HOW TO: Get your business New Year ready

Shall we all just do a big, collective sigh of relief now that it's winter and quiet season?  It's time to breathe, to put your feet up and recover from a busy wedding season.  

If you're anything like me you still have a few jobs to edit and then you're going to take some time off to chill out.  And it's so, so important that you do chill out and take some time for yourself.  

Once you've relaxed a bit, though, it's time to think about getting your house in order for next year.  When those new enquiries start rolling in you want to make sure that your website, processes and portfolio all communicate your values and show prospective clients exactly how awesome you are.  

It's also a brilliant time to review your business and give it a bit of a health check.  Business planning will make sure you stay on the right track and make consistent decisions that will allow your business to flourish.  

Here are six ways you can get your business ready for 2016.  
 

1) Get your S.W.O.T on

Start at the very beginning.  A S.W.O.T analysis is a really simple way of assessing what's going well and what you need to improve.  Grab a pen, spend 10 - 15 minutes on each section and write down a list of your:

Strengths
Weaknesses
Opportunities
Threats

For example I know one of my weaknesses is the client experience.  It's ok but I know I could improve it.  This winter one of my aims is to redefine my process, so that I can up my game in terms of the experience and support I provide to my couples.  

From a shooting perspective I know my lighting skills could do with a refresher so I'll be attending a photography workshop or arranging a 121 that focusses on that area.

Threats might include things like serious illness.  What processes do you have in place if something happens?  No business operates without threats but good, healthy businesses have plans in place to mitigate risks.  

Once you have your list you can focus on putting a plan in place to address weaknesses, make the most of opportunities and mitigate risks to your business.  Set yourself a series of SMART targets and this will form the basis of a plan to improve your service across the year. 

2) Think about the focus of your work

Shot by Becky Ryan at the SNAP Reunion

Shot by Becky Ryan at the SNAP Reunion

Is the way you curate your work bringing in the right clients?  Does your work have a consistent message?  Is the photography you create aligned with your branding and online presence?  

A simple exercise to work out what your work is saying is to print out 30 of your images.  Spend a few minutes looking at each image and write down every word that springs to mind on a post-it-note.  Write one word on each note.  If the same word comes up again when you're looking at another image then write it down again on a new post-it-note.  

Once you have reviewed each image group the pile of notes by word / words that are similar and that will give you a good overview of what the common themes in your work.  

The great thing is that if one of the words that most strong / prominent isn't really serving your brand any more, you can choose not to focus on it when you shoot and also when you curate your work.   

For example my work used to have a strong focus on details and styling and while I do still love those elements of a wedding, I prefer to focus on moments and story telling so I don't show as many details any more.   

The words that define your work can be used to assess all aspects of your brand, from your portfolio to your web copy.  Ask yourself if what you're putting out there is on message. 


3)  Refresh, refresh, refresh

Shot by Anna Pumer at the SNAP Reunion

Shot by Anna Pumer at the SNAP Reunion

Give all of the following a review, to make sure it's still on brand / message

  • Your portfolio
  • Your web galleries
  • Your brochure
  • Your web copy
  • Your social media bios 
  • Your about me page and picture
  • Your social media content (have a clear out of old, irrelevant content) 
  • Your standard email replies
     

4) Make a plan

In the words of Marianne Taylor, one of the UK's most respected wedding photographers, former SNAP speaker and all round business guru, writing a business plan will help you to gain clarity, understand your market, focus, internalise your message and take stock. 

Swing by Her Lovely Heart to read more about why business planning is so important and to grab your free downloadable business plan template.  
 

5)  Get inspired

Shot by Lukas Piatek at SNAP 2015

Shot by Lukas Piatek at SNAP 2015

If you hurtle from shoot to shoot, depleting your creativity, without ever topping it back up again, you'll get to a point where your work becomes stale, or you'll burn out.  

I honestly believe that nurturing your creativity needs to be an ongoing process and you have to commit to adding reference materials and re-discovering your love for what you're doing on a regular basis. 

There are a number of ways to do this.  Watching films and documentaries, going to art galleries, reading about art and photography and studying the work of other photographers and artists will all help to get those creative juices flowing.   Things like travel or even going for a walk can work really well to inspire you.  

Attending something like SNAP, where you'll immerse yourself in a creative environment for three days and four nights will also leave you feeling re-energised, inspired and ready to tackle a new wedding photography season.  

Even the most experienced wedding photographers need ongoing professional development, to stay relevant.  Training and inspiration based workshops give you an opportunity to take inspiration from people with different approaches, at different stages of their journey and as a bonus you'll become a part of a lively and engaged community that will support you and keep you inspired through the year.  SNAP 2016 will be covering business, SEO, branding, album sales and design, wedding photography, fashion photography, creativity, editorial styling and photography and a whole lot more.  Read more about this year's attendees experiences here and book your place at SNAP here

Ongoing professional development  both from a technical and inspiration perspective are a big budget commitment for my business and I attended two experiential events this year and three workshops.  I firmly believe the money I invest in learning is some of the best money I spend full stop and as a bonus these awesome, inspiring experiences are all tax deductible.   

And, finally, a personal project can be a great way of reigniting your love for your art.  Focus on something that you are passionate about and use it as a tool to explore and get a fresh perspective on your own work.  


7) Hustle

Ahhh the hustle.  It needs to be constant and consistent and even then you can't expect your marketing efforts to yield instant results.  Your mantra needs to be 'regular effort' and it's likely that your actions now will result in activity several months down the line, so if you've neglected your marketing and failed to get your hustle on over the summer, you might struggle to make your winter efforts work for you straight away.  

Via NeonMFG

All is not lost though and it's never too late to get a strategy in place.  I dedicate at least one day each week to marketing and PR stuff and the following are some ideas for things that will help you to build your referral and enquiry network.  

  • Spend a day a week compiling and scheduling social media content including blog posts, individual images to share on my Facebook and Instagram
  • Rework old content - have pictures from a favourite venue?  Write a post about why you love working there 
  • Submit work for blog / magazine features
    Send images to suppliers you've worked with over the summer and encourage them to share them (with a link and credit of course)
  • Invite potential referrers (other photographers, planners, suppliers) for lunch to thank them for their support
  • Write some useful content that's likely to be shared / referenced / drive traffic to your site
  • Do some search engine optimisation
  • Reach out to your existing clients and tell them how much it would mean to you if they'd refer you
  • Run a print sale / special offer
  • Seek out new people to collaborate with / host a networking event

This was six ways you can get your business ready for Spring but there are a whole LOAD of other steps you can take to get your business in shape.  Let us know what you're planning to work on in the comments.