12 Ideas to Help Kick Off the New Year with Skip Cohen
After all these years writing articles for Shutter Magazine, I’m surprised there’s still something left to write about. And while I’ve covered some of the points in this month’s article, this is the first time I’ve shared a list of things you need to do to kick off the new year right.
It’s the slow season for many of you, so it’s a good time to build a stronger business and work hard to make 2019 your best year yet.
Every year, business gets a little harder. It’s the natural progression of consumer trends, technology, marketing and business. While it’s getting tougher, there are also more tools to help you build your business and your brand.
Think about the power of your website and blog. You’ve got more reach than businesses have had at any time in history. A well-structured website, blog and social media activity can give you a level of reach that just a few years ago was reserved exclusively for magazines.
It’s January. Take the first week of the month and kick back. Daydreaming is an art form. While we were all told as kids to pay attention, dreaming about the future is a key to your success. If you’re not happy with what you’re doing, if your heart just isn’t in it, this might be the break you need.
You can’t create images that tug at people’s heartstrings if your own heart isn’t in it. Here’s a list to tackle in the weeks ahead.
When was the last time you checked how your website was working?
- Load time – I know you like the music and ego-stroking introductions, but don’t get carried away. If it doesn’t load quickly, you’ll lose a customer.
- Image quality – I’m amazed to see how many photographers simply load in images to fill up space. If it’s not your very best work, don’t put it on your site. Every image needs to be a “wow” print.
- Diversity – Show diversity in your technique—black and white, infrared, classic portraits, great lighting. If you’re going to show diversity in your specialties, make sure they relate to each other. Landscapes don’t belong in a mix of wedding, family or children photos.
- Contact information – Give people a way to respond and talk to you live. We’re in a service business, and nobody has confidence in an email contact system by itself. Let people call you.
- Images – A picture’s worth a thousand words. Give people more images than text.
I’ve written so much about blogging. Here’s my main point one more time. Your website is about what you sell, but your blog is about what’s in your heart.
- Consistency – If you’re posting once every full moon, then you might be hurting your business instead of growing it. Blog a minimum of twice a week at the same times and days.
- Good content is king – If they are not relevant to your readers, mediocre images are just taking up space in your galleries. You’ve got to see the world through viewers’ eyes and share posts that are relevant to them.
- A picture’s worth a thousand words – It applies to your blog as well as your website. If you’re sharing interesting content, you don’t need posts any longer than 200 to 500 words.
- Be helpful – A good blog is about information that helps its readers.
- Build a stash – All your posts don’t have to go up in almost real time. Build a stash of 20 posts in the pipeline. This allows you to pull something interesting out of your stash when you don’t have time to write a fresh post.
Trade show and convention season is ramping up. It’s one of the best networking experiences in professional photography. You don’t need to build your business alone. Take advantage of the wealth of information available through contacts you make at every function you attend. Obviously, ShutterFest is a key event, but don’t forget the other national shows and your state conventions, along with monthly chapter meetings of local photography groups.
Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter all have a place in your network. Get active in a couple of forums where artists with similar interests hang out. Ask questions when you need help. Participate in consumer forums that have a common interest with your target audience and build a reputation for being helpful.
Read and listen
We don’t do enough of it, and there’s a ton of great information out there, much of it written by very talented photographers. People like Sal Cincotta, Lori Nordstrom and Bambi Cantrell have great material to help you build a better business, including videos and books. Check out the wealth of information being shared online in podcasts and YouTube videos. Two of my favorite podcasts are “Mind Your Own Business” on PhotoFocus.com and “Beyond Technique” on PhotoShelter and PhotoFocus. (I have a lot of fun as a cohost.)
You want your community to be good to you, so you have to give something back. Get involved. Do volunteer work. Let people know they can count on you for support—and I’m not talking about donations of money, but giving your time for local charities, the Chamber of Commerce, the school system, etc.
What are you offering your client base? Offer as many products as you can. Consider frames, albums, image boxes and canvas prints. There’s a ton of research showing an increase in satisfaction when consumers can accessorize their purchases. If you’re having trouble figuring out what to offer, call your lab and your album company. New products are introduced every day.
It’s an expression borrowed from my old buddy Jeff Jochum. Think about all the time you spend on projects that could be spent marketing yourself. If you’re spending hours every week working on your images when you could be turning them over to a good lab, you’re missing an opportunity to promote yourself and your work.
Back to basics
Too many photographers spend too much time on mouse clicks instead of shutter clicks. It’s time for you to take a refresher course on photography basics. You won’t need to clean it up in Photoshop if you get it right in the first place. You’ve got to practice constantly.
Take a break
On those days when you feel like you’re going to crash and burn, go out for a day with your camera. Or go out without a camera for some alone time and ponder the meaning of life. Whatever it takes, recognize the signs of exhaustion and learn to shut off the business for a little while.
Phone a friend
You should have a few lifelines, including a best friend. Most of us have one or two people in our lives who we trust with our secret goals and ambitions. You don’t have to work out your problems alone. You need a sounding board, somebody to help you through the rough spots.
I admit there are days when it’s like finding Waldo, but I always return calls and emails. I’m pretty easy to find on Facebook, Twitter and SkipCohenUniversity.com. Don’t be afraid to reach out for advice or just an ear to vent frustrations to.
These aren’t the only tools to help you deal with the challenges of your business and growing your skill set, but they are 12 of my favorites. The most important thing is to get in the habit of staying active and not getting complacent. Procrastination is not an art form or a business tool.
You’re part of a fantastic industry. As I’ve written before, you can stay on the sidelines and watch the parade go by, or you can be in it.