When to say no: Setting boundaries in your photography business

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boundaries for photographers: When to say no, Episode 9 of How You Pictured It Podcast

Boundaries for Photographers

One of the best parts of running your own business is that you get to set the rules. In this week’s episode, we are talking about the boundaries you need in place in your business and how, oftentimes, saying no to something opens you up for more “YES!!”.

Grab the free worksheets here: https://dearkatebrandstrategy.ck.page/60672a064a

I talk about:

  •  Determining your values and priorities for you business and your life
  • 4 types of boundaries you need in your photography business
  • Where and how you should be sharing your boundaries
  • How to say no without fear

About Kate Hejde

Kate Hejde is the host and creator of How You Pictured It Podcast and Dear Kate Brand Strategy. She helps photographers create a profitable business that fits into their lives. With over 10 years of experience running her own photography business, while raising three kids, Kate believes that business is not one size fits all and that you define your own success.  Kate teaches through her podcast as well as through course, group coaching, and 1:1 mentoring. 

Check out Kate Online: Website | Instagram | Tiktok | Pinterest

Full Transcript

There’s two little letters that make up one big important word, and that word is no.

In our photography business, it’s so important for us to have boundaries.

By setting clear guidelines, we can let our clients know exactly what to expect and it’s that much easier to exceed those expectations when they’re clear from the very beginning. Having your boundaries written out can make it so much easier to stick to them, too.

Creating boundaries helps you get that work-life balance in check. And that goes back to what we were talking about with outsourcing and automation and previous episodes. Today, we’re going to talk more about the boundaries that you need to have in your business and how saying “no” opens you up to more “yes”.

To start, you have to really think about what your priorities are, what are your highest values and what’s most important to you? For me, my priorities and values are that my family comes first when it comes to anything business related. I always ask myself if this will benefit my family and be worth my absence.

Second it’s getting paid. I’m a photographer as a business and not as a hobby. It’s important to value my talent and efforts and charge accordingly.

Third it’s doing the work that I love. Not every part of running a photography business is my favorite. I have to make sure that I’m able to focus my time in the areas that are most important to me. These three guiding values help me to set my boundaries and know what boundaries that I need in place.

So let’s jump into what boundaries do you need to have in place in your business?

First is creating your ideal schedule and session availability.

This is not only thinking about the days that you want to shoot and the times you want to shoot, but how many sessions you want to shoot? Per week and per month .

? ? ? When we write down exactly what sessions we want and when we want them to take place, it makes it so much easier to know how to market, to fill those spaces.

It also makes it easier to say no to anything that doesn’t fit inside that schedule.

Clients always appreciate knowing what days you have available upfront and knowing that you have set boundaries on when and where you’ll shoot.

It helps position you as the expert and lets them take some of the guesswork and the worry out of booking their session.

Next is deciding what you want to shoot. I know niching down is not for everyone. And cutting out some genres of photography gives you anxiety and it makes you feel stifled creatively. And that’s totally fine.

I will say though, that it’s much easier to fill your calendar with the work that you really love to do when you make yourself an expert in that genre.

This is one place where saying “no” to something leaves you open for more “yes”.

Leaving an opening on your calendar makes it so much easier for you to say “yes” when the right session comes along.

If you get an inquiry for something that’s outside of what you really love to do, referring it out is a really great option. .

If you create a network with other photographers to refer to they’ll refer back to you when they get an inquiry that’s not a fit for them.

Marketing is so much clearer to when you decide what you want to shoot. It’s easier to say. what you do, who you do it for, and why you do it, when you really have a clear picture of what those sessions that you really love are.

That is what makes you an expert in that genre and it makes it easier for clients to book with you.

It also makes it so that you’re known for that type of photography and easy for others to recommend you and talk about you. The next boundary I want you to put in place is your editing process.

I often see other photographers with unhappy clients who expected more extensive editing on their images or expected a different style than what was presented or expected their images back sooner.

Be clear about what you do and do not do in your editing process.

Are you someone who slims people? Are you someone who removes blemishes? Are you someone who does a very natural edit and leaves people looking exactly how they were? And what’s your turnaround time?

When can clients expect to see their images back?

One of the first times we hired a photographer for our own family photos, our pictures took about six weeks to get back.

We didn’t have a contract or anything in place going into the session and I expected the photos back closer to the two week turnaround time that I was used to delivering my own clients images with.

By the time I got my pictures back at six weeks, I was kind of over it. I still love them, but I kind of had a bad taste in my mouth about the session altogether.

Had the photographer been clear upfront that it would be a six week turnaround time, the expectation would have been set.

And I wouldn’t have had to assume, and then be disappointed.

Make sure that you are clear with your time line and give yourself some wiggle room so that you can always exceed that. People are always thrilled when you tell them that they’re going to get their images back in two weeks, and then they come back a little sooner.

But it’s always great to have that buffer in place if something comes up and you can’t quite get to their session, as soon as you hoped.

The next boundary we’re going to talk about is communication.

It’s super important that clients can get in touch with us when they need to, but also that we’re not making ourselves available at all hours of the day. That’s a really quick way to get burnt out.

Letting clients know up front, what the best form of communication is for you, whether that be text, email, or phone call, is super important.

It’s also important to let them know what your working hours are and how quickly they might receive a response from you.

Personally, I feel like anytime I get a notification that a client is trying to contact me, I get a little bit of anxiety. And I want to get back to them as quickly as possible.

But knowing that the client understands that I also have a life and there are boundaries around my time relieves that anxiety and takes away some of the stress that I put on myself.

? ? ? The last big important boundary we’re going to talk about today is our pricing.

By setting our pricing based on doing our cost of doing business and what we want to offer, we know that we’re firm in our numbers.

It’s important to explain in our pricing guides and inquiry responses that these numbers have basis and discounts aren’t allowed.

For some photographers it helps to have discounts that are allowed in certain cases, or have discounted offers that they can suggest for clients who may be need something in a lower price range.

Set your boundary on what your time is worth to you.

So now that we’ve got all of these boundaries kind of floating around in our heads and ideas, what do we need to do with them?

First, we need to write them out.

In the show notes, you can find a link to my boundaries worksheet or just pull up a document and start typing. Work through each of the types of boundaries we talked about here and make sure that you are clear with yourself, what your boundaries are.

Next, we need to make sure that our clients understand what our boundaries are.

All of the things that we talked about today are things that can go into your contract. You could also use a policies page or an FAQ page on your website to

help communicate these boundaries to your clients.

? ? ? We can also start communicating these boundaries from the very beginning, before anyone even books with us right when they first land on our social media or website pages.

For example, I often talk about shooting at sunset in my captions on social media posts so that clients understand that’s the time of day that I shoot and why I shoot then.

I’m priming them to know what to expect when they contact me.

I also talk about my editing style and what they get with their session.

Starting to explain all of these things from the very beginning

really helps to prepare the client.

Once they’ve contacted me, they also get more information about my processes and policies.

My initial email for an outdoor session always says that I shoot in the hour before sunset so that you can get those glowy, gorgeous images that you see in my portfolio.

Doing this has really cut down on those responses, asking for an earlier shoot based on a child’s bedtime.

I’ve shown myself as the expert and the client trusts me to know what I need to get the shots that they want.

I know that you still may be thinking though, that clients are going to ask for things outside of your boundaries and outside of what you want to do. And you’re going to have to say no. The fear of saying no is real.

So, let me give you one last little tip for this episode. Instead of saying no, say yes.

When a client wants to shoot at a different time of day, you can offer sunrise or inside.

When a client asks for a discount, you can offer a mini session on your terms.

When a client asks for more extensive editing, you can offer that at an extended price and likely even outsource that work.

You can almost always spin your no into a yes with a little creativity.

If you found this episode helpful, I’d love for you to share it with a photographer friend or two.

Take a screenshot and post it to your Instagram stories and tag me @dearkatebrandstrategy.

If you’re enjoying the podcast, please leave a five-star review on apple podcasts or Spotify or wherever you’re listening so that other photographers can find it too.

Thanks so much for listening and I’ll talk to you next week.

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