I’m writing today’s post from the perspective of a wedding photographer, but it can easily be applied to any seasonal small business.
The burn out rate for wedding photographers is high. I see most turn over to new careers in 4-5 years. Why is this? I believe for most it is because they start with a large number of bookings at low prices, and that business model is unsustainable for a long period of time. Wedding photography is incredibly physical, and taking 50+ weddings a season can burn you out quickly.
I’ve been there, don’t get me wrong. But, it’s a place I never want to be again because I know I couldn’t provide the level of service + quality that I desire to give my couples. In order to run a sustainable business, I’ve incorporated these practices in the off-season to make my business more profitable year round.
PREPARE PACKAGING + SHIPMENTS
I always tell the photographers I mentor that the greatest thing you can do for your business is to invest in your couples. If you can give them the best experience, their referrals will come naturally. I’ve been in the industry for 13 years and have seen trends move from Facebook to print ads to wedding blogs to Instagram…and the largest lead source for me has always been previous client referrals.
One way to provide an exceptional service is to deliver photos/your product in a timely fashion and to respond to emails as quickly as possible. I find that I can more easily focus on these two things when backend work is nonexistent. This is why all of my packaging is ordered, welcome packages are prepped, and camera gear is cleaned in the winter months so that I can completely focus on emails + editing the rest of the year.
For more tips on efficiency, check out this blog post here.
The first point of contact for most prospective clients is either your social media page or your website. I see so many people neglect their sites, which is a huge disservice to your brand. I try to update my site at least twice a year with new content so that prospective clients can see the best of the best of my work.
I wrote a longer blog post about how to improve your portfolio here.
PREPARE BLOG POSTS + SOCIAL MEDIA CONTENT
One of the best ways to grow your following and to build SEO (and, therefore, gain leads) is to be consistent in sharing. I could write a whole other post about the importance of blogging. Simply, you should be blogging regularly.
I’ve also found that when I schedule my social media content in advance, I’m better about sharing daily. I use Tailwind, but I’ve also heard good things about Planoly. To write genuinely, I find that two weeks worth of content is the max I can prepare. However, I’ll pull my favorite images from the previous season and store them in Tailwind to use throughout the year.
CONNECT WITH VENDORS
No matter what industry you are in, it helps to make friends. Besides previous client referrals, the other major lead source for me is vendor referrals. If you forgot to share images during peak season, follow up now! If you have a friendor that refers you a ton, consider sending them a small thank you gift. If you’re hoping to team up with a vendor in the near future, invite them to grab coffee or drinks. A little bit goes a long way.
EVALUATE THE PREVIOUS YEARS’ WINS AND LOSSES
Turn on some music, grab a beverage of choice, and reflect on the past year. Ask yourself these questions:
// How much money do I need to make?
// How much do I want to make?
// What are my biggest returns on investment?
// Which things are sucking time and money away from my business and life?
// Where is money being wasted?
// What systems are not working for me?
// What is something I hate doing and can outsource?
// What is something I enjoy but don’t have time to do?
// Where is there room for improvement?
Once you have your answers, write down baby steps to help fix the problem. Maybe you want to improve in OCF? If so, sign up for a mentor session or class that will help you expand your knowledge. Are you spending too much time editing? Look into different editing houses to consider outsourcing.
ENROLL IN EDUCATION
As a photographer, people hire you for your images and for who you are. We tend to get caught up in the branding/selling/marketing side of things and sometimes neglect the center of our business: our work.
Now is the time of year to look at workshops. If you have a photographer or business that you admire, reach out and ask if they offer mentor opportunities. If there is a lack in your business, find a way to grow and improve.
I offer several different mentor opportunities, if you need a place to start.
Finally, as a creative entrepreneur, I want to encourage you to take this slow season to serve your own creative interest. Take a break from social media. Pursue a personal project in your medium. Explore a new artistic medium to expand your creative abilities. It’s amazing how these endeavors can breathe life into our souls and give back into our art + business.
I recently took up piano again, and it has been life-changing. Since it’s not visual, I don’t feel any pressure to share on social media. It’s just for me to enjoy. I love the challenge of learning a new piece, and it’s a great outlet when I need a break from work.
If you’re feeling stuck, please connect! I’d love to help!