Once you get your photography business up and running, and a few clients start coming through your doors, the business side becomes easier. As you long as you provide great customer service, and market in the same way over and over again, the business seems to run itself.
While this is great and allows you to focus in on what you love – photographing – it can also be harmful to the future of your business. Business “happens” at that point instead of evolves based on what you love. And if you end up working with clients and project you don’t like, you can slowly see the fun drain from your life.
That’s one of the best reasons to own your own business. Instead of letting this happen, take a step back once in awhile and reevaluate your business. Every business needs a bit of maintenance and fine-tuning along the way to keep things running smoothly, and to keep the passion in what you do.
Here are 18 ways you can quickly fine-tune your business.
1. Raise your rates to match your experience. The more experience you have, the more you can charge. Don’t be afraid to raise your rates, especially your hourly and ala carte pricing.
2. Evaluate your packages. If you love or hate parts of your current packages, change them. Make sure your packages give you what you want in sales, and keep the customers happy by providing what they request the most.
3. Focus on a niche. If you’ve started out a generalist, what do you love the most? Find ways to bring in more clients doing what you love. If you focus on it, it will come a lot easier.
4. Look at your financial reports. Whether you choose to keep the books yourself with a program like Wave Accounting, or hire an accountant and bookkeeper, spend some time every few weeks looking at your financial reports. Look at your total sales, accounts receivables, and how much cash you have on hand. The only way to grow in the future is to know where you are coming from.
5. Find a mentor or two. One of our greatest assets when we first started our wedding business was finding several other wedding photographers to mentor with. We met monthly to talk about the business, marketing, strategies, and anything else that came up. We could never have done all we did without the mentorship and friendship that came from that community.
6. Stay focused on what’s important throughout the day. If you work at home, it’s easy to get distracted. Turn off the TV, talk radio, and ignore the phone calls from family and friends. Create the best environment for you to keep your attention on what’s important.
7. Read, educate, learn. I read at least one book a week, and have many subscriptions, both online and off, to a variety of magazines and publications. I attend teleclasses and training seminars. I do whatever I can to stay at the top of my field. It’s your best way to stay ahead of the competition.
8. Talk to your clients. When was the last time you thanked your past clients? When was the last time you took your favorite client out for lunch? Take your relationship beyond client/business, and build a strong relationship that will last well into the future.
9. Learn from your mistakes. Take a look back at your last few clients. What did you like? What did you hate? What can you change? What can you differently?
10. Read through your marketing. When was the last time you read over your website? How about through your brochures? Its amazing the little things you catch when you look back at something. Make sure you are telling your customer exactly what you want to tell them.
11. Learn one new thing. Always wanted to learn how to use Twitter? Commit to it. How about Facebook? Get started. Or maybe you’ve wanted to perfect your Lightroom skills. Sign up for a class today.
12. Separate your personal and working hours. It’s hard to run a business, and not think about it 24 hours a day. Yet to maintain a health lifestyle, it’s imperative you do so. Set your office hours, and stick to them. Leave the phone at the office, and shut the door at night. You need and deserve the downtime.
13. Shoot something new. As photographers, you get stuck doing the same type of photography again and again. Sometimes you need a new path in order to get back your creative juices. Take a day off and head to the mountains (or beach, or park, etc) and concentrate on something different. You can even give yourself assignments – photograph 50 things that are green today. This opens you up to a world of opportunity.
14. Find one new goal. It could be as simple as “file the paperwork on my desk”. Or it could be as complex as “design a new website for my new niche”. Make that your priority until you complete it. Print it out and hang it near your desk – or make it your screensaver. Keep it front and center until you complete it.
15. Become better at sales. We’re not born with selling skills. It’s something that is developed over time. Spend a little time refining your skills, and build up your confidence in the way you present yourself to your prospects and customers.
16. Stay legal. Do you have a photography disclaimer in place? Do you have a model release signed by every client? What type of contract do you use for your photography services? Take a look at them once in awhile, and make changes to guarantee you are covered. Having a good lawyer on hand can be worth its weight in gold.
17. Increase your technology. Are you working with a four year old computer? Are you still using an old flip phone? Update one piece of technology, and learn how to use it effectively within your business.
18. Head out and meet someone new. Its easy to get into a rut when you constantly work at home or within your studio. Look at your calendar and find a few free hours. Then head over to Meetup.com and find a networking event. From book clubs, to political groups, to business functions, there is something for everyone. It doesn’t have to be photography related. Just something to connect you up with like-minded people, and give you a fresh new perspective on life.