As a self employed, small business owner, with no guarantee of work and therefore no guarantee of making any money some months, the idea that you might choose to turn away work is a foreign concept to many. For some, it’d even be considered stupid. But we have been doing just that for the last 3 years and in that time our business has flourished. We have always capped the number of bookings that we’ve taken on each year to some degree, but since rebranding as “Sam & Louise” in 2015 we’ve been much more selective in the work we take on and the volume of work we take on.
So why do we do this?
For us, capping the number of weddings that we take on each year helps us to manage not only our workflow, but also our work/life balance.
I for one am horrendous at separating work and “real life.” I’d go so far as to say there is no separation. Maybe i’m a workaholic. Maybe I enjoy what I do too much. Perhaps I just need a hobby. Whatever it is, work is pretty much already a 24-7 pursuit for me. If we took on any more, I think it would actually be counterproductive.
Capping the number of bookings we take on each year also allows us to have a degree of flexibility in our schedule. This means that we can offer our clients that bit more. It’s little things, but being able to offer a choice of dates for an engagement session rather than a single date for example. It’s small things like not being so bogged down with editing that it takes a day or more to reply to emails.
Leaving a lasting impression
In turn these things leave a lasting impression with couples. It gives the impression that you genuinely care about their day. About answering their questions. About making sure things are special for them. Of course you do, we all care about our clients, but I guess it’s like being on your driving test. You have to over exaggerate those looks in the mirror to show the examiner that you’re checking the road is clear before you make a manoeuvre. Great customer service and doing the bare minimum are mutually exclusive in my opinion.
Keeping work manageable
Keeping bookings at (what we feel) is a reasonable and manageable number is also good for keeping you sane. Although things are slowly changing, weddings are still, for the most part, seasonal. March-October are very wedding heavy compared to November-February. They also predominantly take place Friday-Sunday. Giving up every single weekend you have throughout Spring, Summer and Autumn can do funny things to you. Especially when you consider that throughout the week you’ll be stuck in one room editing your spoils.
It is a constant and endless routine of shoot, edit, prepare for the next one. Shoot edit, prepare for the next one. It can be lonely and isolating. Capping can sometimes mean you have a little more flexibility in your personal life. It’s heartbreaking to constantly have to miss family outings, BBQs, birthdays, days out with friends and so on because you’re shooting a wedding that’s been booked in for the last 18 months.
Staying at our best
Another reason we cap is so we can continue to be at our best. Wedding fatigue is real. It’s an intense, high pressure job and at some point you will start to burn out. For this reason we try to avoid double headers altogether, but if we do happen to have two weddings back to back for example, we will never, ever take on a third. It wouldn’t be good for us and it wouldn’t be good for the third couple. There’s no way we would have the energy and capacity to be at our best after having already shot two weddings each at 12+ hours each.
Strengthening our brand
For all these reasons and more, we are very careful about which weddings we take on and how many of them we take on. Being at our best means being able to deliver the very best service we can, year round. In turn that means happy couples and happy families. Often, the result of that is referrals, recommendations and ultimately more work coming in. So although turning away work may not seem like a good business decision in the short term, long term we feel it actually strengthens our business and helps us to create a strong and sustainable network of clients.
We know that everyone’s business works differently and our approach may be different if we had children for example, but for us, capping the number of weddings we take on works for us and it’s something we cannot imagine stopping any time soon.