Thinking of becoming an Associate Photographer?
It was Fall 2014 when I saw Kylee Ann Photography advertising her one day workshops! I was approaching graduation with my photography BFA degree but soooo scared to walk into the real world. My education was in fine art photography and not in anything business of photography! I ended up taking her workshop and learned more in one day about running a photography business than I had in 4 years of college. I applied to be a babysitter for her that summer and basically was Kylee Ann’s personal assistant for a few months.
At the end of the summer, the idea of adding me into the business as a second photographer came up and I had about 3 days to decide if I was going to join up with Kylee Ann or continue running the small photography business I had recently started. The full story of how I met Kylee Ann and got hired is linked HERE, but this blog is going to detail all the thoughts and actions that happened in those 3 days and everything I’ve learned since. If you are considering becoming an associate photographer, this blog is for you!
The Business I Joined in 2015
First of all, I need to set the scene for the business that I joined in 2015. Kylee Ann Photography was a thriving business when I joined it and it was ran by a skilled business owner. Kylee Ann had taken a class on associate photography teams a few years prior to this situation so she had knowledge and education behind her job offer to me. Her business had been around for about 5 years at this point and she was fully booked, had a strong brand and aesthetic , a well known name in the state of Utah and was incredible in her marketing efforts. Her web of referrals was wide and sticky (😂) so I knew that her clientele could provide bookings for me.
I understood at that point that she was adding me on as an expansion of her business and she appropriately priced my services to where I was making a great income instead of trying to rake in the clients that couldn’t afford her higher pricing. This proved to be a smart choice and we’ve both been able to raise prices each year while maintaining a full schedule. These points are key when trying to assess whether a certain business is appropriate for you to join up with!
In the beginning we weren’t sure if I would join my business completely with Kylee Ann or just work for her on a job by job basis and continue running clients on my own. In my case, we realized quickly that having two brands, two systems was never going to work. I transitioned all my clients over to Kylee Ann’s brand early on and ran all new clients through her system. I’ve worked exclusively with Kylee Ann Studios for my sole income for 3 years now.
Here is a list of Pros about being an Associate Photographer !
- You are able to specialize in your specific skill. Whether that be in JUST wedding photography, or JUST family photography, you are able to be a shooter. I specialize in wedding photography and I love getting to be out and shooting and working with people. I no longer spend hours editing since our business is set up for our in house editor to process all the images.
- All pre-booking client interaction is handled for me! My personality does not lend well to be the first point of contact for inquiries. I love working with my booked clients after they have already paid and signed the contracts.
- Working with a team is far less lonely! Even a two person team is much more fun than a one woman/man show! Getting to chat through things or bounce ideas is so valuable.
- Your success is dependent on your effort. If you are lazy, this could be a con, but I’m putting it as a pro! Even with our robust website being keeping us at the top of Google, I know the harder I work to create connections or bring in leads, the busier I will be. During other seasons of life, I am also able to sit back and let the internal marketing systems work for me to fill my schedule.
- My boss is a harder worker than me. I’m always working hard to keep up. I’ve learned a lot of great techniques from her and this business would crumble without her follow through.
- Excellent job for someone that is not naturally business minded. I know that I am very good at following a work flow and providing customer service for my 50 clients a year. I can hand over the visionary business choices to Kylee Ann.
- Depending on how you are hired, you are a contractor for the business so all clients are hiring the business and generally all “client complaints” should be managed by the owner. It minimized your risk.
- I get to reap in the benefits of someone else being in charge of all business running minutia. Things like website updates, subscriptions, CRM management is handled by Kylee Ann and I am forever grateful.
- I have much more free time than sometimes I know what to do with! I have very clear expectations of what my job entails so once my work is done, I have time to pursue other hobbies, babysit on the side or spend time with family.
- I block off family time before booking season every year. I take around 2-3 weeks OFF every summer and lots of personal time off during slow season and the business still runs it’s self.
Here is a list of Cons about being an Associate Photographer!
(*Disclaimer: I have incredible flexibility in my job and a boss who listens so most of these are easily managed.)
- Acquiescing the broad, overarching business choices such as editing choices, website design, higher brand choices, etc.
- You are self-employed and pay self employment taxes and income tax and no formal company benefits. I also have fewer business expenses than I would if I were a sole owner and so my tax deductions are lower and lower every year.
- You represent someone else’s brand. This comes with a lot of pressure sometimes. You carry another person’s reputation on your chest and in your demeanor.
- Associate programs only work if there is the marketing system to back it up. If your owner isn’t bought into multiple marketing streams, your leads will dwindle and you might not be able to control it.
- When you are first starting out, it’s hard to envision how everything will work joining together and how the clients will perceive it. It brought me stress early on but has figured it’s self out.
- You must adopt the values and practices of the existing business. I personally have made my own sub brand that has worked very well but it took years to hone into how I personally fit into the brand.
- As with any self employed business your income will be irregular. I basically get paid for 12 months during the busy summer months and it’s up to me to be to able to budget for the full year.
- You do not earn the full balance from a client. Depending on your role as an associate, you will be paid a percentage per each job. It’s easy to start thinking you are worth more than you are. Never devalue the value of a strong brand reputation, editing and business management.
- Being an associate can be very overwhelming if there isn’t clear systems set up. These took almost a full year for us to set up, but now it’s easy to add on new photographers. So if you are the first associate, plan to be flexible and test things out.
- You are tying your fate to another person’s business. If the owner isn’t transparent with the inner workings or the profitability of the business, dependable, honest in their dealings, or isn’t a hard worker, you could easily be on a sinking ship and not know it.
If you are considering becoming an associate, I think it would be an easy requirement to have your new employer take the Associate Photographer class from Kylee Ann Studios! Check it out here!
lead photographer at Kylee Ann Studios
& expert in providing efficient, romantic and service-oriented wedding photography for the kind couple.
I am professional third wheel and wedding expert. When I don’t have my camera in my hand, you will find me babysitting my friend’s cute kids, walking someone’s dog, or listening to a podcast…. or probably all three of those things at once. I am passionate about serving brides with kindness, preparedness and a little bit of humor. If you like what you see here, click below to see another sample of my work! Let’s be friends!!