Archive for November 16, 2011

Ho Ho Holidays

We all know how the holidays are sometimes a lot more stress than cheer these days.  We understand that many of your clients are only just now turning in design approvals and such because they feel the holidays looming and want their albums to share with family and friends.  We also understand that many clients live in other locations, go on vacations, and you need a vacation too!!  We want everyone to get their holiday orders in the best time possible.   And with that in mind, we’ve come up with some things we’re doing a bit differently in order to ensure that this holiday season, and the tremendous spike in order volume that comes with it, go as smooth as ice!

As you may have noticed on the order form, we’ve asked photographers to indicate if an order is needed by December 24th – hence a “Holiday Order”.  We asked customers who were not on such a time schedule to check “no” – these would be orders for samples for a show in January, etc…basically anything not-holiday-critical.  Another new thing is the addition of shipping zones to your orders.  We can now see what orders are going to California (5+ days shipping) and what ones are staying on the East Coast (1-2 day shipping) and can organize orders as they are coming out of production and into the inspection/packing/shipping cue so that we can work on shipping holiday-critical CA orders before non-holiday DC orders.  Lastly, we’ve allowed an extra week for you to squeak orders in as long as expedited shipping is chosen.  This is something that we’ve never done before and it should help out many photographers with clients that are dragging their feet but still expecting delivery.  It sounds like a reasonable and fair way to handle the extra volume and time crunch, right?

I’m writing this blog post because the reception we’re seeing this year is not what we expected.  We now have pages upon pages of orders with specific shipment date requests, some as early as next week (off-peak typical turn around for a ONE is 3 weeks).  And this just started yesterday.  Unfortunately, due to the extremely high volume of the holiday season, we cannot process orders on a case by case basis as we are sometimes able to do at other times of the year.  Now, of course, if you placed your order well before the final cut-off deadline, the chances that your order will arrive sometime before December 24th are pretty good.  However, there is no way for us to check into a specific order’s status or give shipment estimates other than that we plan to have all Holiday Orders shipped in time for delivery by December 24th.  Please be patient and know that our little elves are working as quickly as possible to complete your orders in time for Santa’s flight!

Last week I put up another blog post on Tips for Holiday Ordering.  This would be a great time to read that if you haven’t already, it’s the best information you can get to make sure your orders flow through easily and get in your clients’ hands as quickly as possible.

One prominent concern I hear expressed is “My customer doesn’t live nearby (or will be out of town), how am I supposed to deliver their album to them if I might not get it until the 24th?” My best suggestion would be to consider drop-shipping directly to your client.  At this time of year, their main concern is that they have something physical in their hands to show off over the holiday.  I know a lot of people are concerned that they may have a mistake and want to review the album first, but believe me, a minor or even major mistake is much more forgivable in the holiday season than is leaving a new bride or new mom with nothing to show around.  Mistakes can be fixed after the New Year, but at least your client will be thrilled that they have a gorgeous album with your gorgeous photos to share.  Keep in mind, we can change the shipping address on an order for you up until the last minute, so if you have an order in already and want to drop-ship it instead, please call us right away and we’d be happy to take care of it for you!

Remember that the holidays don’t have to be a time of panic and scrambling.  They should be a time for peace and relaxation.  All it takes is a little effort for us all to work together and a little faith that all good things come in their time – that includes amazing albums!

Happy Festivus to ALL!!

Jamie Westman

Jamie Westman

Jamie is Finao's resident Guidance Guru and Marketing Assistant to the Queen of All Things Finabulous, Christine Perry-burke.

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A Few Words About Pricing

We get a lot of questions from photographers on how much to charge for an album. There was a recent phone call where the photographer was sitting with her client and repeating the prices we were giving her.  Oy.  People, this is a business.  A favorite Christine-ism is, “It’s not a customer if you can’t make a profit.”

So let’s start there.  You need to make a profit.  Profit is neither a four-letter nor even a slightly bad word – it’s what keeps business going.

I get the feeling that many photographers are afraid to say the price, afraid to charge what they are worth.  The comparison to Craig’s List guys shooting for $595 is often heard.  Another favorite saying is, “there is always someone who can make something a little worse for a little less money.”  It’s impossible to be the cheapest – someone will always beat you.  Stop trying and stop worrying about it.  Some brides get their dresses at the David’s bridal $100 scratch and dent sale – they are probably not your customers.

That said, we can now start to look at where a fair price should fall.  This involves math and some real effort to think about your time and your very real costs.

First you need to know your cost of goods sold per event.  Everything from the album to the print sharing web site you use.  A favor, a gift bag – it all counts.

Next you must factor in your overhead.  So add up all the association dues, the seminars, workshops and conventions you attend, insurance, your samples, the bridal shows, advertising, rent (and all that goes with it) if you have a commercial space.  Your accountant is taking depreciation on your equipment, factor it in.  Gas, work clothes, wear and tear on your car – All things that need to be considered.

If you expect to shoot 20 events in 2012, then divide your overhead number by 20.

Enter the value of your time, which comes in several forms.  There is the time spent keeping up your social media contacts, writing a blog, attending bridal shows, networking with your peers, working with vendor contacts, handling inquires, meeting with clients, creating your brand identity and planning your advertising.  These are marketing expenses and are worth more per hour than paying bills, but not as much as shooting.  Keep track of how much time is spend on these items (not enough I’m quite sure) and assign a dollar value to each hour.  Add it all up and, again, divide by 20.

You deserve to get paid more for skilled time such as shooting, editing, retouching, post processing, and album design.  How much time does each wedding take?  You know this number so assign a dollar value to it.  Add this to each of the three dollar amounts above.

Now, drum roll, write down how much money you want to make in a year.  Do you need $30,000 or $100,000?  Keep in mind shoes are going up in price.  Divide that number by 20 (or expected number of events).  Compare how much you need to make to the total costs of doing the job.  Yes, some of that is wages but every business owner makes wages.  If you worked for someone else, you would expect to get paid, so expect to pay yourself.

My guess is there is gap.  You are not charging enough to cover all the costs plus make a profit.  By doing this you know what you have to do to obtain the goal you set.  Complicated?  Yes.  Worth doing?  Absolutely.  It’s like making a “where do I want to be in one year, five years or ten years list”.  Not enough people make the effort, but those who do are well rewarded.

You can’t price by what the other guy charges.  It’s good to be aware, but it’s not the benchmark.  The “other guy” may have a very different set of costs associated with doing the job and might have a completely different set of expectations.

Stay tuned.  I will discuss how to price and package your work as well as how to price albums.  I had to start with the big picture so that when we get down to the small parts the numbers aren’t so shocking.

Christine Perry-Burke

Christine Perry-Burke

Managing Partner and "queen" of Finao. I'm responsible for all the cool materials and products at Finao. A vegetarian and animal lover to my core, we run a dog friendly office. I believe Finao should be a good corporate citizen and tread lightly on our planet.

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Holiday Ordering Tips

The Holidays are fast approaching, but don’t let stress turn you into a Grinch. Finao’s got you covered with these easy tips that will ensure you’re sipping nogg in front of the Yule Log before you can say “Feliz Christmahanukwanzaakah”.

1. Get your orders in BEFORE THE DEADLINE. This will ensure that your album gets all the TLC it needs. Please see the News Section on Finao’s website for dates.

2. Don’t rush. Take your time on each order and triple check every detail before submitting it. Make sure to carefully VIEW YOUR FILES AT 100% BEFORE UPLOADING to find any small mistakes that can be overlooked when you are zoomed out like misplaced/misaligned strokes and pixelated/grainy areas.

3. If you have a number of items to order for multiple clients, we advise that you PLACE SEPARATE ORDERS for each client. The cost of shipping is mainly calculated by weight, so the total cost shouldn’t be drastically different.

4. DROP SHIP YOUR ALBUMS directly to your clients. I know that some of you want to have control and inspect the album first and maybe hand-deliver it, but we cannot guarantee your order for delivery any sooner than December 24th.  Your clients will be much happier having their album in their hands to share with family and friends over the holiday than they would be if you inspected the album, realized you spelled the groom’s name “Brain” in the order form and didn’t want to deliver the album to them because of the mistake.  Changes can be addressed after the holidays. Besides, you deserve to have a life too!

5. Kick-back and KEEP THE FAITH! During the holiday festivities we are not able to provide individual order statuses or estimates on shipment dates. Please be patient and know that if you’ve followed these steps, you should be in for a very happy new year filled with very happy clients!  BRING ON THE REFERRALS!!!

Here’s to 2011!!

Jamie Westman

Jamie Westman

Jamie is Finao's resident Guidance Guru and Marketing Assistant to the Queen of All Things Finabulous, Christine Perry-burke.

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