Ditch the overwhelm: 5 ways to achieve MORE by focusing on LESS
I don’t know about you, but feeling overwhelmed is one of the biggest problems I’ve experienced running my photography business. That feeling that you need to be doing everything… of constant plate-spinning, like you’re doing everything half-arsed, struggling to complete things… always feeling like each time you tick one thing off the list, five more get added. It’s crap, it’s draining and I firmly believe that for both sanity and efficiency’s sake, it should be a massive priority for any business-owner to get rid of it.
But how can you get rid of overwhelm? Happily it’s quite easy! It might sound obvious, but you just need to work out which activities to keep doing, and which to ditch!
In this article I’m going to share with you 4 simple questions that will help you decide what to stick with and what to cut out, plus 5 practical suggestions of ways you can achieve more by focusing on less in your photography business. I’ll also share with you how I applied these principles to my own business. I hope you find this helpful!
Multi-tasking is not a virtue
What I only discovered far too late in the day (after over a decade of running myself ragged!) is that LESS IS MORE. You achieve far more, by focusing on less.
Multi-tasking is not a virtue when it comes to running a business – all it does it split your attention and drain your energy and resources. In trying to do ALL THE THINGS you end up doing none of them particularly well. It’s just not possible to go into anything in depth when your time and energy is shared across too many different tasks. Heard the expression ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’? There’s a good reason why that phrase exists.
The 80/20 rule
You may well have heard about the Pareto principle, also known as the 80/20 rule. It’s brill and can be applied to pretty much anything, and essentially it means that around 80% of the effects/results come from around 20% of the causes/actions. Applied to your everyday life – you wear about 20% of your clothes 80% of the time… 20% of the food you eat delivers 80% of the health benefits… you use 20% of your mobile apps 80% of the time… 20% of the people you know bring you 80% of the joy… 20% of your household appliances / tech cause you 80% of the problems etc etc. You can apply it to anything.
The beauty of this is that you can also apply it to your professional life, and make it a whole lot more enjoyable and efficient. 20% of your clients will cause 80% of the headaches… but a different 20% of your clients will bring you 80% of your joy and income. 80% of the daily tasks you undertake will bring 20% of the benefits, and conversely, 20% of the tasks you undertake will reap 80% of the rewards.
The key is working out what small proportion of things bring (or will bring) the vast majority of the benefits, and fully zero in on those. To do this, you cut down (or eliminate) the large number of things (or things you spend a lot of time doing) that bring minimal benefits. Instead you focus more (or only) on the small number of things (or things you spend minimal time doing) that bring (or have the greatest potential to bring) the biggest benefits. You just need to follow the benefit, joy and impact – for both you and your clients.
4 key questions to ask yourself
Grab a pen and piece of paper. In relation to your photography business, I’d like you make some lists….
What are the services / activities / products you undertake/provide that:
1) Bring YOU the most benefit (or have the potential to bring you the most benefit)? This could be in terms of income or it could be in terms of enjoyment (or both! If both, asterix them).
2) Bring YOUR CLIENTS the most benefit? This could be in terms of practical impact on their lives, or in terms of how much they seem to enjoy, value and purchase them (or both! If both, asterix them).
3) Bring YOU the least benefit. This could be because you really don’t enjoy them, or because they bring you little income. Again, if both of these together, asterix them.
4) Bring YOUR CLIENTS the least benefit. This could be in terms of having little practical impact on their lives, or in terms of them not appearing to particularly enjoy, value or purchase them. Again, if both of these together, asterix them.
Hopefully now you should start to have a clear idea of the few activities / services / products that really benefit you and your clients the most – i.e those you listed for 1) and 2), especially any that are asterisked, and especially any that appear in both 1) and 2). THESE are the things you need to focus on.
Similarly, now you should start to have a clear idea of the activities / services / products that really don’t bring you or your clients enough benefit to warrant the time you spend on them – i.e those you listed for 3) and 4), especially any that are asterisked, and especially any that appear in both 3) and 4). Feel free to cut these out completely if you can – it can feel scary doing it but you will reap the rewards. If you really can’t bear to stop them completely, at least set them on the back-burner as a possible project for the future, or something you will do if asked, but you won’t actively promote.
By focusing in ONLY on a few select, highly beneficial activities you will cut out overwhelm, simplify your workload, and ensure that you do these crucially beneficial things REALLY WELL, undistracted by all the other tasks and services that just don’t really serve you or your clients particularly well. Your business will grow more, by focusing on less, and you will serve your clients so much more effectively.
5 practical suggestions to do more with less in your photography business
1) NARROW DOWN YOUR NICHE
When it comes to appealing to your ideal customer, in trying to serve everyone, you will serve no one especially well. No-one will feel like you are ‘made for them’. 20% of your clients will bring you 80% of the benefits – both joy and income. Who are that 20%? Get to know them, what makes them different to the other 80%? Really focus on serving them, and only them.
2) CUT DOWN YOUR PRODUCT LIST
Do you have a long list of physical products (frames, canvasses, albums, print boxes etc etc) and some of these hardly ever sell? It’s because either you don’t like them, or your clients don’t like them, or both. Ditch them. Then you’ll never have to spend time and energy marketing them, getting samples or selling them. Focus on the products you love to sell, and which your clients love to order or receive.
3) GET RID OF HALF-ARSED SOCIAL MEDIA
It’s a total myth that you need to be on all social media platforms. Spreading yourself too thinly will result in a luke-warm, ineffective presence on all of them (which as well as tiring you out could also reflect badly on your brand). Ditch any that you really dislike, or that you see little benefit from. You don’t have to delete your accounts if you’ve already made them, but you can always remove links to them from your website, and for the time being just focus on ONE at a time. Then spend your time on just that one, doing a really good job of it and reaping the benefits of a highly engaged community thanks to your undiluted attention. You can always grow the others later when you have the capacity… or not! If focusing on just one of them really works for you, then why change what you’re doing? There are plenty of successful businesses who have a flourishing Facebook page but no Instagram, or vice versa.
4) YOUR MARKETING
The same principle as for your social media platforms. Yes, there are a million different ways you can market yourself. But you don’t have to do all of them, and shouldn’t. Just pick ONE. Look at what has really worked for you in the past, something you enjoyed doing and that brought you business, and just focus on keeping doing that – rinse and repeat! If you’ve not tried any type of marketing before, pick the one that sounds most appealing and doable for you – the one that you feel most positivity towards when you look through a list of possible marketing ideas.
5) YOUR SERVICES
Are you trying to offer a million different types of photography? If so, you’ll also only be able to give each one a nominal amount of attention. Following the Pareto Principle, if you’re seen to be offering 80% of the photography types, there can often be the assumption that you have 20% of the expertise. People usually prefer to enlist the help of someone they see as a ‘specialist’, not a ‘generalist’. Which is the type that brings you the most enjoyment and income, and has had the biggest impact and benefit for your clients? Just focus on growing and promoting that for now. There’s no reason why you still can’t offer the other services if asked, or even list them on your website. But you don’t need to be giving them all equal attention. Give the others 20% of your focus, and devote 80% to the ‘golden’ one you know will help both you and your clients the most right now.
How I personally put this into practice
As a photographer, I chose to focus only on family photography and stop wedding photography altogether. Although I do still offer (and often shoot) commercial photography and individual headshot photography, these aren’t something I particularly push or promote, or give much space to on my website. Instead I focus on families, as this is where I feel my work has the biggest impact and joy, both for me and my clients. Interestingly, a lot of the commercial work I get is because my niche is families. Narrowing down can actually help you expand!
Similarly, every year I cut down my product list even more – now I only include things that ACTUALLY SELL and that I personally love and would buy for myself. As a result, I get more people buying the few products I do offer – their focus isn’t diluted by a big list any more. Every year I also try to niche down even further in terms of my ideal client – and every time I do this I get far more clients as a result, and ever-increasing numbers of them are my ideal clients. It sounds so counter-intuitive but it’s true!
Big decisions I made this year!
For my photography education, I spent years offering NINE (yes, nine!) different services for professional photographers, all designed for people at ANY stage of their career – 1-1 in-person mentoring, 1-1 Skype mentoring, portfolio reviews, website reviews, digital downloads, The Roost family photography course, as well as the Branding Toolkit, the Marketing Toolkit and the Productivity Toolkit courses. It makes me feel tired even listing them!
What I discovered very quickly was that I was spreading myself too thinly – in trying to serve ALL photographers, I felt like I wasn’t serving any specific group as well as I could if I really focused on a particular group’s specific needs. Also, in trying to offer NINE different services, I was completely overwhelmed trying to promote and manage them all, and knew that this would lessen how effectively I could show up for my clients.
It was time for change!
So, this year I made the decision to:
1) CUT DOWN MY SERVICES
I stopped offering ALL of these services except for The Roost (because this was the service that was providing the biggest benefits for both me and my clients). I then chose to amalgamate all of the EIGHT remaining services into ONE simple service – The Shutterhood. Both psychologically and practically, the weight that has been lifted from pruning my services down from nine to just two, was instant and huge. It’s really exciting knowing I can throw myself fully into just these two and give them the focused effort they deserve without being distracted.
2) NARROW DOWN MY NICHE
As well as cutting down the services, I narrowed my niche. The Roost was already a niche product (as it’s focused on people diversifying into family photography). However, for The Shutterhood (the remaining 8 services now distilled down into this ONE service), I decided to niche down to specifically serve fledgling photographers in the early days of setting up their photography business.
Why did I do this? Because in all the years that I ran all the other types of education for ALL types of photographers of any level of experience – it was the fledgling photographers who I most enjoyed helping, who I found it most rewarding to assist, who needed the support the most and, as a consequence, who reaped the most benefit from my support. I realised that 80% of the joy and impact of my educational resources was in the work I did with photographers in the early days of setting up their business – so it made total sense to zero down and serve only them. Now I have even clearer focus and can help them even more efficiently than I did before, with more tailored resources, because I’m focusing only on them and their specific needs, totally undiluted by trying to help people at the other stages of their career at the same time.
I really hope these tips have been helpful to you, and I’d love to hear from you in the comments below – are you planning to do (or have you already done!) any 80/20 pruning in your own business?
MORE RESOURCES FOR YOU
The Shutterhood is my membership community that helps fledgling photographers ditch the overwhelm and get their photography business launched and thriving. If you’re just starting out as a professional photographer, don’t worry, you don’t have to do it alone! Together, we’ll simplify your workload, banish that pesky self-doubt and kickstart this exciting new chapter with purpose, confidence and joy. You can read all about it here, and until September 27th 2020 you can enter the giveaway to be in with a chance to WIN A FREE MEMBERSHIP!
UNCOVER YOUR OWN UNIQUE BRAND
If you’re just starting out building your photography business, it can be hard to know what’s ‘special’ about you and why customers could choose you over others. To help you, I have a free PDF containing lots of helpful prompts and questions to ask yourself to start to uncover your own unique brand – feel free to download this here 🙂
If you liked this article, you might also like the following resources:
Join my facebook group for photographers Build A Photography Brand With Soul – we’re a friendly bunch in there and would love to have you!
I really hope you’ve found all of this useful!
Tips, inspiration and resources to inject some joy & lighten the load
Manchester family photographer, for down-to-earth, adventurous, big-hearted families all across the North West, London and UK
Creative, documentary family photography in Manchester, Liverpool, Lancashire, Cheshire, Yorkshire, London
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