Building Blocks: Cleaning House with Skip Cohen


Building Blocks: Cleaning House with Skip Cohen

When we started the “Building Blocks” series, the whole idea was to keep providing you with ideas to help you build a stronger business. We’ve covered a lot of the key components, but now it’s January, when business is typically slow.

Just because business is quiet this time of year doesn’t mean you have to be! January is the perfect time to do a little house cleaning for the new year and at the same time make a little noise in your community. Just like a farmer planting crops in early spring, you’ve got an opportunity to plant a few seeds of your own.

It’s Time to Clean Out the Garage!

Every year, I spend at least one day cleaning out my garage. When I lived in Ohio, I always did this in the spring. It was an opportunity to get ready for better weather, hose the garage floor, get rid of all the winter dirt and reorganize everything for warmer weather.

You’ve got to do the same thing with your business, and that includes your office, paperwork and website.

What’s in that stack of papers on your desk? We’re all hoarders to some degree. Usually, it’s mail we put aside to read later on, but then we get busy. For many of you, it’s magazines you’ve saved and wanted to read, but never got around to. Get rid of those stacks now while you’ve got the time to review what you’ve saved.

Handle each piece of paper once. It’s advice a good buddy gave me back in the days before computers, the Internet and email. It’s not just about doing some house cleaning now, but should be ongoing. Read your mail and email, take whatever action is required and then move on. This is also the perfect time to clean up files on your computer, especially email.

Dated material. In that stack of papers, you are going to find things you need to respond to ASAP. For example, if you’re attending any of the 2016 conventions and trade shows, you’d better get moving on reservations, scheduling appointments, flights, etc. You snooze, you lose—so tackle things now before you miss out on some of the greatest programming in photography, especially with ShutterFest coming up.

Your network. A great network isn’t just about collecting business cards and names, it’s about building relationships. January is the perfect time to think about people in your network with whom you might have lost touch. Give them a call and make the time to get together at the upcoming conventions.

What-if marketing. January is the perfect time to think about things you want to do in 2016. There’s nothing wrong with daydreaming and coming up with ideas to create new business, market yourself and strengthen your brand. Kick back now and then, and just ask yourself, “What if?”

My garage, your website. Just like me cleaning out the garage, you need to do the same with your website.

Here’s the problem with my garage, which my wife claims is the same with my closet. I’m often in a hurry and can’t find something I’m looking for. When I do find it, I rarely put it back in the same place. I create clutter, not intentionally, but simply because I’m multitasking and moving too fast.

All of you have done the same with your website, starting with your galleries.

Too many images! Seriously, how many photographs do you think you need on your site? My recommendation is no more than eight to 10 in any one category.

Show only your best. Don’t fill your galleries with anything but “wow” images. A “wow” photo is so good you’d only have to show that one photograph to get hired. Your website galleries are about quality, not quantity. I’m betting that over and over again, many of you were rushed and dropped in images to your website without thinking about whether or not they were your best work, but you wanted to fill things up. It’s time to do some pruning.

Update your About page: The two most valuable pieces of real estate on your website are your galleries and About page. So, why do you have an old headshot or, even worse, a bad selfie with your bio? And why does your bio talk about your past instead of your love for working with your clients, capturing memories or the passion you have for photography? Share your heart. Share why you love being a photographer. Share what your potential clients want most to know—can you be trusted to capture the kinds of images they want to see?

Take advantage of the down time to reflect and rewrite your bio. Include an image or two of you with a camera in your hands working with a client.

Tweaking your skill set: Are you the best you can be? Okay, so it sounds like a commercial for the U.S. Army, but nothing could be more on target. January is a great time for you to experiment and keep pushing the limits of your skill set. Think about where your weaknesses are, and then take the time to turn them into assets for building a stronger brand.

This is also the perfect time to review the workshops you’re attending at upcoming conventions, and decide where you need the most help in expanding your skills.

Your blog: Great blogs don’t happen by accident. They’re about content and consistency. January is the perfect time to build up a stash of posts. Most important of all, remember your readers. You’ve got to share content they’re interested in, and it’s much more than just showing a few images from every family sitting or engagement session.

Help your readers better understand the value of professional photography. Help your readers to become better photographers. Help your readers get to know you. Remember, your website is about what you sell, but your blog is about what’s in your heart.

“If I can see the world through my client’s eyes,

then I can sell my client what my client buys.”

—Ed Foreman

Ed Foreman is a motivational writer and speaker who I first saw in my Polaroid days 30 years ago. I never forgot that statement. It’s not about putting yourself in their shoes, but about understanding what’s important to them and how they see the world. As you’re cleaning up your website and fine-tuning content for the new year, think about the demographics of your target audience. Give them what they want to see and read.

Self-discipline: Staying on course. I’m just like you. It’s hard to stay on course with any project when you’re being pulled in so many different directions. Right now, you’ve got time to be more creative. You’ve got time to stop procrastinating. You’ve got time to focus more than just your camera.

Create a timeline. What works best for me is sketching out a timeline. Because I’m old-fashioned, I love my whiteboard. I can keep updating it all the time, and it’s always there in my office reminding me what’s next on my list. So, whatever works to help you stay focused is what you need to turn January into a springboard—instead of a boat anchor.

I found this quote that perfectly makes my point:

Don’t always say, “There’s still time” or “Maybe next time”

because there’s also a concept of “It’s too late!”


Use January to analyze what you did right or could have done better last year. Then use the month to plan your year ahead. Don’t wait until it’s too late, and miss opportunities to grow your business and your art.

Get the full story

To read the full article, launch the digital version of the January 2016 magazine.

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