This tip is inspired by a question I was asked this week in my free Facebook group. Toni asked me for my top photography business tips for people thinking of starting a photography business, the things I wish I’d known before I started. I realised I’d recently been asked a very similar question by Justin, who asked which 3 things have had the biggest impact on my business and work/life balance, so I figured sharing these might be something helpful to lots of others too!
The 3 things I wish I’d known I should focus on before I started, the 3 things that have had the most impact on my business…. are easily planning, marketing and branding. I didn’t remotely focus on any of these for the first few years of my business, but they’re the things that once I started to focus on them, my business became so much easier, aligned and effective.
Strategic planning is SO important. In the early days of my business, I’d generally just randomly choose and attempt tasks as they occurred to me or ‘firefighting’ as things landed on my desk. It was very ad hoc and a bit chaotic and I was never really sure whether I was spending my time doing the ‘right’ things that would help my business the most. So definitely the first thing that made a massive difference to my business, not just the success of my business, but also my work/life balance, was building in regular strategic planning.
Firstly, it’s important to plan long term: not just annual planning but also looking at your priorities for the next 1-3 years (and beyond if you want to!) so you’re working towards the big picture rather than being caught up in day to day minutiae. From your long-term planning, you can then break this down into medium term planning. This can be quarterly, or personally I’ve grown to prefer 6 week planning done every 2 months with a 2 week ‘cool down’ period built in. Then, this medium term plan is broken down into monthly (not necessary if you do 6 week planning – only if you’re doing quarterly planning) and then weekly and daily plans.
This way, you always know that you’re focusing on the right things, actions that are going to lead you towards your longer-term goals and priorities. Planning your time in advance means that you also know that you’re making the most of the time that you have available to you, whatever that might be, however much or little that might be. So in that sense, planning is also really good for work life balance – it might not give you more time, but it ensures that your time is spent in the most productive way possible.
The second thing that made a huge difference to my business is focusing on marketing, and especially marketing outside of social media. Marketing was another thing that I studiously avoided for years; I didn’t really understand it, and I didn’t feel comfortable with it. I generally just crossed my fingers and hoped that work would come in… Sometimes it did, but of course, sometimes it didn’t.
Realising that I needed to market myself was really important, and realising that particularly in today’s climate where there are so many of us, with so many people all promoting themselves in so many different ways, marketing is just an unavoidable part of running a business if you want people to actually know you exist. So getting to grips with marketing, realising that it’s not actually remotely as scary or complicated as I’d originally thought it was, made a huge difference. Once I got to grips with that and started promoting my business more, unsurprisingly it grew.
Specifically marketing outside of social media has been one of the most beneficial things to me; even still today I don’t really rely on social media to build my business, it’s just the cherry on the cake. Social media platforms are platforms that you don’t own. You’re at the whim of the people who own them, who at any time can change the algorithms, make you pay more money for the same functionality, totally change the nature and purpose of the platform, or even shut it down altogether. We’ve all come across people who’ve lost all their followers because their accounts got hacked or inexplicably banned, or who are panicking because they’re getting far less traction on their posts because the algorithms changed.
So… social media, yes I do use it, it does have its place and it can be useful. However, I know that if Instagram and Facebook etc shut tomorrow, I’m confident I could sustain my business, I don’t rely on them at all to keep my business running. I think it’s really important to build marketing channels that don’t rely on social media, to focus on channels that you’re in total control of. This means spending time investing in developing your mailing list, good old fashioned networking and collaborations, SEO and blogging.
The third (and possibly the biggest!) thing that’s made the most difference to me is branding… It took me a long time to realise that how successful your business is, is largely going to be reliant on the strength of your brand.
By brand I don’t mean the visuals like my colours or fonts or logo. I’m talking about your business’ unique identity, the concepts and ideas that drive it. Looking at your personality, your strengths, your passions, your core values, your stories and your purpose… Really getting to grips with why you do what you do, how you do it and who you do it for – this is going to take you so much further than just ‘I am a photographer, I take photos, and this is my logo’.
Really understanding all this – that’s what’s going to differentiate you from other photographers, that’s what’s going to make people passionate about booking you specifically, that’s what going to enable you to elevate your brand to a much higher level.
I really hope these have helped – what are the 3 things that have had most impact on you and your business?
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