Earlier this year I brought on 12 associate photographers. After having our 3rd baby I quickly realized that I could not do it all. I had been referring clients to other photographers for years, either because my pricing was outside their budget or I was already booked.
I did a lot of research trying to find more information about building an associate program and fell short. I decided to build a program that worked for me, my brand, and most importantly my clients. I must clarify that these associate photographers are not employees, they are sub-contractors. They are responsible for their own taxes. I fill out a 1099 form for each associate to claim their earnings at the end of the year.
Here is how I built my associate photographer program:
I started with conversations, I have a handful of clients and friends who were interested in photography. Some of them are creative moms, some have small photography businesses, some are students who want to earn some extra income.
I updated my website, I designed an associate photographer page with more info about the program and a place for potential associate photographers to apply and where clients can learn more about the program. Check it out here.
I went to social media, shared my excitement on instagram and facebook with a link back to my blog. Within minutes I got applications and several encouraging comments. I scheduled interviews with each applicant and learned about their goals, equipment, and experience. Personality was the most important to me, as technical skills can be taught.
I welcomed my new associates with a workshop and headshots. I covered 3 shooting practices and had a family to photograph to ensure consistency. The best part was when the associates began photographing each other and watching the community and relationships begin to build. Below are the 3 things that I covered:
Back Button Focus
Custom White Balance
AI Servo to capture movement
We created a Group me, this streamlined our communication. When assignments come available we can post information and communicate as a group.
Many photographers require their associates to sign a “non-comp” or non-compete clause (meaning they cannot earn money through any other forms of photography, including their own brands) I know this is risky, but I was more interested in building a community of photographers who are passionate about being a team and serving the clients than competition.
Payment and contracts, for events such as weddings, the associate signs a contract and is paid a retainer to ensure availability on the day of the event. Payment is delivered to the associate after the images have been imported and reviewed as quality.
I have had a team of associates for a few months. It is still a learning process as we navigate a whole new way of business in our community. We have booked over 20 associate shoots, created a fundraiser for a client, held a workshop, and built some lasting friendships and grown as a community.
I am an open book so if you have any questions about building an associate photographer program I would be happy to answer them!