John Williams started JW Photography, a Tucson, Ariz.-based wedding photography company, in 2010. During the past two years, Williams has honed his business skills and learned how to avoid burnout during the hectic wedding season.
The GoPayment Blog recently chatted with the creative entrepreneur about his strategies for maintaining a balanced schedule, marketing his business, and more.
GoPayment: What is your biggest business challenge? How did you overcome it?
Williams: My biggest challenge is advertising. You can never advertise enough. Basically, we have one big bridal fair, and they cut it back to once a year, so it’s tough reaching out to people. I do any other photography, but I mostly just advertise for weddings. The bridal fair is probably my main source of clients, but I also [get customers] through my website and word of mouth. JW Photography is also on Facebook.
What sets you apart from other wedding photographers in Tucson?
I’m basically a one-man show, so I do everything. A lot of photography businesses have a lot people working for them, so they’re not as involved in the process as I am. Start to finish, I do everything. That and my prices set me apart from the competition.
Does seasonality play a role in your business?
It’s a year-round thing, but the summer months, usually from June to August, are a little bit slower. Not that there isn’t business, but the demand is much higher during the cooler [seasons]. Right after Christmas, from January to about April, is the busiest time.
How many weddings do you shoot per year, and how do you keep from getting frazzled during the busy season?
It varies, but last year I did about 20 weddings. This past May, I had five weddings in one month, which was crazy.
I never double-book. I always basically dedicate that whole day to that couple. I’ve done back-to-back weddings, with one on a Friday and one on a Saturday, and those are insane. I always show up at the wedding rehearsals, and I find that very important because it gives me a chance to meet the couple’s family. That way, I’m not clueless about who’s in the wedding. The hardest thing is learning people’s names. There are so many people. I reduce it down to mother, daughter, father, son. And then I focus on the bride and groom’s names.
What advice would you offer to other small-business owners?
The biggest thing is for me is to really find the cheapest way to do the best thing. You really need to go out there and look at your vendors, really find products that not only reflect your business and what you want to offer, but also give you the most flexibility to make the most money. Be audacious. Don’t be afraid to talk to people and introduce yourself: You can never do enough of that.
How has using GoPayment impacted your business?
I have been using GoPayment for almost two years, and the biggest reason is that I never use cash and I don’t write checks unless I have to. When I started my business, I was accepting cash and checks, but the cash thing became difficult to keep track of. I had so many people ask me to take credit cards that it just made sense to do it. I would say about 85 percent of my clients pay by debit or credit card, but I couldn’t afford to have a terminal and pay monthly fees.
The thing I like about GoPayment is it’s tied into Intuit, and I use QuickBooks. [I like] the way that it does all the accounting, and you can look things up and it’ll create the statement for you at the end of the year. It’s much more intuitive than some of the other options.