5 Tips to Start off 2019 with a Bang with Michael Anthony
It’s important to set and stick to personal goals before even thinking about your business goals. If you can’t commit to getting to the gym or eating healthier, you will undoubtedly lack the discipline to stick to your much harder business goals. This month, I explore the importance of personal discipline and give you tips to help you hack your 2019. Personal discipline is the foundation for success.
Write down your personal goals this year and stick to them. Let’s get into the changes you can make today so you can see your best year yet.
Put together a marketing calendar.
Trying to run your business without a marketing calendar is like trying to steer a boat through a canyon with a blindfold on. You may get to your destination, but there will be a lot of bumps along the way.
Split your business into your subcategories: weddings, portraits, etc. Put together a plan that runs in three- to four-month cycles. Your plan should include advertising, referral marketing, vendor networking and client retention strategies. Create repeatable campaigns in which you advertise to your current and past clients so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every year. If you are not doing any marketing, this will be the roadmap to your advertising success, much like a business plan was when you started out. This will be your foundation in business.
Plan your budget.
The beginning of the year is typically expensive for photographers. We have taxes due soon, we have very little money coming in and ad contracts must be renewed. And there’s stuff we have to buy. How will you ensure profitability without a plan? If this is your first year in business, it may be hard to plan a budget without first knowing what being in business will cost you. You can do this based on past years’ numbers, then look at your projections for the next couple of quarters. It’s easy for wedding photographers because we book clients six to 12 months in advance. Portrait photographers can do it too; you will just use revenue tracking as a method of projection.
When you finish your budgeting, make sure you are accounting for business savings every year. You should have money put away for a rainy day, but hopefully you’ll never need to use it.
Hire a great CPA to take care of your books. Some can help you plan a budget, but if they can’t, then your local Small Business Administration or Chamber of Commerce can. Take a few days to consider your budget, which will drive your growth this year.
Improve your craft.
One of the core values of our business is one I took from my career with LAPD, and that was maintaining quality through continuous improvement.
In case you live under a rock, photographers are getting much better at art, but not business, which means that the price of better photography is lower than it ever has been. To stay at the top of your market or get there in the first place, you have to offer a better product than your competitors. And for clients, the difference has to be noticeably good. A single image will not create confidence in your ability to deliver on their wedding day; that will come down to your brand and consistency in all that you showcase.
Every year I invest in training for me and my team. Training doesn’t always mean workshops (although it did in the beginning). We are in Italy as I write this; we’ve invested heavily in creating shoots where we can try new concepts, shoot for new markets and create new techniques that I can bring to my clients back home. The trip is a significant investment every year. But not only is it something to look forward to, it’s essential to my growth as an artist.
I also recommend that you enter image competitions. Naysayers knock image competition, claiming it’s just a bunch of divas looking to win awards. Nothing can be further from the truth. The reason we enter image competition is personal growth. Performing poorly at an image competition is the biggest motivator to get out and create new, better images. It’s a testament to the work I put in every year. If I don’t do well, I become inspired to come back strong the following year.
Reevaluate your target client.
Pro tip: Don’t look within the photography industry for inspiration on how to create sellable images. In the Instagram age, photographers have become addicted to earning praise from fellow photographers, but the trends we see in image competition and from our favorite photographers do not always translate into a style that will resonate in your market.
Take my work as an example. Darker, dramatic portraiture performs well with our audience of photographers, but performs poorly in our testing with clients. For the market that we have carved out, colorful, neutral-toned imagery performs best. So how did we find this out if we consistently received higher social engagement with the darker, dramatic imagery? We did so by using Pinterest vision boards for our current clients; we noticed what they liked and didn’t like through their comments, along with their purchasing decisions during their ordering sessions. We tailor our style of coverage to an individual client’s style of photography, and have found there is a consistency to what they love.
Make better use of your time.
The last and most important thing on this list is to make sure you are managing your time wisely. You got into this industry to create a better life for you and your family. Too often we waste time posting on Facebook and Instagram. Use those tools for business growth, but limit your time on them beyond that.
Cut out redundant tasks in your business like editing. Sorry, control freaks, but it’s time to let go. I get nothing for telling you that hiring Evolve Edits was the best thing I ever did for my business. We would not have scaled to where we are today, and we would not have infrastructure for my vision of tomorrow, without Evolve. They are our biggest partner; to scale to 150-plus weddings a year with a staff of one plus my wife is unheard of in our industry. Without the time that I earned back from outsourcing our color correction, exporting, culling and album design, I wouldn’t have been able to build half the relationships that are vital to our success.
Do you love your business enough to let go? If you are shooting enough weddings to earn a full-time income, you cannot afford to not outsource your wedding editing.
I hope these five tips help get you started on your 2019 plan. Don’t let your goals get stale this year. Discipline breeds more discipline, and I want to see Shutter Magazine readers crush it this year.