It’s nearing the end of August and, like many photographers, I’m already looking to 2021 to see if it’s going to be a better year for self-employed business owners. We are part of the events industry which was hit harder than some during the pandemic. Our job is to document people when they are doing the exact opposite of social distancing. This makes work a tad bit inconvenient at the moment. We’re looking back at the past six months and seeing cancellations, reschedules, and a massive loss of steady income.
Normally I wouldn’t be sitting down to plan out my goals for the next year four months before that year even begins and in the midst of what would typically be the busiest part of this season yet. This is not a normal year. With my books entirely empty for Fall I’ve got nothing to do for business but look to the future at the moment and I know I’m not alone.
My usual business goals involve booking a set number of weddings for the next season, small price adjustments, working on some things behind the scenes. Maybe rebranding? A website fix? These are the goals I’d be typically planning out once the photography season died down as it hits December and January. Not this year. I’m thinking ahead as much as possible and making big and small adjustments to business and life to accommodate the events industry possibly being hit hard for much longer than this pandemic may last. These are a few of the goals I hinted to in my email newsletter earlier this week and we’re going to dive into them now and touch on them again live on IGTV on Thursday!
- Flexibility – In preparation for this upcoming year I think photographers are going to need to be as flexible as possible, which is why I have made this my top goal. In order to continue serving clients next year, especially those whose weddings have been rescheduled, I’m prepared to be flexible with additional reschedules and how these weddings may change from their original vision. Adapting to such a massive change in society and people’s ability to get together for social events is something I’m prepared to do. I am realizing that may mean a decrease in large bookings, but perhaps an increase in small elopements, micro-weddings, or otherwise intimate events instead. I think this is a time for photographers to reconsider our pricing and business structures so we are flexible and prepared to adapt to even bigger changes if necessary next season.
- Strengthen Legal Structures – If there’s one thing this pandemic has taught me, it’s that photographers were not prepared legally for this. This goal is an important one. If you weren’t using contracts before, now is definitely the time to start. Contracts should also be changing to adapt to the current pandemic climate and changing how we structure our reschedules of events, in particular. Didn’t have business liability insurance? Now is the time to get that too. Join the PPA (Professional Photographers of America) and make sure you’ve got everything covered that you need to during this time. Whatever you’ve been putting off to make your business as legally sound as possible, this is the time to dive in and ensure you’ve got everything straightened out and ready to go in case of something worse ever arriving at your business’ door. I’ve taken the time to set up a phone tree with other photographers in the area who are ready to jump into my business in case I’m unable to attend an event due to quarantine or other issues. I also set up my best photographer friend as a person who can jump in and start organizing my business if I am unable to. She received a list of people to contact, services I use, and more. Then, I sent my husband a list of contacts and logins/passwords to have on hand that he can pass on to the correct folks if that’s ever needed. These are the types of backups and scary things we should have been thinking about prior to COVID-19, but this gives us an opportunity to set up these structures for the future, improving our business and preparedness.
- Pivot – My last big goal for 2021 as a photographer is to pivot. When business owners talk about pivoting their business, they are talking about ways you are adapting to change and ensuring you’re still able to operate in some way. For many photographers, this may have meant fewer weddings to photograph, but going back to high school seniors and family photography as a way to ensure income. Photographers are pivoting in many different creative ways. Some are teaching other photographers about business. Some have moved to TikTok. Some have become influencers. Some have moved out of focusing on photography right now and have put energy into other businesses or projects to keep earning while continuing to book what they can and photograph when able. I think we all need to be prepared to pivot a bit next year. Many photographers have signed up for my passive income course to see how they can implement some extra income earning potential to the bookings they are getting. Some are adding my automated email templates as a way to gain some extra passive income, or just provide a better customer experience to their current clients. As for me? Well, I’ve really focused a lot on building a homesteading business this season. My husband built a chicken coop and we’re expecting eggs we can sell any day now. We added more beehives to our groups so we have more honey and bee-related products to sell all winter long. I even started a blog about gardening to help maximize my business potential while I have the time away from photography. Pivoting may look different to many photographers, but it’s important to pivot in a way where you can still practice what you love (for me that means using my camera to photograph my garden and the bees). Simultaneously, it’s also great to pivot in a way that prioritizes your income-earning potential!
What goals are you focusing on for next year to ensure the survival of your business throughout the pandemic? I hope these goal-setting ideas are getting you thinking about what this next season might look like for your business and how to keep things going through tough times!