It’s that time of year! I admit that I started to feel it as soon as cute erasers and pencil holder bags lined the aisles of Target and bins of college ruled notebooks flooded the shelves. Back to School always signals that it’s time I start looking at my business and seeing what I want to change for the next year. Now that I have taken a couple months to brainstorm, I thought I would share some of the things I am doing that you may be inspired to do yourself!
• Your Website. Maybe you have been dreaming of a new website design, or finally working with a professional graphic designer for a whole branding suite with a new logo and all. Most good designers have at least a 3 month waiting list, so have realistic expectations when it comes to WHEN your new website design would launch. But often overlooked is the CONTENT of your website which you can most likely update yourself. Is your portfolio showing what you want to book more of in 2016? How long has it been since you updated your About Page? Are you really telling potential clients what they really want to know about you? What about other information pages? Could they use a little refresh?
• Your Social Media Pages. How long has it been since you updated your cover images and profile pictures? Are your Facebook Albums showcasing your best work- the work you want to be booking more of? It’s an easy place to forget about. For example, maybe you decided that you no longer want to book High School Senior Portraits in 2016. If that’s the case either delete your Facebook albums of Senior Portrait Work, or update the description on the images with a referral to someone in your area who would love to book them!
• What you Book. Did something just NOT work for you this year? Maybe you tried something new and it never caught on like you hoped. Is there something you can do to make that type of session or booking option more valuable to a potential client? Likewise is there something new you want to add this year? Maybe you photographed a few families this year for friends and really loved it so next year you want to add family portraits to your services. What are the things that need to happen to do that effectively?
• Pricing & Products. Probably the most common change is to take a look at your profit loss margins and see if it’s time to raise those prices. Maybe your session fee, or most booked wedding collection fit your business last year, but then you had a lot of extra expenses to follow. Perhaps you invested in upgraded camera gear this year, a new computer for editing, new packaging, or just plain got better at what you do. Take out your cost of goods and really evaluate where you could be priced for 2016. Does this fit the needs of you and your business, appropriately covering your business costs? Does this fit your client base? By all means, never up your prices just to be where someone else is. Never choose a price point based on your local competition. Choose your pricing based on solid brainstorming, and the cost of running of your OWN business. Is there a new product you want to add, or a new gallery you want to try? Now is the time to do that research!
• Packaging. Maybe something you would like to make better for next year is your packaging. Time to whip out those Pinterest boards you have been building the past few months and find out where to buy that pretty new ribbon. First of all, decide your budget. Your budget to invest in packaging in bulk to start the year, and your budget PER client. Maybe you adore that ribbon and linen print box, but it’s adding a sizable cost per client. This is when you decide to factor it into your pricing changes above, or move on to something else. I am currently revamping my shipping materials to reflect my brand better. I have built my brand by focusing on one great change at a time, and one detail as the funds were made available. One of those 2016 details is how everything is shipped from my studio. Maybe you want to add a USB to your Pixie Set gallery. Maybe you want to want to walk into your Bride and Groom consults with a welcome box for them. These are costs and factors to consider and decide if you want need to start ordering things!
• Vendors. Have you had an incredible relationship with your vendors this year? Maybe that Hair and Makeup Artist was so amazing to your clients and you can’t imagine your business this past year without them. Maybe that florist just rocked your weddings and you were able to get published on a wedding blog because of her attention to detail when it came to the centerpieces. Think of some ways you could really bless your vendors. Whether it’s a small gift, printed press cards featuring their work, or a simple hand written card. Be the photographer that they love to work with! Perhaps even spend time brainstorming ways you can thank them and build your work relationship all year long.
• Client Experience. Is 2016 going to be the year you blow your clients away? Maybe you have been longing to give your brides a custom designed magazine after they book that goes over everything they need to know about their wedding photography experience with you. Or perhaps you finally feel like you know what you want to include in a portrait welcome packet, or online client lounge. Now is the time to be designing those, buying templates, and ordering your copies!
• Client Gifts. Words to the wise. December 15th is not the ideal time to decide to purchase and send all of your past year of clients something special for Christmas. You want to know the best advice I was ever given about this? Plan ahead. Sounds simple. But it’s the last thing you want to be stressed about before Christmas with your FAMILY. A great time to be thinking about this? After Christmas. It’s the perfect time to scope out some great After Christmas Sales on an item you are looking to buy 50 of. And perhaps you want to add client gifts throughout the experience of working with you in 2016. Maybe it’s a wall canvas that you bring to the wedding of the couple’s favorite engagement image, or a small gift bag as a thank you for booking. Do your brainstorming, and make a list of what to order- making sure you price yourself accordingly!
• Personal Business Goals. Perhaps you have wanted to blog more consistently and just never seemed to make it happen. Maybe you were saying this was going to be the year that you started blogging every portrait session, or every wedding. What would make this easier? A blogging calendar? Adding it to your workflow? Maybe you want to really nail your reception off-camera lighting in 2016, or start to learn film again. Are there workshops or online teaching to save and budget for to make that happen? Brainstorm not just WHAT you want to make happen in 2016, but start brainstorming HOW you can make them happen.
• Fulfillment. It’s really important to reflect at the end of the year. Is your business fulfilling you as a creative? Is what you are booking and photographing worth the time away from your family? Is this what you want your life to look like, and if not what can change? Are you PROUD of your photography this year? Did you make a difference in the lives of those you worked with? Has it been all about money, or has it been about something deeper? What do you want your life to LOOK like in 2016, and what changes can you make to see it?
• Balance. Are your office hours killing your home life? Do your kids hate the sight of your laptop? Maybe you lost sight of yourSELF this year in the midst of running a successful business AND taking care of your family. What are some things you can change for 2016 to help with this? Maybe it’s committing to more local clients and less traveling. Maybe it’s coming up with a plan so that traveling feels more organized. Maybe it’s setting office hours that print and give to our family so you actually stick to them, or joining a gym class with a best friend. Maybe it’s saying no more than yes, and maybe your balance will come when you decide to let go of things that could be easily outsourced. As much as I wish it were true, we cannot just wish more balance into our lives for 2016. We must put our “Lara Casey Pants” on and make decisions and take action!
Let’s start this year on an incredible high, ready to tackle 2016 in the best way. Prepared, balanced, and full of HUGE goals. A life you love is why you started your business after all right? Don’t lose sight of changes you can make to keep it that way.
Feeling overwhelmed by wanting to work on ALL of the above? I have online mentoring spots available for February and March, and am currently booking for April-June 2016. Over the phone for an all day brand overhaul, or online at your own pace- we can make these changes happen. Sometimes it’s just having an outside eye make suggestions, and sometimes we know what we need to do, and we just want the accountability. I don’t sit on my high horse with my perfect brand and tell you how to make yours perfect too.
Rather, it’s mugs of hot tea and honesty. I share what has worked for me, and what hasn’t. We work together on your brand experience. Create Action Steps and Goals.
And realize that it’s not so scary or impossible after all.