Have you ever had frustrating situations where you wondered how you’ll ever overcome them? I have. Many times. And I got tired of it. I got tired of getting “No” as an answer and missing great opportunities. I decided to take control of my circumstances – instead of being a victim of it.
As most of you may know by now, I do sports photography. I do commercial and advertising stuff and I also loooooove to cover events and competitions. As I offered my services to event organizers those past years, I realized that I often faced the same challenge: they didn’t have or planned to include in their budget money to pay a professional photographer. The problem wasn’t the service: it always came back to a money issue. I knew the athletes were eager to get great pictures of themselves and I also knew event organizers would greatly benefit from those images for their own advertising purposes. I needed to find solutions to three questions.
- How could I get involved in these events that I’d love to be part of?
- How could I gain access to create high-quality photographs?
- And, very important, how could I be paid for my work?
I had numerous opportunities right in front of me and I couldn’t grab them. I shared my concern with trusted people around me. As we were looking for solutions, an idea sparked. I knew that other sports (like gymnastics and hockey) had photographers covering events who sold the images to the athletes – rather than to the organization. That was fuel for thought…
Making a plan
After looking at different possibilities, I came up with a plan worth trying. I’d offer organizations the coverage of their events. Instead of delivering them all the images, I would give them some and sell the others directly to the athletes with an online gallery. That allowed me to charge the organizer of an event a fraction of the total price. They would no longer be absorbing the fees all by themselves. The athletes would pay the other portion. I didn’t invent anything new here. I just adopted, then adapted a system that was already working for other disciplines.
Okay, now that everything looks great – at least on paper – there is nothing else to do… than to jump right into it. I would never know the outcome of this idea without putting it to the test. I was in unknown territory. No matter what happened, success or failure I’d have my answer. I was ready to put in the hours regardless… God helps those who help themselves or so they say!
It turned out that most of the events I covered were a very good investment. Organizations were excited about the deal and athletes were thrilled about photographs of themselves. They were glad to purchase pictures and to encourage my work. I used Pixieset to create my galleries and sell them online. It worked wonders! I had my answer and I absolutely loved it.
Mostly, the time I invested covering an event and editing the pictures versus the income I made was profitable enough for me to keep on offering the service. I also realized I really needed to charge a basic flat rate to organizations. The picture selling from galleries wasn’t enough to cover all my expenses and turn a profit.
Learning has a cost
I found this out the hard way at a triathlon event. The organization didn’t have any budget for a photographer. Still, I wanted to give it a try, so I didn’t charge to photograph it. This was an exciting event that I wanted to be part of. Plus, there were hundreds of triathletes participating. All of them were potential customers. I took a chance and became the official photographer for the day (heads or tails…the coin was spinning in the air).
The site was so big with so many athletes that I asked another photographer to come and work with me. I wanted to cover as much as I could during the swimming, cycling and running portions of the event. We ended up taking pictures for 8 hours – each of us. Then we went back home, sorted and edited more than 2000 images each. We ended up with 900 images in the gallery. It took each of us another 8 hours to process everything. We sold 42 pictures. That’s right. We sold 0.046% of our best images. This has been my biggest failure so far. (The coin had landed tails side up).
What didn’t work? Were the athletes aware that pictures were available to them? Are triathlon athletes not as interested in photographs of themselves competing than CrossFit athletes? Those are questions I need to answer in order to know where has been my mistakes and how can I fix it in order to make it work it next year.
What I’ve learned
More often than not, for me, things turn out to be both beneficial and educational. It helps me grow as an entrepreneur and get creative about my service offerings. Within the course of 7 weeks, I’ve covered 7 events with that new service. It’s been very popular. People liked this new pricing concept. I will keep on refining it and grow to as many possibilities as I can.
It looks very cool put that way. But it takes work. A LOT of work. Every event means approximately 30 hours work within a 48-hour window. The event itself lasts 8 to 10 hours. Add travel time back and forth, the time sorting thousands of images, editing the best ones and uploading them to the website. Because I like to keep the momentum of an event rolling, I like to deliver them ASAP. Which for me means the next day (or the day after in worst cases).
I took chances. I didn’t know how people would react to this new kind of offer. But I was willing to try it and see for myself. It’s still a gamble. I never know the outcome of my income. I’ve had great events, I’ve had sh*tty events. I’ve been frustrated. I’ve learned. I have gotten better.
I still have a lot to learn. That’s what makes this journey quite exciting. I am not afraid of hard work. I am not afraid of failure. The only thing I am afraid of is that the opportunity of doing what I love, making photographs, could be taken away from me.
And I’ll make sure I keep on reaching for opportunities.
Even if that means flipping a coin from time to time. #HeadsOrTails