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!

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