There is no escaping the current media storm — it is EVERYWHERE! And while many are out panic buying toilet paper and canned goods, what is the overall impact on your photography business?
I saw it in my own business fairly early. I’m no doctor or financial expert, but it appears that one is in higher demand than the other. It appeared at the start that people are more worried about a looming financial crisis caused by this outbreak than the outbreak itself. Now it is both.
People canceled non-essentials in droves — holidays, conferences and luxury items such as photoshoots and workshops. People are more concerned with getting basic food and household items in the event they run out or if they are forced into quarantine. The supermarkets are sheer madness.
Three months ago, Aussies (and the rest of the world) were banding together to help out with the bush fires raging across Eastern Australia. Now there are literally fistfights in supermarket aisles over loo paper and baby formula! Australia has just announced stage three has now been extended for another 30 days, meaning ALL public events with over 500 people need to be closed, canceled and postponed. And that includes the Australian Grand Prix and Australia Rule Football … things are getting serious.
I had to cancel a trip up north as an event was canceled and they are asking everyone not to travel. Now no one can travel. The Australian States have closed their borders and we are only allowed out in groups of two, and only for essentials.
So what is the overall impact on your business? Possibly no better than any other sector of business. Travel and hospitality are being hit hard. I am sure that many photographers will be hit hard, too.
I am seeing people trying to keep things light, offering a free roll of toilet paper with every photoshoot. Buy a $2500 roll of toilet paper and get a free family photo session, by two and get a free wedding session. At some point in the future.
So what should you do?
That is a good question. I had to cancel my workshops. At first, it was due to lack of bookings, now it’s the law. I knew the low bookings were not me, as my workshops are usually sellouts. Offer small hands-on workshops, with great prices and great models. I know it’s not the location, as it was a sellout at the location previous months. It’s not the prices, as it was a sellout at the same prices previous months.
Pretty sure it’s not the models, as it was a sellout will similar previous months. Doubt it was the theme, which leaves the timing. It’s was not Mother’s Day nor a long weekend. There is no major sporting event (even then, I still sold out during the AFL Grand final last year!), so the only thing I could assume, “that, which shall not be named.”
I think it all boils down to available finances and a more than a little concern from the public in general. I have now canceled all other workshops for the foreseeable future, knowing full well they won’t be going ahead at this stage.
Do we hunker down and wait it out? We probably don’t have much choice. We cannot force people to book or to not cancel a booking. Wage insurance? Will this cover this sort of thing, or is that only for personal injury or illness?
I am going to take some time to catch up on some things that have been neglected a little, maybe take an online course, do a little Netflix bingeing and pottery in the studio. This might be a good time to put your downtime to good use, update your website, really work on building your social media presence. Maybe work out some great deals to offer people who are considering canceling to postpone to a later date.
So what’s next?
Social distancing and isolation are becoming standard in everyday language and a fact of life. However, with everything being online these days, and access to digital technology being quicker, easier and faster, you can build an online community.
Share, learn, inspire and encourage. Take this time to really make your mark. Chances are this is not going to solve your economic problems, but so many people are in the same boat. Offer discounts for people willing to pay now to get service later.
Create an online course. Do you make something, do something, create something that others would enjoy? Start a small online classroom offering you niche to others.
There are platforms that offer this for free for small courses with limited requirements. Perhaps one-on-one online tutoring through Skype or Zoom? I usually do these face-to-face but will start trying online to see how they go. The fact that I could help people nowhere near me is exciting too. This may not make a huge income but could start something that might just tie you over for a little bit.
Create a community
Do you have a private Facebook group for your community or business? I am a member of a couple and I also run my own. We are having daily check-ins, challenges and competitions. Granted mostly they not overly serious, but they do help keep spirits up and feel less isolated.
Some people are totally isolated and it is very hard on them, this can help even if it’s only in a small way. One such group did an in-house photographic treasure hunt and a multiplicity challenge … keeping people engaged and having fun.
Brace for a long spring/autumn
By all accounts, this is going to be impacting our daily lives for a while. This IS the new normal. I think it is time to embrace the digital age with new ideas, a new outlook and new enthusiasm. When this does break, people will be looking for something — anything. They will be looking for experiences and you need to be ready for it.
Take this time now to overhaul your business plans, make lists for upcoming opportunities. Start planning for workshops, photoshoots … whatever it is you do. The work you do now could set you up for when things take off again, and they will … eventually. When that sun finally rises on a new day, will you be prepared for a new world?