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Navigating Your Photography Business Through Covid-19

3/25/2020

You’re no doubt feeling the full spectrum of emotions right now. I’ve gone from crying on my yoga matt to ecstatic dance isolation parties and it’s been a wild ride so far.

I want to start by saying that the fear and the waves of anxiety are so valid. You’re a business owner and a human, this affects you through and through. But I want to reassure you that you’re ability to flow through this and take fast adaptive action throughout, is what is going to get you from scarcity to abundance in your buisness.

I’m jumping right in so you can get these actionables into your calendar right away.

Action One – Cultivate Safety for your Clients

Contact every client that has a future booking with you. These people are going through all of their own money and health worries, a shoot might possibly be the last thing on their list. Take the lead and guide them through the changing process. They’ll appreciate the certainty you’re providing in a time of complete uncertainty.

And I’m saying this because I have so far had $12,700 / £10,900 or shoots cancel within the space of one week. I spent most of that week frozen with fear then I realised the empowerment that comes with managing the crisis and not burying your head in the sand.

  • Make a list of everyone you’re in a contract with – Depending on your systems you might have their deposit or their full balance and they will currently have nothing in return. These people are your first priority.
  • Write a personal email to each one, giving them some options so that they feel safe in your partnership – My advice to you is to retain all the contracted money you have secured, which will keep your cash flow safe for now. (Assuming this is covered by your contract rules) Any loss of expenses that your client has from the government enforced restrictions (like location hire) are not your responsibility. Although you can be sensitive to their losses. Reassure your client that they are your number one priority and that you will honour their booking and they will not lose their investment because of this pandemic. Assure them that you will be available to create for them once the restrictions have been lifted, and that you will reach out to them as soon as you can start committing to dates again. I also recommend sending a personal voice message to keep the human connection alive.
  • Set up a recurring notification in your calendar to remind yourself every week to assess the current pandemic business and social rules of your area so you can reach out with new date options as soon as possible and remain ahead of your clients worry.

Action Two – Keep the Needle Moving

It’s easy feel frozen with fear of what to do when businesses are shutting down. But the best thing you can do is keep focused on needle moving tasks – that is, tasks that directly get you paid.

This took me a little longer to act on because I was in fear that no one would book when there was so much uncertainty. But then I realised that if you don’t ask you don’t know. And what’s actually happening right now, is a calling for leaders and healers to step up and guide the world through this. The need for images that connect and communicate is more relevant than ever.

  • Connect with everyone who has recently reached out to you about a shoot and has not yet committed – Offer them what you think will best serve them at this time. This might be the time that you go off piste from your usual package. Ask your client exactly what they feel like they need. Give them your advice on what you think will help and offer them that bespoke solution. I recommend leaving April – June as “working on your business time” because there is a lot more uncertainty and isolation to come in the up coming months. But there’s nothing stopping you laying the foundations for Summer and getting your cash flow rolling right now.
  • Consider offering a solution to relieve the financial commitment of booking in uncertain times. For example, a deposit only, or a contract that allows clients to pay for the shoot through instalments even after you’ve shot. (If you do this it’s super important to have a strict contract to ensure they can’t get away with missing payments)
  • Track all this communication in a spreadsheet, and make a notification to follow up with everyone who didn’t book once the current restrictions have let up a little.


Action Three – Create Hyper-Relevant Value

People are looking for answers and solutions to keep afloat in this fragile time in business right now. How can you help people? This isn’t the time to over sell. This isn’t the time to be ignorant to the collective pain and a fear of the unknown that we are all feeling to some degree. Content that is too far removed from today’s situation seems irrelevant.

For me, the start of this step was to write this blog and email for my photographer email subscribers. Pausing my preplanned Instagram posts for a moment whilst I take the time to gather my thoughts and sort out the impacts on my personal life. It’s ok to take a moment.

  • Pause any preplanned content. I know this is frustrating but I want you to stay hyper-relevant and also appear sensitive to your audiences’ uncertainty and anxiety. Go into each piece of content you have planned and pivot. To avoid starting from scratch, how can you make each piece more from the heart, more caring, more relevant, more helpful, more obviously sensitive to the the month of March 2020?
  • Firstly, if you have one, address your email list subscribers. These people are your inner circle of priority. It can be as simple as an update from the heart, the protocol in business, or some advice that will help guide your dream client through all this a little easier. E.G. How to use your personal brand to connect deeper in this time of isolation.
  • Secondly, schedule at least a week of instagram content. The situation is rapidly changing all over the world. Enable yourself to keep in flow and responsive to it. This isn’t the time to shy away from selling, but it’s also not the time to carry on like nothing is happening. I’ll talk about offers in step four so for now, these are the foundations for your content marketing – The Connection Post, The Trust Post, The Value Post, The Sales Post. Double down on the Connection posts and Value posts right now.
  • Thirdly, voice DM anyone you feel called to reach out to and offer support. What could you message all the clients who have shot with you in the last 6 months? Ideas about how they can uniquely utilise their images during this time? Are there other photographers who you can connect with and have as running buddies? Connecting with these humans will help you keep your create hyper-relevant value.
  • Set up a recurring content marketing block in your calendar to every week to create fresh material based on where you feel your dream clients are currently at. Two questions to ask yourself each week – What might they be feeling this week? What might they need this week? The beauty of this ever changing situation is that we are collectively feeling similar feelings, which is very rare.


Action Four – Pivot your Vision

A philosophy at the Disney ideas table is that “No idea is a bad idea”. Rather we just get it all out so we have lots to work with. Create an additional offer in response to the sudden changes which will be more aligned with your clients’ current needs today. How else can you use your gifts to add a valuable offer to your clients?

This will be my last task because I want to have everything else taken care of and in flow to ease my own business pressures and personal anxiety. I advise taking fast focused action on all the above so you can get to this place quickly.

  • Planning offers – There is nothing standing in the way of booking future shoots. I’m usually booking shoots anywhere up to 6 months in advance and I require a monthly prepayment which creates a steady cashflow for me. I said earlier that I think it’s safe to assume that with isolation it’s not a good idea to try and book shoots in April, May or June. Focus on selling shoots for July and August right now. You can offer your client a high touch planning process so they can see the light at the end of the tunnel and be excited to step out the other side. Create a free three month planning process where you focus on a few things a month. E.G. In April you have a free creative call to understand the needs of the shoot, breakdown your client’s stories into visuals, and co-create a Pinterest board. In May you discuss locations and book an indoor space if needed. In June you plan clothes and props together as per the shot list.
  • Post shoot offers – What can you offer your past clients? People in the personal development industry are working even harder right now to step up and show up with valuable leadership content. Can you offer your Photoshop, InDesign, Canva skills to create anything for them with their images or even just with graphics? Create a few mini online offers and send them out to your IG Stories to gauge what is most appealing to people. Once you’ve figure out the one, Voice DM everyone you’ve ever shot.
  • Payment plan offers – Offer shoots for July onwards with a payment plan at no extra cost. If it feels like you need to offer a temporary discounted offer for this time, that’s fine, people will be grateful for your generosity if you’re serving from the heart and not acting from a place of scarcity.
  • Gift card offers – Add an option on your site for people to invest in a shoot for the future so that the issue of committing to a date right now doesn’t stop your client from taking action.
  • Referral offers – Connect with a business coach who has a retreat or mastermind that you think would benefit from your shoots. Offer them a special branding package that is only obtainable through the association of your contact. If you feel confident enough to right now, you can ask if your coach contact would like you to be a guest online speaker and teach a little about visual branding or photography. This will help spread awareness of your services.
  • Online offers – There’s no time like the present to create a mini online course. And it doesn’t even have to be mini! This might be the first time ever you’ve not been too focused on booking, shooting and editing to work on your business and create something new and location free.

 

The most important thing to do during a crisis in the world, or in your own business, is to take leadership. This pandemic can either take you for a ride or you can flow with it. It took me a fair few days to get out of my own way and take action. I like to think of myself in business as a river, and life’s uncontrollable circumstances as the river banks – you can flow through this if you keep aware and flexible to your surroundings.

If you’re feeling like you need additional support with a COVID-19 related business problem, head over to my new Facebook Group – The Conscious Community for Brand Photographers.

  1. Annemarie says:

    Thank you for this!! I really needed to read these words this morning 📑

    I’m struggling and have a thousend spinning thoughts with what to do next in my biz and simply what to say in social.

    Annemarie
    XO

    • Bry Penney says:

      I’m so glad it’s helped you clear your thoughts. I know exactly what you mean – it’s hard to know where to start! I felt better once I’d made a priority list and just slowly worked through it one by one. I know for sure I’m not a super productive person during a global pandemic! But that’s ok!

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