As we stare into the new year, it can be quite overwhelming to think about all the issues in your photography business that need fixed. Here’s a quick run-down identifying issues and suggested solutions to help you overcome these issues.
It is important you take some time to evaluate each one to set the business up for success in the coming year. Starting off with a solid, issue-free foundation will allow for more efficiency, productivity, and success.
Business Tasks Stress You Out
Not every task that a photography business owner has to do is going to leave you feeling awesome. In fact, it may just plain stress you out. It is important to take note on the tasks that you feel you’re most stressed and/or inefficient at so you can avoid them. Yes, I’m recommending you work towards avoiding these tasks. You can avoid them completely by outsourcing them (Elance or ODesk are great ways to find virtual assistants to help you), or you can learn tasks yourself to ease the stress. Whichever path you take, you first need to know which tasks you most dread. That shouldn’t take you too long to write the list!
Once you have the list written, make a little mark next to it – whether you’re going to outsource or take steps to become more educated/efficient at the specific task.
Attracting the Wrong Clients
You are hammering the internet and beating the streets to get your name into the local community. Fantastic! But make sure you’re reaching the right type of client. The one you truly want. If you’re repeatedly attracting the wrong clients, look at the entire situation. Too many photographers jump to blaming the devaluation of photography and prices as the reason for the wrong clients walking in the door. A smart business owner knows to evaluate their marketing actions as well, to ensure they are putting themselves in the path of the right clients.
Miscommunication with Clients
You look back at the last year and realize that lots of clients are asking the same questions over and over. Make a spreadsheet and look at the top questions – then identify where you, the photographer and leader of this venture, are failing to communicate appropriately. Client Guides (electronic or PDF) can inform the client and provide a great reference point for the top frequently asked questions.
The less time you spend responding to the same emails and the more informed the client feels the higher probability for success and profit the photography relationship will have. Another approach would be to put important policies in a contract to solve this issue and give you a legal leg to refer to in your time of need.
Portfolio is Lacking
You reach the end-of-the-year, look at your portfolio and realize – it has very little, or none, of the creativity that you want to display and attract. Guess who is at fault for that? You. Not your inquiries, not your clients, not the local photography competitors. You. Here are some tips for successful portfolio building – hint: portfolio building isn’t just for newbies!
Outsource Needs but Money is Lacking
You’ve identified you need help. Wahoo! But there’s a teensy problem, the cash flow to help you out. Whether you’re looking to outsource simple tasks like home-cleaning or more complex, including business management, increasing your overhead budget and cash-flow can help you achieve in fulfilling this need. Assuming you’ve established an appropriate CODB (cost-of-doing-business) and pricing structure, finding those extra funds may be as easy as breaking down the monthly outsourcing cost across your goal session numbers and increasing the minimum pricing (whether a minimum order requirement, session fee, or collection purchase) across the board.
Your need is an office worker for $200 a month (approximately 20 hours a week at $10/hour). Your (realistic) goal number of sessions is 5. Simply take the $200/5 sessions for an overall baseline increase of $40 per session for this cost. Exceptions apply based on business models and your specific CODB.
Inquiries Won’t Convert
My question to you is: are you following up? This seems like such a no-brainer on paper – but it is amazing how many photographers I speak to on a regular basis who avoid the follow-up with an inquiry. Are they scared? Are they overwhelmed and forget? Are they unsure what to say? The reasons are across the spectrum, but the reality is that any time you don’t follow up with inquiries YOU are rejecting YOU. That is the ultimate rejection. You haven’t given an inquiry the opportunity to make a decision, you’ve done it for them by merely not following up.
Tips to following up:
- Make sure you’ve answered their initial inquiry questions and personalized the communication
- Set a calendar reminder when you receive the initial inquiry
- Follow up your initial communication reply within 48-72 hours
Business Planning with Unrealistic Expectations
It is super easy to sit back and dream big dreams. Those are great to have, and you should have them. But let us be realistic and get a plan that is attainable. Business plans are intended to be living, breathing documents that you amend as the business (and you!) changes!
Make monthly goals for profit and sessions. Evaluate these goals frequently and keep a running track of your current and potential sessions.
Balancing Work and Home Life – or not
So many people scoff at this idea of “balance”, while others say balance can never be achieved. Guess what? The definition of balance varies by person. Some people consider balance working 50+ hours a week, while others think any work hours over a 20 hour limit is tipping the scales away from family. Whatever YOUR definition of balance is the end goal. Balance can be achieved by implementing efficiency measures and using accurate calendar skills to ensure you don’t miss a moment of “real life” while working away at your photography business dreams.
Buried under Paperwork
Many business owners find themselves buried under the mundane tasks of paperwork. Implementing a monthly day or two to keep up with paperwork can eliminate any issues and prevent overwhelming feelings when it comes time to work on these tasks.
You may also consider implementing digital systems that allow for quick reference and organization. These can include taking online-only payments, use of digital contracts, input of electronic spreadsheets for taxes and data, and online proofing systems (such as Shootproof).
Overwhelmed with Legalities
There’s so much to running a business that it is super easy to get overwhelmed with the legalities. Guess what? That is what I am here for! Yes, TheLawTog is a legal resource created to help photographers just like you. Any time you have a question just pop into the blog search bar or the Facebook group to see if you can find the answer.
On the site you’ll find:
- Blog Categories broken down by topic (pricing, legal, business, marketing, etc.)
- Sign up for weekly emails
If you’re newer to running a photography business, this checklist is for you.
It is all too easy to get swept away by the excitement of new equipment and motivation of a new-year with big ideas, but don’t fail to overcome issues that are easily fixable from the get-go.