Read on to learn more about enhancing your skills without spinning your wheels!
Ever have those moments where you are coasting on a rental bike through beautiful scenery on vacation – and you can’t stop thinking about your photography business?
Nope? Just me, then.
Recently I hit the bike trails on vacation for the first time in years, and I had to remember the ways to make the trip easier on myself so I didn’t end up strapping the bike to the back of an Uber because I was too exhausted to go on.
Any experienced bike rider will tell you: Pace yourself, ride open tails, always keep control of your bicycle, yield appropriately, plan ahead, and never scare animals.
The irony is that many of these rules sounded familiar – and not just for biking – but from those around me who have given sales and business advice throughout the years.
Within the first few hills and curves on the trail, I quickly realized that I needed to continue peddling, even when I wanted to just coast through the “easy” or downhill trails because often it’s hard to tell when a hill is coming up and it’s easier when you are already moving. This is similar to the times when sales and business are stable and the instinct may be to “coast” and enjoy the ride. However, the only way to be prepared for the unexpected hills and unpredictable elevation is to keep moving forward and prepare for what you can’t see in front of you.
Ride Open Trails
In the past, riders paved the way and opened up the places and trails we enjoy today. With so many open trails available, there’s no reason to go off and find a new one, especially if you are inexperienced.
With photography, we sometimes feel like we need to stand out by being completely different. However, the #1 reason clients go with their preferred photographer is because of referrals and reviews! The best approach is to do whatever it takes to connect well with your customers so that they keep coming back and also refer you to others. If you offer products, such as beautiful professional wedding albums, that they may not get from the competition, then that can be the part that stands out without having to pave a whole new path. Read more about a variety of ideas on how to stand out!
Just like with any sport, biking creates a great adrenaline rush – full of temptation to defy the laws of physics and riding outside your limits. New photographers often get caught up when they start their business due to this same adrenaline rush – if they start their packages too low they may get a lot of inquiries, which is exciting until they realize their profits are quite low at the end of the year. Make sure you are charging your true value and manage your business for the salary, profit, and time commitments best for you.
Biking can be a solo ride or as a team – however, even when alone on the trails you must constantly be aware and respectful of other riders and non-riders. You must anticipate other trail users, yield, and make each pass a courteous one.
An important factor in business is properly using our competition to build our business. Often we use other competing businesses to see where our prices should start, and are constantly watching to see if they drop or increase their prices, and what they are offering to increase their business. However, a better advantage is to reach out and show our respect for their work and build a relationship to help both businesses. Continue to be aware of what your competition is offering – but use this as a small factor in the market, and focus on what you offer that is different.
You wouldn’t just hop on a bike without checking the tire pressure, filling a water bottle, and checking the weather – this helps prepare for the expected.
As business owners, we shouldn’t just plan ahead for what we know – updating websites, marketing materials, samples, and keeping our current customers happy and up-to-date – but we should also plan for the unexpected. What happens if sales dip more than we were expecting? What if sales increase beyond what I can manage? If you keep peddling (aka planning) throughout the year you will be more prepared for whatever dips or hills come your way.
Never Scare the Animals
A frightened animal can be vulnerable and also dangerous – and the only thing that keeps animals safe from you…is you.
I would compare this to two different types of customers – the newly engaged bride, and the bitter or unhappy customer.
A new bride is excited, but also very nervous – believe me, under all that bling on her left hand is a woman freaking out because this is all new to her. As humans, when we are stressed or nervous we tend to make questionable decisions and go with the most convenient or easiest option. Keep this in mind with your marketing and packages – keep it simple and don’t give an enormous list of options – it’s too much to take in at once. When you speak to them, let the bride open up by giving them some room until they feel “safe” in this big decision.
Most businesses know how just one bitter or unhappy customer can result in an angry social media post or review and be dangerous to our business. Social media makes all our businesses vulnerable at all times – and just like the scared raccoon, the only thing that keeps it safe is how you react. Don’t disregard the customer, or try to sweep it under the rug – the best option is to speak to them calmly and rationally and find the best solution for both of you.
Enjoy the View
Whether you are at the top of your game, in the middle trying to figure out where to go next, or in the beginning, you will only succeed if you love what you do and respect the rules of sales and business. Take a moment to enjoy a good review and personally call the customer and thank them. When a photographer takes an amazing shot, reach out and congratulate them because you know how hard they worked to it.
When you reach the end of the path and are covered in dirt, sweat, and glory, take a minute to look back at how far you have come – and then grab some water and take a shower. No one likes smelly photographers.
A view from my phone on one of the more tame trails – right before the random rainfall. Like I said, anticipate the unexpected!