Friday, September 7, 2012

Our Candid Side... is it fading away?

I started Natural-Beauty Photography in August 2004 by going to local community and school events.  I wasn't sure how well it would take off, but quickly figured out a lot of people really liked it.  It grew quickly, but it has fallen even quicker.  It's time that I take a fresh look at it and either do something to bring it back to life or lay it down to rest.  I've got a few ideas to try, but overall... it depends on you, my customers.

I really enjoy doing the candid photography that I do, getting to meet everyone and attend & promote events, but I am literally losing money doing it.  I realize that we're taking longer to get photos on our website - this is because we can't spend prime time working on our candid photography when we aren't getting orders.  We are also taking longer to get orders to our customers because we have a minimum order of 80 photos (we pay for the equivalent of 80 4x6s whether we order 80 or not) plus a minimum shipping charge.  We used to get 100 - 250 in a week, now we're barely getting 100 in a month.

What am I asking?  I'm wanting to know if people still like our candid photography well enough to support it.  We haven't raised our prices in over 4 years and we're cheaper than most others who do this type of photography as a business.  We aren't currently planning on raising our prices either.  Maybe you have some suggestions as to what we could do to help improve our sales - what you would like to see us do.  Are there any suggestions or comments out there or has our candid side of photography run it's course and is time to call it quits.

Here are my sales:
Aug 04 - July 05  $3450
Aug 05 - July 06  $6600
Aug 06 - July 07  $7850
Aug 07 - July 08  $8475
Aug 08 - July 09  $8950
Aug 09 - July 10  $6150
Aug 10 - July 11  $5250
Aug 11 - July 12  $2425

In the past year, August 2011 - July 2012, our sales have been lower than ever, even our first year.  What did I do to get those $2,425 in sales?  I looked through the events I attended in the past year and estimated that I spent a little over 200 hours at events (not including travel time, Humboldt, Auburn, Tecumseh....)  On average, it takes at least twice as long to go through the photos, resize, watermark, upload and add the photos to the website.  That's about another 400 - 500 hours of work.  When orders are placed, I then go through to find the photos, edit them, upload & order them, receive & check them and e-mail or call the customer.  All of this also adds more hours.

Figuring just 700 hours for the $2,425 gross sales we had last year, it figures out to less than $3.50 per hour.  That  does not allow anything for the direct costs of the photos & shipping, entry fees to a few of the events, gas to get to events, or credit card & web page fees.  Plus, I have an employee who looks through all the photos taking out the bad ones before we add them to the web site.  She also sorts the orders and gets them prepared when they come in.  She makes more than minimum wage - I probably actually paid her more for the work she did for Natural-Beauty Photography last year than the sales I made.  Then there is always all the other indirect costs - equipment, software, electricity, insurance, etc.  I'm not expecting to make a living off of our candid photography, but I can't actually be losing money to do it either.

What are we doing to try to fix it?
I'm not just giving up.  I have a few things in mind to try, but I am always open to your suggestions as well.  The first thing I'm changing is that we will start requiring payment when you order - no paying when you pick photos up.  We have between $3,000 - $4,000 worth of photos sitting at our store that have never been picked up or paid for.  We can't keep purchasing product for people when they aren't actually going to pay for them.  I hate to take away the convenience of being able to pay when you pick photos up, but it's something I have to do.

Another thing I've just started is trying to bring more attention to our business.  When you order photos now, we will use a less intrusive watermark and upload them to our facebook candids page.  We encourage you to tag yourself and family in these photos, share them with your friends and family, encourage everyone to purchase photos of themselves or their families. 

Any other suggestions you may have, we're interested in hearing about!  If you used to purchase from us and don't anymore, let me know why - other than graduation of course, I realize this takes families away each year, but I would expect others to take their places as other students come up through the years.  If we're doing something wrong, I can't try to fix it if I don't know about it.

Please, if you like our candid photos... consider ordering more pictures.  Be sure to tell all your friends about our photos and encourage them to order as well.

Thank you to all of our past customers... I truly do appreciate your support!

No comments:

Post a Comment