Before you start panicking, this isn’t going to be a motivational speech about how to get ahead in business! I’m still a photographer, writer and creative person before anything else.
But January is usually a month for making plans for the forthcoming year, so this article is going to look at ways to kick-start your business over the next 12 months.
Make Your Business Work For You
Why do most of us want to work for ourselves in the first place? Well, for me it was the desire to do something for a living that I actually enjoyed, and to have the classic “work-life balance“. When we first set up as photographers, it can be very hard work – there’s the need to build a client base, get marketing done and the urge to take on as many jobs as possible to start money rolling in. But, over time, it becomes easier (or should be) to maintain a better balance.
The problem is, of course, that there’s always something that you could be doing when you run your own business. This is why I say you need to make your business work for you. For some people, this may mean employing someone else to take care of certain jobs for you. For instance, I employ an accountant for my business, as I’m fairly mathematically incompetent! The stress and time it would take me to do my own accounts would far outweigh the cost of the actual accountant. It’s always scary to think about outlaying money but the time gained by outsourcing some jobs will make it easier for you to earn more doing what you’re good at (that’s the taking photos bit!).
Secondly, streamline your work. Take on jobs in the genres of photography that you specialize in and don’t feel you have to accept every job in every genre. Again, this may seem scary but shooting what you’re good at makes you a better photographer and allows you to focus your energies on looking for more work in those categories.
Remember as well that making your business work for you has to involve taking time away from it. I just took off the whole period from Christmas Eve till January 4th and didn’t do a single bit of work in this time, apart from checking my emails to make sure nothing urgent had come in. To do this, I organized my December well in advance, so that I had completed all my photography and writing assignments in time and had scheduled work ready for when I started again on the 4th. Forward planning is your friend!
Keep Up With Your Contacts
One of the things most of us can be guilty of is not keeping up with our contacts. And by this, I mean both clients and professional contacts (such as other photographers, manufacturers etc). In my own case, I’ve always been pretty good on the professional front and am lucky enough to have a lot of photographers and people who work in the industry that I would consider close friends as well as business contacts. I’ve been poorer at keeping up with clients.
Most of us don’t want to pester clients continually, asking if they need any more photos done. This is often the quickest way to end up in the recycling bin of their email account.
So this year, I’m going to look at things a little differently. I specialize mainly in corporate and portraiture work so, when I work with a client, I’m going to ask a few questions at the time of the shoot to see if they’ll need more photos in the future. I’ll then make a note of this on a spreadsheet and set reminders to send an email around the time they’ll be looking for more shots. A simple thing, but we can all try variants of the same.
It’s a dreaded term, but the simple fact is that all photographers should be using social media in some shape or form. Lots of people will probably tell you that you should be on every platform out there and, whilst there’s definitely a lot of merit in that, it’s pointless if you don’t have the time or inclination. What I do think is important is putting time into a platform that works for you.
Although I have only been using it a little over a year (spot the luddite), I’m a big fan of Twitter and have found it works very well with my style of business. So this is the social media platform I choose to put the most time into. This year, think about focusing your social media so that you’re using something that works for you.
Step away from the desk / camera / whatever! For those of us who run our own businesses, it can sometimes be difficult to get away from it. So this year, make a deal to take a break from your work every day. Go for a walk, do a lunchtime class – essentially, have a proper lunch hour. You’ll come back more refreshed and ready to look at your work with a fresh eye.