One of the hardest things we’ve experienced first-hand is how tough it can be financially. Between significant investments into professional quality photography gear and working long hours to run the business side of things and take photos for people – it is tough stuff.
We’re not saying these things to scare you – because we enjoy every minute of it (yes: even the hard parts), and it can be extremely rewarding if done well.
Even if you are a wedding photographer already starting to get some consistent bookings on your calendar, you may notice that they tend to skew towards one or two seasons of the year.
With this in mind, we want to talk to you today about how you can survive the slow season as a wedding photographer!
What is the slow season?Based on the metrics we shared above (and our personal feelings), slow season for wedding photography runs from January to April. Wedding photographers few inquiries, and those that do get tend to be less than serious and more of the price shopping variety. The amount of work we have is also pretty low. We occasionally shoot engagement sessions and couples portraits during this timeframe, but not many weddings or bigger events.
In practice, this makes sense with what we would expect. People tend to slow down during the winter months. Days are shorter with the sun setting around 5pm. The freezing temperatures also don’t help.
While it is true that many couple’s get engaged over Christmas and New Year’s holidays, they don’t tend to be prepared to immediately make a decision on a wedding photographer. When we spoke to area wedding photographers, many indicated it took months to find someone they liked to have photograph. This helps to explain the influx of inquiries early on, but lack of bookings.
At least in photography world, this challenge of the slow season is offset by your busy season. September and October have wedding photographers working non-stop, and book about 75% of clients during this timeframe.
How You Can Survive the Slow SeasonNow that we’ve shown you how bookings look across an entire year, we want to talk about how you can survive the slow season. Through all of the challenges as a result of months of slowness on end, we’ve highlighted a few tips to help you to better manage things.
1). Book smaller sessionsWhile weddings are your bread-and-butter, smaller sessions can go a long way to keep things afloat. They are much less financially burdensome, so clients are more likely to book them. Portraits, families, engagements, and so on. These are all simple extensions of a wedding photography business that make sense when you have down time like this to work on.
2). Second shoot for other photographersIf you really want to stay in the game and shoot weddings, reach out to other photographers in your area and offer your help. If you are already an established wedding photographer (so: have your own equipment and experience), you will be much more attractive to other photographers. This is because your offering of assistance comes with a good amount of credibility, and those photographers can look through your portfolio to see what your work looks like.
Generally, second shooting gigs should pay some money too. We’ve done some research and found stastically jobs that paid between 200$ – $500 for a days worth of work.
3). Offer a discounted ratePhotographers of all niches infrequently offer discounts on their photography services. Early on in your business, it was a lot more common for you as you were just trying to get some of your first clients in the door. Now, with the number of bookings you get, they aren’t really essential for your business.
With this said, more bookings = less stress as the future is more certain.
Given the first few months of the year have a decrease in action, we find discounts to be one way to entice people to book. Take $100 or $200 off a wedding day package, and be amazed at how prospective clients will be much more compelled to book with you.
4). Save moneyThe most important piece of advice we can give you is to save money. If you save in a smart way, you can ride out the slow season on your savings will ease. In the first 2 years of our business, this was basically impossible to do. But, now that you’ve gotten past the the “investment stage” of your business – where you spent upwards of $10k on new gear and services – a lot of your earnings go right into savings so you can pay yourselves. We suggest this approach to anyone running a business!!
5). Diversify your revenue streamsOne of the mistakes of any small business is only having one way to make money.
Sometimes, photographers think they can only make money by taking pictures of people. The reality is far different!
A few ways to make money through your photography business include:
- Photographing weddings and sessions
- Selling albums, prints, and other physical goods – this can be done easily through a platform like Pixieset
- Selling your own products
- Earning commissions from affiliate marketing and advertising your own blog
6). Buff up other areas of your businessJust because you are slow doing work for paying clients, doesn’t mean you should stop working.
Running your own business involves a lot of hard work. Often, when you are slow, you should do more to market yourselves, build your following online, and streamline your workflows. A few things you should be doing include:
- Improve your client experience. There are an infinite number of ways to take action towards this. One way is to use Honeybook to automate a message with Wedding Guide to be sent out automatically once a client signs a contract with you. This is something that would occasionally take time to do (and remember to do), when it’s simple enough to have it automatically be sent. It saves time on your end, and brings immediately gratification to your clients!
- Make your workflow simpler. It’s amazing how much time is spent doing things that don’t need to be done, or that can be done in a more efficient way. Sometimes this is done to save costs (and rightfully so!). In your world, we have come across wedding photographers doing bookkeeping by hand using an Excel spreadsheet, but due to our knowledge base recently invested in Quickbooks for this. By hand, it is very time consuming. With a dedicated bookkeeping platform, it’s much simpler and saves time.
- Do more to market your business. Marketing comes in many forms. You can take a paid approach – like taking out ads on Facebook or buying business cards. Alternatively, you can do things to freely bring more exposure to your brand. One of the things we emphasize is hashtag research on Instagram. Most of wedding referrals come from this platform – and it’s incredible how much value you can get from a free social media website.
- Connect with other wedding vendors. While a lot of time the focus can be placed on attracting new clients (and rightfully so), connecting with other wedding vendors (new and old) is a great way to better your reputation and reach. Working on styled shoots together, as an example, is an easy way to create unique and engaging content and showcase your work quality to others.
- Increase your online presence. Modern day wedding photographers need an online presence. While some word of mouth referrals do happen, a lot of new clients will be looking online first and foremost to see if they can’t find a photographer they jive with. One of the best ways to do this is to create a blog and talk about things that are important to you. If you aren’t already, make an online portfolio too and showcase your best work.
- Engage with your current clients. Where it makes sense – reach out to your current clients to make sure the things you need from them are in order. For example, if you have clients booked for wedding photography that also get an engagement session, reach out to start scheduling dates in advance. Some clients may also want to start work on their wedding day photography timeline early, so the off season is a great time to do some of this more tedious work before you’re super busy!
Wedding photography is really a tough industry that can be very rewarding. It requires a lot of toughness and perseverance to make it through. If you’re really dedicated and want this to be your career, you can make it happen!