Thursday, September 24, 2009

The One Man Band And A Network Of Thousands

One Man Band: To Be, Or Not To Be?
At various times in my photography career I have had up to five people working for me. A small number of employees compared to the number of staff members of many other photographers, but certainly a handful for me! I remain firmly convinced that having the right employees can make your business way more efficient and profitable, and having the wrong employees can really drag you down. One question you need to answer before you grow your business staff is whether it will suit the life you want to lead.

Large Staffs, Part Time Employees, and Pressure
I know of several photographers who have large staffs, produce wonderful work in vast quantities, haul in huge dollars and feel like they are slaves to their operations.  One such stock shooter, who has over a dozen staff members, remarked to me how much he envied my trips abroad to shoot stock.  I suggested he embark on such a trip.  He said he couldn’t, his huge studio expenses would continue whether he was there or not, so he had to be there to keep producing. I'm sure not everyone feels that way, but it is a feeling I certainly understand. Whenever I have had full-time, or heck, even part time employees, I have felt pressure to keep them busy and productive.

Routine Tasks And Freedom
Right now I have no one working for me. It feels great! The downside is that I have to do things I don't necessarily want to, like entering metadata, running to the store to buy printer ink (I just got back), and taking care of all the routine tasks that I consider myself too important to do. Oh well…. It also means that I won't make quite as much money. Sure, there is no salary to pay, but I have always found that employees have earned me more than they have cost me…at least in terms of dollars. But at this point in my life I value my freedom more than I do those extra dollars.

A One Man Band And A Network Of Thousands

The trade-off? I have to be that proverbial One Man Band. Of course, I do avail myself of independent contractors. I have a bookkeeper that comes in every couple of months to untangle my latest Quickbooks mess, my web master (actually my twin brother) who handles the heaviest SEO load, and the occasional assistant as needed. But more importantly, I have a network of thousands (OK, maybe hundreds…but whose counting?) I can turn to when I need help, pretty much anywhere in the world.  I have this network of friends and from photographer forums, from helping others and sharing information whenever I can. One of the most amazing things about this new fangled Internet is all of the help that is out their waiting for all of us.  I guess none of us really has to be a one man band anymore.


donfarrall said...


I have been flying solo for the last year and a half and understand completely what you are saying here. I too found myself spending too much time trying to keep staff productive, and not being free to wonder off in creative directions. Yes, I too have to do some little things that I used to pass off to others, but for me it's worth the advantages. I have people begging to work for me, and they don't understand that it's the distraction of having employees, that keeps me from hiring them, not because I am too cheap. Working alone is not for everyone, but it is not uncommon among photographers, and it works for me.

John Lund said...


Another plus that occurred to me is that I have to learn things I would otherwise delegate.

Thanks for the comment!


Unknown said...

I have always felt that it is advantageous to keep your overhead low. However, I have been doing much, too much little stuff for the past couple of years and found that I was not able to complete a projects for lack of time (not procrastination). So now I have three part-time assistants (not to mention bookkeeper and house helper) who do specialized work for me. One is just working on a stock project that will end soon. Then I'm left with my Photoshop expert and part-time office assistant. This is the best of all!

John Lund said...


I have to agree that when your staff is working well for you life is good!