by Skip Cohen
"There exist limitless opportunities in every industry. Where there is an open mind, there will always be a frontier." Charles Kettering
We're all used to "spin-offs" in the television world. It seems to happen most often with sitcoms. One character is so well received, that he/she gets their own show a season or two down the line. Or, a theme is so effective it's carried through to series after series.
In the corporate world it happens all the time when a corporation forms a new company or business entity. In fact, this blog is a spin-off of two other previous projects. We hear about spin-offs in our industry all the time, but did you ever think that a spin-off might be just the right thing for you to consider as another avenue in some aspect of your own business?
(Totally unrelated sidebar, but fun to read - check out Wikipedia's list of Television spin-offs, which is where I found the list for Law & Order.)
Of all the challenges photographers have to deal with, there’s little creating more of a challenge than the economy and the peaks and valleys in cash flow. If you’ve read “Who Moved My Cheese” then you know the moral of the story is to look for new “cheese”. If you wait until somebody delivers it to your doorstep you’ll starve. The economy has forced all of us into looking for new “cheese”, new business ventures and spin-offs to our existing skill set.
The peaks and valleys in business, especially photography, have always been there, through good economies and bad. It’s simply the seasonality of the business. In most parts of the country, winter is slow for the wedding business. Commercial photographers, especially those working with corporate clients, will see things slow down towards the end of any company's fiscal year, followed by a little increase when a new budget kicks in.
The challenge is to always be looking for new business ventures to expand your revenue stream and even out your cash flow. Secondary, new ventures help you expand your brand awareness in your community and you just never know what doors might open up down the line.
Here are some prime examples, all of photographers you know:
· Jim Garner had a vision of great camera bag. He designed Boda around his personal needs. The next thing you know there was a spin-off into a new business.
· Dawn Shields, winner of Album of the Year from WPPI almost three years ago, bought a local wedding magazine with her husband. Today, the magazine is a thriving business also hosting a significant bridal show.
· Kevin Kubota – well, if you’re just starting out, you probably think of him as one of the leading software developers. What you might not know is that Kevin is one of the finest photographers in the industry. His wedding images are outstanding, but a few years ago I saw his series of images from a trip to Italy and they were incredible!
· Sal Cincotta sets the contemporary standard for diversification. In fact, he's developed so many spin-offs of his skill set that if you listen to the podcast with Sal and his wife, Taylor, you'll hear him talk about his promise to Taylor that there will be no more new projects until 2014!
· Clay Blackmore, our Dean of Weddings, following his passion for golf, developed a relationship with the PGA. I can’t begin to guess how many tournaments Clay has photographed over the years. And the video below is another concept of a "spin-off". This short video takes you inside the challenges of creating thousands of framed prints for a Park City, UT hotel. Clay's main focus might be wedding and portrait photography, but over and over again he demonstrates there's really nothing he can't shoot!
Here are some suggestions to help you consider new ventures that utilize your talent as a photographer:
· Make sure your primary income stream is solid before you branch out. Are you the best you can be? Don’t let yourself become a master of mediocrity with too many projects/ventures all needing just a little more fine-tuning.
· Network with local businesses and associates. A great example – you just bought a big Epson wide format printer, but the business next door might have some printing needs you never knew about. Get to know the other businesses in your community.
· Listen to your clients! Scott Bourne had a great example on a podcast a couple of years ago and talked about a friend who was a wedding photographer and identified a need for a more reliable limo service – so he started one! Now he’s got the ability to offer his clients an additional service and just tie it in with their wedding coverage.
· Attend every trade show you can! Here’s where getting to know all the products and services of your suppliers can really pay off. Look for synergy with other products and your skill set.
· Look for partnerships, including other photographers! Sure they’re your competitors, but they’re also dealing with the same challenges you are and they just might have a skill set complimenting what you’re missing.
This isn’t just about diversity, even though it's one of my favorite topics. This is about building new business opportunities and simply keeping an open mind!