be the act of outsourcing some of the things you do, giving you fewer hats to wear.

Let’s not take outsourcing for it’s face value though. As I do in all my educational pieces, let’s dig a bit deeper into the meat and potatoes.

I define outsourcing as such:

The act of handing off a specific task, with the intent of freeing you up to do another task that is a better use of your time and talent.

You may have assumed outsourcing to mean “hiring another company,” and it is one variation of it. I believe there are other ways to look at outsourcing though.

In fact, I believe there are four variations of outsourcing:

1. Outsourcing to a company to do a specific task for you.
2. Sub-contracting another company or individual to do some specific set of tasks for you.
3. Hiring an employee to take on a group of tasks for you.
4. Studying a skill set and mastering it in a way that you become efficient at doing it yourself.

Let’s look at the assumed definition of outsourcing, which is option #1 above. It’s a great thing, but I’d like to suggest some boundaries around it.

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Boundaries for Outsourcing

1. Don’t outsource to be lazy. Pick up your socks, roll up your sleeves and prepare to get dirty. Running a photography business is hard work and you must put in the time if you want to be successful. Using outsourcing as the “easy way out” is a dangerous mindset to adapt.

2. Outsourcing is only worthwhile if you can make good use of the time you saved by outsourcing.

3. Outsource only when it costs you more (in your time) than you spend in outsourcing. Assign a value on your time and be aware of that. For example, if it takes you 4 hours to do something that would cost you $20 to outsource, then that’s a good case for outsourcing.

4. Don’t outsource to be ignorant or because you don’t want to learn how to something. I believe you should first learn a task before you outsource it. This way, you’re educated and can make an intelligent decision on it.

5. Outsourcing is not a “quick win,” nor will it give you the best short-term payoff. Outsourcing often has startup costs in the form of time invested, infrastructure, set-up, establishing a routine, a learning curve, and so on. Choose outsourcing as a long-term solution, not as a “quick fix” when you’re in a tight spot.

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Define Your Outsourcing Plan

First – look for ways to become more productive.

Don’t automatically assume that outsourcing is always the best way to go about something. Sometimes it could be, but often times it is not. Maybe you need to brush up on your skill set, learn a new technique or find a new way of doing something.

Take album design for example. You might automatically assume that outsourcing your album design is the best option, and for some it is. But that may not always be the case. If you take some time to become proficient with your album design and you use a tool that makes the work easier (hint: Fundy Software), then you can easily become exceptional at album design yourself. If you could design an album in 15 minutes yourself, is it really worth outsourcing? Maybe you decide it still is (and if that’s the case, then do it), but at least you’ve taken the time to master the skill first and are making an educated decision.

Second – look for a company that specializes in the task you’re looking to have outsourced.

If your time isn’t worth doing the task, then find someone (or some company) who excels at that particular task. We are so fortunate to be in an industry where there is so much help in so many different areas.

Take colour correction for example. You might master colour correction yourself, and then decide it’s not worth your time to do yourself. If that’s the case, then look at some of the companies in our industry who specialize in colour correction, like ShootDotEdit. If you decide that you’re not the master at a task, then trust someone who is the master at that task.

Third – consider hiring internally.

After you’ve had some experience outsourcing a task, have done it for long enough and are at a point where you have a group of tasks that could potentially be done internally, consider hiring an employee. Keep in mind that this is only worthwhile when you have enough work to keep an employee constantly working on tasks. If not, then your time and money would have been better spent in outsourcing.

Take studio management for example. If you are busy enough to need a receptionist who can handle bookings, scheduling, deliveries, packaging, emails and phone calls, then that might be a good reason to hire an employee.

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Success By Design

As you can see, outsourcing isn’t just what you may have thought it was. Be smart about it, and really consider all the options. Be intentional about the decisions you make in your business, and success is sure to follow.

SproutingPhotographer.com is my home-base for educational articles about the business of photography. As I often say there, and on my podcast – success doesn’t happen on accident. It is designed. You can achieve success and sustainability as a photographer by having a clear vision, taking action and being intentional in all that you do.