December 14th, 2015
Jake recently posed a classic question that successful real estate photographers have to deal with:
I’m curious what you recommend when it comes time to bring on additional help.
My business has exploded over the past year. I grew 178% from ’13 to ’14 and I should close out 2015 with another 142% growth. I took nearly a month off this spring due to a family crisis, so 2015 could have been even bigger. With the crazy local market real estate market, I expect 2016 to grow even more. I’m starting to feel stretched a little thin when things get busy.
That being said, I’m very intrigued with bringing on a part-time photographer in 2016. I seem to get an inquiry from local guys just starting out every few months, but I’m not exactly thrilled about teaching someone to become a future competitor. Could I create a non-compete contract? Have you seen others do this?
For real estate photographers that are doing things right in areas with hot real estate markets, this is a classic question. Finding good people to join your team is more difficult than you would think. It is hard to connect with the right people. We’ve had a couple of good discussions in the past about this subject: here and here.
What always comes up in these discussions is do you want to focus on high quality and charge more for it or do you want to do high volume and keep your prices low. It’s possible to control the amount of work you do by raising your prices. Here are a couple of suggestions:
- Hire support people – don’t try to replicate yourself
The way you photograph (quality, your eye, how you relate to people) are central to the success of your company. It’s damn near impossible to replicate you so it’s easier if you hire someone to do support work, not the key work of shooting and relating to people that you do. This way, they can’t quit and compete with you because only you do the key work.
- Have you thought of raising your prices? Ultimately you have to decide between high quality and high volume. This trade-off comes up every time we talk about this subject. The top shooters swear that to retain quality you can’t just hire a bunch of contract photographers. Most big name Architectural Photographers are one person shows with some assistants that support the key shooter.
I see too many high volume operations taking advantage of contract photographers in various ways (pay them too little, onerous non-compete contracts, not paying mileage, etc) high volume multiple photographer operations are hard to get right. What are others experience with expanding a successful real estate photography business?