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I started my photography business right in the middle of the 2008 recession. Here are my top tips not just to survive, but to even grow in a time of fear and panic.
Right now, we are in the grip of coronavirus, and it's hugely impacting businesses around the globe as we go into shutdown. One of the main concerns aside from the virus itself is that the knock-on impact of Coronavirus might be a global recession. Jobs are being lost, and businesses are closing daily, even with government funding.
In the photography industry, weddings are being postponed, causing admin chaos, issues surrounding deposits, and money being lost. Newborn photographers are unable to shoot and sessions are being canceled or also postponed.
It is concerning to consider the long-term impact that this is going to have on our businesses.
In a recession, multiple businesses close because there simply isn't enough demand to make a business viable.
Where there is demand, competition is even more fierce than before, and businesses often end up slashing their prices to remain competitive, ultimately leaving them with an unprofitable, failing, business.
Health also suffers as you work longer hours and harder than before.
You might also resort to DIY's ing elements of your business that you might previously have outsourced – album design, editing, website design, printing; or choose cheaper options as a way to save on cost. These might also harm your business, and your health, further in the long run, known as ‘false economising'.
This all sounds scary, but relax – there are ways that anyone with a photography business can beat the recession. Whether you're a wedding photographer, newborn, portrait, or other photography business owner, read on for our top tips.
Start now – you don't want to do this before it's too late.
With terrible news bombarding us from every angle, it's easy to let fear and anxiety start to govern our thoughts and action. This is not the time to give in to fear! Apprehension is only natural, however, in the long term you are losing precious time, effort, and energy that could be being spent productively.
First, let's beat the negativity. Don't underestimate how important this section is. It's common for people to skip over the mindset section, thinking that the practical part is the most important. It's not. If you want your photography business to beat the recession, first you're going to have to deal with those demons that stop you from taking productive action in the first place.
Your mindset is the number one reason why you procrastinate, why you lack direction, and why you don't know what to focus on first. It's the number one reason we fall into comparing ourselves with others, and it's our mindset that determines our confidence in pricing, selling, and marketing. So, gaining a healthier mindset is the number one focus during a precarious time. It's your mindset that will determine what happens next.
When we went into lockdown, I was glued to Twitter, Facebook, and the news channels. We don't even have a TV in our home or get newspapers here, thank goodness because I'm pretty sure otherwise my mental health would be far poorer than it is now.
As it was, I felt unsettled, unproductive, and prone to bursting into tears at random points of the day. Grief is normal, fear is normal, but you have to be able to limit its power over you.
The best way is to stop feeding your fear! A once-a-day news update is enough, and if there is any true emergency you will almost certainly hear about it or be contacted. I switched off my social media this morning and already feel far more focused and positive despite lockdown being officially enforced last night.
Do what you have to do to guard your mind against fear-food. I won't tell you to ‘delete your facebook app', we are all grown-ups here and you don't need me to tell you what to do. You most likely know what actions you can take.
One word of advice here though sooner is always better than later.
When you wean yourself from toxic media overload, it's natural to feel a bit ‘twitchy'. Thanks to our mobiles, news now occupies our hands, minds, body, eyes – our entire physical being, as well as the mental adrenalin / fear-based body response we exhibit when exposed to stressful news and situations.
So you know how smokers started vaping before they realized people were dying vaping? That's partly because it gives them something to do with their hands, to replace the physical habit.
We can do the same. Replace that habit of scrolling or immediately turning on the TV first thing in the morning with reading a book, or a blog that you love, or doing some mindful coloring books, journaling – anything that makes you feel uplifted as well as engaging your body.
Make it something you can do at any time – eg, a yoga session isn't always going to be practical when you're tempted to reach for the phone, but you can easily grab your book and read a page.
It's natural to surround ourselves with like-minded individuals, and right now most of the world is gripped by fear. It's natural to talk about these things, but as a priority, you might want to focus your conversation on the silver linings as much as possible.
This isn't a time to limit social contact, but you can be mindful about how you spend your time and words and what you focus on.
The fastest way to feel better is to do something for someone else. While this might seem tough in stressful situations (especially if you're on lockdown where you are) there are multiple ways to instantly feel good by giving. When you feel good, it's much easier to take positive action in your own life as a result.
Try sending a surprise card to someone to let them know you're thinking of them (or flowers or gifts if you're happy to increase your budget), send someone who is struggling something they need, purchase a food shop for someone, make someone a cute video to say hi, share some of your favorite resources or books with someone, cook and deliver a meal to someone in need (a friend who just had a baby, a busy parent, grandparent, etc), and so on.
Pinterest is full of ideas for this! (if you do this, please share what you did with us below! your contributions help inspire other readers to do something for someone else too, what a great way to support each other and others)!
Listen, I am the world's greatest anti-planner. I change my mind and pivot almost daily and work from a place of creativity, spirit, and alignment (basically, whatever I feel called to / want to do) most days.
But, having a plan for scary situations can give you back the feeling of being empowered and in control, that fear takes away from you.
Now, you've got your mindset under control! You know how to weather any crisis, whether viruses or your laptop exploding, or a recession. So let's get to the practical part.
Having a plan will help you feel empowered, confident, and in control. Whether the client books or not, cancels, price shops you; if your investments take a hit or prices soar through the roof with hyperinflation – a plan helps you stay on track.
So, what do you need to get started?
You're going to want to take some time over this. These days time seems plentiful, so we can be thankful for that! You're going to need at least an hour, depending on how much time you want to put into this. The more time you can put in, the more you're going to feel empowered and confident!
So, set aside the time in your calendar, and protect that time from social media procrastination, kids interrupting, housework, and so on. Because if and when you need this plan, it's going to be so much more important than your washing!
Grab a journal and pen / or your favorite planning software. I like to curl up with tea, somewhere quiet, in a cafe, but you can do it however and wherever you like.
Let's get clear about something right from the beginning – in a recession, people tend to bargain hunt and price shop far more than normal. This means that the already-competitive photography industry gets even more competitive. You'll see people slashing their prices, running offer after offer, and running after every job possible, even if it's not what they usually shoot, in order to stay afloat.
The flip side of this is there is also a crowd that is driven by quality, luxury, and high-end photography. But I mean seriously high-end.
In a recession, the businesses that will survive are not those in the middle, average price point. This price point gets squeezed entirely.
So, you need to decide what strategy you're most likely to take when the recession kicks in. Will you drop your prices, hustle your butt off, and run constant offers and promotions? This will keep you afloat. Or will you commit to making your current offers even stronger, increase your prices, and aim for the high end of the market?
I will be honest – most people are better off going with the budget option, shooting more, and having a ton of fun doing it. Embracing the fact they still get to be a photographer and run a business that is surviving.
The reason for this comes back to mindset again – in an economy where everyone feels mentally stressed and everyone else is running budget offers, it's going to be very difficult for most photographers to do the exact opposite of what everyone else seems to be doing and raise your prices instead of dropping them.
Now you know that the market changes in a recession, you're already fully prepared and won't need to sit there flip-flopping backward and forwards mentally about whether or not you should raise prices, drop them, run offers, etc when it happens. You'll have already decided. This means you won't be in that agonizing state of indecision and doom when the recession hits.
What's it going to be? Make the decision, and write it down, together with any notes about what price points you will drop to. You can also brainstorm potential offers to have in place.
Just remember – there is no third way during a recession, however, what you can do during this time of slashed prices is build your business and portfolio full of grateful, happy, low-budget clients, which will ensure that when the economy lifts again, guess who is going to be ready to raise their prices and grow their business at lightning speed?
I'm looking at you.
It's sooo easy to assume that our clients are going to come from social media, but in reality, most of us have clients that trickle into us from all places – referrals, word of mouth, a google search, a vendor recommendation, publicity, and publication, and so on. The thing is, for most photographers this seems like random acts of chance –
Rather than any deliberate marketing strategy. In a recession, you'll most likely have more time, which means you can work to increase your odds of being found, with a very deliberate (and simple) marketing strategy!
You can't do anything about Instagram's algorithm updates, other than pay for ads – but there are more effective ways to market your business – for free!
You can pick any one of these areas to focus on
1. Pinterest (our personal favorite, see why here)
3. Blogging (yep, blogging is still the number one way to drive traffic to your website by getting your content/posts ranked in Google search)
Unlike social media, these aren't quick and easy routes that produce you the odd client, which is why most photographers still aren't concentrating on them. But when done properly over time, concentrating on one of these key areas will be the biggest driver of clients and visitors to your website. Meaning, more bookings, more money!
The reason they all work so well is because they are search engines.
While social media sites want new posts allll the time, with no real hope of being found except the odd hashtag, giveaway, or collab, search engines want to provide their users with things they are actually looking for. Usually that's information, advice, or entertainment.
If you can do any or all of those for a Pinterest, Youtube, or blog account, you're going to grow your business in the long term. Perfectly in time for when the economy picks up again!
And remember, you're going to be at a huge advantage when that happens, instead of being like all the other recession-hit businesses just waiting on a prayer for their next Instagram booking!
Write down which sounds most fun for you to learn and explore. Now, you have an area to focus on either right now, or when your business hits a slight slump.
Not only will it generate clients in the long run, it will also help you to feel empowered and in control of the situation, knowing that you're taking proactive action, rather than reacting from a place of fear and panic.
You could even set yourself some goals within your focus area, such as
Etc. Breaking these down will help you to have more of that concrete plan in place rather than in a moment of recession-induced despair, staring at your plan and feeling worse when it just says ‘Youtube'.
If you want to earn more money in a recession, one of the best things you can do both for your mind and your wallet, is to learn a new skill. This will open up multiple avenues of income generation for you. Learning a new skill means
If you want to maximise your current revenue stream, try to learn something related to photography rather than something random.
For example ‘copywriting skills' will help you to learn to write better blog posts and craft better emails for your clients, and give you an in-demand skill, rather than watercolour painting which might take time to earn money from.
However during a recession, especially when local business will flounder and you'll hear a lot about businesses stagnating, looking after your mindset is of the highest importance.
So maybe you'll want to take that watercolour class too – not as a way to learn a money-making skill, but for relaxation and enjoyment and sense of achievement not related to money and business growth.
Making a plan specifically for your money helps you to know what to do when you're in a state of fear. You just have to stick to the plan!
You might want to brainstorm –
What will you do if your client bookings slow down – will you increase your prices? lower them? increase your marketing / marketing budget? hire experts to help? economise within the home? outsource editing so you can focus on marketing and get more bookings coming in? What budget will you / can you allocate to that?
Considerations to include in your planning might also be your savings, business savings, tax considerations, any investments you plan to make while stocks are cheap (so that you can make money when the economy rises again).
If worst case scenario happens and the economy goes to hyperinflation, or your partner loses their job – do you have savings set aside for such emergencies?
If not, there is no better way to start preparing for the recession!
(you might also want to create a food store, now. No over dramatising it, and I'm pretty sure the government will do anything to prevent hyperinflation, but it's always good from a mindset perspective at least! to at least feel prepared. While you're at it, you might want to withdraw cash, in case of a run on the banks).
Virtually everyone overlooks this in a recession, which is why so many businesses crumble. Yet the ability to wake up and seize the day and stick to the plan regardless of what happens in the economy is the very thing that enables your business to survive.
Most people, however, wake up full of fear and anxiety. How do you think that impacts your ability to take forward action?
Making a mindset plan is as key as making a financial one. Now is the time to delve into mindset books, life coaching books – anything that makes you feel inspired and uplifted and encouraged.
Start journaling – not as a way to work through your feelings, but to set yourself goals, challenges, and to challenge yourself to go deeper into gratitude and self-awareness.
Ask yourself how can you set a bigger vision, expand in uncertain times, keep on growing rather than shrinking? Your goal with journaling is to feel good enough to shake off the cobwebs of hesitation, procrastination, and fear in general.
Guard your mindset as if your business depends on it, because it probably does.
One thing to remember is that a recession can be a opportunity, for those who are courageous enough to see it. Fortunes can be made in recessions, with the right investments. What better investment can you make, than into your own business growth!
This is not a time to shrink. This is a time to expand, and throughout this entire time, your ONLY mission – is to keep on expanding.
Expand your mindset, expand your budget into marketing and growth, expand your skills – just keep on expanding.
That will get you growing not just throughout the recession, but you'll see the knock on impact of that forever after.
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