This post is Day 26 of 30 Ways In 30 Days To Redesign Your Life With Photography. This series seeks to provide you with practical steps to get you from wherever you are today, to exactly where you want to be – this year! If your goal has always been to take your photography to a whole new level, hang on and start enjoying a new lifestyle you’ve always dreamed of.
You’ve done everything right. You’ve created your goals, and are on target to put everything into place. You’ve produced a marketing campaign that’s bringing in a steady stream of clients. You’re bringing in enough income that photography is your full time career. Everything seems to be going as planned. Now what?
How do you handle the growth you are experiencing? How do you keep up with it all, and keep your head above water? Its fun at the moment, but the last thing you want to have happen is to feel like you are in over your head. Overwhelm is not something you choose to experience again.
Before you get to that point, lets look at the most common ways a business owner can become overwhelmed, and what you can do about it today.
Lack of cash
One of the most significant reasons a business fails is they simply run out of cash. Demand is high, yet your outlay is not keeping up with the demand. This can happen easily in the photography field, especially when your booking rate is high one season, and your production rate is high in a different season.
As wedding photographers, we saw that all the time. Our heavy booking season came during the first few months of the year; and our production season cam in the last half of the year.
Instead of looking at your bank account during the heavy intake times, and spending accordingly, you need to take into account final production as well. In general, you will quickly learn how much it takes to fulfill an order. Open up a savings account, and deposit that much into savings for every client that comes through your door. Only move the funds when final production is in place, and you are completing orders.
This can also work for other areas, like marketing campaigns and advertising budgets. Use a simple spreadsheet to track each of your expenses, and budget your incoming funds accordingly. Many finance programs also have capabilities of tracking funds in different ways. Only move funds back into your checking account when you are ready to spend on a specific item.
You business can hit a wall when there are too many demands on your time. You have too many email enquiries to answer by yourself. The phone is ringing nonstop all day long, and you can’t get anything else accomplished. Or you have so much production, it will take you weeks to get through it all.
Before you get yourself in that position, take a step back and change the way you operate first. In Day 25, we talked about adding your first employee. While many people feel they can’t add an employee until they have a healthy income, you could be putting your business in jeopardy by not building your infrastructure first. For example, if you can’t keep up with production, your business will fall off because of bad customer service. Its important to take gradual steps, and build your systems around you as you continue to grow. While you may not get the big payday this year, your day will come. Focus on building a healthy base first, and allowing growth to happen exponentially.
Lack of direction
When heavy growth begins to happen, it’s easy to fall into the trap of doing things one day at a time. Instead of planning for what comes next, you simply manage things as they happen. That can be a big mistake.
By doing this, you end up floundering around. You’ve surpassed your goals, so you simply take what’s coming at you. Instead, take a step away from your business and discover what you want to do next. Do you like what you’ve achieved? What would you do differently? Is there a complementary product or service you can add to continue to grow and reach out to your current clientele?
For example, as a wedding photographer, the next logical step in a couple’s life is to have a baby. Do you want to add baby photography into your plans? Or maybe you love weddings, and want to continue to make it your entire focus. Maybe you want to do higher-end weddings, or hire another photographer so you can double your business.
Either answer can be correct. The key is planning for the next step, and continuing to watch your growth over time.
Change in economies
This one is a little harder to manage, but is important to watch for. When I use the word economies, I’m referring to what controls your sales structure. Do your customers stay faithful to your business? Can you easily bring in more customers with your marketing? Do your competitors change?
Staying active in your community is the easiest way to keep a handle on this. Read photography magazines and attend tradeshows or expos. Find out where your customers hang out, and become active in those communities too. The more you expand and the more you learn, the easier it is to see what is coming next.
For example, if you target marketing and ad agencies, and focus on building a commercial photography business, local groups like Chambers of Commerce may benefit you. But look for local chapters of national organizations as well, such as Direct Marketing Association or Business Marketing Association. Not only can you learn about the industry as a whole by attending local and national events, you can make some great contacts as well. Pick up ideas from others, and watch as new people enter the marketplace. This will allow you to keep your finger on the pulse, and make changes accordingly.
Build it bigger and better
Once you have knowledge, a great base, and a good following, it’s easier to take the next step. Instead of learning and starting over from the beginning, you simple take one more idea, and incorporate it into your system.
On every success you have, take a moment and reflect upon it. Then do something to repeat your success.
- If you gain one great client, how can you find one more just like her?
- If you have one great sale – $1,000 – how can you get one more client to spend $1,000? And more importantly, how can you get the next client to spend $1,250?
- If you have one vendor referring you to one of their clients, how can you build their trust so they refer one more?
If you let success happen, it will quickly fade. But if you plan for it, question every aspect of it, learn from it and do it again, you will grow from this point forward.