How to protect yourself as a business owner during this time
During this time of uncertainty, it’s easy to want to draw within yourself and tune out the world. While it’s important to use this time to reflect, you must continue to find ways to grow your business and improve your skill set by building yourself up during COVID-19.
Reach out to clients – Use this time to reach out to your customers! Just as you check in with family and friends, you should also check in with your past, present, and new clients you haven’t been able to photograph yet.
Whether they are a client from years ago, or a couple whose wedding is later in 2020 – ask how they are doing. Make this contact more about connection, and less of a “sales call/email”, clients will really appreciate that you took the time to reach out.
Avoid Discounting – Although promotional pricing often grabs people’s attention quickly, don’t give away too much of your profit. Remember, you have something that Old Navy, Dominoes, and other businesses offering crazy deals right now don’t have – you have their most precious moments captured!
Build on Your Strengths – If you feel your marketing skills are what differentiate you from others, now is a great time to further enhance those skills, along with networks skills. Venues are shut down, so the contacts that were previously hard to reach may now have time to meet virtually with you.
Think about all of the things on your long-term “to-do” list that could help attract clients, such as creating an email marketing campaign, doing more Insta stories, sending marketing to venues, etc., and start working on them. Not only will this help your business in the future, but you’ll feel better that you’re staying productive and building momentum.
Ideas for selling to your past customers:
- If an album or album credit came with their wedding or portrait session:
- If you already sent them a gallery link to pick their favorites, then gently remind them that now is a great time to revisit their wedding photos & select their favorite images!
- Maybe your couple is having a difficult time choosing, if so, we recommend for you to send the favorite images first – even if you already sent the couple the gallery link, you can always send them a link such as Zookbinder’s Selection Service to make it easier on them.
- Once they select their images, then it’s time to start the design! If you want to get the design off your plate, send it on over to the professional designs at Zookbinders!
- An album or album credit didn’t come with their package or session:
- You can start by preselecting the favorites to make it easier and less overwhelming. Since the album isn’t something they prepaid for, you want to make it as easy as possible.
- A lot of our photography clients swear by “pre-designing” their wedding album and sending them the virtual link. If they order the album as is, then they get a “special price” (maybe 5-10% less). If they have changes, then they pay full price.
How to preserve cash during this time
There are many ways to protect the future of your business. It is recommended by speaker and author Mike Michalowitz to pause any money coming out of your cash reserves. Revisit credit and debit cards to see if you have any subscriptions that need canceled or more licenses then you need. If you have an office or studio, contact your landlord and to see if you can either defer payments, or get a reduction in rent while your business is closed.
Keep in mind that the first people to ask for negotiations, compromises, or loans will most likely get it – so move quickly!
It is better to cut costs now, then to borrow (unless it’s a grant or forgiveable loan that you will not need to pay back). Since we are unsure when this will be over or the full extent of how this will affect your business, you cannot borrow to “bridge the money gap” or you will be losing in the end because it’s impossible to know when or if you can pay it back. Business needs to continue or there will be nothing to come back to when this is over.
When cutting costs and temporarily laying off employees, remove the least productive first. However, do not compromise the confidence of the employees left behind and do not lower salaries. It is better to let one more person go than reduce salaries of several employees.
Mike recommends continuing entire staff meetings to keep everyone connected and to amplify communication.
Managers should track any expenses due to COVID-19, including sanitation expenses, meetings, working from home, etc. There may be government reimbursement for this later.
Tax deferment is at least July 15th, however “pay your bill April 15th”! Put the money in a seperate account, leave it alone, and do not use it to support your business!
How to protect yourself as a photographer during this time
It’s important to not only keep your business afloat, but also to do your best to generate revenue via album sales, print sales, and booking weddings and portrait sessions for late-2020 and 2021. However, before you were a business owner you (most likely) were a photographer. Now is the time to focus not only on business success, but also challenging yourself in photography.
While the online classroom is usually the more convenient choice for busy professionals, now they are more convenient than ever! Check out online platforms like CreativeLive where anyone can register for free and have access to 1500 free or low-cost classes on photo and video, money, art & design, craft, and music.
In addition, at the beginning of each week they email new free classes in each of these 5 fields. Other options are tutorial videos through MasterClass, or on YouTube or Vimeo.
If you are looking to enhance your Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom skills, I recommend the free Adobe blog by Julieanne Kost.
PPA (Professional Photographers of America) is opening ALL of their online education to ALL photographers and small business owners worldwide for the next two weeks. All you need to do is create a free accountto access over 1,000+ online classes. If you already have a PPA account, login like usual to access all of PPA’s education.
How to protect yourself as a person during this time
Photographers now have the contrast of having unexpected downtime going into spring, but also going through a very stressful time that takes such an emotional and physical toll. You need to do what you can to take care of your business, and most importantly, to take care of yourself.
Take this time to spend with your family, either in-person in your home, virtually through video chatting, writing letters (yes real paper, ink, and stamps), and calling or texting. Once the social distance is lifted, everyone will be ready for pictures and weddings will amp up again and the next time we’ll have a nice dinner with our family might not be until December!
If you are able, use this time to enjoy some free or discounted virtual work out classes or long walks or sprints in your neighborhood or state park (just keep your distance).
Most of all, focus on what this time has made possible by building up yourself during COVID-19, instead of focusing solely on the negative impact this has had on society, business, and each other. We will get through this, and with each other’s help, we will prevail!