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Finances for Photogs #1 Setting Goals

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I’m a planner at heart, and goals really make me feel happy inside. I love a good spreadsheet or two! When I took the business full time three years ago, my goals were something that helped it be so much less scary! Having set goals helps you gauge your success (in more tangible ways than “oh, I was featured here, or I have x amount of Instagram followers”). The thing is though, your goals should be intentional and specific. They shouldn’t be based on what you see other people shooting every year or what anyone else says. Your yearly goal should be based on what YOU need to make to be profitable. Having tangible goals that you’re able to meet is what will help you succeed as a business. If you don’t have a solid foundation to build on, you’re not going to be able to build a business that will pay your bills.

finances for wedding photogs

I personally have three goals in my head at all times:

#1 My main goal for the year which will allow us to live a little bit more comfortably, pay off extra bills, etc. This is ideally what I’d like to make and the amount of weddings I’d be comfortable shooting. I’d be happy to exceed this goal by 1 or 2, but that’s not a big deal.

#2 My “break even” goal that will just pay our bills and keep the business afloat. This goal is key because it’s really important to know exactly what you will need to book in order to survive. If you’re thinking about going full time with your business, you need to be sure that you know your “break even” goal for the year. I actually really love knowing this goal because it helps keep me sane. This number is usually a bit smaller, and it helps keep things in perspective when I might be in a valley booking season. I know that I only have to book this goal minimum to survive and it helps ease some of the stress that can lie in the unknown of being a business owner.

#3 My “half year” goal, which is the amount of weddings I’d like to have booked by the end of the current year for the next year. This goal is typically half of goal #1. I created this goal because it helps keep my anxiety about the next year low, AND it helps keep me on track. If the year ends and I haven’t reached this goal, I know I need to rethink some things and come up with a strategy to start the new year stronger.

How do I come up with each of those numbers? I start by thinking about what I’d like to make that year and then work backwards from there:

#1 Start by thinking about how much you’d like to make this year
What do you need to make to pay your bills? And the fun part…what would you LIKE to make to make life more enjoyable? Want to take a vacation this year? Start saving for a home? What $$$ do you need to make those goals happen? Come up with an ideal number for what you’d like to make this year. Obviously, if you exceed that, that’s great, but this will be the number you’ll shoot for.

#2 Figure out your projected expenses
Adding up any recurring costs (web hosting, image galleries, studio management software, etc) is a good place to start. I also suggest sitting down to figure out exactly what it costs you to shoot each wedding from any gifts you send, to your gas to and from shoots, products, etc. I also include the approximate prices of any gear that I’m thinking about buying. You’ll also want to guesstimate your taxes and set that amount of money aside. 30 percent or so is a great place to start, but you can look up your tax bracket on the IRS website. I’d say that guesstimating about 50 percent of your income going back into your business is a good starting point. You can always go back and fine tune this based on any things you’re anticipating investing in for the business this year (new camera body, promo film, etc)

#3 Use those two numbers to calculate what your goal will be
Once you know what you profit from each wedding, it’s easy to come up with a specific goal of weddings you’d like to book for the year. Let’s say you make a profit of $1000 per wedding after taxes and expenses. So, if you want to pay yourself $2000 a month, you’ll need to book 24 weddings for the year.

Those three simple steps should help you figure out what your goals for the year should be. Once you have your goals nailed down you’ll be able to set your pricing more easily based on the amount of weddings you’d like to be photographing as well as the demand for your services. I think of my goals, the demand for my services, and my pricing as though they were objects on a scale. Each one of these things has to be properly balanced for things to run smoothly.

Once you know what each wedding costs you and what you profit from each one, you can make more educated decisions about any potential discounts you may or may not offer and you can increase (or decrease even…we’ll talk about that soon in another post!) your pricing with confidence. If you set your goals in place, based on the above formula, you’ll also be able to tell if your business is actually profitable or if it’s costing you more to be in business than you’re making.

In my next post about business finances, we’ll talk about how to make sure you’re able to stay afloat and make ends meet during the slow season!

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Megan Kelsey Marcus

Wow!! This is a GREAT post!!! Thanks for sharing, Katie! 🙂

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