We’re in the middle of a series for photographers and aspiring entrepreneurs called “Making the Leap” where we’re sharing our ten practical steps for going from part-time photographers to full-time. Or, as author Jon Acuff puts it, going from your day job to your dream job without it becoming a nightmare.
As photographers, we’re not just entrepreneurs, we’re solopreneurs, because at first, we. do. everything. And we do it solo, all on our own. We don’t just wear one hat in our business. We wear every hat. We’re the photographer, blog writer, web designer, receptionist, marketer, social media manager, IT specialist, bookkeeper, and so much more. We do it all because we can’t afford ten other full-time employees. Plus, since we can’t shoot all the time, it just makes sense that we take over a lot of the other responsibilities of running our business. But how much responsibility is too much? Where should we draw the line?
We’ve identified some criteria for deciding whether or not to outsource a task to someone else. For any particular job within our business, if one of these rules applies, we hire someone else to do it.
If a task requires someone with a professional license, like a law degree, for example, and the consequences for messing it up could be serious, then we don’t do it ourselves. Why take the risk?
If the task is something that we absolutely hate doing, like bookkeeping, and it requires a specific skill set and knowledge base that we don’t have time to learn and don’t want to spend time learning, then we hire someone else.
In his study of America’s millionaires in The Millionaire Next Door and The Millionaire Mind, Dr. Thomas Stanley found that millionaires aren’t “first cost” sensitive, meaning they don’t look at what something costs today, they look at what something costs over the lifetime of the investment. So, for us, if the task is something that might cost us money up front but’ll save us money in the end, like hiring an accountant to file our taxes, then we outsource it.
If someone can do a task significantly better than us, then we’d rather let them do it so we can focus on what we do best.
When we interviewed potential members for our team, we were diligent and took our time, because it’s a lot less painful, as Jim Collins says, to be thorough up front and get the right people on the right seats on the bus, than to constantly be replacing team members. We followed these five rules when we hired our team, and these are still the rules we follow to this day. Look for people with all five of these characteristics.
Dave Ramsey says that you should never buy something you don’t understand, and the same logic applies when you are hiring a professional. Don’t hire someone unless they’re patient and willing to teach you as you go. If someone just wants your money but isn’t willing to educate you as a business owner, find someone else who has the heart of a teacher.
In medicine, there are aggressive doctors and more conservative doctors. Neither is wrong. They’re just different. Depending on your personal situation and personal beliefs and values, you’ll choose the doctor that fits you best. The same goes for hiring business professionals, like lawyers and accountants. Every lawyer reads the law differently, and every accountant views the tax code differently. So, if you’re someone who wants to push right up to the limits of the law, then hire a lawyer who shares your values. If you’re someone who’d prefer not to flirt with an audit, then find an accountant who’s safe and conservative, too. Just remember, in the end, YOU are responsible for your legal documents and tax filings, not the professionals, so get someone who represents you and shares your values.
Look for someone who wants more than a pay check. Find someone who’s invested in you and your business. When you first sit down, the conversation should be all about you, your business, and your dreams. If the professional sitting across from you isn’t interested in those questions from the start, they never will be. The more they understand your vision, the better they can advise, serve, and guide you. Plus, it’s good business for them, because the more money you make, the more you’ll have for them to do, and the more money they’ll make. It’s a win-win.
Find people you like to be around. It’s really that simple. If you’re going to let someone into your business and your life, you’ve got to enjoy their company. They could be the best professional in the world, but if you can’t stand them, then you’ll dread it every time you talk to them or see them. That’s not fair to you or them.
5. Professionally Competent
Do your homework and make sure the person is professionally competent. Find out where they went to school, how long they’ve been working professionally, and ask for at least three references to contact. You’d be surprised how many people claim to be experts and aren’t. Don’t wait until there’s a problem to realize that you got the wrong person.
We decided to bring on three team members at the start of our business, and these are the three we recommend everyone bring on at the beginning, too.
To be a legitimate business, the first thing you have to do is register with the government, and one of the first things they’ll ask you for on your application is your business formation paperwork. What are you? A sole-proprietorship? An LLC? They’ll want to know, and a good lawyer can help explain the differences, recommend the best business formation for you, and draw up the paperwork to get right with the state from the start. Your lawyer will also play a pivotal role in making sure your contracts are solid and protect you and your clients from catastrophe.
Once you’re a legitimate business in the eyes of the government, you have to keep track of every penny that goes in and out of your business — and you have to report it, too! There are so many rules about business bookkeeping, it makes our heads spin! Unfortunately, too many DIY business owners get it wrong. A good bookkeeper makes sure that you’re keeping track of your money correctly on a regular basis. They teach you about business accounting as you go, help you make course corrections along the way, and organize you entire year’s worth of transactions into a nice, neat package for your accountant at tax time.
As photographers, we would NEVER trust a non-professional to shoot our wedding or yours, so we’d NEVER trust a non-professional (ourselves) to file our tax returns at the end of the year. We’ve found that by hiring a good accountant, we actually SAVE money each year. The tax code is complicated. We don’t have time to learn all the rules and regulations, but a good accountant does, and they’re able to pay for themselves by finding deductions we’d otherwise miss. They make money, we save time, money, and headaches.
Next, we’ll dive in to Step 6: Get Branded. We’ll talk about taking your brand to the next level and how to avoid the social media snafus that sink businesses. Thanks for checking in, friends! Let’s make each other better and serve on.
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