It's possible that you are already well aware that there are third-party image-editing services out there that make it possible for you to outsource your product image-editing needs.
But the big question is this: how do you know when your creative operations have grown to a point where they might benefit from a service like this? What are some of the symptoms that arise in creative operations in need of help from a third-party solution?
Over the years at Pixelz, we have spoken with hundreds of our current customers, from world-leading fashion brands to smaller e-commerce stores, and heard their stories firsthand of how they came to the realization that they needed to outsource some of their retouching in order for their company or brand to successfully scale.
We’ve put together some of the most common symptoms of a creative operations in need of an image-editing service to help you determine if your own creative operations are in need of some outside help.
Repetitive Tasks are Causing Bottlenecks in Your Creative Workflows
Operations leaders often tell us that one of the first symptoms they experience before realizing they are in need of an outsource solution is regular bottlenecks due to a lack of capacity.
Their stories are always similar: their company or brand grows to a point where their in-house retouching teams simply don’t have the capacity to handle all of the retouching that needs to be done.
The lack of capacity causes bottlenecks that leave their retouchers stressed and overworked. With images piling up, teams further down the operational line end up stuck waiting for images to be ready, causing both waste and frustration throughout the creative workflow. Those delays and backups result in images, and the products that go with them, getting to market late, opening the door for competitors with more optimized workflows to catch the eyes of customers first.
Some operations leaders recognize at this early stage that their operations are ready for an outsource solution and they begin researching potential third-party options.
Others, however, first attempt to fix their capacity issues with more internal hiring, causing the second symptom of a creative operation in need of third-party help.
Hiring More and More (Expensive) In-House Retouchers to Solve Bottlenecks
Whether it is out of fear of never having outsourced before or simply being unaware that good outsource solutions exist, the first instinct for many creative operations leaders is to try and keep all their operations in-house and scale their own teams to meet their retouching demands.
Unfortunately, this is hardly a viable solution. For one, scaling an in-house team is incredibly expensive: the average cost of a retoucher in L.A. for example is around $40,000 per year according to Glassdoor. That means every time that your company attempts to scale up production, significant additional overhead is required as you recruit and hire more and more retouchers to increase your retouching capacity.
A business in need of a third party-solution is one that takes on the extra operational overhead for additional in-house retouchers just to cover repetitive retouching work.
The problem is, the value of your in-house team is exactly that: they are in-house. If you are going to invest in growing an in-house team, they should be spending time using their expertise to help you build your brand’s visual identity or doing more specialized retouching tasks on content that only they can do to help bring your brand to life.
A business in need of a third party-solution, however, is one that takes on this extra operational overhead for additional retouchers just to cover repetitive retouching work like removing backgrounds, dust, and scratches and adding shadowing.
It is the equivalent of hiring Steve Jobs and then having him spend his day putting together iPhones. Can he do it? Yes. Is that the area of the business where he brings the most value? Probably not.
Your in-house team’s presence on-site gives them unique insights into your brand. They should spend their time on tasks where that knowledge can be used to deliver value that only someone in-house can deliver rather than spending their time on repetitive tasks that can be completed by a retoucher regardless of location.
Often, even with additional hiring, and all that overhead that comes with it, creative directors at brands that are scaling quickly are often still left with deciding between image quality and getting images delivered on time.
Sacrificing Best Practices for Faster Turnaround Time
Rapid growth is a double-edged sword: it is an exciting time for any brand to see sales increasing, product offerings growing, and to feel the energy of a company on an upswing.
But it can also make keeping up with the needs of your business challenging and retouching needs are no exception. Even if you are willing to invest in growing your in-house teams, you may find it hard to hire and onboard retouchers fast enough to match your capacity with your retouching demands.
For creative operations leaders, this can lead to having to make the choice between quality and getting images to market on time. While you may want to add professional shadowing for every product image, or optimize your images for fast webpage loading times, or display your products in a variety of colors, your time and resources may not allow for it. And you end up pushing out product photography that doesn't represent your brand's products as well as it could.
Regularly being forced into this decision between quality and getting images to market quickly is a telltale sign of a creative operations in need of support from outside help.
To make matters worse, creative leaders who have grown their in-house teams often find themselves with a large and complicated creative operation with no effective way to keep track of it all, making their growing efficiency issues even worse.
Image and Style Guide Management is Causing Inefficiencies
As your creative operations grow, so too do the number of spreadsheets, PDFs, and style guides that you are required to track, update and share with your teams to keep everyone aligned.
Problem is, managing images, photoshoots, and style guides this way doesn’t scale very well.
As you add more people to your in-house team and begin processing more and more images, the likelihood that images are given the wrong file names or get placed in the wrong folders or lost completely increases. So too does the likelihood that style guide PDFs don’t get updated or distributed to those who need to be up-to-date on the latest in-house standards.
All of that reshooting, searching, redistributing, and chasing is not only inefficient, it also leads to talented staff growing frustrated. It is often only when these frustrations are voiced by valuable team members that the issue becomes clear and a search for a solution begins, and by then, creative leaders face having to fix not only the inefficiencies in their workflows, but also reestablish a positive morale with their team.
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Third-Party Image-Editing Solutions Solve it All
Whether your creative operations are showing one or all of the symptoms described above, you face a common issue experienced by all successful creative companies: in an unfortunate negative feedback loop, your growth and scale have become a hindrance to your growth and scale.
An effective third-party image-editing solution can break that negative cycle, not only curing your operations of all the above symptoms, but actually making your operations leaner and meaner than ever before.
Working with Pixelz, for example, means our hundreds of highly-skilled retouchers become an extension of your own business, allowing you to scale your operations as if you had hired hundreds of employees in-house, but without any of the additional overhead. In just a few mouse-clicks, you essentially have access to the team that would have taken you months to recruit, onboard, and train. In very real terms, your capacity issues are solved overnight.
And resolving those bottlenecks by instantly increasing you capacity has a positive domino effect. With all that additional capacity, there is no longer a need for corner-cutting. Want all of your images to have high-quality shadowing, retouching, and be in every product color you offer? Upload your images to your account, select those specifications, and head home. When you come in the next day, your images will be ready for the next step in your creative process.
And all those dreaded spreadsheets and style guide PDFs and file folders? The ones that get lost, aren’t updated, and cause general chaos?
Those can be replaced easily with smart, creative operations management software, like the one offered by our sister company, creativeforce.io. CreativeForce offers world-class software that allows creative leaders to manage all of their process in one place, allowing them to track progress, collect efficiency data, and make sure every workflow is as efficient as possible.
If you obsess over operational efficiency like we do at Pixelz, gaining all of that flexibility, additional capacity, turnaround time, and creative operations data without all the hiring, overhead and chaos associated with keeping everything in-house is a thing of beauty.
The good news in all of this is that, if you are experiencing any of the shortcomings in your operations described above, it means your creative operations have a lot of untapped efficiency potential. By identifying those symptoms as early as possible, you can get ahead of the curve of your business growth and use an outsource solution to remove any barriers that may otherwise make it difficult for your business to scale.