Friends, I can’t even believe that I just photographed my first wedding of the season! What?! I’m so used to having a longer “off season” from shooting weddings but I was honestly so happy to start my season early. It’s good to keep my eyes fresh and keep doing the thing that I love! It feels so long when there is 4 months without doing it!
But it’s also been interesting these past few weeks, I was feeling the pressure to get done ALL THE THINGS before February 16thand I finally realized that was just not possible. My February wedding and the editing thereafter will just be a part of my life this month and I need to remember that my real season doesn’t pick up until May/June. So I still have plenty of time to get things done. Just breathing through that!
Believe it or not, my life doesn’t just stop because I’m not shooting weddings, and nor does my business. I know a lot of people have been asking, what do wedding photographers do in their off season?! And other business owners have been asking me to write about how to maximize their time during their off season!
So here is my off-season to do list and how I like to use my time! I hope this is helpful for you!
1. Bookkeeping / Taxes
I started with the most boring one on purpose! One of the first things I realize in the new year is that my taxes need to be filed for federal and state by April 15th. SO, that doesn’t leave a ton of time to get things in order. If I was being good and bookkeeping every month during busy season, that wouldn’t leave me a ton to do right now. But to be honest, I used to outsource my bookkeeping and editing and so this year, having to do both myself added a ton to my plate. So I prioritized editing and let bookkeeping have the backburner. So I need to catch up with that.
I use Quickbooks to manually enter transactions on my bank account register, and also create invoices and record my deposits/withdrawals.
Then, I need to calculate my MILEAGE for the previous year. A lot of entrepreneurs use fun apps like MileIQ or MileBug, but I’m also not good at remembering to record all that data when the season is busy. So I have a really good record on my iCal of every business appointment or shoot, labeled in its own color. In off season I go through and calculate exactly how many miles I drove in the past year – then I can take the deduction for my taxes (2018 it’s 54.5%!)
After all of that is done, I sit down with Derek and actually file the taxes together before April. So this is a huge item in my off season to do list! And it feels so good when it’s done!!
2. Analyze My Profit & Loss
Every year after my taxes are done, one thing I love to do is analyze my Profit & Loss (P&L) statement. My Quickbooks file can generate one for me, and inside it details exactly where my profit came from in my business, and categorizes all my business expenses so I can see which were the big ones. One year it’s how I discovered I paid $800 in online credit card fees. It’s in seeing these numbers that we can really analyze, what’s working? What isn’t working? And what do we want to change?
Don’t miss this step and get so excited about being done with taxes that your business isn’t analyzed! So important as we step into the year ahead, our needs are always changing as business owners from season to season!
3. Plan for the Year Ahead
Writing a Business Plan is an amazing thing to do in off season if you’ve never done one!! It has to do with goals for the year ahead and also the nitty gritty work of projecting your income. You figure out how much profit you actually make per job (by deducting all the costs that go in to actually creating the product/service you are selling!) and then how many jobs you would like to book to meet your revenue goal.
I am so thankful I have already met my goal, but I definitely am hard core planning some other fun things I can do this year to diversify my business and meet other goals of mine aside from shooting weddings!
4. Blogging / Education
I work really hard to continue to blog in my off season and promote my business as usual. At the beginning of every year I write 2 blog posts that I love every year, the BEST IMAGES of the previous year, as well as BEHIND THE SCENES photos of me working the previous year! Those are so fun to write and so encouraging to look back on the season that just past.
I also try to write educational blog posts that help brides and other photographers (like this one!!) Off season is an amazing time to pour into the education side of my business and to take time to meet other people’s needs and mentor them!
5. Update Website Portfolios
It’s important to keep the work current that your potential brides & clients are seeing when they click onto your website! Every year there are new improvements to our work and we create new masterpieces that may be better than some of our previous work. It’s important to weed through what we’re showing to make sure it is really our best and most recent best foot forward!
If you advertise on any platforms like WeddingWire/TheKnot you may want to update your portfolios there too! Any space that your clients will find you – make sure they are seeing the best!
6. Submit Work for Publishing
I don’t do this every year consistently in my off season, as I often make time for this when I have interns working with me! But, one thing that can be important to catch up on is getting your previous work published. Wedding blogs are looking for submissions year-round, and sometimes we want to submit but just don’t get around to it. Off season is a great time to curate the portfolios we want to put out there for publishing, which will give us greater reach in our online platforms!
7. Meet with Brides
Winter is a time of year that many brides are looking for photographers and booking their weddings! It’s true that this happens year-round and it comes in waves, but I find that I spend a lot of time in off season talking to and meeting with new clients!
8. Design Wedding Albums
Winter is also a great time for your clients to catch up with making photo selections for their album and for photographers to catch up with the design process! I try to maximize my off season to output client albums! Even though I’m doing them year-round, I find I get a lot of requests from clients to work on them at this time – and it’s perfect for me!
This is a photo of our wedding albums, and they’re the same albums I design for all my clients! LOVE them!
9. Clean / Calibrate Your Camera Gear
This is something I don’t do every year but I am starting to do more and more as my equipment depreciates! Sometimes when you use lenses a ton with your camera bodies, the auto focus system gets a little “off” in the internal of the camera and it doesn’t shoot as fast or as sharp. You can literally take it to a camera store and make sure all your lenses are calibrated correctly with your body. Each lens is outfitted to focus sharply at a particular distance. And that distance that the lens is made for needs to match what the inside of the camera is saying it recognizes.
Also, clean those dusty lenses and image sensors! Good to have nice clean gear before the season starts!
10. Make Gear Purchases
I am always purchasing batteries for my flash transmitter (Flex TT1) that sits on top of my camera! That battery looks like a watch battery and you can’t buy it rechargeable like the AA Eneloop rechargeable ones I use for my flashes! So I make sure I’m stocked up on those batteries.
Of course, there may be other purchases you’ve been wanting to do for wedding season…off season is a great time to assess what is needed and what is financially feasible for you for the coming year!
11. Catch Up with Personal Projects
I love using off season to catch up on my own projects as well as my business projects! With more time available, I love working on house projects and things I’ve wanted to do for a long time and haven’t had time to do so! Last winter, Derek and I painted our bedroom – so much fun! And this winter, we want to finish my office space and re-do our bathroom. I also want to create more photo books of our personal photos and hang more family photos in our house! Those are just a few of mine, I’m sure you have your own!
I started working out at the end of last season as a way of prioritizing myself and my body in the busyness. But in the off season, I see just as much reason if not more to do the same! I’m attending weekly workout classes and trying to go a few times a week – it feels so good to stay in that same routine and care for myself!
Wedding season takes a lot out of my body and a lot of photographers’ bodies. So it’s awesome to try to strengthen and prepare yourself for the season ahead!
13. Enjoy the Weekends
In off season I love enjoying what I can’t enjoy as much of in the busy season! Weekends are usually so busy for us during wedding season, so I love either staying home and having game nights with friends, and going on adventures with Derek, OR planning weekend trips to see friends that I can’t see as much of during busy seasons!
It’s the perfect time to really soak up all that time with people and yourself! Having big Saturday breakfasts and relaxing with my husband has been amazing!
I know I started this blog post with a list of things to do and catch up on! So that’s why I wanted to end it here. Don’t forget in your attempt to “catch up” with the rest of your business to enjoy the fact that this season doesn’t have to be as busy. You can take more time for you. You can rest and enjoy it and not feel guilty. I am totally for #restisthenewhustle. It’s in resting and connecting to yourself (and for me, God) that we can reflect, and stay rooted and grounded in our purpose as we journey ahead.
I hope this post was helpful for you, and here’s to making our off season time meaningful and productive, yet also sweet and restful!