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01-30-2010, 10:18 AM   #1
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An investor is interested in me.

And I'm going to ask you fine folks what do to with twenty thousand bucks.

Some back story:

A friend of mine I have known for almost thirteen years called me up the other day and started asking questions about my business. I told him I'm not taking bookings, that I had a rough spot and decided to close down for a while to get my ducks in a row. I told him about the processes of my workflow, how I like to charge and every other thing. He moved into questions like, 'if you were going to reopen, would 20K do the trick and what would you do with it'. I wasn't sure about how serious my friend was but I gave him the run down.

I told him I would need a gear upgrade, a marketing budget,some overhead for a cushion and some money to live on while I get started up again.

I haven't put any numbers together yet, but I'm figuring that will be the basic skeleton of what I need to do with it.

I believe that I'm going to round out my gear so that I have three 'twin' bodies with grips, add a fourth hotshoe flash, a new set of radio triggers, some softboxes, battery packs, an new camera bag and maybe a new lens.

That would leave my gear set looking like this:

(3)Pentax K7 with grips
(4) 540fgz flashes
(6) radio triggers
(3) small softboxes
(4) battery packs for the flashes
Pentax DA* 50-135 2.8
Pentax DA* 16-50 2.8
Pentax FA 31 1.8 LTD
Pentax FA* 200 2.8
A new tripod

If I shop right I can complete that kit for about $5,000 because I already have some of it.

15k remaining

My next step would be to go through the last five years of my wedding photography, pull out the best stuff and spend some dough on getting some nice big display prints for show. I'm thinking of maybe spending two grand on that.

13k remaining

Next, call around and get all of the marketing info that I might need to take care of, especially bridal shows. I'm going to estimate $1,000/show here in st. louis and set up as many as I can starting at the end of 2010.

I'm thinking 5k in shows and 2k on other marketing.

6K remaining.

I believe that would set me up in a pretty nice spot.

Now, this is my first brainstorm since I just got the call late last night to get serious about the investment. I told my friend ok but let's keep it professional; I'll put some numbers together and make a formal business presentation and he can see what he thinks and we can decide to go from there.

I'm also interested in what kind of return I should offer my friend but I'll be talking to my accountant friend about this as well.

Go ahead and shoot holes in it guys. 8)

And thanks for any input.
I'm also interested in what kind of return I should offer my friend but I'll be talking to my accountant friend about this as well.

Mitch

p.s. During the time of restarting my business, I'll have the chance to shoot for a couple of different photographers in St. Louis, so I'll have a bit of income throughout the process.

01-30-2010, 11:10 AM   #2
Damn Brit
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Well that's what friends are for Mitch.

I'm no wedding photographer but personally I feel like you are planning on investing too heavily in the shows. I'm not convinced that they are the most cost effective way of getting your name out there. I would say just do a couple and keep a few thousand in reserve.

I think a good thing for you to do would be to do as much networking as you can. If you can, get friendly with a couple of other photographers and make yourself available as backup, that's a good way to get some of their overflow. Plus you will need backup yourself.

A lot of your work will come from word of mouth. I've never seen a wedding photographer offer this (but I'm sure some do), offer a referral bonus to your clients to encourage them to get the word out there for you. When you get a confirmed booking from a referral, they get, I dunno, a framed print, night in a hotel, meal at a restaurant.
01-30-2010, 11:26 AM   #3
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Although shows can be great marketing, it really depends in your area (how many other photogs are there) and whether you want to lump yourself in with the cattle. Most bridal shows are a waste for photographers because people are shopping around - although they want a good photographer, they are also typically comparison shopping and possibly bargain hunting.

The way I see it is you're better off spending a little more money in advertising and much less money in shows. As DB said, networking is more effective with word of mouth. Go to the local venues, show them your goods, tell them you would be also promoting their venues and perhaps if they come to an agreement with you that it would be mutually beneficial. I'd hit flower shops, bakeries, bridal stores, country clubs, hotels, banquet halls, caterers, bridal consultants, and any other place a bride/groom would go to.
01-30-2010, 11:52 AM   #4
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What does your 2k in other marketing cover? News paper ads? Big phone book ad? I would suggest looking into your local cable tv companies. They can do everything from produce your ad to just airing one you produce in your local markets. I would suggest you have them produce it. Here in NYC we have a bunch however the big ones are CableVision and Time Warner Cable. I would suggest doing only 4k On shows and the rest covering not only the cable network your on but a few of the others within a reasonable driving distance.

When making a tv spot it can cost anyplace from 1,000 to however much you want to spend. That 1,000 for the commerial also includes covering the cost of airing it on the network you had produce it. At least here in NYC it does. I would suggest also finding out if you can air that one commerical on other networks. So you can take a localy produced Cable Vision ad and air it on Time warner. It saves you some cash and lets you spend more on getting that spot on the air. If they won't allow you to do that. Well you can always have two different ads and air them over two different networks. It would not be a total loss as you do look a lot bigger to your customers if they happen to be over a friends house and see both. The one in their market and the one in a friends.

One thing I would avoid is crawler like ads over the weather channel. They have a spot in your marketing budget. So they are not useless. However that is only after you have started getting a cash flow again. Use them to supplement the 2nd and 3rd time you air your commericals. They are only 10-100 bucks. However they can eat up money and have no place in your marketing budget intill your ready to blanket the local tv markets with your brand.

01-30-2010, 11:59 AM   #5
graphicgr8s
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I'd be reluctant to go in with a friend myself. But in any case, hook up with a wedding planner also.
01-30-2010, 12:11 PM   #6
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I have to agree with the Brit on the bridal shows, one of my best friends does promotions for a local radio station here and he goes to all the bridal shows as part of that. From what he can tell me, that's possibly the worst place for a photographer to set something up. Most of the people at those shows dont have enough of a budget to hire a photographer, and the people looking generally arent in the market for one.

There would be much better ways of spending your time and money
01-30-2010, 01:48 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by Damn Brit Quote
Well that's what friends are for Mitch.

I'm no wedding photographer but personally I feel like you are planning on investing too heavily in the shows. I'm not convinced that they are the most cost effective way of getting your name out there. I would say just do a couple and keep a few thousand in reserve.

I think a good thing for you to do would be to do as much networking as you can. If you can, get friendly with a couple of other photographers and make yourself available as backup, that's a good way to get some of their overflow. Plus you will need backup yourself.

A lot of your work will come from word of mouth. I've never seen a wedding photographer offer this (but I'm sure some do), offer a referral bonus to your clients to encourage them to get the word out there for you. When you get a confirmed booking from a referral, they get, I dunno, a framed print, night in a hotel, meal at a restaurant.
You might be right about going a bit heavy on the shows. I do see other photographers generally pulling two or three from each show they go to, though. However, I have decided to back it off to two shows to start, and then see how that goes and possibly follow up with a couple of other shows (if the investment deal does through)

word of mouth is a GREAT big deal. and i like people with great big mouths. they get $100 referral fee for every client that signs.

QuoteOriginally posted by Frogroast Quote
Although shows can be great marketing, it really depends in your area (how many other photogs are there) and whether you want to lump yourself in with the cattle. Most bridal shows are a waste for photographers because people are shopping around - although they want a good photographer, they are also typically comparison shopping and possibly bargain hunting.

The way I see it is you're better off spending a little more money in advertising and much less money in shows. As DB said, networking is more effective with word of mouth. Go to the local venues, show them your goods, tell them you would be also promoting their venues and perhaps if they come to an agreement with you that it would be mutually beneficial. I'd hit flower shops, bakeries, bridal stores, country clubs, hotels, banquet halls, caterers, bridal consultants, and any other place a bride/groom would go to.
Good idea on hitting the street and taking the local marketing campaign to local vendors. I'm thinking of maybe offering a lot of people some nice large prints of their cake, flowers, whatever in return for them displaying it on their wall with my name on it.

QuoteOriginally posted by Xcom Quote
What does your 2k in other marketing cover? News paper ads? Big phone book ad? I would suggest looking into your local cable tv companies. They can do everything from produce your ad to just airing one you produce in your local markets. I would suggest you have them produce it. Here in NYC we have a bunch however the big ones are CableVision and Time Warner Cable. I would suggest doing only 4k On shows and the rest covering not only the cable network your on but a few of the others within a reasonable driving distance.

When making a tv spot it can cost anyplace from 1,000 to however much you want to spend. That 1,000 for the commerial also includes covering the cost of airing it on the network you had produce it. At least here in NYC it does. I would suggest also finding out if you can air that one commerical on other networks. So you can take a localy produced Cable Vision ad and air it on Time warner. It saves you some cash and lets you spend more on getting that spot on the air. If they won't allow you to do that. Well you can always have two different ads and air them over two different networks. It would not be a total loss as you do look a lot bigger to your customers if they happen to be over a friends house and see both. The one in their market and the one in a friends.

One thing I would avoid is crawler like ads over the weather channel. They have a spot in your marketing budget. So they are not useless. However that is only after you have started getting a cash flow again. Use them to supplement the 2nd and 3rd time you air your commericals. They are only 10-100 bucks. However they can eat up money and have no place in your marketing budget intill your ready to blanket the local tv markets with your brand.
The two thousand 'other' marketing im going to aim for magazines, website, i was thinking some kind of cable thing but not real serious yet. when my marketing scheme comes together stronger, i plan to 'blanket' like you say, and try to spread out my name through different avenues so that i can be seen in many places.

QuoteOriginally posted by graphicgr8s Quote
I'd be reluctant to go in with a friend myself. But in any case, hook up with a wedding planner also.
spot on man. business with a friend can be sketchy. this isn't really purely an investment venture. it is also part 'friendly support' if ya know what i mean.

QuoteOriginally posted by Gaelen Quote
I have to agree with the Brit on the bridal shows, one of my best friends does promotions for a local radio station here and he goes to all the bridal shows as part of that. From what he can tell me, that's possibly the worst place for a photographer to set something up. Most of the people at those shows dont have enough of a budget to hire a photographer, and the people looking generally arent in the market for one.

There would be much better ways of spending your time and money
i actually have worked a couple of different shows for a couple of different photographers. generally you pull a couple of bookings out of them. there are different levels of class for each show. for instance the last one i was at was major class. i have a feeling there was some big money going down that day. other shows can be kind of rinky dink operations. i think my strategy with the shows is going to be whittle it down to a few of the mid-level-yet-classy shows and go from there.



Thanks guys for your input!

BTW my first rough draft of a budget came to about 24K

Damn! 8D
01-30-2010, 02:21 PM   #8
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Mitch, another potential advertising 'venue' - in my area, the local paper has one (possibly two) special wedding advertising sections per year. Our local neighborhood paper does the same, but to a much smaller audience. They usually come out in the March-April timeframe for the June brides.

Good luck with getting things on track!!

01-30-2010, 02:51 PM   #9
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Hi Mitch, I'm not sure of what your setup is. But remember that you might need a studio if your not shooting outdoor (bridal, announcement...) shots.

Good luck I hope things work out for you and your friend.
Jim Browning
01-30-2010, 03:04 PM   #10
graphicgr8s
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Mitch, have a contract done with all expectations on both parts specified. Maybe instead of an investor he might consider making it a loan with a specified rate of return. The main question is do you want someone else really running your business? Don't count on a handshake agreement. Get it in writing. That might keep you friends if something hapens or it falls apart. JMHO
01-30-2010, 03:20 PM   #11
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We will definitely have some terms and conditions with signatures.

Jim, I've been a working photographer for four or five years and have never had a studio yet. so im going to stick with specializing in weddings and location portraits. I don't see myself getting a studio space within the next couple of years. Many wedding togs around work from home. I'm going to continue to do that for a couple of years before getting a storefront.

Chip, that is my 'other marketing' budget...

BTW I have shaved some cost and brought my budget down to $18, 010 !!

And guys, feel free to poke as many holes in the strategy as you like. I the best feedback in opinion is pointing out weaknesses before they kill me...which is the real reason of this post.

im not saying shoot me...just wound me. 8)

thanks guys!
01-31-2010, 09:57 AM   #12
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Mitch, one other suggestion: you can get two K20D's for about the price of one K7 - that would save you about $1600 or so and you'd still have three great cameras.
01-31-2010, 01:40 PM   #13
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Just had a thought - If possible wait to invest in new bodies until Pentax announces their new model (when - who knows, but smells like it should be soon) and possibly new lenses.

Although they will be more pricey than either a k20 or K-7, you can always buy 2 bodies/grips and wait to invest in a 3rd body once money starts flowing. After all, you already have a body or two.

Although the thought of having all necessary equipment right of the bat sounds wonderful, it can also be very limiting in the long run. Although I would love to invest in K-7s right now, my K20D and K10D are working wonderfully and all attachments/accessories are fully compatible. If I had purchased a K-7, I'd need different grips, different batteries and chargers, different focusing screens - all which at this point I'd rather not have to invest on.
01-31-2010, 01:53 PM   #14
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You asked about a rate of return for the 'loan.' My thoughts are when I bought my company (an accounting firm) I went with a loan, that way it is fixed payments and a set interest rate, but I am working for me after that.

With a share investment or a partnership, there is pressure that you may not be working enough on your personal business and his rate of return would go down. I feel it is easier on the friendship if he is making the first say 5,000 a year over say 6 years vs him taking 25 cents on the dollar earned.

Hope that makes sense.
01-31-2010, 04:07 PM   #15
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Before you think about spending any money, have you written a business plan? Do you know what caused your rough spot, and taken lessons from it?

What is the reason that you aren't taking bookings? Is it cashflow, equipment, or reputation issues? Will an infusion of cash be what you need, and is buying new gear what you need the most?

If you take on this investor, are you willing to forgo a 13 relationship when/if you aren't able to pay off the 'loan' or pay him in profits? Can you even afford to pay him back if you aren't taking bookings? Will you be able to book enough business for the upcoming season to make the gear purchase worthwhile?

Is it a gift with no strings attached? What will be your professional relationship, and are your both capable of separating money and personal lives? Do you want to?
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