Today I'm continuing my series for photographers in which I share tips for organizing and systematizing your workflow. And when I say "workflow," I don't mean it in the narrow sense of post-processing. I mean the entire customer experience and set-up of our businesses. If you're just joining us, click here to find a complete list of the posts in The Workflow Series and get caught up!

Today we're continuing my thought from Part 3 about color correction with a discussion of the options for delegating and outsourcing. As I mentioned in Part 3, if you don't want your business to die at a young age, you need to let go of some of the technical work of the business and become a manager and entrepreneur. And color correction is one of the first tasks photographers should consider delegating or outsourcing.

There are a number of options for off-loading the bulk of your color correction and editing. You can bring on an intern, hire an employee, or outsource the work to an outside company that specializes in doing it. We're going to explore the pros and cons of these options briefly. They all cost something -- money or time. So often photographers who have young businesses feel that they can't afford to outsource. But more than likely, they can't afford not to.

By way of example, here's a bit of my story. I did everything myself for my first 2 1/2 years of business (only one of which I was full-time). Then I hired a part-time employee to come to my home office and do the bulk of my color correction work. I've had employees ever since (7 1/2 years now). It was super-scary at the time. It's hard to think you can afford to pay someone when you're still trying to put all the money you can back into your business. But as soon as you start making more than $10-$12/hour yourself, you can afford to pay someone else. Here's how it works. Pay someone part-time on an as-needed basis (with an understanding that their hours will likely grow) $10-$12/hour to color-correct for you. Hire someone who doesn't know what they're doing and train them. Then go out and network and blog and market your business like crazy so you can make $50 or $100 per hour. It's the only way to grow. Otherwise, you'll be sitting behind the computer for the rest of your life making $10-$12/hour doing everything yourself and your business will die.

I chose the route of hiring employees in-house to delegate some of my work AND I outsource some tasks to outside companies as well. This has been a great combo for me. But each business is unique. Let's explore all three options briefly:

Bring on Interns for college credit
Pros: Free work
Cons: It's time-consuming to train them and the rewards are short-term. They will move on after a semester and take your valuable info with them. Then you will have to train someone else.

Hire an Employee
Pros: You can teach them and make adjustments to their work easily since they are in-house. You also have the flexibility to pass on additional duties to them that would not be possible if you outsourced to an outside company that is specialized in just color-correction and editing, for instance. If they stay with you long enough (a minimum of two years is what I ask), and are able to grow with you, they are invaluable and end up costing less money than outsourcing to an outside company would.
Cons: It takes time to train them. You must pay them regardless of the amount of work coming into the studio. And payroll taxes suck.

Outsource to an Outside Company
Pros: They are slightly more expensive than paying an employee in-house, but you can pay per job, so you're only paying when you're busy. They are more stable and reliable long-term than an employee or intern who may leave at any time. They require no training, just a little guidance as to your preferences.
Cons: They are a more expensive option per job than an employee or intern would be. You have less control and ability to customize the work. And since they are specialized and not in-house, you cannot add other tasks to their work as you grow.

It's hard for me to tell you which option would work best for you. But hopefully a careful consideration of the pros and cons listed above may help guide you. You may even find that a combination of 2 or all 3 of the above options works best for you.

If you are thinking of possibly hiring an employee, here are a few tips:

#1 -- Hire for character over experience. Look for loyalty, work ethic and a teachable spirit. Photoshop can be taught; these characteristics...not so much.
#2 -- Take time to train them well. For color correction, show them how you would adjust 50 images and talk them through why. Then have them do 50 on their own. Go back through them to share what is good and what you would tweak. Repeat until they are about 90% there. Then let go and don't even monitor their work. It's hard, but you have to let go if you want to have the time to work on the things you need to do to make your business grow.
#3 -- Ask them to stick around for at least 2 years. You can't legally hold them to it, but make sure they understand that you need that in order for the training you are going to invest in them to be worth it for you.

As for outsourcing color correction, I would highly recommend ShootDotEdit. We use them for the bulk of our associate wedding color correction and are getting great results!

Remember, outsourcing doesn't have to stop at color-correction! It's definitely one of the first things I would recommend delegating or outsourcing, just because it is so time-consuming, but here are some other tasks to consider:

- Accounting (FOR SURE) and possibly even bookkeeping
- Proofing & Print Fulfillment
- Album Design (use Align!)
- House-cleaning (My favorite thing to outsource :))

As you grow, outsource or delegate the things that you don't have to do yourself to free yourself up to focus on the things you must do yourself. For me, those things are:

- Shooting (obviously)
- Culling
- Color Correcting & editing favorite photos
- Blogging
- Some email communication
- Client meetings & phone calls
- Networking
- Updating the brand and website
- Thinking big picture and improving the business (this includes learning, reading & problem-solving)
- Managing employees & independent contractors
- Growing other streams of revenue

The above list is what I spend 100% of my time on. Everything else is delegated or outsourced.

Remember, it's a process. You're not going to get to this point overnight. But you also can't run a successful, growing business doing everything yourself forever. So you have to start somewhere with delegating and outsourcing. Color correction and editing is the perfect first step.

I would love to hear your thoughts and comments below! To find out about more resources I offer photographers, click here!

Click here to read Part 5 of this series -- Workflow Checklist.
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