When I started my business in 2003 I never considered that I’d have four associate photographers and be shooting over 40 weddings annually as a studio fifteen years later. I thought I would be on my own shooting weddings for my boutique brand for the rest of my career. But my journey has taken some unexpected turns along the way.

About 10 years ago I had raised my prices significantly and was getting a lot of inquiries from brides saying, “I love your style but can’t afford you. Is there someone else you would recommend?” I had a list of great photographers that I would send these brides, and was happy to refer them out, but I started thinking that I should find a way to capitalize on these leads. After all, I had done a lot of hard work to build my brand to generate a high volume of leads. And it was tough to have to turn those away after working so hard for them.

At the same time I was mentoring a number of photographers in their own businesses. I was going to lunch with them, they were 2nd shooting with me, and I was investing in my local community. I started hearing from a number of them that they didn’t enjoy the business side of things and, because they had other competing priorities, they didn’t have the time to do the marketing work necessary to grow their own brands.
The combination of these two factors created a perfect storm of sorts for me. The light bulb went on and I knew I needed to approach a few of my trusted photographer friends to ask them to come on as associate photographers with Melissa Jill Photography.

I'm SO glad I took that leap and started my associate photographer program 10 years ago! I adore my team and have grown so much as a business owner and manager in that time. We've been able to serve HUNDREDS of couples and document so many sweet love stories. And I've learned a ton along the way!

Of the many things I've learned about running a successful associate photographer program, one of them involves some "pre-requisites" that I believe every business must have in place before considering taking this step. Just as a crop needs soil rich in nutrients to thrive and prosper, a business needs to have three things present in order for it to make sense to “plant” an associate photographer program:

1 – Demand
If your business isn’t generating a high level of demand, you are better off putting all of your energy into building your brand and increasing your exposure.

2 – Personnel & Support Infrastructure
If you don’t have the right people on your team OR you will be doing the work yourself, it’s not worth doing. Period.

3 – A Desire to Expand & Manage
You need to enjoy the business side of things and learn to become an effective manager.

If this sounds like you, or you think you might be interested in building an associate program at some point in the future, I’ve built an online assessment that you can take free of charge that will give you further thoughts and feedback on whether or not the soil of your business is ready for “planting”. You can find it on the Photographer Resources section of my website.

Building an associate photographer program isn’t for everyone, but it CAN be an effective way to maximize your profit and the work you have put into building your brand. And when you have the right team members in place it makes the business journey so much more FUN!
Is an Associate Photography Program right for you? Take the Quiz!
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