Meet Cole Joseph — photography coach legend! Cole’s devoted his business to helping photographers improve photography and run a more sustainable business.

He’s just launched some cool new tools to make the administrative side of photography business much easier. He also has an awesome perspective on the industry as a whole.

Today, we’ll be talking with him about what investments every photographer should make in their business, how technology can replace the need for hiring office assistants, and how to stand out from your competition.

(Here are the highlights, but you can watch the full conversation below or listen to the episode on the Momentum podcast).

How Cole Started

Most photographers have loved photography their entire lives. But for Cole, photography came to him during his first year working in corporate America. He studied finance, landed a “real job”, and spent his lunch hours brainstorming business ideas with his buddies for fun. When someone mentioned wedding photography, it seemed like an idea he could make work — even though he didn’t even own a camera.

So how’d he do it? He got online, bought the basic equipment, and started figuring out photography on his own… with the help of some snarky online photography message boards. In his first year, he hustled his way into booking 28 weddings — mainly using Craigslist ads.

Cole knows what it’s like to learn photography from scratch and quickly noticed the huge lack of online resources available for new photographers — resources to help photographers to learn the craft without facing negativity from the pros. So, three years into shooting weddings, he got the idea for Cole’s Classroom as a way to teach aspiring photographers how to take better photos without the usual stress and frustration.

Since he launched Cole’s Classroom, he’s continued to develop it into a repertoire of photography resources — including presets and software!

Choose Investments (not costs)

We all know it’s not very wise to run up a ton of unnecessary charges when first starting a business. But we also tend to confuse “cost” with “investment”. Costs are expenses like gear. Investments are tools that bring a return of time or money.

Your time is valuable. In the first days of a new business, there’s more time than money, but don’t get caught in the mindset of de-valuing your time. Just because you have time, don’t waste it. Invest in the tools and templates available to help you. There are a ton of templates and presets available right now that can save you time and make you look more professional to your clients.

For Cole, as the demands on his time increased, he had to make the decision to invest in tools that saved him time in the future. They aren’t gear costs — they’re investments.

Take presets, for example — it used to take Cole an average of 24 hours to edit an 8-hour wedding. But, with the help of presets, he found he could do the same editing in just 4 hours. This was an investment. Just because he had 24 hours available to spend on editing didn’t mean that’s where his time was best spent.

Instead, think of where your time is most valuable. One of our primary jobs is to help clients make choices. Clients won’t buy the framed prints or the albums if they’re swamped with too many options.

Spend time curating the photos so clients only see the best photos from your shoot, and spend less time editing for minor details. As you edit, remember what clients really care about: Do I look pretty? Did it make me feel special? Other nuances often go unnoticed.

Your Biggest Place for Improvement

We could all improve the way we manage our contracts, invoices, and general workflow, right?

While there are tools out there to help, most of them have such high learning curves that it’s tough to figure out their practical use.

So, Cole and his team created Hey Ned — a client management software that gets all the results you need without the technical hassle.

You don’t have to hire someone to handle your administrative work. Now, we have technology that meets those needs — leaving you with more money and time.

Seize the Opportunity to Stand Out

There’s a lot of aspiring photographers — but 85% fail. Why?

They aren’t doing the little extras that make them stand out.

These aren’t time-consuming things. It’s stuff like using professional templates and electronic contracts, sending a Loom video to go over your pricing with a personal touch, writing clients a thank you note with a $10 gift card after your session.

If you need clients, don’t spend your money on Facebook ads. Instead, do what it takes to get a few new clients (even if you offer free sessions) and treat them like royalty so they can’t help but to talk about how great your business is.

Also, as you look for ways to stand out, don’t compare yourself to other photographers — compare yourself to other successful businesses.

Your clients are already using seamless online tools to order groceries, deliver products, and manage finances. They’re used to easy, frictionless, online operations. How can you make your business as seamless as possible? If doing business with you requires work most people won’t be interested.

Want to Learn More?

To learn more from Cole about shooting, editing, and growing your photography business, check out ColesClassroom.com. They offer free webinars (no strings attached!) and free presets (the same he used for all those weddings!).

If you want personal mentoring and access to Hey Ned, check out colesclassroom.com/sticky. They actually offer live training, answer your questions directly, and help you with YOUR photography. It’s more than a forum or a standard tutorial— it’s personal training from Cole and his team. (And just for those of us with StickyFolios, you can try it all for $1 to see if you like it!)

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