Newsweek's Senior International Photo Editor, Jamie Wellford, has been at…
This is the first blog post from a new series to help you create a business plan in 2014 using our guide The 2014 Photo Business Plan Workbook. Download it here.
Step #1: Define Your Product & Services
Creative people tend to have a wide variety of interests by nature. However, when it comes to improving your business, you often need to narrow your focus to a more limited set of items. Buyers have consistently told us that they appreciate when a photographer exhibits a clear specialty—whether that be style, location, subject matter, or talent. Having a specialty will help when buyers need to recall a photographer who does something exactly the way you do. Plus, it will help the buyers place you and your promotional materials into both mental and physical storage locations for reference later on.
The size of your market in the area where you live and work might be a gating factor. If you live in a small town, there might not be enough weddings to sustain a full time business. This might lead you to do portraits, or you might expand the geography in which you work. But trying to develop a business in a completely different niche (e.g. stock photography) is unlikely to be successful because there are so many different factors to consider.
When it comes to photography, limiting the scope of what you photograph will help you become more effective at penetrating certain niches and help you understand the nuances of different vertical markets within photography.
Example: A wedding photographer might consider the following:
- developing relationships with vendors (caterers, wedding planners, event halls, etc)
- attending bridal shows
- maintaining a standalone website for your wedding photography
- attend industry trade shows (e.g. WPPI)
- increasing your social media presence because of the strength of “word of mouth”
If you’re a generalist and weddings are just one of the many things you are trying to do, then it’s unlikely that you’d be able to spend much time developing the relationships or the other activities necessary for success. Resist the temptation to fill your days with low paying jobs because you confuse being busy with being successful.
Instead, spend the time honing your product offerings and improve your marketing. So, you need to make a determination—what is it that you offer your target customers? Can you clearly state this? Is your unique offering based on a specialty (e.g. night photography), or certain access (e.g. US military) or skill (e.g. lighting)? Or, is your unique offering based on the service delivered or tangible product the customer will be purchasing (e.g. boudoir portrait sessions or photo wrapped Mini Coopers)?
Similarly, if you sell products, analyze what has sold for you in the past year, and get a sense of whether the profit margin was worth the effort. For example, many wedding photographers have stopped selling prints, and instead deliver files on DVD as a part of the wedding package.
Part of this is for convenience sake, but there’s also been a dramatic shift to only displaying images online on sites like Facebook. Savvier wedding photographers, therefore, have altered their print sales strategy to selling a single, high priced item like a canvas wrap for $1000 instead of one hundred 5x7s for $10 each.
Ready to take the steps to build a better business in 2014? Download the guide and get a checklist of “to-do’s” to complete Step 1, along with additional resources that will help you define your service.