Towards the end of each year, I have a look back at the past year and see what’s worked, and what hasn’t. There are a number of factors that go into this, but ultimately it starts with a lot of numbers. Did I bring in enough income, and exceed that which I made last year? Did I bring on enough new clientele, while continuing to work with ongoing clients?
Based on these answers, I come up with some goals, which help me know where I need to put my marketing efforts.
Defining your goals
While the most obvious goal involves money, there are also several other types of goals you can have as a creative. Did you have a goal to travel more and make photographs during the trips? Is a new goal to get into videography, or to provide another service? How about a goal to attend a photography conference?
These goals can be endless, which is why it’s important to stay realistic and true to your brand. As a business, you must have a mission statement — whether formally written or informally in your head — that you abide by. Your mission statement drives the direction of your business. If you have a desire to do something that doesn’t fit this mission statement, put it on the back burner, and focus on something that is more in line with this.
Be realistic while keeping the moon in view
I left my full-time job in late 2015 to become a photographer. In the first full year of 2016, I was flying by the seat of my pants and made an income that I thought was pretty respectable for my first year devoting all my time to photography. In my second year, I increased this by 3%. Both years I said “yes” to any job that came my way.
Then came 2018. I finally had a formula in terms of getting new clients, and slightly increased my prices at the start of 2018. I wanted to shoot for the moon, but then I decided that if I could increase my sales by 10%, I’d be in good shape. I decided to narrow my focus, working with clients that I wanted to work with, instead of just chasing money. I decided to no longer photograph things like weddings, knowing that wasn’t a part of my mission, and that I really didn’t enjoy it.
You would think by getting rid of some services I would see a decrease in sales. But the opposite happened. With what I’ve made so far as well as my secured bookings for the rest of the year, I’ve increased my sales by 19%. I almost doubled my goal for the year.
Why was I able to increase sales while decreasing services?
Simply put, I was able to focus my energy on what I enjoyed and what I was good at — corporate events, executive portraits, community events, food/drink photography and corporate video work. I increased my hourly rate by $15/hour for most clients — enough to make a difference when adding up multiple photoshoots, but not enough for my clients to receive sticker shock.
As a part of my mission to work with small businesses, I networked more. I reached out to local leaders and met them for coffee. I attended photography conferences and made connections with people that I know could help my business grow. I talked to local tourism agencies and got listed with them — and started photographing events for them.
What about non-income goals?
While income certainly drives business, goals not directly related to income are just as important. This year, I took it upon myself to finally learn how to work with video, and to offer that to my clients. This was me preparing for the future, and adding a supplementary service to my corporate clients.
Furthermore, I made it my goal to attend some photography conferences. After all the connections I made at WPPI, I can’t wait to make more this week at Adobe MAX, and later this month at Photo Plus Expo. Some of these connections have turned into some really great (albeit long-distance) friendships.
I also made a goal of photographing for myself more. As a business owner, I can easily get sucked in and focus all my energy on my clients. It’s necessary to take a break every once in a while. For me, this meant going to the lakeshore to photograph with some friends, waking up early to make photographs while at conferences and while traveling on my own.
Failure is inevitable
With all this talk of achieving goals, you have to remember that failure will happen. For me, I originally had a set goal of last June to learn video. I didn’t get to it in time, as too many other things got in the way. Instead, I learned it slowly and at my own pace, practicing on a few existing clients in the process. While this was an initial failure, it ended up being a success. It’s important to stay with a goal even if you don’t succeed the first time — try, try again.
No matter what your goal is, it’s an important part of being a creative and a business person. Along with your mission statement, it’ll help drive the direction of your business and ultimately allow you to achieve success.
For more on Photography Marketing, see my weekly column.
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