As a freelancer, small entrepreneur or founder, you’re first and foremost one thing: responsible for everything in your own shop. Both for the executive assignments as well as the “internship tasks” which range from topics you know inside out, to others that you have to make yourself do by sheer force of will. After all, who else is there to do it? There’s not much money, so any external help is considered at least twelve times with the nagging thought “is it really something I can’t do myself?” In the beginning, this is completely logical but when does the time come when you have to learn to delegate so that you can continue to grow? In order to fully concentrate on your core business? How do you know what you should outsource and what you should do?
Know how to prioritize
Someone well-versed in this is Alina. In addition to her work at Jimdo, she is a successful wedding photographer in Germany and around the world. It’s especially busy during the wedding season from April to October—there are photos to be processed along with preliminary discussions for the upcoming year and so on. Sounds exhausting, especially if you have to do everything yourself.
As a workaholic, Alina would love to do everything herself. She loves her work and is always full of passion and giving it her all—whether at Jimdo or in wedding photography. But one thing was clear from the start: in order to give her customers the full energy and passion for which they book her (apart from the great photos), she always strives to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Not as easy as it sounds for a freelancer. Alina’s advice is, therefore: “Learn to prioritize, give things away, and automate what you can.” This makes self-employed life a lot easier. These are Alina’s tips:
When should you reconsider your priorities?
A warning signal that should make you reorganize your workflows and priorities is, if you’re not seeing your partner or friends and if you feel you no longer have time for yourself. When it comes to your health and you feel drained, lacking in energy, or struggling to maintain your creativity, then you know that you have to set your own limits once again and stick to them!
You should also reconsider your priorities when you don’t have enough time to do your “main job” anymore, so in my case to take photos, because I’m too busy with other things. Then you should ask yourself: can others do these extra tasks better than me?
How can you do this?
My tip: Even as someone who’s self-employed make sure you have a finish time for your workday. In my case, for example, my workday is no later than 11pm. Since I do a lot of photography after work during the week, it’s important to make a line in the sand. And as boring as it sounds: Get enough sleep, do sports and eat healthily!
How do you prioritize your tasks?
Unfortunately, I’m still pretty bad at it if I’m honest. I find it really hard to say NO, am much too enthusiastic and tend to accept all the requests that interest me. Especially with two jobs, where you want to give 100%, you have to learn to prioritize. Fortunately, I have a great network of photographers to whom I can give orders. Then the “no” doesn’t feel like such a “no.” I know that I’m recommending great photographers for the couples and I’m also glad when I can pass orders to my colleagues. This network also works vice versa. A simple but good prioritization manager is your own gut feeling. If for example, I get the feeling that a bridal couple might have a different idea of the kind of pictures I would deliver, then I leave it alone. This wouldn’t make me or the customer happy.
And of course, my personal organizer is my best friend! I’ve learned to plan very consistently and to be honest with myself and with potential clients. Honest self-organization also helps with the prioritization!
What do you outsource?
Accounting and tax, for sure. It would take me so much time to make sure everything’s correct that it’s cheaper to invest the money in a professional!
What else can you give away as a photographer? I guess everything around photography is quite difficult to outsource…?
That’s right. One thing I would never give up because it facilitates all other prioritizations so much and is also a lot of fun is the communication with my couples. I can always outsource the image processing during the high season if the deadlines are too close. The image processing is still a lot of fun, but in the end, the pure editing has little to do with my creative performance.
I have put a lot of love and work in presets and defining my style so that I can feel comfortable giving it to an agency. The bridal couples book me for my style of photography and the look of my photos, so I’m very particular about selecting the pictures and briefing the agency about how the result should look. So you can do a lot of preliminary work to get better results. In the future, I would like to outsource everything to do with marketing, social media, writing blog posts and SEO. I’m sure that others could help me a lot better.
You said you would never give up the communication—what else?
Exactly, talking to the couple is essential to me. The customers should know me and be certain when they book me as their photographer for the most important day of their life. From my side, it’s also important to understand what is important to the couple and how we can work together. Likewise, I wouldn’t leave the selection of the pictures to someone else. I have met the bridal couple, know what is important to them and which people are the most important at their wedding.
What about automatization? How can you make life easier in this regard?
It’s a small thing, but it makes a big difference. I’m well-prepared and have different email templates for cancellations or recommending other photographers. I always have current price lists and don’t have to write out individual offers every time. In addition, I have questionnaires for my bridal couples, so I know the timetable for the wedding, that way I can plan my working day. I always question my own daily routine and my work processes. Nowadays, for example, I only need a few seconds for a certain action using Adobe Lightroom, whereas before it used to take a few minutes. Knowing your tools inside out and automating the process for the tools is enormously helpful!
Do you have a final tip for anyone who’s self-employed?
Keep the fun in what you do! If you lose it, don’t question your business but think about how you can re-shape your workflow so it’s fun again!
Thank you for your tips, Alina!
What can I outsource?
- Accounting and taxation → Worthwhile outsourcing.
- For photographers → Post-processing and retouching in the high season, if necessary. It’s important to note though, that as far as the look and feel are concerned that the bride and groom get what they booked. This is something I can do, because of the preliminary work that makes up my look. Presets and the type of processing are fixed by me in advance and sent to the agency. So the creative achievement is still with me, only the implementation is given.
- Travel planning → An easy one to outsource to a virtual assistant (see below).
- Social Media → Simply to post more regularly.
How can I find professionals to outsource to?
- Ask in your network → Put the word out to your network on LinkedIn or use these other professional networking tools to ask for personal recommendations.
- Look for a VA → If you need help with several non-specific tasks, bringing on a virtual assistant can be a great option.
What should I keep?
- Communication with the customers → Otherwise, it’s difficult to get a gut feeling about them. Customers should know who they book and have fun with that person.
- Photo selection → You can easily evaluate what is most important and what the couples like.
What can I automate?
- Email templates with price lists → When you need to turn down freelance work and send a “Sorry I can’t help this time, but here are some alternative suggestions” email.
- Always check your work processes → E.g. Use tools like Adobe Lightroom more effectively. Could you make do with a more basic photo editing tool instead?
- Questions for new customers and follow up emails → This facilitates the day-to-day running and planning. And you’ll never forget to ask happy customers for a testimonial.
- Daily schedule → Hide distractions to your day e.g. Facebook and your phone.