It sounds great. Waking up to realize that all of sudden you’ve got a significantly higher number of wedding bookings than you’ve had in any previous year and with that, a significantly higher income.
But in this episode, we’ll take a reality check about what that actually means and how it can affect your life, for the better and the worse. I’ll explain how I handled a significant jump in the number of wedding bookings when I was just starting out as a wedding photographer and how that led to me eventually leaving my engineering career.
We’ll also chat about whether your current schedule and lifestyle allow for the increase in time you would need to spend on your business and how that might affect your loved ones.
While reaching for the stars is admirable, it’s important that goals are attainable and practical, ensuring you can still lead a balanced life. Having 40+ weddings suddenly booked in your diary may not be the blessing you thought it was.
What exactly would you do if you woke up tomorrow with 40+ weddings? To be honest, it’s not really about that number - 40 - it’s whatever goal you have. Maybe you’re at 10 and you really want to get to 20 or you’re at 20 and you really want to get to 30.
How would your life change if all of a sudden you had this many weddings booked for the following year?
Would you be ecstatic? Would it be a complete game changer in your business and life? Not just professionally but in everything that you aspire to? People that you love will be affected by this. How would that actually be?
I want to take you back to 2008-2009 when I made the transition from being a full-time engineer, working 40+ hours, to a full-time wedding photographer where my sole income was just in photographing weddings.
In 2008, I ended up photographing around 18 weddings. So the momentum was definitely building. I went from 2 in 2007 (plus a handful second shooting) to around 18 a year later.
Then in 2009 was the big jump to 37 weddings, which is when I had to ask my engineering boss if I could go on a leave of absence. It was just not going to be possible for me to be effective as an engineer and also as a wedding photographer.
It was just way more work than I could handle. So I had to make a decision and my heart, my mind was definitely leaning towards wedding photography.
So 2009 was that big year that I convinced myself I could really do this. I have 37 weddings booked. This is enough to pay the bills and everything else I need to. So I needed to get my life and my workflow in order to handle this large number of weddings that I was committing to.
But I had the whole of 2008 and the beginning of 2009 to really get all of those things in place and by the middle of that year, I left my engineering profession. So you can see that for me it did not happen overnight. It took a year plus worth of preparation to get everything in order.
One of the biggest lessons that I learned during this period was that it wasn’t just shooting X many weddings a year. We all know that one wedding could be anywhere from 8-10 up to 15-16 hours. And it’s not just the hours of the wedding itself that was of concern. But it’s all the other things that we need to do to run our business.
It’s not about just grabbing your camera gear and driving out to the wedding, photographing it, and then you’re done. There’s so much more we need to do before and after a wedding. That’s really where the bulk of our time is spent.
If you’re thinking, "Wow, if I woke up tomorrow with double the number of bookings and earnings, that would be absolutely incredible. I would quit my conventional job or have the funds to go on a trip with my family or buy a car or save up for a home."
But ask yourself, how are you going to fit in all the other aspects of running your business into your schedule. Even if you were going to leave your conventional job, can you realistically take on everything that shooting that number of weddings entails?
For me it meant leaving my profession, initially going from a full-time to a part-time schedule as an engineer. 40 hours down to 24 hours. Then going on a leave of absence where I was still technically employed but I wasn’t working there.
I was able to spend 40 hours equivalent each week working on my wedding photography business. It was from that point on that I was able to put all my resources into wedding photography.
So if you’re thinking about this, ask yourself, first and foremost, if your schedule will allow it and how much time it’s really going to require. On average, per wedding, you’re spending about 30 hours when you count everything from the moment the couple sends you an inquiry to when you deliver the album or prints. You’re spending close to 30 hours per wedding.
Just do a little bit of math. The wedding itself might be 10 hours and you got a 2-3 hour engagement session. You probably need to color correct all those images, so that could be another 10-12+ hours, which probably makes up the bulk of the work. And let’s not forget the other things - the communication, emails, phone calls, consultations, and the final wedding day preparation.
With 40 weddings multiplied by 30 hours for each one, it could be around 1,200 hours. Are you going to be able to find that time? Even if you have the drive, commitment, and aspiration, is it physically possible with your current schedule?
Remember that it’s not just about you but how is that going to impact your loved ones? If you’re not married yet or don't have other people around you that you need to consider, you still need to take into account your other priorities and responsibilities.
You want to make sure you’re sleeping enough, eating relatively healthy, and you’re exercising. Trying to juggle too many things on top of running a business as a full-time wedding photographer is almost impossible. Even with the most efficient workflow.
You can see that we’re limited on all these things - time, energy, money resources. So as great as it is to have these aspirations of shooting X number of weddings, don’t be unrealistic. Going from a few weddings to doubling or tripling the number may not be as easy (or as wonderful) as it initially seems.
The take-home message is not biting off more than we can chew. It’s great to aim for the stars and fall a little bit short, you’ll land on the moon. If you don’t quite get to that mark, you’re going to end up somewhere that’s pretty great. So maybe 40 is absolutely crazy coming from 5-10. But you could aim for maybe 20-25 weddings.
Also, remember that one or two extra wedding is a huge amount. That’s an extra few thousand dollars a year, depending on what you charge.
That is the difference of being able to save up a certain amount per year or finally buying that car you wanted or putting a downpayment on a house or taking the family on this trip you’ve always wanted to.
Don’t get overly ambitious to the point where it could be very unhealthy and dangerous for you and even the loved ones around you.
Always have quantifiable goals and somewhat realistic ones that you will be able to meet in a timely manner. Make sure that you have a deadline and quantify that.
Whatever your aspirations are, make sure you let your loved ones know, particularly if it is going to affect them. Communicate with them on a periodic basis. You don’t want to drive them away or spend all your waking hours in your office.
Don’t sacrifice important moments in your loved ones’ lives - birthdays and holidays - so that you can get your business going. That is always going to be a tricky balance and something that I’m always struggling with.
Maybe it would be great if we woke up tomorrow and all of a sudden the inquiries rolled in. But be realistic about how that would affect your life. If you do think that your lifestyle could allow for that and the extra time required, then what are you doing with your spare time right now?
If you think you can handle your conventional job and supporting a family and also shooting this number of weddings, are you using the time you currently have available effectively in your business?
I’m not saying you need to lock yourself in a room and focus solely on your business. But are you doing everything you possibly could to build your business and increase the number of inquiries and bookings?
If you strive to shoot this many weddings and you think your schedule allows for it, then what are you doing with your time right now to help you get to that point?
Watch my FREE video explaining how I made $150k+ in the second year of my wedding photography business.