May 18, 2020 / EDUCATIONAL
Pivot : Wedding Photographers | Let's F*ck Sh*t up
How to Pivot During Coronavirus and Things You Can Do To Thrive
For so many of us, Covid-19 has smashed into our lives bringing fears, concerns and anxieties. I like you, have felt scared for loved ones, feared getting the virus itself and ugly cried about all the what if’s and things I can’t control.
I hate lacking so much control. It goes against every inch of my being. So I can see you too. Losing faith in your business. You’ve watched 10, 20 maybe even 30 weddings, pretty much your entire 2020 income, postpone until next year. When unfortunately 2020 bills and outgoings can’t be postponed. I myself, am currently the sole earner for our family of four so it’s not like we have another income to fall back on. You feel like someones whipped off the tablecloth from underneath your business but the laws of physics aren’t in your favour and all your shits all over the floor.
If you are panicking right now, I understand. No one told you how to reset the table. The term unprecedented situation has people running to their duvet with a bottle of Rioja hoping to ride this red wine wave until it’s over. Not saying I haven’t also been guilty of this.
Red wine, Gin, alcohol is necessary right now. One thing I know for sure though, this Virus isn’t going anywhere for a while and so it’s up to us to create our own new normal.
I want to throw something out there though. Something that may sound a little hypocritical to what I’ve just said. This interruption to our pattern can actually be a gift. Hear me out. We are at a bit of a crossroads. We can either feel sorry for ourselves and watch our years of hard work unravel; or, we can take the opportunity to make changes and rebuild our businesses so that they can still flourish in this new world ahead.
Arif (my husband) laughs at me as I march past him dripping wet in my towel to my notepad on the living room shelf. I scribble a paragraph of barely legible text and then sigh relief that it’s not all whirling round my head anymore. This was just one of my many shower epiphany’s this lockdown. The last one that led me to write this blog post because I can’t bear to see so much despair amongst my wedding industry friends.
I hope you will find this blog post inspirational, if not a teensy bit useful or perhaps even a smidge empowering. I’m not going to pretend that the current situation isn’t a mess. I was one of the lucky ones who received a government grant, although it was barely enough to cover even my business expenses for the last 3 months let alone keep a roof over my families head or food on the table. I’ve resigned to the very fact that no one is coming to bail us out. But then I’m reminded that we came into this thing alone too. We’ve built businesses from nothing.
Around 3 years ago I had just quit my job on a bit of a whim but I had passion, dreams and a huge fire inside me. I was walking around the estate where I lived with my husband and daughter in a pram. We posted over 200 leaflets with an offer of a £50 family shoot. I had done the maths and worked out that I only needed to shoot 20-25 of those shoots to make enough income for the next month. That’s only 10% of those leaflets so surely I can hit that target right? I did 1.
In the next 3 years that followed I made countless mistakes in business and marketing, but I learnt from each one and that fire never went out. From nothing came something and a big something at that. Belle Art Photography is a brand that I love and will continue to grow and love. Even if that means pivoting into the new world ahead.
So now I’m here writing this for my industry peers and friends because I genuinely want to help you thrive during Coronavirus.
Firstly, Do Your Damn Tax Return
A pretty mundane task that, let’s be honest, most of us put off. It’s a combination of not wanting to face the looming tax bill and not wanting to sift through the business transactions to find all the hidden Just Eat takeaways. You were just kidding yourself that you didn’t spend all that money on food. However, you know that feeling of relief and satisfaction once it’s all filed though don’t you? Well I’m not just saying this because you have the time to do it (but you do have that time.) I’m saying this because in doing this we can create a business strategy, and a budget for the next 12 months. Something that will hopefully alleviate some of the anxieties we are currently feeling.
Truly look at all the figures in great detail. Particularly those expenses.
Are you aware of all your outgoings for the next 12 months? Both business and Personal?
What are the bare necessities you need to get your business through this year?
Is there anything you can cut?
Have you checked to see if any companies are offering payment holidays? Many are!
Utilise great and inexpensive software like quickbooks to compile and compare all of your information and then actually work out a budget for the next year. This will ease some of that horrible dread you feel in the pit of your stomach when you think about money. When you know what you need to pay in the next year then you are more able to create a business strategy to generate some of that income. Or maybe you will have to consider the next thing. Moonlighting.
Moonlighting – It’s not a step back
If I have to, I’ll get a job to bridge this gap and I’ll try not to see it as a bad thing. It’s not a step backward. It’s just about survival at this point. Don’t think that if you take a job then you will have to let go of your business. And DON’T let go of your business. You’ve worked too hard to build it up. It is possible to do both if you have to. I am lucky to have met many inspirational people on my journey who juggle whilst retaining an absolute badass brand. Even us Mamas, we juggle a lot and we just make it work.
Consume Inspiration not Headlines
I’m not saying ignore the News, but ignore it. (Clear as mud right?)
Take a break from it all from time to time though. Because it won’t serve you. Your best ideas or work won’t come to you whilst you are in panic mode. Adrenaline doesn’t help us be creative, strategic nor even sensible. That’s the defensive flight mode which drives us back to our duvet with the bottle of Rioja. My best ideas are born from a place of calm and reflection (hence the shower epiphanys). Fresh air does wonders, as does inspiration. That doesn’t mean joinalltheweddingphotographygroupsandlookatwhateveryoneelseisdoing because that’s your one way ticket to doing exactly the same as everyone else. Inspiration comes in so many different ways but I thought it was worth mentioning a couple of the things that have inspired me recently.
Nature – My photography work is so inspired by the landscape and the light. Just waking up to see the mountains has been such a saving grace this lockdown. Now I actually have time, I can’t remember the last time I actually felt this inspired to create art again. Perhaps it’s the restrictions, but the large majestic mountains are calling my name and I have plans in place to create much more personal art works again.
Podcasts – I have a new found love of podcasts which was sparked by my good friend Nicola Dixon’s Wild Ones podcast for Wedding Photographers. I highly recommend you take a listen if you haven’t already. Nicola interviews many of the industries best and her podcast is the epitome of inspirational, not to mention Nicola is a pretty remarkable entrepreneur herself.
Increase Your Client Experience & Value
We all feel for our poor clients who are faced with postponing their dreams and plans for now. Some may even have to cancel. I’m so proud of our part in the wedding industry. As photographers we have somehow managed to swallow that lump in our throat and replace it with a smile to comfort our clients at this time. We may be scared but they are our priority, and we have bent over in ways we didn’t even think were possible to accommodate them.
I don’t know about you, but having this time really made me rethink the experience my clients have when they book me. I think it’s because we are truly appreciating just how important their wedding is to them, and how big a part we play in capturing the memories. Many of us are not just service providers, we are artists who create something so important.
Let’s think how we can improve the whole experience for our clients and how we can add value to our services.
For me, I’ve become invested in educating my clients. Creating guides and tools to actually help them plan their intimate weddings and elopements. I’ve also created welcome packs and increased the value of the final product, their prints. I’ve created a whole experience for them.
How do you send your pricing?
Is your communication consistent and in line with your brand?
What happens once you book a wedding?
When do they next hear from you?
How do they receive their wedding photographs?
How do you send previews?
Could you improve their experience and make it more memorable?
These are questions we should be asking ourselves and finding new ways to improve whilst we have the time. We all know that word-of-mouth referrals are the strongest form of marketing. So create a brand experience that our clients won’t forget.
I will be talking about this in much more detail in my new guide for photographers: The Art of Wedding Photography which will be available from the 30th May 2020. You can subscribe below to be the first to hear and to receive an offer after its release.
Boost Your Marketing Strategies
Now is not the time to put your marketing on hold. I know that enquires are in short supply and that many couples are reluctant to pin down a date. It’s disheartening yes, but those couples are still planning and dreaming of their wedding. That desire has not diminished and people will always get married.
Now is the time to push your business to page one of google. To share all of the beautiful weddings you have shot over the last 2 years that you just haven’t had time to push. Now is the time to submit those galleries to the many incredible wedding blogs!
Now is the time to pin! I’ve created a free Guide To Pinterest for Wedding Photographers. Pinterest is something that I put off for far too long, completely overwhelmed by it. I had no idea of its powerful capabilities for us wedding photographers! Now I friggin LOVE it. I’ve increased my website traffic by 400% and it’s steadily growing. It’s something that can be so easily incorporated into your usual marketing strategies. For example Instagram, Facebook, SEO – it works with each of these. So many couples are using this to plan their weddings, so make sure it’s your images they are pinning to their dream wedding board.
Grow your Email list – So you’re bashing out all these insightful blog posts but you don’t really know your audience or how to reach them? Many photographers miss out on this amazing tool which is simple to add to your website.
Be sure to actually monitor your work though. Seeing your own growth will drive you to keep going. Google Analytics is a powerful tool to analyse your website data. It can tell you where your traffic is coming from, give you fresh insight into how people are using your website and enables you to see your growth and compare month by month. Plus it’s free to use.
Next up, If you want to pivot your business.
Don’t wait for permission to pivot, it’s not coming.
You were the one who started this. No one gave you the go ahead and approved your business. You grew it from a tiny seedling of dreams and no one gave you permission. It’s the same now.
Don’t be hindered by self doubt. If you feel you have the burning desire or urge to try something new then by all means get up and go do it. For so long I’ve written lists of all I hope to accomplish in my business and in life in general. For instance, I really want to educate other photographers and offer mentoring. Feeling like you are empowering someone to drive their business and reach their goals is amazing. I waited for a while to do this though, slowly building up confidence through growing social media connections and waiting to feel like I had an influence in this industry.
I thought that once I became a Rangefinder Rising Star in 2019, an achievement I had put on a pedestal and measured my own success by, that would be the fire to the ignition. That I would finally have the permission I was yearning for…Well I realised that it wasn’t coming. We started this remember, only you can give yourself that permission.
So I gave myself the green light to start creating the guides for photographers, preparing to offer mentoring, to sell my own fine art prints and to fully transition into elopements and couple sessions. Which leads me on to my final point.
Be Prestige Worldwide
No don’t really be that.
But going back to what I said about this interruption being a gift. It’s another outlook which I am really trying to adopt each day. And to be grateful. My creative drive has never been so strong, I have time – such precious time I never thought I’d have whilst my babies are so little. I have to trust that I will come out of this thriving.
The world of weddings is changing as we know it. You and I have both seen the explosion of couples looking for more intimate weddings and elopements. This could be the evolution. So go with it, don’t get left behind.
I’ve seen photographers doing amazing doorstep sessions, branching into family sessions and other photography industries. There must be hundreds of small businesses looking to refine their brand, businesses that need photos of their products.
We can use this time to gain clarity on what it is we truly want from our life. There are many parts of life as it is now that I won’t be in a rush to change again. I’ll be looking for ways to free up time and be with my family more.
We are learning to be present, to evolve and find courage and we will come out of this stronger.
Love, Becy X