Do you really need a business plan?

Facts & figures are not my thing, an excel spreadsheet and maths sends me running to the hills so I will be honest, I’ve always baulked at having to sit and do a “business plan”. 

Did you start your photography business like this? Got a website, set up a Facebook page with the idea to get bookings so you could spend your days shooting beautiful weddings & lovely people right?  I was the same! 

Just “get going” and learn as you build your company right?

This isn’t really a “write a plan” or “don’t write a plan” conversation though.

Hindsight and experience have shown me that what really matters is what kind of planning you do and how much time you spend doing it. A study (Journal of Management Studies) found that businesses that plan, grow 30 percent faster than those that don’t! This study found that plenty of businesses can find success without planning, but that businesses with a plan grew faster and were more successful.

So you do need a plan! (Damnit! 😉 ) But, if like me, you’d rather do anything else than a typical dry business plan this next part is for you! The ‘All Creative, “No Business” Business Plan – Zero Spreadsheets In Sight! (probably needs a snappier title 😉 )

THIS one gets you looking ahead, setting goals and thinking about your business in an all-round way – by identifying what is important to you. Suddenly looking 2, 5, 10 years ahead seems easier (and a task even I could manage!)  One way to think of it is forward-looking planning! Another is your “ideal day”.

Your Ideal Day: 

  • Imagine what your business looks like, your life looks like, who you are with, where you are.
  • Write down your ideal day from the morning through to the evening, in as much detail as you can – include sensory description too – what you do, where you go, what you hear, how you feel, what you can smell. Paint the picture!
  • Give yourself time to do this, don’t rush. Be somewhere comfortable with no interruptions.
  • Then write down where you’d like to be in 6 months, one year, 5 years (or all three!) – whatever timescale you’d like it to be; where you are achieving the success you want.

When you read it back you should have a clearer idea of where to steer your business (and life!) and can assess what you need to implement to make this day a reality!

Is it more income – if so where will you earn this?

Is it to upskill – what training do you need to undertake?

Is it to have 10 more bookings a year, to expand, to travel more, etc?

Once you’ve got your ideal day fleshed out, you can break down the sections to see what action you need to take to get yourself there. Some elements of your ideal day might need a few years of work to get there, others might be reached in a few months. But, like building a house, starting with solid foundations means your structure will last and you won’t need to pull down walls to get to badly installed, or missing, pipes!

Print your Ideal Day out to remind you of your goals, you could also incorporate a mood board with images too!

If you’re still not sure, I’ll share a segment from my own Ideal Day with you (but everyone’s will look different of course!)

I’m warm & cosy in the soft bed, as the sun is creeping through our huge skylight window, the views across the sea are gorgeous, as always, come rain or shine. I can hear the waves crashing, and the typical obnoxious squawks of the Bournemouth seagulls! I feel content, relaxed and happy…

I log in online to see what’s happening with my affiliate work and any photography products I’m linking with.  My online photography courses are selling well which makes me feel proud. I still can’t believe I’ve managed to produce something that is benefiting others, it is a lovely reminder that I do know what I’m doing & talking about – even though I’m self-taught……I’ve got a sunset couples shoot booked in for the late afternoon later on so I’ll also check my gear and double check the weather. I feel excited, and still, as always, nervous about the session but I love shooting them – now even more since I’ve really nailed down how to get the right couples to photograph…..I have a wonderful shoot with a great couple..…It’s been another amazing day – easy, relaxed and full of fun & creativity. I feel full, happy, warm, safe and loved.

So for me how I see my future:  moved to a bigger home, I earn more, I’m more skilled in marketing, I’m only working with my ideal clients, I’m home more and I’m being creative.

This is the path I am now working on. Setting new foundations, studying, learning & putting processes in place to get to my Ideal Day.

What does your Ideal Day look like? I’d love to hear, please do feel free to share it with me!

Why I pay $97 a month to feel frustrated

How did you become a photographer? Maybe like me, you just found it by accident & realised you loved it? If only taking photographs was the whole job hey?! Being freelance has now been my way of working life more than its not, I know I would hate to go back to a 9-5 job. I’m not sure I even know how to write a CV anymore!

While I’ve honed my photography skills over the last decade, my marketing skills have always been ad hoc, to say the least! I always feel a bit out of my depth and one step behind what I need to be doing; or should be doing. To level up and upscale my business, and life, I know I needed to take BIG action…

Having a baby and losing a long standing contract are the two things that pulled me up sharp about my approach to my career. The reliability of when & where I was making income from changed – and now in these uncertain times, even more so. I’d always been my own boss but I realised I was still not doing enough to have real control over my career and future. 

I can’t see myself still photographing weddings in 5 years time, but I don’t want to give up being a photographer. I’m now not contributing to the household income in the way I was doing. I knew I needed a new plan to change up how I do business and earn – but still making use of the knowledge, skills and passion I have for photography. I wanted to keep the freedom freelancing gives me and put myself in the best position to have financial freedom.

So, I invested in an online marketing education programme I’d heard about.

And god, its hard work! I’ll put my hand up, I thought it would be easier. I’m being pushed, challenged and there have been doubts and frustrations. And I came here voluntarily, haha!

In its barest form, its marketing training for online business, however – there’s so much more knowledge to be gained in this platform.  It’s a relative smorgasbord of choices – a Woolworth’s pick & mix if you will! You can dip a toe in or fully submerge – though that is all relative to your own goals and desired success.

And you know what? Some of it you’ll know already, some of it you’ll have heard before. Like me, you may have dabbled in various training courses before (maybe some known names – Jasmine Star, Sue Bryce, Tony Robbins or maybe just small how-to webinars online) it’s not changed much on the fundamentals – there’s mindset, there’s Law of Attraction… 

BUT what IS different, what is here with my new venture, is a MASSIVE amount of content – training, coaching, support, all under one roof!  So, while some of the basics aren’t new, the approach is pretty revolutionary.

I think Its bold, its daring and it’s certainly NOT for everyone.

There’s a real mix of people and dreams in this community. There’s those wanting the ‘Laptop Lifestyle’ – people working from the beach, travelling the globe while making money and running their businesses. 5 years ago, I’d have been allllll over that dream!

For now, I’m on a different path; mine’s about a new home, keeping my photography business relevant & viable, staying freelance. But everyone shares the idea of freedom – creating how YOU want YOUR life to be. Bottom line, it’s all good souls in here, learning, teaching, helping each other out, alongside the team of top industry mentors.

One of these mentors, Dan Holloway, wrote recently – “Decide that you’re willing to work on changing who you are until you become the best version of yourself no matter how long it takes, and decide that you’re willing to do whatever it takes to create success in your life”

Growth is painful, change is painful, but nothing is as painful as staying stuck somewhere you don’t want to be. Going through this platform and implementing the training is bloody hard, and I’ll say again – it’s much harder than I thought it would be! But I’ve committed to a bigger goal, and if I were to quit then I’d certainly never reach it. So I’m going to keep paying to feel uncomfortable.

Your dreams are realities ready for the taking. If you feel ready, you can get a taste from my mentors with a video workshop (its free). And maybe I’ll see you in here soon.

What My Baby Taught Me About Running My Own Business

Today my 11-month-old son pulled himself up to standing. He was super chuffed with himself, spending all afternoon showing off his new skill.  Sharing the video and photos with friends and grandparents, I captioned it “pretty pleased with himself”, my friend replied, “as he should be!”

This really got me thinking – how often ARE we pleased with our own selves? And openly willing to voice that? Although #selflove might be all the rage, there’s still a lot of stigma in “tooting your own horn” and celebrating your own success isn’t there?

I replied to my friend that my son had spent the weekend getting up to a bended knee position but then finally today managed to push on and voila! standing man! Skill mastered, but certainly not overnight.

A mentor from a training programme I’ve joined says “daily steps lead to success, do the work” and I’ve never thought more on this than following my baby’s triumph today. 

I run a moderately successful photography business. I pay my bills, pay my taxes, buy nice things. I make a lot of people happy with my photographs.  In January I decided to push myself harder than I ever have and invested in a new online business & community, with the aim to upscale and improve both that business and my photography one.

Covid-19 (or Coronavirus) has recently now gripped the UK, where I live, and its toll on my business and income has been rapid. My diary is full of postponements and regular contracts I had, have hit the pause button for the foreseeable.

I’m feeling a rollercoaster of emotions with it all.  I do now have a lot of time to concentrate on my new venture, but I have days of excitement followed by crashing self-doubt and worry. 

I’m setting up new social media channels and websites which are getting very little attention, I often feel like I’m shouting into a chasm and I’m not even sure the echo is coming back!

My partner, always the voice of reason, tells me “you’ve only had the page active for 3 days, that many follows is good” and “but one or two is better than none”.  And he is correct.  I know I would be telling a friend the same – have patience, keep going.

Why do we struggle so much with believing in ourselves?

After seeing my son in action today, and my mentor’s words rattling in my head I made myself take stock.

When I set up my photography business I started with not much – no followers, no bookings, heavily discounted prices. And now, 5 years on (Corona-gate aside): I’m booked, I’m earning much more than I ever thought I could, and I’ve learnt so much.

A friend found one of my original business cards in an old wallet and messaged me to say, “you’ve come a long way…your stuff is just so slick now”.  I have come a long way and it didn’t happen instantly. It was 5 years (plus 5 years prior to that of junior photography work) of every day improving, practising and learning.

A member of the community, Christine, shared a big milestone of hers with us all today too. 12 months ago, she joined up (as I did 3 months ago) and now is celebrating making 10k in online earnings and becoming a leader herself in her passion.

I actually met Christine in person, a year ago, when she was just starting out. I had been hired by this company (the same one I have now invested in) to take photographs for these new business owners and I photographed Christine – just a small step of her journey. 

Part of her post read “one thing is clear! I have NEVER given up on achieving this milestone.  Every day I have pushed a little tiny bit closer to this goal.”

Her share today was another timely reminder that in business (and life!) everyone is at their own stage and making their own progress. As Plato said “Never discourage anyone who continually makes progress no matter how slow”

And so I see the same with how my son has learnt to pull himself up (and crawl, and clap, and throw and so much more) by doggedly and persistently honing his own skills every day.  Stretching just a bit further every time.  Getting back up every time he falls. Repeating in increments every day, until BOOM, skill mastered.

I might not be celebrating myself so much today, but I am celebrating really seeing the lesson.

Small efforts repeated daily lead to success. 

Thanks for the reminder son.

If you’d like to learn more from my mentors start here

Being freelance in the current health climate – lets get practical.

It all feels a fair bit crazy out there right?

I’m seeing fellow photographers worried about cancellations and the implications this has on our businesses. Most of us, I’m sure you’ll agree, are making a living not a fortune so don’t have a huge or regular cash flow to rely on.

As a freelance photographer you’re very likely to need to be with people to do your actual job – weddings, babies, events, these all involve contact with other humans! Postponed dates are inevitably going to happen and the next few months will be looking a bit stark. So what can we do?

Firstly, let’s not panic, let’s take action.  Here are some practical suggestions to consider:

Talk to your clients now

Take some pro-active action, reach out to your clients and email your upcoming bookings. They will be appreciative of you taking the lead in an uncertain time.  Open the discussion for rescheduling, discuss their contingency plans and yours. Agree to update each other if things change.

Read authoritative sources rather than eye-grabbing headlines

If all the chatter on social media is increasing your worry, take a step back and only engage with official sources. The NHS website for health guidance and Gov.uk will be being updated with the official stance here in the UK. Don’t panic but get clear on action you can take.

What to do financially if you get ill

Access to universal credit will be made more readily available to the self-employed.

Up to 14 days sick pay is to be made available by government for businesses with under 250 staff (which includes anyone registered as a limited company, although unlikely to cover sole-traders) under emergency legislation during the outbreak.

Income protection should provide cover if you contract the virus and cannot work, however, insurance is unlikely to cover not being able to work due to if you need to care for someone else, or if contracts are being cancelled outside of your control.

If you’re not able to work but have work to be done – read your contracts, understand what your obligations to clients are if you can’t work, and discuss what might need to happen in this situation.

If you have insurance, read your policies and understand what cover and protection you have in place if you’re not able to work.  Indemnity insurance may cover you if your clients have an issue with you not being able to deliver your work.

Support other freelancers and stay connected

Reach out in your online community, you’re probably in a few Facebook groups right? You might find some practical advice or even just some light relief from those that really understand what you’re all going through.

If you’re worried about not being able to work, create small pods of people you trust that could step in. Find other photographers and come to an agreement on how to work together and substitute for each other. Even if that’s not needed, buddy-ing up with others when you’re isolated helps lessen the worries!

And remember, its physical distancing we’re doing; NOT cutting ourselves off – make calls, send texts, share funny posts!

You may also find some helpful bits from these groups:

Doing it for the kids, a Facebook support group for freelance parents

Mental health support for freelancers from Leapers

Looking forward, the bigger picture

Take this as an opportunity to look ahead to the future generally and look at what you can put in place should you not be able to go out to work, regardless of the reason.

This could be an ideal time to finally get stuck into that ‘to-do’ list for your business! Had fleeting thoughts about setting up an online workshop, offering mentoring? Heard some bits about passive income but not had time to focus in on it?

Now is a great time to take some steps towards using your photography skills and knowledge in an online way!

If you’d like to find out more start here

The 3 MOST important things I’ve learnt about running a photography business:

If you can remember these you’ll be alllllright (and no camera settings in sight!)

Value yourself

This applies to your time, your skill and your self-worth. 

It takes a lot of confidence to ask people for money for your creativity. (Many people believe the love of your art should keep you going!)  But recognising that your time, skill and talent are worth being paid for will be one of your biggest steps forward to having a successful photography business.

Do not under charge because you are scared and think you’re not worth it. Do not undercharge just to get bookings – it’s a fast race to the bottom.

Pop on the big girl pants and believe in yourself!

Research the market you’re in and make sure you’re competitive.  The people who want to have you photograph them are not the ones who will try to haggle you down. You will find your clients, it’s a huge market out there!

It’s about people, not photographs

I’ve learnt over the years just HOW much better I shoot when I’ve connected with my clients and we’re all comfortable with each other.  Do be yourself, don’t be something you’re not, but be yourself on your best day.  Have fun, share your personality and make your clients the heroes!

I’ve lost count of the number of people who’ve told me “my sisters photos were nice, but their photographer was a bit rude” or “we went to one wedding and the photographer was so bossy” or the amount of makeup artists who’ve confided in me who they would and definitely wouldn’t have photograph their own day! (If you photograph weddings, it’s almost a job interview in front of 50+ people.  The guests & other suppliers see and hear so much you just might not be aware of!)

The point being; people remember so much more than the images.  How you are with people and how you make them feel is vital.

As Maya Angelou said “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”  (and they certainly won’t remember what f-stop you took their photograph on 😉 )

Don’t compare

You can tie yourself up in knots looking at other photographers’ images.

Inspiration is great, of course and seeing a shot that motivates you to learn a new technique can only be positive.  But don’t be held back thinking that everyone else is better than you!

Every photographer has their own style and their own ideal client. And everyone is at their own stage in business.

If you MUST compare, then look back at your own work from a year ago, 5 years ago, 10 years ago. I promise you will see how far you’ve come!

 you are magic neon sign affirmation
you are magic, believe in yourself!

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7 Top Tips For Nailing A Styled Shoot

Styled photoshoot camera

Styled shoots (or editorials) are a fantastic way to get creative, collaborate with other professionals and get a tonne of new imagery for sharing online, which in turn helps generate enquiries and bookings!

But, lets be honest, they can sometimes be a bit of a challenge – the organisation, the logistics PLUS keeping everyone happy whilst getting what you want out of it!

I’ve shot quite few over the years (with various results) so here I’ve complied my 7 top tips for making sure your styled shoot is the bees knees:

1. Pick a theme

What are you looking to show off in this shoot, what’s the mood or vibe – boho bridal, glam, vintage? Pick a theme and regularly refer back to it so that all the suppliers working with you on the shoot stay on message. Do your research and create a moodboard before you contact anyone so you know exactly what you want it to look like. Pinterest can be a great tool for this.

Freelance photographer working on a moodboard
Use a moodboard to inspire your photoshoot

2. What’s the point?

What do you want to achieve out of this photoshoot, are you looking to have it published by a particular blog or magazine? If you are, make sure you do your due diligence and find out what they require and how your work will fit. It can be worth asking what they want to focus on and you could tailor a shoot to that.  Alternatively, if you’ve chosen your theme already do a hashtag search on Instagram to find matching blogs to contact.

If you want to set up a styled shoot just so you can create content for your own blogs or social media then this can sometimes be more freeing! I have developed a close circle of wedding industry suppliers I just love working with and we try to organise one a year that’s really just for fun & practise.

Take some time to look at your own work and what you want to capture & improve on!

3. Reach out and make friends!

Not as cheesy as it sounds, I promise. But you will need to reach out to other suppliers for makeup, flowers, accessories etc. Even cars, food and room dressing if you’re going all out.  Like with any networking you do, be yourself, be friendly & professional and don’t take it to heart if someone doesn’t want to get involved – they likely don’t have time or its just not their style, its never personal!

Use your shoot as an opportunity to work with others whose work you admire or you’ve met on previous weddings you’ve shot, if you liked what they did.

Been approached to shoot someone else’s styled shoot? Maybe a florist you know is organising one? Make sure its going to fit with your brand & style as these images will be shared and hopefully help attract clients.  You want them to be the right ones for you!

Collaboration over competition, styled shoots are great for networking

4. Models Own

Who’s faces are you using? Professional models will need paying so make sure everyone is happy with the budget!

Do a shout-out “model call” to actual couples to get involved  – I like working with people in genuine relationships as it can make the images a bit more personal and intimate.

It will depend on the overall look you’re after, a professional model will make posing a doddle so can be awesome for the more glam/editorial vibe. As above with tip No.1 – remember your theme!

5. Remember to tag!

Carrying on from making friends – make sure you keep them! Do NOT forget to credit/tag/link ALL the suppliers involved EVERYTIME you use the images.  Make sure this is understood both ways. As a photographer I know nothing frustrates me more than seeing your image being used uncredited and likewise I’ve also heard many a peeved makeup artist voice their disappointment at not being tagged in posts by others.  You’re all getting involved in the shoot for coverage & exposure so make sure everyone gets recognised!

6. Make a shot list

The day will get away from you if you aren’t organised. Make sure you know exactly what shots you want to achieve and plan the day accordingly. Looking to get a golden hour shot? Hair & makeup needs to be done in good time so you don’t miss the light. Are you wanting to work on your off-camera flash techniques? Allow enough time in the schedule for you to achieve what you need, especially if you’re experimenting with camera settings or new equipment.

Whilst its good to also go with the flow if a particular set-up gets you & the team all inspired on the day, having a clear shot list will mean everyone goes home satisfied and you won’t be run ragged trying to cram lots of extras in.

Always make sure there’s a few ‘hero’ shots of each suppliers product too – a great chance to whip out the macro lens or do some funkier crops in the editing!

7. Patience, patience, patience – good things come to those who wait

Don’t rush home and edit straight away, give your eyes some rest and review everything refreshed a few days after the shoot. Take your time – I know everyone will be excited to see them but set a reasonable (and achievable!) deadline to the team for when the images will be ready.  Make sure you are 100 % happy with them because the sharing will inevitably start the minute those images hit people’s inboxes!!

Most importantly though, get creative and enjoy it! It’s a great chance to play!