Larry posted a great article the other week (link) about the cost of doing business. I wanted to add a little something to the conversation and offer some suggestions for keeping your traveling costs as low as possible.
Here's a little background info: I live in a metropolitan area and while many of the shoots are located in the same city, there are also a number of them that I will have to travel 25-30 minutes to get to, and on occasion, I'll have to travel 45-50 minutes to get to the location. This travel time adds up - while it may feel like 'it's just part of business', I advise you not to give up so easily and try and be in-control of your travel distances. Here are a few suggestions:
This one is fairly obvious - try and group your shoots geographically so you aren't traveling to the same location 3 different times on a particular week. Usually you can do this easily as long as you are given enough notice of a particular shoot. It's a no-brainer and everyone should already be doing geographic grouping as opposed to first-come-first-served-no-matter-what grouping.
Specify days of the week for each location:
Inform your clients that you'll be in Town-A on Monday and Thursday, Town-B on Tuesday and Thursday, and that you'll be picking up the remaining locations on Friday. This is just one setup, but the point is that if you communicate clearly about your intended locations and days of the week you'll be there, you can avoid traveling to the same location more than you need.
This technique is the same as saying 'no, I'm sorry, I was just in Town-C yesterday and I'm attempting to group shoots to cut down traveling expenses'. Be honest and be blunt, your clients will both appreciate it as well and understand where you’re coming from. They're no stranger to travel and the expense that accompanies it - postponing shoots until you can group more isn't always an ideal solution, but you may want to keep it in your arsenal.
Agents are habitual, help create good habits for both parties:
If an agent is able to call you on a Monday night and get you to shift your schedule around for Tuesday, that's a problem. Why? A few reasons actually. First, your schedule is probably set up a particular way so that it benefits your business (cutting down on travel, optimizing your production and post-production time) and their request is more than likely going to throw a wrench into the system. Second, if you allow someone to change your schedule on such short notice, the agent will likely remember this and do the same thing next time. If you set the tone by saying 'I really wish I could shoot that for you tomorrow, but I really need a little more notice', they'll remember that next time and give you the notice you need. If you are rude about it, you may lose a client, but if you’re professional, you shouldn’t have any worries.
Keep in mind, there are problems you want to have and others you don't - dealing with too much travel is a problem you want to have. I advise you handle using any of the above methods or even finding new ones - either way, make sure you're being efficient with your traveling.