What is Working in Your Photography Business?
Do you do a regular "Business in Review"? Whether you do this in January or any other time of the year, these tips will help you to reflect on what has happened over the past twelve months.
It is a time to recognize our successes and acknowledge our failures and begin the process of setting yourself up for attracting those photography clients you are looking for in the new year!
Most of us consider ourselves small business owners and entrepreneurs, as well as a creative. Being your own boss is the biggest reason why we decide to go into business for ourselves, but it's not uncommon to get overwhelmed.
What Are the Reasons Photography Businesses Fail?
As humans, we are naturally inclined to be wildly optimistic about how well things go, so reviewing results with accuracy can be more challenging than it seems. This is because people tend to want to revise history by changing how they remember past events or being influenced by new information after the fact.
The psychological term for this phenomenon is called "hindsight bias," the tendency to see the past as more predictable than it was and to believe we could have predicted future events.
When you think about your own photography business in review, it's helpful to take an honest look at the facts. Small business owners should be doing this every year, whether they are new business owners or have established businesses.
As personal development blogger, Gretchen Rubin says, "The difference between happiness and misery is small things."
In order to make a plan for success, let's start by asking yourself some simple questions to see if any significant trends emerged this past year.
What Went Right for Your Photography Business Last Year?
Many photography businesses fail because they don't take the time to set business goals, and they don't stay focused on what really matters. Starting with what gains you had is important because being a successful photographer is tough! We need to be aware of what went well to continue or amplify those things while we work on fixing or avoiding what didn't go so well.
What Successful Photographers Look For:
What worked? Was there anything that went better than planned or expected? What kinds of clients did you engage with most frequently? Do you feel like you provided great service? Which kind brought in the most revenue? What systems helped you streamline your workflow from the previous year? How many more photography clients are you seeking in the upcoming year (hopefully ideal clients!).
Simply write down all of the positive factors that come to mind when thinking about your photography business' success over the last year.
What Helped You Be Productive?
Having systems in place makes you more productive and more profitable.
Your photography business will be fluid from year to year, and understanding your business growth can help you find and determine business goals so you can focus on the fun part; taking photos.
However, you may find that these systems don't always work the same way for your business year after year. Assessing changes for the upcoming year is important to growth! The small businesses that do this consistently have a much higher success rate in the industry.
Think about what has worked best in terms of time management and workflow:
What did you do to be more productive? What helped you get into a routine that kept you on track day after day? How many days would you say were particularly busy or stressful this past year? At what times of the year was your workload the heaviest (holidays perhaps)?
When thinking about productivity, try not to judge yourself if something did not work well. This exercise is all about identifying what needs to change to grow.
Identify Habits and Systems That Did Not Serve You
Are you culling photos into the wee hours of the morning? Not making time for exercise and mental health breaks? If this sounds familiar, it's time to identify these things (again, be gentle with yourself!) and take steps to change them. In the business world, you need to stay focused on the fact that making changes yearly are normal, and expected, just like creating a marketing plan every year.
Taking amazing photos is only part of the picture. You can take photography courses all day long, but the bottom line is that you have to spend time understanding your own business and what was a success. Keep a positive mindset while you do this!
What was the biggest challenge you faced last year? How did it impact your productivity and overall mental health? What changes will you make this year to work around these challenges, avoid them entirely, or motivate yourself to push through them?
Analyzing what went well and what could have been better is one of the most critical parts of the assessment. It can help you with key takeaways like cash flow problems, services you might want to cut or include, and the biggest challenges you have. Small tweaks to what you are selling and improving your marketing strategy can significantly impact your bottom line.
It's also helpful to remember that all businesses go through ebbs and flows from month to month. For things to improve, it is necessary to look at what worked and focus our efforts towards making improvements for next year.
The Link Between Mental Health and Creativity
Photography is a creative business. It's important to remember that creativity is always at work. When we get stuck in a rut of doing the same thing over and over again, we risk losing our creative edge.
Why did you start your photography business? Why do you stay in it? What makes photographing people rewarding for you? What gets in the way of feeling like your best self while running a business and dealing with clients on a regular basis?
What types of exercises or routines would allow you to feel balanced and fulfilled on a daily basis? Would these help your creativity as well as your mental health?
It can be helpful to journal about questions like these every day. It helps us think about what we're doing and why we're doing it. It also helps us see if we need to change or shift our focus.
Now that you've taken a look at what worked, what didn't work, and how the two relate to each other, you can start thinking about making some positive changes for next year. Taking this assessment seriously for yourself will help you grow as an entrepreneur and feel more fulfilled in your line of work.
Looking Ahead to Your Next Year in Business Design Plan: The Action Step
Writing down concrete steps helps us move forward with our plans. What measurable results do you hope to see if you make these changes?
Make a list of goals that include both personal and business gains you want to achieve. These results can be personal, monetary, or a combination of the two! We know that one of the reasons professional photographers love AfterShoot is because it has given them back precious time with their families.
Take some time now to reflect on these areas of your business. What worked? What didn't work? Why do you think that was the case? How will this impact next year in business? Thinking about ways to improve your mental health is just as important as thinking about how to manage your workflow.
Create SMART Goals and Objectives For Your Photography Business
Small business owners take note: Goals make all the difference. They can help you with common themes like sales numbers, cutting costs, forming a business plan, and drilling down outstanding debt. SMART is a really easy way to help you remember staying focused on the goal.
Specific: What is it that you want to achieve? What will the final product look like, or when does it need to be done?
Measurable: Ask yourself how you'll know when the task has been completed. Make sure your measurements are realistic and attainable.
Attainable: Realistic goals are important because there's nothing worse than giving up on a goal halfway through! If something seems too big, break it down into smaller tasks.
Relevant: Is your goal relevant to where you're at in life right now? Does achieving this goal align with your overall career objectives? Be considerate of what else is happening around you (e.g., personal relationships, family obligations, finances, etc.).
Time-bound: Establish a clear timeline for when specific tasks need to be completed. To stay motivated and committed, it is helpful to know the end date, so there's no confusion.
With these tips in place, you are off to a great start for an amazing year ahead in your business. Congratulations & good job on putting in the time to do the hard work!
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AfterShoot is a busy photographer's best friend! You can spend more time with your family and focus on growing your business instead of wasting time sifting through thousands of images. Cheers to a happy work-life balance! Let’s make this next your most productive year ever.