The COVID-19 pandemic has caused much panic throughout Australia and will undoubtedly have a devastating impact on thousands of photography business. With the Australian Government banning events and advising against unnecessary travel, meetings and social gatherings, the repercussions for small business owners, could be financially crippling.
I’ve been asked by many suppliers and photographers to offer some advice, guidance and reassurance on how to survive the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. What can we do to survive the financial strain it will have on our photography businesses?
So, I want to share my knowledge with you. I hope this will help you ride out the wave, come through the other side and prevent you getting smashed against the rocks.
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The most common questions I’m asked are:
- How to manage cancellation requests.
- Ideas on acquiring new business to help offset the losses.
- Ideas on how to keep the sales funnel full.
- What to do about rescheduled and postponed weddings.
- How to capitalise on headshots, portraits and other genres of photography.
- How to create a plan to move forward.
- How to ensure business is sustainable though the outbreak.
- Money issues / schooling / clients spending.
- Fear, Anxiety and the unknown.
- How to boost your income in your photography business.
I’ll run through these key points and hopefully, I can help you, and your business through this worrying time. As a disclaimer, this is my opinion based on the information and knowledge available to me on the 18th of March 2020. Because things are moving super-fast! But there is lots of information here and we should consider the possibility of facing a ‘lockdown’, as we’ve witnessed in other parts of the world.
Prepare Your Photography Business For the Long-Term
This problem is not going away in the short-term. We need to prepare and plan for the next 3-12 months. And now is the time to put your business into survival mode and keep working on behind-the-scenes tasks. So, when all of this is over, you can hit the ground running.
Be people-centric! Take this time and put family first. Support your clients and your suppliers because goodwill, really goes a long way.
Now is a great time to re-evaluate your business. Catch-up and do all those behind-the-scenes tasks you’ve been meaning to do. You know all those tasks you’ve put off because you didn’t have time or are in the “one day I’ll get onto that” basket? NOW is THAT day.
It’s time to work ON the photography business, not IN the business. So, it’s now time to get started on your website upgrade, passive marketing, blogging and branding. Perhaps it’s time to learn a new shooting style or polish your editing style. Listen to podcasts, educate and up-skill yourself. But, more on that later.
For some it’s ‘business as usual’, because there are people who won’t feel the effect. However, there are many others that will struggle.
Everything you know about your business and your clients’ buying patterns is more unpredictable and volatile than ever. And you need to ride the waves. Some things will work, while others won’t. Just like other business decisions in the past.
Now is the time to be flexible and agile. Really take notice of what’s going on in your town and in the businesses around you.
It’s an opportunity to reset your photography business.
Don’t fall into the trap of selling yourself short and discounting just to get the gig. And yes, you have a family to feed, but it’s a fast race to the bottom and you’ll cheapen your brand in the sprint.
Plus, I started my business 2009 when the Global Financial Crisis hit.
Preparation & Planning
No one could see this happening. Because how could you ever predict this? You can’t. But you can prepare and plan. Because good business practice and planning for worst case scenarios, goes a long way to helping your business survive.
Think about people who’ve lived through a cyclone, flood, fire or drought-stricken areas. The business owners who’ve already experienced these unforeseen events will have the necessary preparation for their business to survive. It’s the unwitting new business owners in these areas who will struggle the most, as they haven’t experienced it before.
A way to protect you and your business in times of need is to have reserves/money to fall back. And I can hear you say, “Well it’s too late now!”.
But who would’ve predicted the fire, the floods and now the coronavirus in Australia! No one. So, preparation is key.
Fear, Emotions & Anxiety
- These are uncertain times. And it’s easy fall into a negative downhill slide. But try to stay positive.
- Mental health issues, anxiety, trauma, stress, PTSD, fears, phobias and feeling overwhelmed are normal. We need support and we need it now more than ever.
- You still have a life to live. Enjoy family time together and reconnect with each other. Play board games and have quality conversations with your loved ones.
- Goodwill! Put people first and protect yourself and your business.
- You just need to ride this out.
- Avoid putting unnecessary stress on yourself and your family.
Family Issues – Clients Spending / Global Money Issues / Kids Home School
- Consider a separate income stream. One that is more predictable (in industry: retouching, writing, graphic design, web design, blogging. Or consider employment out of industry).
- Stop unnecessary spending and revisit your expenses. (More on CODB, COGS later).
- Stressed about home schooling and sticking to the agenda? It’s stressful enough trying to maintain a routine and keep the household calm. Are they really going to fall that fair behind? Set the expectations for you and family.
- Expect a loss of income and a dip in the account. How much of a dip is always the unknown.
- Manage your savings and live within your means.
- Protect the people in your world – high risk and low risk family. Kids and parents. Do what is right for you.
- No one will think less of us for looking after our families. Similarly, people will understand if we choose to close our business or remain open.
- Do same day IPS sessions. This will simplify scheduling and save time for you and your clients.
- Online IPS sessions via Zoom
- Greater client education, Zoom practice. Just like in-person and don’t skip steps
Cancellations / Postpone
- Send them a blog / write up / email / website link and advise what you’re doing to maintain cleanliness and safety.
- Be honest on whether your business is open, booked or closed. After-all, they’re your clients and they know you.
- Accept that it’s likely you can’t reason with people who don’t want to come in.
- Extend for 6-12 months past the expiry date or until the end of the year.
- No or yes to refunds, it’s up to you. Remember, goodwill goes a long way. But NO penalties.
- People are cancelling through fear, so educate them.
- Shoot outside instead of indoors.
- Do outdoor sessions with a zoom lens so you’re not close to people.
- Shoot one session at a time to ensure your studio is clean.
- Look at what other industries are doing. For example, travel agents are giving credit.
- Honestly, you can’t do too much. Government and media are advising to cancel. It is what it is.
- Depending on your cancellation policies, you must do what’s right for you. But again, client goodwill goes a long way.
- Transfer the deposit to a new wedding date.
- Couples have enough to deal with and you don’t want bad blood. Goodwill!
Boost Your Income
- Online IPS, for past, current and new clients.
- Be open to other photography genres and diversify your shooting. For example, personal branding and businesses will want to revamp as soon as possible. Newborn babies are still being born. And those who aren’t concerned about the virus still need a photographer.
- Discount on all products for previous clients.
- Spending will be tight on high-ticket items, so mini sessions might be a good feeder.
- Stay top of mind. Be consistent and keep up the photography business and brand exposure. So, when this passes you have a hot-to-trot audience.
- Don’t have all eggs in one basket. You should have at least 5-12 marketing strategies happening at any one time. Therefore, you need to spread out your marketing efforts. For example, expos that bring in $100,000 are now business you don’t have.
- Up your passive marketing game. Catch-up on blogging, direct emails, product / welcome videos, props, update the website, portfolio, CRM, workflow, finish the MYM course, update your headshot, optimise SEO, social media planning, prepare for awards.
- Put the time and effort in now and schedule all your marketing for the year.
- Business still needs content creation for you /others.
- Reconnect with past clients to sell previous work, new products or book sessions.
- There will be a spike in babies in 9-11 months’ time.
- There are more people looking to social media platforms, so well-targeted ads will be seen.
- Existing clients are easier to get then new ones because they already know and trust you.
- There are opportunities as families will have time off together.
- It’s an opportunity to shoot outdoor sessions with a zoom lens compared to indoors.
- If you were struggling to get leads before now, then you have your work cut out for you.
Up-skill! Invest in Yourself & Your Photography Business
- Do that study you’ve always wanted to do.
- Learn new photography and editing skills. Spend time in your studio creating.
- Revamp your business. Organise your branding, website, SEO, portfolio, products, marketing materials and marketing plan for the year.
- Listen to podcasts and watch tutorials. The Cambodia guys learned from YouTube!
- Be inspired, get inspired, work together to encourage each other. Challenge yourself.
Be Healthy & Productive With Your Time
- Do something you’ve always wanted to do. Go to the gym, go for a run, have a body cleanse or start yoga.
Get Onto Your Photography Business To-Do List
- Think; “what would Mark do?” What are the first two things you’d do if I was meeting with you in the next few days? Think; “what is Mark going to pull me up on?”
- Business check list
- Update website portfolio, room views, products (Photo/video), headshot, blogging
- Schedule your social media / direct email marketing / blogging for the next 2-12 months ahead.
- Know your numbers.
- Create a 12-month marketing plan. Then, all you need to do is roll it out!
- Network with local business that you can partner with and do third-party marketing.
- Create a contact list of all schools, sporting clubs, kindergartens, fetes, fundraisers, etc.
- Revisit your pricelist, marketing collateral and your client experience.
- Go through your profit and loss statements, CODB, COGS and get a grip of your money.
- Write your list in one big brain dump.
- Make your list as quick-wins and long-term goals.
- Highlight the ones that are really going to move you forward and have a knock-on effect for your business.
- Cross-out the ones that’ll have very little, or no effect. They’ll just waste your time.
- Make a date and time you’re going to complete each task.
- Make it happen!
This is going to be a bumpy ride. So, let’s make sure we’re looking after ourselves, our family and each other. This community is amazing! And we want to ensure we’re here to support each other for many more years to come.
If you’d like to book a Free Strategy Session with Mark, get in touch here.