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for photographers | why hiring a virtual assistant is the best decision I made for my photography business

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It took me 13 years, but I finally hired a virtual assistant – her name is Jen Madigan and she is the BEST. Last year was the first full year I had her as part of my team and just like everyone told me I would feel, I wish I had done it so much sooner.

Because running a business is not supposed to be a one person show.

You never see a successful restaurant or grocery store or department store or agency ever operating with just one person alone. Because it truly takes a team to build something great! Or like how they say it takes a village to raise kids. Because doing hard things is always so much better when you have help.

As a photographer, for example, there’s responding to new client emails, managing communication with current clients, shooting sessions, editing and delivering galleries, ordering print products and designing albums, planning social media posts, designing/maintaining/updating your website, coming up with content to serve your audience and keep your business relevant, making blog posts etc etc. It’s just too much for one person alone!

Before I took the leap and hired Jen, I had always told myself I couldn’t afford to outsource things in my business but in hindsight, that was such a ridiculous thought. Because if you’re not making enough money to hire people to help you operate your business and provide good customer service and a quality product, then you’re not charging enough. A restaurant has to charge enough for their services and food in order to run the business sustainably otherwise they can’t keep operating. Why are us photographers any different? This is something that took me a long time to see, and I promise you, when you start to see yourself as a business owner and what you offer your clients as a legitimate business that needs to make a certain amount of money to operate, you will be so much better off for it. And you will feel so much happier when you aren’t held captive by a mountain of tasks to complete all on your own.

You’ll love your business, you won’t resent it.

And I’m going to give you 5 reasons why.

5 reasons why hiring a Virtual Assistant is going to be the best thing for your photography business

Instantly stat making money

You can instantly start making money! Make a list of all your clients who booked last Spring or Summer or fall (whatever season is coming up), and have your virtual assistant email them with a special invitation to book a session this year. The secret is to make it sound super splurgey and special for your client to get the email. For example, your VA could say something like “Hello! I’m Suzy’s assistant, Jen! Suzy wanted me to reach out to you on her behalf and invite you to book a session with her this (Spring, Summer, Fall). She’ll be opening up her (Spring, Summer, Fall) calendar on X date but wanted to give you first priority to book now if you want. Here’s a link to book your time and get on her calendar!” The other critical element, is that there’s a link for your client to book and pay their deposit right away through the email (you can do this through Client Management Software like Dubsado or 17 Hats). The easier it is to do something and the less steps there are, the more likely it is your client will do it.

Help enforce boundaries

You can have your Virtual Assistant enforce your policies with clients for you. Oh WOW was this a game changer for me. As much as I’ve gotten much better at enforcing boundaries, there are so many times where it still feels really easy to bend on my pricing or scheduling policies or pricing expiration because I just really like someone OR I feel afraid to upset them. And then I always *facepalm* myself later and think why on earth did I say yes to that one thing that now is super annoying and a pain in the butt to have to deal with. But now that I have my virtual assistant, not only is it a lot easier and less uncomfortable for her to enforce my policies for me but people respond to her so much better and are more often incredibly understanding. It’s overall a bunch of little stresses over time that I no longer have to shoulder and I am so grateful for that.

Prevent business interruptions

When something happens (because life stuff will never stop happening, especially if you’re a parent), you have someone to fall back on while you take time off without having to interrupt business. For example, if you get sick or injured, or one of your kids is sick and you need to take the week off, with a virtual assistant you no longer have to worry about taking time off and affecting business or upsetting current clients. Your virtual assistant can keep up with current client communication for you, take care of rescheduling if need be, and they can continue to pull in income by responding to new client inquiries in a timely manner. Because replying to a new inquiry within the same day is so important. Let me tell ya, I’ve been doing this for over a decade and clients are much more likely to book if they get an immediate response vs if you take 4 days and then reply by saying “I’m so sorry my kids have been sick this week but I’m getting caught up on emails now and wanted to get all this info to you!” Life stuff happening is totally understandable. But the thing I’m going to say that is hard to swallow but you’ll be better off for accepting….

Your clients, who are investing (a lot of) their money in working with you shouldn’t have to shoulder that burden with you.

It’s ultimately your responsibility as a business owner to make sure you have your business set up in a way that clients are still being taken care of even when life stuff happens to you.

Have more time for dream projects and the things you love

You can start doing more of the things you love when you hire a virtual assistant! I’ve heard this so often and I didn’t really hear it until now but, if you want to drive more growth in your business you have to outsource. And I would argue that a virtual assistant is at the top of that list of people to hire. When you have someone helping you, you can get twice as much done. For example, this year my VA helped me to finally create an online course for other pro photographers. This has been on my dream list of things to create for the last 5 years and I just never had the time because I was always bogged down with emails or shooting or editing. Because my VA now does most of these things for me, I had the time to complete a dream project that will help me create more income and help others in my industry. But it doesn’t have to just be work stuff, you can also just spend more time with your family and loved ones and less time working with worth every penny.

Get twice as much done in the same amount of time

You can start doing more in your business because you literally have an extra person helping you. So you can get twice as much as done in the same amount of time if you hire just one extra person to help you! And I recommend hiring someone who is in your industry and understands it. For example, one of the things I love is that my VA, Jen is also a photographer so she understands all the software I use and she understands everything about the booking process for photography clients. And because of this I didn’t really have to spend any time training her, which is a huge bonus to working with her.

Have time to rest

Not only will a VA help you get more done, a VA will help you have more time to rest. And while resting seems like you’re doing less, I would argue that getting rest is a critical component to creating great artwork for your clients. As photographers we often wear hustling and grinding as a badge of honor. We talk about how we’ve had 30 shoots in a month and we’ve been up every night this week editing galleries and please bear with us if you wrote us an email, we’re busy but we’ll get back to you this week! But this is one of the biggest mistakes that family photographers make. Because contrary to hustling and overworking, in order to make your best work for clients, you have to make sure that you have the mental and physical energy to do so. Hiring a VA will help you run a sustainable business because they’ll take all the things off your plate that you don’t love doing, but they’ll help you charge more for your services and take on less clients because you’ll have the capacity to give every person you work with the best of what you have to offer and great customer service to go along with it.

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