Adapting to change
For over a decade, Jess has had the business of real estate photography sharply in focus, where the adage 'a picture is worth 1000 words' is second only to the time-worn classic of "location, location, location."
So it's easy to see why there's a thriving ecosystem of photographers specialising in property — from compact rentals through to sprawling prestige listings, it's the image that draws you in.
That's something Jess Munitz, the mind behind the lens at Creative Edge Photography, knows. And it's something that's kept her busy for the last decade, even if COVID-19 has slowed the pace down recently.
Photography is a family business for Jess, her father was a photographer, and the WA-native quickly followed in his footsteps, luckily landing a job at a Perth real estate photography company shortly after completing study.
Key lessons for Creative Edge Photography
Growing your business requires significant change – have you considered your biggest opportunities may lie in another region?
Marketing as a response to change – whether due to COVID-19 or other significant alteration of business plans, savvy marketing can be the way to avoid deep shortfalls
Growing a business means knowing your numbers – and the easiest way to do that is to choose the right technology that will scale with your business needs
Tech and advice makes stimulus a breeze – simple business financials and sound guidance can save you time, but more importantly, stress
When building your business means moving away
"I got a job pretty much straight away, which was lucky in my industry,” says Jess. “I learned a lot with them over seven years, and it gave me a good base to go off on my own."
And off she went— after a stint continuing to shoot properties in Perth, Jess felt the lure of the east coast.
"It wasn't mainly a business decision. I guess in Perth I felt like I'd photographed all of the same sorts of things, and there wasn't much variety. I could build my business over here and it's definitely grown exponentially since I've been in Victoria, which is exciting.
“There's a huge difference between photographing property in Melbourne as opposed to Perth.
“In Perth, the agents expect up to about 40 photos per property. In Melbourne it's only about 10 – it alleviates the random shots, it's more quality here."
Quality though, brings its own problems, as Jess explains: "fewer photos weed out the unnecessary photos that you would take to fill up 40 shots of a one-bedroom apartment, all the filler stuff”.
“In saying that, it did give me a bit more flexibility to take some more artistic shots, and I don't have that luxury here — it's especially limiting if I'm shooting a mansion and I can only take 10 photos."
Savvy marketing as a solid response to shifting conditions
Moving from the west to east coast also presented another challenge for Jess — breaking into a tough industry in a completely new town. She did so by using one of the most tried-and-true marketing techniques.
"Basically, I did a lot of cold emailing and cold calling, it's quite an old-fashioned method of getting clients. Maybe one from every hundred was interested, so it's a bit of a tedious process, but from those first jobs, it was a bit of light networking.
“If I'm at a job, if there's someone there that is in need of a photographer, they'll definitely leave knowing I'm a photographer."
This approach, along with the evident speed and quality of her work has paid off. Jess's already working with a larger portfolio of clients, and flexing her creative muscles in the fields of architectural and interior design photography. And, for someone knew to the market, all those calls had an unexpected benefit.
"It got my brain around all the different companies around Melbourne and gave me a good, hands-on understanding of the landscape."
Seeking out the right platforms and advice when scaling (or otherwise)
Another comparatively recent change to Jess’s business has been the addition of MYOB software.
"I got on board with MYOB about 18 months ago, so not that long, but since I've been on it, it's made my life so much easier.
“Before that, I was just using an Excel spreadsheet. It was pretty basic."
Now, rather than pushing paperwork and bookkeeping to the bottom of the to-do list, Jess finds herself opening her accounts frequently.
"I love having everything in the same spot — and it's all there, and you can see how much you're making each month and where expenses are going. I found using bank feeds is really great for that. "
“It's more of a constant health check situation. Before this, I wouldn't know at all how much I've earned - it was just money going in and out all the time.
“MYOB has made me more aware of where the money's going it's put me in a bit better position to save, and to really be able to control my money,” says Jess. “I highly recommend it."
‘Quiet winter’ of lockdown is less painful with JobKeeper
The importance of this level of financial oversight became more important than ever, as the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic became felt.
"At first, I was like, ‘it's going to be fine’, and then a week later it all hit me and I was like, ‘hang on a second, this is this going be quite tough’."
Jess was already familiar with the peaks and troughs of real estate photography, and according to her, the sudden shift from booming business in March to dramatically cut workload from April on felt like one of those seasonal lulls.
"Nothing's changed too much — it feels like a quiet winter. I have more spare time and because my books are all in order, I’ve now got JobKeeper, so it's not terrible."
As a sole trader, Munitz's eligibility for the Government's JobKeeper scheme was at first unclear, but after verifying some information with her accountant, things turned around quickly.
"I spoke to my accountant a couple of times with a few questions, and then I just jumped onto the ATO and set up a MyGov account and just applied.
“It was quite easy,” Jess says. “I thought maybe this is too easy, like I've done something wrong, but my accountant was there to act as a key advisor and provide that reassurance.”
For Jess a combination of adaptability, scaling up with the right technology and seeking professional advice is enabling her to make the most of this surprise lull to frame up the future business development of Creative Edge Photography.
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