Your Business.. What's Next?
Disconnect: there's always a disconnect between the dream, and the reality of being a photographer. The ability to find NEW clients, is 100% based on 2 things: networking, and an outstanding portfolio. If you can't do, or don't have both, LEARN how to network, and shoot what you want to show.
Your #1 competitor is not the fauxtog down the road, or the established wedding pro across town. You're competing with the "Status Quo" (Change or Die!!!)
Reinvent yourself and your business every 2 years. But in the meantime, be honest with yourself and assess what's working and what isn't and do it regularly. Are you paying too much in insurance? Transaction fees? Are your dues being paid to an organization you want to be a part of? Are you being as efficient as you could be? Are you outsourcing editing but still spending as much time in front of your computer? Have you run your CODB at the NAPP Website lately? These are questions you need to ask yourself regularly.
Think about your pricing and ask yourself: Are your retainer, session/creative fee and print/image sales enough to not only provide a living but invest in structured professional development? Conferences and workshops are necessary to grow as a photographer and as a business person. The free resources available, including ShutterCliq, are awesome but nothing replaces time and face to face interaction with professionals engaged in the same field of work you are. And even more importantly, experts in fields you have next to no experience in. Take a sales course at least once a year or more if you can! If there's a social media workshop, or a marketing course, take it! Image capture is a mere fraction of what we do, and there are so many ways that we can develop ourselves to be better, faster and stronger.
Differentiate yourself or compete on price. Compete on price and go OUT of business. 100% take it to the bank TRUTH!
How do you differentiate yourself?
Talk to clients and propects about your value. Not how great your portfolio is. They don't care. But tell them how you are going to deliver MORE than they want and BETTER than they want it without compromising your business. Your packages and Prices are what they are. But your delivery and execution of those packages are your differentiators. The Bride wants the shot of her and her dad coming down the aisle...and she said that was more important than anything else. So get her 5 kickass shots of THAT! And tell her you will! That's your value as their photographer! BE the photographer that you would want shooting YOUR wedding/portrait/family/newborn etc!
If you have a studio, and you're not shooting in it all day, every day, RENT THE SPACE!
Your rental package has to cover the hourly costs of keeping the lights on, and the doors open. You can't charge a kings ransom for your space. But you can have rental tiers. Tier one, is space and time, nothing more (i.e. $50 an hour). Tier 2 is space, time AND gear ($100/hr). Tier 3 is space, time, gear AND someone knowledgeable to assist in running it. (thats what assistants, studio managers and interns are for ($200/hr). No one likes cutting that rent cheque every month. So let your network/competitors cut it for you. When a tog in your market can't do a gig, they will refer you. Their clients see YOUR outstanding work on the walls of your studio. You CAN'T LOSE! With only one space to shoot in, you could potentially be taking in $1600 A DAY!!!! There's no reason NOT TO! You say your market is saturated with Photogs and you're losing clients? Get those clients and those Photogs coming to your space. It's income. It's cash flow. With studio overhead, it's necessary. Nuff said.
Work on 2 areas of improvement every 6 months.
(Lighting, post processing, marketing, sales, bookeeping etc.) And change em up. Take on the stuff you hate. You'll hate it less when you're better at it! List things you can do to work smarter...not harder. Maybe it's learning a newer faster work flow, or streamlining your invoicing, maybe it's saving time by hiring a book keeper. But list them, give them a cost/benefit analysis based on your CODB, and implement them now! If you can spend 2 hours a day less doing accounting, you could book another session, or join a webinar and learn something new which will bring in $$$ long term. And maybe adding a new skill will only take a week! (Lucky you!) often times it'll take significant effort and work. And if it ain't worth working at, it ain't worth doing.
Get up one hour earlier every morning, and spend that time learning something new.
Don't turn on the TV. Instead, read blogs of photogs/business people you admire, put a couple new images up on your site, or write your blog post for the day! (Yes you need to be blogging daily, if not every 2 days) No email until 10:30AM EVER! Email is the eternal black hole and there may be bad news in there! Start your day off right with positive stuff! Reinforcement of your goals, and ideas is the best way to start your day. Not dealing with inquiries, issues etc...When you're caffeinated and inspired, then start your day.
Proven fact: one extra hour every work day in your Jammies equals 6 weeks extra work every year without pulling a bunch of extra Saturdays and Sundays! Want to take extra time off? Would you trade a LONG beach vacation for one hour extra work each and every work day? Probably. If you wouldn't you're crazy.
Ask your good clients to check your stuff.
Make it candid and honest & don't let them sugarcoat their feedback. Ask them what you did right by them, and if there's anything they would like to see improved for their next session with you. By doing so, you're already planting the seed of booking the next session in their head. Send them a questionnaire with a gift in return for their feedback. A $10 gift card to Starbucks, or an 8x10 of an image you know they love is a small investment that will yield a BIG return! "But I don't have time to make that questionnaire!" I hear your howls of protest. Get up an hour earlier, and make one.
It's a Tough Market.
Are you doing everything you can to get business? Email? Mailings? Social Media? Pinterest? Facebook? Twitter? LinkedIn? No moping....no pity parties! Negative energy has yet to help any business by improving client rosters or cash flow. If you're not doing a regular mailing? Start one now. How about an email blast to your past clients? The average attention span nowadays tiny as compared to the pre-Internet world. Design and give your clients a screensaver or desktop image in your email blast. Include a zip file with all the native resolutions of today's screens. The average click through rate of the normal e-blast is 1-2%...include an image with each and see a result closer to 25-30%! Brand the heck out of it! Business Name, email and phone number! And encourage the people you send it to, to forward it to their friends and family, and to ask their friends and family to forward it even more!
100% proven fact: Your portfolio is only as good as your worst work. Get the crap out of there! Your "growth" as a photographer is good for family and friends. Not paying clients.
Online Accountability group:
There's no excuses! In the Internet age, communication doesn't have to involve picking up a phone to have real time communications! Use Skype, Facebook video chat, Google+ hangouts, gotomeeting.com or any number of online based medium. Set up a weekly conference with a group of pros to help you identify your weekly goals, execute those goals, and report your success back to your Accountablility Group!
Stop saying "Failure is not an option."....that's negative. Say instead, "Success is the ONLY option!" If you start with a negative mindset, you will create negativity. The glass is not only half full, but is awaiting the rest of its contents. CREATE the contents.
Work more or find better clients?
FACT: 30-40% of clients are shopping on price, which means 60-70% are looking for value! Let the 30-40% go. You don't want them.
It's not who you know, it's who knows you! You could know 10,000 potential clients in your trading area, but do they know you? Practice your 30 second commercial. So when someone asks you what you do, you are not just saying "Oh, I'm a photographer." You don't have to sell yourself to absolutely everyone, but when the interaction is over, that person should remember you because you made an impression and they got your card. And make sure you return the favour and ask them what they do. And listen! God gave you 2 ears & 1 mouth...use them in that proportion!
Have a wow business card...if you hand someone your business card and they don't say "Wow!", your cards suck. Get new ones.
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