This topic always seems to be controversial. There are strong opinions on both sides of the fence but despite our individual point of view, I think most of us can agree that there is a place for outsourcing in our industry.
With that said, I'd like to share my experience in the hopes that it might help some of you decide if outsourcing makes sense for your business.
It's May 2016; my city was literally burning to the ground. A massive wildfire (1.5 million acres by the time it was under control) jumped the river and breached city limits with almost no warning. Over 88,000 people were evacuated and when the dust had settled, 2400 homes were lost along with hundreds of commercial buildings. This was the largest natural disaster in Canadian history.
It was nearly 3 months before I was able to return home with my family. We didn't have a clue what we were coming back to. Would my wife have work? Could I continue my real estate photography business? Was our house in a livable state? There was nothing but uncertainty.
Once most people had returned (minus about 15,000 that never did come home), things got back to the "new normal." It was business as usual and the rebuild was starting. Homes were being bought and sold once again. Shortly after getting home, I found out that my main competition wouldn't be coming back. My phone blew up and overnight, I became the busiest I'd ever been. Before the fire, my most active month ever was 65 shoots. Post fire, I was averaging 135 shoots per month. I was hanging on by a thread, working 16 hour days and for the first time, I started to resent my business. Please understand that I was always grateful for the work but it was becoming unhealthy and unsustainable. I needed help.
Over the years, I had been approached by dozens of outsourcing companies (as I'm sure you have too) but I was too protective of my work to consider the thought. During the months after the fire, I got to a point where I had to make some decisions. Do I raise my prices and try to reduce my volume? Knowing the market couldn't sustain that, I was quick to dismiss the idea. Do I keep plugging away making significant money but having no family life? This was not an option either. Do I swallow my pride, remind myself that I'm running a business, and not every single image I take needs to be portfolio worthy? I am, after all, a high volume real estate photographer and the majority of my clients don't need portfolio quality images. They need good images, delivered fast, and at a price they can afford to pay for every listing. This next part might sound negative to some of you, but I realized that good enough, within this circumstance, was exactly that--good enough. My real estate clients didn't notice the difference between a 75% photo and a 99% photo so why was I breaking my back for that extra quality? I needed to make sure I wouldn't have to say no to clients without working myself into the ground. If I could find a way to offload the majority of my editing, I could free myself up to pursue new business opportunities and stick to editing just the jobs that really inspired me. In the long run, this would be better for my clients, myself, and my family.
I decided to reach out to a few outsourcing companies to see what they had to offer. I went through about five editors before I found one that I thought had potential. I created some videos to explain my workflow and started training the editor on how to process my raw files. In the beginning, it was painful! There was a ton of back and forth with plenty of disappointing results and reliability issues. After a few months, it got to the point where I almost couldn't tell the difference between their edits and my own. This is when I finally felt comfortable enough to hand over my editing. It's been a year and a half since I started outsourcing the majority of my work and I can't put into words how beneficial it has been for me and my business.
Some of the benefits I've experienced:
Like we always say, only you know what's best for your business. If you are new to real estate photography, it's probably wise to handle all aspects for a while until you have a solid, overall understanding of your operation. You'll know when the time is right to get some help.
If you're more experienced and tired of shooting all day then editing late into the night, outsourcing could be a viable option for you.
If you are a seasoned pro with ambitions to make the jump into interior/commercial photography, looking to free up your time to perfect your craft, pursue high-end clients, and eventually get to the point where you can choose which jobs to accept or decline, then in my opinion, outsourcing is a no-brainer.
There are some good options on the PFRE outsourcing page but the best way to find a good editor is to ask your peers!