Tag Archives: photography business tips

Two Great Sayings Photography Business Owners Should Know

This week I attended a workshop run by a business development expert. He was helping one person businesses put together a plan to grow their business. He had a lot of content and some useful exercises to take the participants through. Among the gems of wisdom were two great sayings photography business owners should know. So what were these two pearls of wisdom?

Juggling

Juggling a lot this week? See if these business insights can help you.

Insight #1 – It’s About Progress, Not Perfection


This saying came from an example being given by the presenter. The business owner was producing active wear for everyday people trying to get fit – not for elite athletes like Nike and Adidas present in their advertising. As soon as the presenter shared this saying I knew it could be powerful for one person photography businesses. Many of the photographers I work with seem to expect it to be easy and get frustrated that either their images are not winning awards, or their business is not as profitable as they hope (and sometimes it’s both). Patience and perseverance are key.

If I use a photography business example, if you are trying to generate a $100,000 per annum profit in your photography business this can seem overwhelming when your current profit is $20,000 per annum. Rather than focus on the $80,000 shortfall – can you see the power in focusing on progress not perfection? Increasing business profits to $40,000 the following year is a 100% improvement and a huge accomplishment – not a $60,000 failure.

Money

Business success rarely happens overnight. It’s about progress and taking steps forward.

And if we use a photographic image example, mastering a new post production skill and being able to produce a wider variety of images is a major step forward. You don’t go from being a novice to being an expert in one week, or one month, or one year. Again it’s about progress, not perfection.

Be kind to yourself. Focus on making progress this week.

Insight #2 – If You Don’t Have a Marketing Budget You’re Not Really in Business

This insight was a wake up call to the participants at the workshop and will be a wake up call to many of the photographers I talk to and work with. The presenter outlined that word of mouth is the very best form of advertising you can have, but expecting that to fill a pipeline of work – particularly if you are relatively new in business – is not realistic.

His point was you have to be deliberate about your marketing and set aside a budget for it, if you are serious about business success.

He went on to explain that your budget could be in time or money. For example, if you have no money, you can invest time in marketing. You can contact 5 possible new business clients per day to see how your business could serve them. You can spend 2 hours per day researching stock photography trends so you can better meet the market demand. To be successful with this strategy you have to be deliberate, and invest the time if you expect the return.

Plan

Make a marketing plan and commit time or money or both to grow your business.

Once your business is established hopefully you will be busy servicing your clients. While you do that your advertising can help attract new clients (remember, don’t just rely on word of mouth no matter how busy you are). In this scenario you need to set aside a monetary budget each month to keep driving your pipeline of future clients. While you look after your clients, your advertising attracts new inquiries.

I got a lot out of the workshop. I hope these two great sayings photography business owners should know are helpful to you and will help you challenge and develop your current marketing approach. Thanks for reading two great sayings photography business owners should know. Let’s focus on progress in business and in photography this week!

Delivering More Products Per Customer

Running a successful photography business is not easy. It’s hard when you are getting started and you struggle to find your next client. And it’s hard when you have worked hard for 2 years and find you need to spend all your accumulated profits to upgrade your equipment. And I’m seeing more and more photographers who have been operating for years but are struggling to make the profits they feel they should be making. This post looks at how to help them increase margins by delivering more products per customer.

Australian money

Delivering more products per customer will help grow profits

Before we look at delivering more products per customer, let’s consider the options open to the photographer who has been in business for several years. They have plenty of work, but are not making the profits they think they should be making. While they love the work they do, they resent that they are working very long hours, juggling multiple different clients at a single time, and every time they feel like they are getting ahead financially, another bill arrives.

Our photographer has several options. They could:

  1. Do nothing, and continue to work long hours and make sub standard profits. Unfortunately a lot of photographers choose this option, and complain all the way.
  2. Increase their number of clients. This option isn’t very appealing to the already tired photographer but it is what they have done for years. Some choose this path, and work harder and harder. Unfortunately, this often produces more and more resentment and only slightly more profit to the photographer’s business.
  3. Increase their prices. In this scenario our photographer can continue to shoot the same number of jobs per year but charge more per job. This is a legitimate strategy and one that many successful photography businesses choose. They know how many jobs they plan to shoot in a year, and continue to lift their prices year on year.
  4. Increase their profit per job by delivering more products per customer. In this case our photographer looks to increase their profits not by doing more jobs, or raising prices, but by delivering more products per customer. Think about the profit made by the ‘shoot and burn’ wedding photographer provide electronic images only to the customer. Now, compare that the the photographer who is providing electronic images, prints, canvas prints, thank you cards, and albums to their wedding clients. Who do you think makes the most profit? It’s the photographer who provides more products.

There are other options a photographer could use to increase their profit, but these are the basic choices. As you consider what is best for your business, keep in mind it’s not a matter of choosing one strategy or another. To really turbo charge the profitability you could do several of these strategies at once. This year I’m aiming to use options 3 and 4 at the same time. Many photographers will use options 2, 3 and 4 all at once.

Pile of canvas prints

Canvas prints are popular with my family and wedding photography clients

So how do we go about delivering more products per customer.

For regular readers of Beyond Here you will know that I don’t believe in a formula – but that each photographer needs to find methods which suit them. That’s the case here too. That said, here are some strategies for you to consider while you decide what is right for you.

Strategy 1 – Make samples of the products you wish to sell and show them to clients when they are booking. I used to take 40x60cm canvas prints with me to clients meetings. Guess what product was really popular? Yes, the 40x60cm canvas print. Now days I’m taking 60x90cm canvas prints. Guess which product is really popular? Yes, 60x90cm canvas prints and that is great because the margin is about 50% more than on the smaller print. Make some samples and take them to show clients. You’ll be amazed how clients choose the exact product you’ve shown them.

Strategy 2 – Provide ideas and options for your clients. Today I delivered 3 8×6 inch leather bound wedding albums to one of my clients. They plan to keep one for themselves and gift one to each set of parents. What a lovely idea. It’s an idea that came from my suggestion in one of our early meetings. They saw great value in a priceless gift for their family, and I managed to increase my profit on that job. Win, win.

wedding album

I always show sample albums to potential wedding clients

Strategy 3 – Make suggestions at key times of the year. How much additional profit do you think you could generate by contacting all of your clients in September each year suggesting products they might to use as Christmas gifts? From my experience, simple ideas like this are gold. They solve a problem for my client – for example, getting a present for their spouse – while increasing the profits of my business.

Why do I choose September to do this? It leaves me a few months to make sure I can deliver the products in December, and every year I have at least one client who wants to do another shoot before Christmas.

canvas print

Birthdays and anniversaries are great times to contact previous clients

Strategy 4 – Contact your client on important dates for them. Here’s a recent email I sent to one of my clients. It uses the same strategy as number 3, but uses events which are unique to my customers. “Dear XXXX, I’ve just realized that YYYY’s birthday is just a few weeks away. At the time of your shoot I know you loved this image (image attached to email). I have a special deal with my canvas print supplier and can get you a 60x90cm print for $ZZ. Would you like to get one for YYYY’s birthday? I’ll be placing the order next Wednesday, so appreciate if you can let me know before then. Thanks, Craig”. This type of offer generally does well and takes just a few days to go from email to order to delivery.

There are 4 simple strategies to help you in delivering more products per customer. As you review the profitability of your business, is this a strategy that can benefit you?

Developing Multiple Photography Income Streams

Reflecting on the week that has just passed, I’m feeling grateful for the range and variety of activities my photography business offers. I don’t like shooting the same type of thing all the time, and this week confirmed for me that I’m making strong progress in developing multiple photography income streams. Let me tell you about that range of activities and see if it is relevant to your own photography business.

So, here it is – the week that was – and the 7 different income streams it produced.

Income Stream 1 – Wedding album. Just before Christmas I shot a lovely church wedding for a couple in Melbourne, Australia. Since then I have delivered their images and canvas prints, and this week I designed their wedding album. I’m pleased to say that this couple are doing it right – they have ordered an album for themselves, and one for each of their families. That’s three albums in total. I’m looking forward to delivering them soon. Developing multiple photography income streams takes time, but this type of printed product (wedding albums) is an obvious extension to my core activity of wedding photography. Do you have the opportunity to add printed products for your existing clients?

(To see more images from this wedding please visit my website at Craig Dingle Photography.)

Bride

Can you create an additional income stream by providing printed products for existing clients?

Income Stream 2 – Corporate Portraits. This week I shot corporate portraits for a local businessman. He is starting a new role and needed images to be added to the company website. I shoot these in my home studio which makes it an easy and convenient job. Does your business come up early in the Google search results for photographers in your area? Do you have resources (like a home studio) that can be used for extra shoots like this? Can you make yourself available at short notice to meet the needs of a client like this?

(If you are interested in creating a shooting space at home, please read How To Build a Home Photography Studio).

Home studio

I shoot both corporate portraits and product shots in my home studio.

Income Stream 3 – Product Photography shoot. I don’t do many product photography shoots, but I have one client (who I met at a wedding) who regularly asks me to shoot images for their website or for advertising purposes. Often it is a short notice request – like this week’s shoot. They needed a small range of images for an advertisement they are preparing. I don’t get a lot of excitement from shooting products, but I like this client a lot, and I appreciate the regular work which comes from them. Are you cultivating regular clients who know they can rely on you?

Income Stream 4 – Uploading Stock Images. I shoot and upload stock images on a regular basis, and although this has been a quiet week, I have been uploading images from a recent shoot. This doesn’t produce any income today, but builds my stock portfolio which will produce an income for years into the future. Can stock photography form part of your business income? Can you utilize down time to build your portfolio and generate a future income?

(I am a strong believer in stock photography to produce a regular income for photography businesses. Read more about that in Why I Shoot Stock).

Businesswoman sitting on the ground

Adding to my stock portfolio helps create a future income stream

Income Stream 5 – Editing Images. This week I was asked by another photographer (and reader of Beyond Here!) to assist with editing her images. It was in a style, and with a tool, which she was not familiar with, and so I have edited the images for her. This is the first time I’ve generated income by editing images for another photographer. I don’t see myself doing this often, but I appreciated the chance to help another photographer deliver a quality outcome for her client.

Income Stream 6 – Selling an E-book. If you are a regular reader of Beyond Here you will know that stock photography makes up a significant part of my photography business income. I wrote an e-book called Build a Five Figure Income in Your Spare Time to encourage photographers to get into stock photography. I have priced this very affordably, and it is regularly downloaded by people wanting to generate an income from stock photography. I had one sale this week, which made a small contribution to the week’s income.

Income Stream 7 – Selling Stock Images. In Income Stream 4 I covered the work I did this week uploading new stock images. They are unlikely to be downloaded immediately but will produce an income in the future. In the meantime, the 8500+ older images in my stock portfolio will continue to be downloaded and produce an income today. While the income per download is small, it is encouraging to know that buyers are purchasing my stock images every day.

So that is ‘the week that was’ in my photography business. It produced 7 different income streams. I hope that reading Developing Multiple Photography Income Streams has given you some ideas for your own photography business. Happy shooting!

8 Steps to Start Your Freelance Photography Business

Today’s post comes from guest poster Kylie Glover. Connect with Kylie on Twitter. Kylie is based in Sydney, Australia and writes about small business for Authorflair from her personal experience. She has been part of successful start ups in Australia and New Zealand and is motivated to share her insights and writes for several publications in Australia and abroad. Thanks for your contribution to Beyond Here Kylie. Here are 8 Steps to Start Your Freelance Photography Business.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and when it comes to freelance photography, it couldn’t be more true. It’s easy to forget that behind every stunning shot of the sunset washing over the Golden Gate Bridge, there’s a shutter, lens and focus working in synergy to faithfully capture the moment. One photo could be the difference between whether someone decides to jet set halfway across the world to one destination or to another.

SunriseHere are eight considerations that will help you get your feet off the ground when it comes to kick-starting your freelance career.

Step 1 – Start Planning Your Business

“by failing to prepare you are preparing to fail” – Benjamin Franklin

Before your photos feature on the front of Lonely Planet, it’s important to visualise the steps you’ll need to take to get there. In other words, planning is a must. To make sure you’re thoroughly prepared, consider things like basic start-up costs, and scope out the market to check how much other photographers typically charge so you can set competitive pricing.

Will you give clients the option of giving deposits, or will you expect a full upfront payment? Will you deal in cash, or accept credit card payments? What are the risks associated with each of these decisions?

Step 2 – Establish Start Up Funds

Unless you’ve a hidden pool of money ala Scrooge McDuck, it is a wise idea to make a small investment. This usually occurs when small businesses set up bank loans, but let’s say your application with the bank is rejected, or you want to explore the market. There are plenty of other methods to kick-starting your dream.

One increasingly popular method of fundraising in today’s digital world is online crowdfunding, through platforms such as Kickstarter, GoFundMe, and Indiegogo. The idea behind these services is pitching your project to the public, and placing your trust in them to determine whether it is something worth paying for.

Step 3 – Figure Out What Tools You Need

Pro photography gear is a substantial investment, to create high quality shots that stand out from the crowd, you’re going to need some high end equipment and a good basic knowledge of photography. An artist is only as good his tools, so break down all the essentials from tripods, lenses, and filters to top editing software. Sometimes it might be tempting to go for lower price range equipment, but in the long run it could very well end up costing you more. The most important thing of course is the camera itself. Check out travel blogs, books and magazines, and decide which style suits you best. Then hunt down the camera used to take those pictures, and get snapping.

BridgeStep 4 – Editing Your Shots

So you’ve taken that perfect shot of the Eiffel, and it’s ready for publication. Well, almost. The next steps include enhancing the photograph by warming/cooling the image, sharpening/blurring key areas, heightening the intensity of various colours and whatever final touches you feel give your work an edge. You might already be familiar with some basic editing techniques, or even the majority, but newer versions of favourite software programs release almost every year, offering updated versions with more powerful editing abilities. Well known photo editing software programs like Adobe Photoshop or Corel’s PaintShop Pro have affordable one-time purchases that are great for when you’re starting out.

Step 5 – Legal Lingo

One of the most important things to get on top of well before you’re in operation is safely navigating through any legal requirements first. After you’ve finalised your business plan, it’s time to pick your business structure. Are you a sole proprietor, or a corporation? Do have a partner going into this business? Next, come up with an available business name and register it. Lastly, don’t forget about tax obligations! Your accountant is your best bet for assisting you with that and making sure you don’t attract any unwanted fees.

Step 6 – Getting the Right Insurance

Photography is an art form, so naturally, you must organise insurance for both your product and equipment, but make sure you also insure for any unforeseeable/accidental injuries. These are generally covered under general/public liability insurance, which will act as your legal buffer when things go wrong. If you’re thinking of handing over the business somewhere along the line, you might want to consider life insurance, too.

SunriseStep 7 – Don’t Sell Yourself Short

Rule of thumb says most businesses won’t really take off until the three-month mark. Within that timeframe, you’ll need to spread the word about your product and convince the world about why it’s so great. Should you immediately lower your pricing if clients don’t bite?

Absolutely not. Apart from web and radio ads, a tried and true method for boosting sales is incredibly basic: word of mouth. Establish meaningful relationships with your clients, and show them you are very passionate about delivering the best quality photos. Finally, believe in your product.

“What a man thinks of himself, that is what determines, or rather indicates his fate “- Henry David Thoreau

Step 8 – Be Inspired

Inspiration is often depicted as a fleeting, curious phenomenon and has become the subject of many books and presentations over the years. The truth is, there’s no secret, everlasting well of inspiration that somehow runs dry. Inspiration for the perfect shot can be found anywhere, anytime.

As humans, we place a lot of undue pressure on ourselves to achieve constant perfection, and thus may not take risks because we are afraid of ‘failing’. When you feel seeds of doubt start blossoming.

“Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working” – Picasso

Launching a new business can be a frightening prospect, especially when it centres around your greatest passion. But with the proper legal and financial planning, adequate preparation of equipment, and enough self-belief that your product is worthy, the road to success is well within reach.

Thank you again Kylie for your contribution to Beyond Here. These 8 Steps to Start Your Freelance Photography Business will set people off on the right foot!

Five Reasons to Start Your Photography Blog Now

As photographers we’ve all heard that writing a blog is an excellent way to promote our work and connect with potential clients. Yet many photographers have put off starting their blog, finding all sorts of excuses and other priorities. We are all busy and it is easy to fill the day with editing images, contacting clients, and updating our social media profiles. If you know that a blog would benefit your business but have been putting it off – read here for five reasons to start your photography blog now.

Before we start, let’s clarify. I’m not going to tell you why blogging will be good for search engine optimization or where your business appears in Google searches. I’ll leave that to the online marketing experts. I’m going to give you five reasons to start your photography blog now which are good for you, the photographer.

Reason 1 – A Photography Blog Brings Focus to Your Online Activity

In today’s online, connected world it is very easy to spend hours online on a range of different activities which really don’t do much for your photography business. Think about it, how much time have you spent updating images on your facebook profile, adding images to your Instagram account, and otherwise just browsing what other people are doing online?

Writing a photography blog can transform the time you spend online by bringing focus to your activity. If you are wedding photographer writing a blog about wedding photography, you are likely to waste less time online and spend more time writing about wedding photography. There’s a benefit for you! You will spend more time focused on your area of expertise by writing a photography blog. Winner!

bird

A photography blog will help bring focus to your online activity

Reason 2 – A Photography Blog Provides You a Target Audience

The second of the five reasons to start your photography blog now is that writing a blog means you have a target audience.

If we use the wedding photographer example again the blog is likely to be targeted towards engaged couples or other wedding photographers. Each would produce a different focus and a different approach to writing. In the case of engaged couples, a photographer might share key insights for brides and favorite images of each wedding. This will be useful for potential brides as they get to learn from the photographer’s experience and see how other brides approached their wedding day. In the case of other photographers, the blog might discuss overcoming lighting challenges in candlelit churches or tips for managing workflow to ensure images are delivered on time.

The blog content will be very different depending on which target audience you choose – but like the first reason – having a target audience will bring you focus. And having focus means your online presence will, in time, produce content which benefits your business.

puzzle

Is a blog the missing piece in the puzzle for your photography business?

Reason 3 – Writing for Your Blog Forces You to Learn Lessons

Reason 3 is self explanatory. Since starting my own blog, each time I have something go right or wrong I am very conscious of the lesson which comes from the experience.

Why is that? Well, if I am going to share it with the readers of Beyond Here, I will need to describe what happened as well as how it might be a learning for my readers. And why is that good for me? It’s good for me because it forces me to learn the lesson and apply it to my own photography business. Let me give you an example. I wrote a blog post for Beyond Here called Tips for Building a Strong Stock Photography Portfolio. Just the act of writing that post forced me to assess how good a job I was doing implementing the tips. And that will lead to different content being added to my stock photography portfolio in the year ahead. Writing the blog post helped me to learn the lesson and apply it in my own business.

Reason 4 – Producing Images for Your Blog Can Super Charge Your Creativity

Reason number 4 is something I learned from another photographer. She is a long term, successful wedding photographer with a large number of happy clients.

She found that when she started posting images to her wedding photography blog that many of her key images were very similar to images she had produced in the past. She had taken her successful formula and was repeating it. There’s nothing wrong with doing that, but she found that she was in a creative rut where she was reproducing successful images rather than finding new and creative ways to shoot. Interestingly, she never got this feedback from her clients – she discovered it herself by looking at the images she was posting to her blog. Fascinating!

Reason 4 to start your photography blog now is that you will get feedback from your readers, and from yourself, which can super charge your creativity. No more shooting similar images, now there is a challenge to produce better, more creative work.

variety

A photography blog can help you break out of a creative rut

Reason 5 – Writing a Blog Drives You to be Productive

The final of the five reasons to start your photography blog now is that writing a blog drives you to be productive. Nothing is more depressing than reading a blog and suddenly realizing it hasn’t been updated for a year. A commitment to a photography blog is a commitment to your readers to add content regularly. That commitment drives you to be productive. It drives you to produce content for your target audience when it would be easier to browse online. Writing a blog drives you to be productive and that’s good for you personally, and will ultimately be good for your business.

Thanks for reading five reasons to start your photography blog now. Happy blogging!

Four Year End Ideas to Make Your Photography Business Stronger

As we approach the end of the calendar year I am coming to the end of a busy three months. Normally in the week before Christmas things start to slow down. Prints and products have all been delivered well in time for Christmas, and my wedding work takes a break for a few weeks.

This year I’m shooting a wedding on Christmas Eve, which is unusual, but with all of my client Christmas orders delivered I am starting to unwind and expecting to have a quieter few weeks. This time of year is ideal for assessing what your business has achieved for the year, and to plan for next year. To help with this, here are four year end ideas to make your photography business stronger.

Chess

Is your first move of the new year to renegotiate with suppliers and immediately boost profitability?

Business Improvement Idea #1 – Analyse and Negotiate with Suppliers

In the majority of photography business tips I read there is a never ending debate about photographers needing to raise their prices. Then there is the inevitable push back from some photographers who fear their work is not worth the higher prices, or that their clients will suddenly vanish. In 20+ years in the business world, I’ve learnt that the quickest and most effective way to increase business profitability is to reduce expenses.

Looking at my own expenses this year I see I have ordered 65 canvas prints for the year from 3 different suppliers. I’m currently paying the same price per canvas print as someone who only orders only 1. In January I will be speaking to my preferred supplier (of the 3) to see if they can offer me a special rate, fixed for the year, to reflect the volume of canvas prints I plan to do with them. The savings will be an immediate benefit to the profitability of my business.

Have you looked at your expenses and found areas for savings? Can you negotiate with a supplier for a better deal?

Business Improvement Idea #2 – Invite a Trusted Friend to Review Your Business Operations

One challenge in running a photography business is that you can be so close to the operations that you can no longer see the strengths and weaknesses. By inviting a trusted friend to review your business operations you have the potential to see things more objectively than you can on your own.

Don’t ask them to review the quality of your work – just ask them to look at the business operations and offer feedback for improvement. It could be as simple as them saying – “I see expenses have increased 8% while you revenues have only increased 2%” to focus you on addressing issues you couldn’t see yourself.

help

A trusted friend can help see your business in a new way

Business Improvement Idea #3 – Killers not Fillers

There are only 2 key criteria your potential clients will assess you on when considering which photographer to hire. The first is your reputation, and the second is your portfolio.

It is the portfolio which is easiest to influence and is worth continually assessing. We all like to include work in our portfolios which is meaningful to us or comes attached to special memories. But a potential client is not aware of this. They are only assessing what they see. Make sure your portfolio is the strongest it can be. Display only your strongest images. Ensure your portfolio is full of killers not fillers.

(If you are reading this and expecting to see price as a key consideration from a client – price is an important consideration, but not as important as reputation and portfolio. If it was, the cheapest photographer would get all the work.)

Showing only your best work is very important. Please see this post on Doctrine of a Successful Pro Photographer.

bird

A potential client’s decision will be driven by your reputation and the quality of your portfolio

Business Improvement Idea #4 – Streamline Paperwork Which Slows You Down

It seems incredible in today’s digital world that there can still be any paperwork! My business still has plenty and it has the potential to distract you from your main purpose – meeting the needs of your clients.

As we come to the end of one calendar year and the beginning of a new one – consider, are there any paper based processes which you can streamline? The objective is to create more time for client related activities, and to spend less time on administration.

Thanks for reading four year end ideas to make your photography business stronger. I hope they have been useful to you, and will give you something to consider over the holiday period. Merry Christmas!

Doctrine of a Successful Pro Photographer

I have the good fortune to speak with a large number of pro photographers. Sometimes it’s helping with the business side of their photography, sometimes it’s at industry events, and often it is simply in a social setting. Those discussions give me a lot of content to share on Beyond Here, and in this post I share the doctrine of a successful pro photographer. If you are a pro photographer or an aspiring pro, these points should give you goalposts to measure your progress and assess the next step forward.

Doctrine of a Successful Pro Photographer

  1. Know Your Gear. Put very simply, pro photographers have the equipment for the job and know how to use it. This knowledge means they know they can get the job done, and even if something goes wrong on shoot day – they know their gear well enough to be able to meet the client’s needs.

    bird

    The successful pro photographer shows only their best work

  2. Aim for Genius. Here’s an ambition! Successful pro photographers don’t just want to grind out another job and get paid. They want to exceed the clients needs and break new ground themselves. Every shoot is another opportunity for their best shoot ever. The doctrine of the successful pro photographer means they must keep pushing forward. Ok is not good enough. Raise your standards. Aim for genius.
  3. Be Ethical. The successful pro photographer knows that life as a photographer is both a career option and part of their being. By default, they plan to be in this business a long time. This is not a summer job, this is their life. They know they need to deal ethically with everyone they come in contact with. Always.
  4. Back Up. The successful pro photographer knows that shooting, producing and delivering great images is part of the job. There will be times when clients lose files and need help. Living the doctrine of a successful pro photographer means organizing files and backing up so they can be found when they are needed.
  5. Show Only Your Best Work. If you are aiming for genius you will show only your best work. Being a successful pro photographer is not about sharing the most work, it’s about sharing only your best work and showing potential clients what you are capable of. Don’t be tempted to share anything less than your best.

    Money

    Doctrine of the successful pro photographer. Know your worth. Every job has a price you won’t go below.

  6. Know Your Worth. Number 6 is what sets the successful pro apart from the successful non pro. Pro photographers know what their time and skills are worth. Often that is built on having dealt with a lot of clients over a period of time. Successful pro photographers typically have some flexibility in their pricing structure to meet their clients needs – and they all have a clear picture about the price they will not go below. Know your worth.
  7. Know Your Client. Successful pro photographers know their worth and they also know their client. More importantly they know who is not their client. A high end wedding shooter knows that if a potential client’s first question is about budget they are unlikely to be a suitable client for them. boy
  8. Stand Out. Successful pro photographers are not run of the mill. They stand out. They build a reputation. They continue to work on their art and evolve over time. What was excellent this year, will be so-so next year. The doctrine of a successful pro photographer is continuing to strive to stand out. This process never ends.
  9. Keep Learning and Evolving. To aim for genius and to stand out mean the successful pro photographer must keep learning and evolving. Photography is an art that is never mastered. There is always something new to learn or a new piece of equipment to master. There is a new way to see and to express. Keep learning and evolving. Keep shooting. Keep breaking new personal frontiers.
  10. Be Authentic. Successful pro photographers know that their business is about producing great images and experiences for their clients. It is not about the photographers ego or desire to look good. To that end, successful pro photographers are authentic. There is no pretense. They are genuine and authentic in their desire to serve their customer and at the same time express their artistic vision.

Thanks for reading the doctrine of the successful pro photographer. How are you measuring up to these 10 points?

 

How Not to Run Your Small Business

I love to share good news stories and experiences to help us run our businesses better. This week I’ve got a bad news story to share. There are lots of lessons to learn from this one – and they are all about how not to run your small business. (I’ll try to focus on the lessons and avoid a rant!)

I am currently planning a stock photo shoot where I need an environment that looks like a shared working space or creative collaboration area. (It’s a concept shoot for my stock portfolio with iStockphoto and Getty Images). I have researched possible locations and have found a venue which looks suitable. It is a studio space in downtown Melbourne, Australia which has two large studio areas and a rooftop outdoor space. It looks very cool and I could imagine it as a creative collaboration area or even as a workspace for a funky advertising agency. I was impressed that they also have a range of tables and chairs and props which could make it look like an active work space, and flexible enough to look like a café.

Here’s where my problems started and the lessons for how not to run your small business begin.

customer service

In small business, you are at the center of customer service

My first step was to call the studio to arrange a time to view the space. I was going to be in the area last Friday and wanted to visit. So on Tuesday I gave them a call. The only contact number on the website is a mobile number. I called. There was no answer. There was no option to leave a message. I thought that was odd, but I pressed on. I went back to the website and got the email address. On Tuesday afternoon, I sent an email to the only email address listed on the website.

I didn’t expect an instant reply to my email, but by Wednesday night I was wondering if they had received it and if they were going to reply before Friday.

I have been following this studios posts on Instagram for several months and was encouraged when they added a new post on Thursday. I sent them a private message on Instagram asking if it would be possible for me to visit them on Friday.

By Friday, I hadn’t received a reply to my email or Instagram message, but I was in the area and decided to visit them. Again I drew a blank. At 10.30am the studio roller door was down and there appeared to be nobody around.

As I’m writing this post it is Tuesday afternoon, one week after my first attempt to contact the studio. I haven’t had a reply to my email or Instagram message.

So, what could possibly explain what’s going on for this studio? I’m assuming it can only be one of two things. First, is that business is so good and they are so busy that they have not got back to potential clients. It is a busy time of year and it is possible that they have lots of bookings prior to Christmas. The second possibility is that business is terrible and they have more pressing issues than getting back to a potential client. Who knows, they could be in financial trouble? Or be about to shut down? Or a key person may have health issues? Or there may be other issues that I know nothing about which means they haven’t got back to me? Who knows.

serviceSo, what are the lessons we might learn from this? I’ve come up with five. If you have some to add, or want to share your own experience please add some thoughts in the comments section below.

  1. Make sure website details are correct and up to date. I wondered if they had mis-typed their own phone number and email address? That sure would have an impact on the number of bookings they get.
  2. If there are special circumstances, let your clients and potential clients know. I assumed this was a poorly run business with no focus on responding to clients. But maybe that’s not the case. Maybe it’s a one person business and they have a sick child? or a major health issue? To avoid clients thinking the worst – keep them informed. Let them know via your website or phone message or auto reply from your email that they are currently experiencing special circumstances.
  3. Clients expect you to respond promptly. Make doing this a priority. I thought the idea of contacting the studio on Tuesday and visiting on Friday was giving them lots of time. (I have some clients contact me today and want to visit same day!) Given the ease of electronic communication clients expect a prompt reply. Set aside time in your day to get back to people.
  4. Word of mouth is a big influencer. Unfortunately I’ve already told this story to several people. It’s annoyed me that I thought I’d found a great location and I haven’t heard back from them. The studio might be getting an unfair wrap, but I’ve shared my experience with other photographers and I know it will influence their choice of studios in the future. Reputation is important. Word of mouth – good or bad – is influential. Do everything to make the word of mouth feedback for your own business positive.
  5. Doing the basics well is important. Many, many small businesses are built on providing excellent customer service. Excellent customer service does not have to be fancy or special. Often it is about doing the basics very well, every day of the year.

Thanks for taking the time to read how not to run your small business. If you have an experience to add for other readers, please use the comments section below. And to finish this post on a high, please read this post about a great customer experience I had.

How to Drive Change in Your Photography Business

I have been working with photographers wanting to make a step change in their business. Three of them are running existing businesses and one is starting out. All four are clear that they want to change and want to see change in their business, and have struggled to make that happen. That has lead to this post – how to drive change in your photography business.

For change to occur, research says you need three elements. They are:

  1. A picture, or vision, of where you want to get to
  2. An understanding of what pain or discomfort you would feel if you didn’t achieve that
  3. Clarity about the next step
focus

Step 1, be specific about your vision. It will bring focus to your business and your actions

So, how to we use this to drive change in a photography business? We work through each step to provide direction to our business. If we haven’t been able to turn that into action and change yet, then we needed greater detail.

Let’s look at each.

Firstly, building a vision of where you want to get to. In this step it’s really easy to be vague. If you are serious about change you need to be specific. For the photographer just starting out, she wants to be a successful wedding photographer.

That is not a vision and is not specific enough to drive towards. Work through – what does that mean? How many weddings per year? What sort of weddings? How much will you be charging? Who will be doing albums and prints for you? What does your ideal couple look like? Where do they live? What sorts of venues do you want to shoot at? Will you have assistants helping you? How much money do you want to make per year? How many weeks off will you have? Get the idea? Spend time on building this vision in detail. Write it all down. Don’t be vague, be specific. If you haven’t been able to find the motivation for change yet – start by being very specific about your vision.

determination

Being clear on the pain of never achieving your vision will make defeat unacceptable

Second, consider the discomfort if you never make it to the vision. This second step really determines whether you have the fortitude to push ahead and make a change. One of the other photographers wants to move away from weddings and portraits, and ‘make it’ as a sports photographer. So how much discomfort will he have if he never makes the leap? If he says ‘oh well, I’ve got a successful business already … I’m comfortable … I’m doing well’ – then his chance of making the leap is almost nil.

However, if his answer is – ‘I will be completely unfulfilled, I will feel like my creative vision wasn’t realized, I will feel like my purpose in life hasn’t been achieved’ …. then wow (!) he has got some real motivation to get this thing done. Imagine the discomfort of saying “I will feel like my purpose in life hasn’t been achieved”. It’s not about money or status or material things … it is way bigger. This is a strong foundation for change. Give serious consideration to the discomfort you would feel if you didn’t achieve your vision. It will help clarify if you are really serious or are pretending.

my businessThird step, are you clear on the very next step. Don’t worry about all the steps ahead of you – just be clear on the next one and act on it. My budding sports photographer friend is clear he needs better equipment to shoot action sports. To date he has got by with his wedding and portrait equipment but he knows he needs a camera body that will shoot 10-12 frames per second to capture the fast moving football action. Buying new gear won’t guarantee success, but being clear on your very next step and taking action will keep getting you closer to your vision. Once you’ve acted on that very next step revisit your vision, revisit the discomfort you would have if you never made it, and decide on the very next step.

So, now you know a simple three step process for how to drive change in your photography business. (You can use this to drive any change in your life). Work through the three steps and you’ll move from procrastination to action, and from “I want to” to “I did”. Step forward with purpose. Drive change in your photography business!

Creating New Revenue Streams

The photography business is a very competitive one, with limited barriers to entry and extensive competition. This makes it challenging for both new and established businesses to generate an appropriate financial return. This week I’ve been working with a major financial services business. They are tackling the future needs of their business in a very structured way. I can see their approach to creating new revenue streams being appropriate to photographers. Let me explain.

So what is happening in this financial services business? Their CEO sees a rapidly changing environment driven by new technology, changing client needs, and heightened competition. It seems that in their business, the old model is dying – much like traditional photographer being overtaken by the new tech savvy weekend warrior.

Coins

Are you deliberately setting aside time to create new revenue streams?

This financial services business is preparing for the future. It’s how they are doing it that is really interesting. They are preparing by explicitly focusing on different parts of their business. They are very deliberately trying to build capability in creating new revenue streams.

  • 70% of their resources are dedicated to their core business
  • 20% of their resources are dedicated to emerging new growth opportunities, and
  • 10% of their resources are dedicated to long term experiments

So, how might we learn from the corporate world?

Most of the photographers I speak to are focusing one hundred percent of their time and energy on their traditional core business. Most are also seeing eroding margins for this work, or increased competition, or both. They don’t dedicate any of their time to creating new revenue streams. They are hoping that what they have always done will be relevant for their future clients and enable them to make a living. Can you see a flaw in this logic? Without change, the best they can hope for is a slow decline in their business and some seriously long hours.

How could we implement a strategy similar to the financial services business? If you are working 5 days per week, dedicating 20% of your time to emerging new growth opportunities is the equivalent of one day per week. What might this look like? Well, this will be different for every different business, but a traditional wedding photographer might spend that time investing and learning about implementing drone technology into their wedding photography business. This would give them a unique point of difference, and stop their business being overtaken by competitors. Exactly what you do in that one day per week is up to you, the point I want to make is that you could be spending one day per week creating new revenue streams for your current business.

Jigsaw puzzleAnd what about long term experiments? The financial services business was dedicating ten percent of it’s resources to long term experiments. How could we do this? Ten percent of our time is one day every two weeks. Could you set that aside to focus on a completely new income stream for your business? Could you build onto your current business something that you have an interest in? Maybe a new line of photography, new products, a blog, photography seminars, photography tours? Again the activity is up to you, but I want to encourage you to deliberately set aside time for creating new revenue streams.

Thanks for reading this blog. I hope it has given you insight into how another business is tackling the challenge of creating new revenue streams that can be translated into something meaningful for your business.