“I skate to where the puck is going to be, not to where it has been!”
Hockey great Wayne Gretsky.
That quote got me thinking about how most photographers run their business. I’m generalizing, but so often it’s simply too reactionary. Instead of anticipating a down turn in business and having an emergency plan, photographers hit the panic button in a half-ass futile attempt to figure out what’s wrong and what to do next. In the end the “solutions” include everything from buying new equipment to getting a “real job”, both rarely the right or best approach.
So it's August 1st and summer is rapidly coming to a close. In a couple weeks kids are going back to school and you're going to be headed into what everyone is hoping for, a strong fourth quarter. What if, just for this morning we stopped for a second and tried to anticipate what 2014 is going to be like? What are the things you can count on?
- The first quarter is only five months away. That’s the slow season in professional photography. It’s winter time and in most markets, with the exception of Valentines Day, there’s little going on in weddings. However there are bridal fairs and some markets are buzzing with activity in terms of bookings. In terms of shooting, things are typically slow until April. This is a good time to work on promotions for the year and partnerships to build your brand.
- Most of the biggest and best trade shows and conventions are in the first quarter. So, which ones are you thinking about attending?
- Tax time comes the same time every year. Start putting together your receipts and business records so you can get your taxes done quickly once the new year starts. There's nothing that cramps a photographer's style more than worrying about whether or not you made any money during the year. Set up a meeting with your accountant BEFORE the end of September.
- Coming out of the first quarter you’ve got Easter, Mother’s Day, Graduation and Father’s Day – all great events with loads of promotional opportunities. What are you thinking of doing next year?
- How’s your skill set? The down time of the first quarter is perfect to fine tune and expand your bag of tricks. What podcasts, webinars and live events are you planning on attending?
- Bruce Berg and two other studios refuse to accept it’s the slow season and for thirty years have promoted their own children’s photo contest. Bruce couldn’t have been more open and frank when he wrote about the event, giving photographers all over the country new ideas on how to shift the curve in the drop in business. Here's the link to his recent guest post.
- How’s your local network? Scott Bourne and I have both talked about owning your zip code/community. Any down time you have is a great time to knock on some doors and get to know all the local business people. Remember, regardless of your specialty, you've got the ability to help them with all their photographic needs, even it's to direct them to another photographer. This is about building a reputation of simply being helpful.
Winter comes the same time every year, yet the drop in temperatures and snow in so many markets always leaves everybody surprised. It’s no different with business cycles. While the economy does feel like it’s improving in some markets, 2014 is still going to be a tough year, right along with the back half of 2013. Anticipate the challenges and it’ll be smoother sailing – not easy sailing, just smooth!
I've used this quote so many times in the past, but it's so relevant:
“Calm seas don’t make skilled sailors!”
Illustration credit: © fotoscool - Fotolia.com