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Beautiful leaves, a slight chill in the air, football games, and pumpkin patches—this means the arrival of fall for most people. 

For photographers, there’s a deeper meaning: it’s time for the busy season! Fall brings more sessions, tons of editing, and sometimes sheer chaos. If you let the fall season get the best of you, it can be incredibly stressful and challenging.

With some reflection, planning, and healthy boundaries, you can ensure your fall season is successful. Try these tips to have a productive AND profitable fall season without feeling overworked and overwhelmed!

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Tip #1Define What Success Means to You

Before you can prepare for a successful season, you must define what success looks like for you. Start by writing out your top goal(s) for a “successful fall season.” Try to limit your goals to no more than 2-3.  Remember, we’re trying to avoid being overwhelmed. 

Here are a few examples to spark inspiration:
  • Book five new clients.
  • Fill your schedule with all repeat clients.
  • Take weekends off and only shoot weekdays (or vice versa).
  • Find time to enjoy the five fall events that you love the most.
  • Spend evenings with a friend or family because you’re not too overwhelmed/tired from work.
  • Earn X amount of money from your business.
  • Make X percent profit on your work. 
  • Book X number of photoshoots.

When you know what success means to you, you can plan the steps you’ll need to achieve your vision. When you start to feel overwhelmed, look at your key goals and prioritize them. Regardless of your definition of success, the following tips can help put you on the path to an excellent fall season.

Tip #2Make Sure Your Prices Are Profitable

Person playing with a calculator

If you haven’t crunched the numbers yet, take the time to calculate:

  • Number of hours spent per photoshoot
  • Cost of doing business

Remember that the actual time you spend on a photoshoot is much more than just the session itself. 

  • Account for client consultations
  • Concepting and planning 
  • Travel
  • DO NOT FORGET - Post-production
  • Calculate all your business-related expenses, including replacing and upgrading equipment and purchasing materials like memory cards, camera batteries, gear and props, Website costs,  software expenses, insurance costs, and any training and education expenses.

Once you’ve accurately calculated your time and expenses, you’ll have a better idea of what your services are worth. You will also understand precisely how much you need to charge to stay in business, and most importantly,  turn a profit.

Photographers commonly underestimate both time and expenses - ultimately underpricing themselves. If you want to raise your prices but are afraid to take the leap, do it! You don’t have to wait until the new year to increase your rates. Winter is often a slower season in the industry, so it’s not the best time to make a significant change in pricing. 

Raising prices during your busiest season means that even if a few clients decide to jump ship, you’ll have plenty of other clients to make up for the loss. So the best time to set profitable prices for your photography business is now

Tip #3Tune-Up Your Gear

Do you take your car in for regular maintenance or a tune-up before a long drive? Just like your car, your camera gear and computer need check-ups and TLC to stay in top working condition.

  • Get a tune-up and cleaning for your camera, and ideally your backup camera too. 
  • Throw away any memory cards that have been giving you trouble. 
  • Make sure you have good memory cards, as well as backup memory cards. Your camera likely has two card slots—use them! 
  • Check that your computer software is updated, and don’t forget to backup your files.
  •  If you don’t have a good system for keeping your photos and files organized, create one that works for you. Staying organized can save you a lot of time and energy.

Tip #4Set Boundaries

Another way to protect your time and energy is to set boundaries around your work. How do you do this?

  • Decide what type of photoshoots you will and won’t take on. It’s okay to say no sometimes!. If a flat-out “no” is still hard for you, take the extra step of finding a photographer buddy who’s willing to take on the job.
  • Set boundaries around when clients can contact you. Work-life balance is essential, so make your business hours clear to your clients.
  • Stick to your boundaries! 
  • Don’t answer messages at 10 p.m., or your clients will expect you to be available 24/7. If you’re tempted to constantly check email, try the Snooze feature on Gmail.  
  • When you’re on vacation, set up an autoresponder letting clients know when you’ll return. Every business has set hours—you don’t have to immediately respond to your clients at all hours of the day and night.

Tip #5Set Realistic Expectations for Clients

In your initial conversation with clients, let them know a realistic turnaround time. Give yourself some wiggle room so you don’t have to work excessively long hours or feel rushed. (After all, these are the main ingredients of burnout!) For example, if your normal turnaround time is a week, tell the clients 2-3 weeks during the busy season. 

On the day of the shoot, reiterate the date your clients can expect to receive their photos. After the shoot, send a thank you email that includes the date they’ll receive the images.

Setting clear, consistent expectations upfront helps you avoid impatient or dissatisfied clients. It also cuts down on the number of follow-up calls or emails you’ll receive asking when the images will be ready. 

And if you happen to finish the project sooner, great! Your clients will be thrilled to receive their photos faster than expected.

Tip #6Make Time for Yourself

Not making time for yourself is bad for your overall well-being, and it’s bad for your work too. Isn’t your craft better when you feel better? Aren’t you more inspired and creative when you’re actually enjoying what you do? If you get completely slammed with photoshoots and forget about time for friends, family, relaxation, and hobbies, you and your craft suffer. Worst of all, it’ll start feeling like just work instead of fun work.

As you start filling in your calendar for the fall season, prioritize your personal schedule and can’t-miss events. If you’re planning a vacation, block it off before you start booking sessions. Do you have any favorite fall events? Add them to your calendar. Then begin booking sessions accordingly.

Tip #7Determine Your Backup 

What happens if you get sick or have a personal emergency? Do you have a plan for if you’re out of commission for a week or two?

Ideally, you’ll have a backup photographer who can help you. If not, start compiling a list of photographers you would recommend in case of emergency.

Tip #8Outsource Some Tasks

Often, it’s not the actual sessions that get photographers backlogged and burnt out. It’s the other tasks—the editing, marketing, accounting, etc. Consider outsourcing some of these tasks just for the fall season. You can keep your head above water and focus on the parts of the job that you enjoy the most. 

If outsourcing photography tasks doesn’t work for you, consider outsourcing household tasks. Get help with cleaning, laundry, cooking, or grocery deliveries. Hire a babysitter for a few hours during the day to give you a little extra time to focus on editing. 

And if you’re still not sold on outsourcing, plan ahead with your household tasks. Create a meal plan or fill your freezer with meals you can heat and eat. Choose one day a week to make a big grocery trip and fold your laundry. Anything you can do to make your home run more smoothly will make your work life less stressful too.

Tip #9Automate

Automation is another time-saver to implement this fall. Do you ever get bogged down in doing the same small tasks over and over? Brainstorm ways to streamline your processes.

For example, consider using an automatic booking system, even if it’s just for the fall. Write email templates to confirm a shoot, send a thank you, and respond to your most frequently asked questions. You can also block off chunks of time for specific tasks, instead of constantly switching gears. For example, schedule your social media posts for the week in one sitting. Order all your prints at once. Write a few blog posts over the weekend, then gradually post them over the next several weeks.

Final Thoughts

Baby in a fall theme mini-session

As another busy fall season begins, remember to stay focused on your personal goals and your definition of success. It’s easy to see all the available dollar signs and overfill your calendar. Or maybe you fear disappointing clients or letting potential opportunities go by. 

If you try to do everything, you won’t do any of it especially well. And you’ll feel overworked, overwhelmed, stressed, and burnt out. Do some advance preparation and planning, create time for your personal life, and make sure your prices are profitable. Set boundaries, say no when you need to, and save yourself time with outsourcing and automation.

You can have a profitable, successful fall season without stretching yourself too thin. So, enjoy the extra income that comes your way—but make a little time to enjoy a pumpkin patch, a football game, and that beautiful fall foliage too.

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