Understandably many people are worriedabout their businesses at this time it's a difficult period for many businessesand of course there is a lot of uncertainty.
Questions and concernsrevolve around – do I have enough financial security to get through this?Will my clients be financially sound on the other side? How am I going to covermy rent and business expenses during this difficult time and will the economybounce back? .
and these are all valid concerns, not just for photographers butfor all businesses.
Now later in this video I'm going to tell you how my ownbusiness nearly went BUST some years ago and what we did to recover.
So I thought today I'd come to you witha video about your photography business and things that you can do to mitigateany problems and really use this time to take a look at the way you operate.
Whatcan we do to improve the appeal of our business and maximize sales and what canwe do now during this lockdown period to give ourselves the best chance of comingout the other side? As difficult as it might be try, to keep a level head andgood business sense.
Business is not complicated it really comes down to afew key points that if understood make working through things a lot simpler.
Solet's take a look at business first and then near the end of this video we'lllook at some of the things that you can do to help yourself during lockdown.
SoI'm going to talk to you honestly and from my own experience.
I've been inbusiness for nearly 30 years I've actually run a couple of differentventures and I've had successes and some failures along the way.
In this video Ioutline what's worked for me and how I've negotiated challenging businesstimes in the past and what's important to give yourself the best chance ofbouncing back and hitting the ground running when we emerge from lockdown.
Thefirst point is do your research on supply and demand.
This is without doubtthe most fundamental part of business and one that people neglect toappreciate.
Quite bizarrely many people start a business without doing anyground work or research often on just a whim simply because they like the ideaof being self-employed or doing something that they enjoy.
This is justnuts! Working for yourself and making a success of it takes at least 10Xthe effort of just having a decent paid job and it comes with a multitude ofother headaches too but that's not the main point, the main point is if youhaven't done your research, or run the numbers, then you're going to fail.
Let'sexpand on this a little with example – This is Joe and Joe decides hewants to make and sell hats because he loves hats.
Joe thinks because he lovesmaking hats and he makes good hats that he's going to sell lots of hats and leada happy life.
This is Joe's city and in it there are 100 people.
Joe hasn't done hisresearch and he doesn't realize that 50 of them actually hate hats.
He alsodidn't check that there is already two other people in his city making hats.
John has been doing it for many years and is already well known for his hatsand the other person, James started a year ago and he's really struggling.
Joeunfortunately didn't check on any of this.
Joe also didn't check to see whatJohn was offering what his prices were or what his customer base was.
If he had, he would have realized that the demand for hats wasn't as high as he'd expectedand that John has actually only got 10 loyal customers, the other 40 onlyoccasionally wear hats and many buy them online from a discount store and Jameshas only managed to get one of John's customers to switch loyalty and buy hishats instead.
Unfortunately Joe already paid for a website, quit his job, bought alot of expensive hat making machinery to only find out that there is actuallyalready too much supply and not enough demand.
This is what supply and demandmeans – it is the most fundamental part of business that nearly everyone decides tooptimistically ignore or just weren't aware of it when they set out.
So you cansee from that very simplified illustration that it's important to doyour research don't assume that you're going to make a comfortable living justbecause you think you're good at something.
Doing your research before youstart any business is absolutely crucial.
When I started my studio business 25 years ago I'd already worked as a photographer for 5 years and hadassisted in other studios so I knew the industry from an inside point of view Ithen looked very carefully at my own demographic area to discover andunderstand the supply and the demand.
At the time I concluded that there wereonly three credible suppliers in my area and that there was plenty of demand Icarefully analyzed all of the potential market places that they would be demandfrom them such as electronics, banking, advertising agencies, tourism, hospitality, service industry and manufacturing and I started to analyze what these sectorswere doing in terms of their advertising their imagery and carefully looking atthe standards of work that they were receiving from their current suppliers.
Could I do it better, could I deliver a better service andcould I compete on price? One rule that I've learnt from this is don't expectthe customers to switch allegiance even if you can offer all three of thosethings.
Often businesses have built a relationship with their currentsuppliers and it can take a significant effort to move them away from thatrelationship.
Now let's assume you've identified that the demand wasappropriate compared to the supply and that you were able to competeeffectively with the current suppliers then you have to now consider how you'regoing to reach out to the demand and let them know that you're a new supplyoption.
Know what your audience wants and target them with the right message.
Thisis called targeting your market and it must be done with the right message andmaterial.
In my case if I was going to target an electronics manufacturer thenthere would be little point me showing them my wonderful pictures of fashion, food, cats, or anything else – they simply won't give a crap! Just because Karen onFacebook or Flickr said she loves your photos doesn't mean a monkey's toanyone other than you and her so think carefully about who you target and whatyou target them with.
One of the most useful things to consider is the targetmarket of the business that you want to work for.
What are they trying to say totheir target market? If you understand this then you can give yourself a betterchance of winning business by appealing to that and really focusing on what youoffer them.
There is one simple fact in business – that is, that nearly everybusiness always wants to make more money and that is their primary focus, theyonly use the services of a photographer to deliver a better message about theirproducts so that they can sell more of that product or service to theircustomers and that is it.
So, can you help them do that?Don't faff around with this point and believe that you're there for artisticreasons – you're there to help them make more money or to look better butultimately it's to help them make more money.
Yes, this sounds cutthroat but thatis capitalism and if what you do doesn't help them with their business, then youwon't be doing it for them for long.
Once I'd identified the businesses the targetmarkets the supply and the demand I had to let them know that I existed.
YourInstagram page or an email about your website is not going to bring the workin I'm afraid.
I receive about 200 emails every day, I scan past them and becauseI'm busy I often neglect them and they end up getting lost in the noise.
Whywould any business pay attention to your paltry requests for them to look at yourwebsite.
Find the decision-maker who is the person that is in charge ofmarketing our direction, or who is the boss in a small company, get something ontheir desk and follow it with a telephone call and a request for ameeting.
Never assume that an email is enough, it's not.
Now this was the firstbrochure that I ever produced 20-plus years ago and I designed it tohopefully tick the boxes of some of the industries that I was mainly targeting.
This one was a later, more refined brochure that I produced and this wasthe sort of smaller postcard mailshots I used to do specifically targeting thetype of imagery that a client would be interested in.
Don't send a hotel chainimages of electronics and don't send a drinks company fashion examples.
This isjust common sense but it amazes me how many photographers want to show offtheir work to the wrong audience.
As I became more established than the type ofclients I wanted to work for grew, I produced a number of books like this.
This was sent to advertising agencies and art directors and I sent them onloan and a courier would be arranged to collect them after a given period.
Thisgives you the ideal opportunity to contact the client and ask them.
Did youreceive my book can I come and see you to discuss it etc etc?.
as I became moreestablished and I had regular work I used to send out these newslettersshowing that I was busy and that lots of companies were choosing to use me andthis was a way of staying in touch with past customers or letting potential newcustomers know that lots of other successful companies were using myservices which arouses curiosity.
All of this is called marketing and if you'renot good at it then think about employing someone part-time to handle iton your behalf or if you're a highly skilled photographer with incrediblework you might want to consider using the services of a photographers' orartist agency to market you and bring the work in for you.
Now of course therewill likely be a 30% commission for them doing so, and your work is going to haveto be absolutely top-flight to get represented by an agency.
Upskill and constantly improve.
Now while we're on the subjectof sending out your work, before you make the decision to go into business askyourself – Is your work really good enough? If you're a wedding photographer, portrait, fashion, or product photographer.
how does your work really compare tothat of your competitors? If it's not right up there and you can't confidentlysay that it's as good or better than your competitors then you need toupskill yourself this takes dedication and practice and you can do that anddiscover the key differences that will set you apart from your competitorsright here at Karl Taylor Education.
Now – How can you get an unbiased view of howgood your work is? .
remember Karen on Facebook, Flickr orInstagram is always going to say great things about your shots, it's humannature to be nice, especially if most of the comments are from your followers, friends or family.
The simplest way to find out how good your work is is to dowhat I call, an unbiased test – let's say you're targeting a drinks company, getyour best drinks and liquid images and put them in a folder without your nameon the images and get all of your competitors best work and put it in thesame folder and then show those images to people who don't know your work orpeople that may have an interest in drinks imagery and ask them to choosetheir favorite images and if it's possible to explain why.
Run this testacross as many people as possible and then when your images don't come out asthe first choice.
stop crying, find out why and ask them what theydidn't like about image A, B or C and try to gain some constructive criticism fromthis – be realistic about your own capabilities too.
Many times I've seenphotographers with delusions of grandeur, myself included when I was younger andthis will severely limit your ability or willingness to learn.
Don't think becauseyou know the difference between hard light and soft light that you're somesort of studio master.
If you can't explain to me whatresonance, refractive index, lighting gradations, shadow density, inverse squarelaw, and fall-off are and demonstrate that you know how to control all of themthen I'm afraid you don't know.
So get yourself back to school and on myplatform and stop pretending that you're a photographer.
Now let's assume thatyou've got the skills, that there is demand and not too much supply andyou've done a good job on your marketing, then what do you do next? Stay connectedand build relationships.
Well it's all about building relationships, the mostlikely clients you will get are repeat ones and that will be based on you doinga good job and not being an ass.
and by that I mean your personality.
Do you havethe right sort of personality to get along with people, for them to warm toyou and to like you because if you don't it doesn't matter how good your work ispeople don't want to work with other people that they don't get along with soyou need to ensure your people skills are good too.
Now you can help improveyour people skills by joining organizations such as the Chamber ofCommerce or networking at trade shows and events, business breakfast clubs etcand get into the habit of communicating with people and even offer to give atalk to an audience.
All of these things and great opportunities for networkingand building relationships and building your confidence with people.
But don'twaste your time giving talks to the wrong audience I know one photographerwho has spent far too much time doing talks to other photographers rather thanfocusing on his actual target market such as other businesses.
So thinkcarefully about the type of networking you'll do and whether it will beeffective.
Think about trade shows, if for example you're targeting drinkscompanies, or an electronics company, why not visit those type of trade shows itwill give you an opportunity to learn moreabout their market, who their customers are, the type of marketing and displayimages that they use at these events.
It also gives you the opportunity tointroduce yourself, to leave a brochure and talk with people that often wouldn'tgive you the time of day – but you need to do it confidently.
If you're not capableof introducing yourself politely and making a confident, friendly conversationthen you're not likely to do very well at being self-employed.
Once you've builtrelationships and have clients then the chance of repeat business are high butdon't neglect collecting data, this is extremely important.
People move around Istill work with art directors that have moved agencies three times in the lastten years but because I've kept track of them, their work, and what they're doingI've stayed in contact and I've maintained a relationship.
Build adatabase, learn about your clients, their names, their numbers, email, personal emailif you can, and log it all down – every job, every budget, every birthday, anything andeverything that you can and use it in five years time when you're trying toremember the name of the art director or the client that you worked with on thatgreat photo shoot that you did.
You will be kicking yourself for not keeping adatabase.
Identify your best customers.
The 80/20 principle tells us that 80% ofour profits actually come from 20% of our customers.
Although this isn't alwaysthe case, it's always important to see which customers are the best to work for, who pays the fastest, and who needed a lot of chasing.
You need to do an honestround up from time to time to discover which customers are just a pain in theass and which ones are the best to focus on and focus on those customers thatyou're happy with and who pay you on time and dedicate less time to thosethat don't.
Now while on the subject of budgets it'simportant to know your cash flow, expenses and profitmargin.
I'm not going to go into that in this video as I've already made anothervideo covering that so I'll put a link to it below.
Preparation awareness andstrength.
Prepare for the worst! I nearly went bust twice, from 1995 to2000 the stock market grew by 400%.
People were throwing money around likewater.
The internet was taking off and everyone who had a.
com was beingportrayed as the next big thing.
It was all a load of bollocks!!.
and in 2002 the whole lot came crashing down when everyone finally realized thatit was all hype.
The result was lots of bankruptcies anda recession.
How resilient would your business be if it lost 50% of itsclients or revenue? Now this of course is perfect timing.
Right now we are staringdown the barrel of a post Covid-19 recession and we haven't still fullyrecovered from the 2008 economic crash.
Can you survive? Have you got contingencyfunds to get you through? Are the majority of your clients likely to beresilient? .
Because your resilience often relies on theirs.
What can you do whenthings hit the fan? Can you smarten up your act, your message, your advertising, your website? Can you work on your portfolio images and can you adapt? Forexample right now we are going through a very difficult period, the whole Westerneconomy is virtually at a standstill but does that mean you need to be – what canyou do during this time to be productive? Can you get in the studio and use yourdowntime to shoot images that will appeal to your target market?Can you reach out to your clients with positive messages showing them yourlatest work? Is the information on your website up to date and are the latestimages on there.
Can you run any special deals for clients to help them encouragework with you? Are there other projects you can considersuch as charity work that can raise your profile? Is your database up-to-datecan you upskill yourself so that when you come out the other side you don'tneed to outsource that service anymore or can you be reworking any of yourprevious images and improving them? Can you be designing and working on newmarketing material? Can you be delivering smart emails to existing customers whilepeople are working from home? Can you be running Skype or zoom meetings with yourexisting clients to stay in touch and talk about future requirements? One ofthe most astute photographers that I know has been constantly connecting withhis clients in a positive way during this period.
Putting himself in theirconsciousness.
Are you doing this? Entrepreneurialism, passion andmotivation.
Entrepreneurialism is a key attribute to being self-employed.
Essentially it means being adaptable spotting opportunities and willing totake calculated risks.
In 1999, like many people, I recognized that somethingsignificant was going to happen, something that wasn't going to happenfor another 1, 000 years – it was the turn of the millennium, to turn to the year 2000.
Everyone knew it was going to happen but only a fewbusinesses decided to look at it as a business opportunity.
To celebrate thisimportant occasion I decided to release a special large format calendar ofimages and make it available to businesses as a collectible that theycould send out to clients with their company logo.
Now I wasn't thephotographer on this calendar but I was the publisher and came up with the ideaand worked with another photographer to make money on this project.
Now many ofthese companies would not normally have produced such a thing as a gift fortheir clients but I recognize that given the significance of the year 2000 butmany companies would actually jump on board if I market it correctly.
I made alot of money from the project.
Now over the years I've also shot imagespurly for stock purposes that have been very successful and they've sold timeand time again because I've identified specific words that needed describingvisually – words like growth, wealth, assets, natural balance etc.
I've published booksand partnered with landscape photographers during periods where Iwasn't as busy and sold thousands and thousands of copies.
Many years ago Ialso recognized the need for a local photo library providing stock images fortourism, hospitality and local business so I partnered with dozens of the bestamateur photographers and created a searchable photo library on CD and thena website and this was successful for many many years until the biggest stockagencies came along or others arrived and replicated what I was doing but Istill made money in that period.
I also created an online gallery sellingmounted prints which was successful for a few years but then unfortunately itdied a death so I closed it down.
Well what went wrong? Well othersuppliers came along and overwhelmed the amount of demand too much supply and notenough demand.
In 2006 – 2007, I recognized the rapidly growing interestin digital photography and I started running evening classes and workshopswhich did very well.
Then in 2008 came the economic crash and some of mycommercial work dried up so I put all of my spare time and efforts intodeveloping the training side of my business and here we are, now with one ofthe top photography education platforms on the planet but I still operate andshoot commercially for clients that I've shot for many years.
6 years ago ourbusiness was starting to fail due to the decline in DVD sales and the limitedstudio space that we were operating from at the time.
We wanted to expand intolive shows new courses but simply didn't have the facilities or the spaceto do so.
My business partners and I took the calculated risks to invest literallyeverything that we had into new premises, technology, a membership platform, and torelaunch our business from Karl Taylor Masterclass to Karl Taylor Education.
Wenearly went bust, we took a huge gamble with our own money (not outside investors)and it took a few years of very hard work but it paid off.
But never assumedthat things can't change again overnight and I'm willing to accept that as partof business.
So business is all about looking for and finding opportunitiesand it's something I'm continually doing because I enjoy it and if you'reself-employed you need to try and innovate an experiment and beentrepreneurial if you don't find yourself to be an extremely motivatedand passionate person then you're probably not cut out for beingself-employed.
You have to want to go out and do it, to try and be prepared to fail.
Failure is the best learning tool for success but if you're not willing to trybecause you're scared of failure, then it's unlikely you're succeed but inbusiness calculated risks need calculating, not ignoring.
I personallyknow some multi-millionaire business people who had a great idea orproduct and they marketed it at just the right time but sometimes that can alsobe down to luck the right thing the right time some of those samemulti-millionaire business people have launched other things that have actuallyfailed so sometimes it is down to a little luck but all of those businesspeople learnt from their failures.
Now of course platforms like Karl TaylorEducation are here to help you acquire the right skills for your photographybusiness, whether that's improving your post production knowledge, your lighting, conceptual skills, or offering you business advice, but we can't do it allfor you.
You have to be realistic about your prospects.
Do your research and consider carefully the cornerstones of business – supply anddemand.
Expert advice, knowledge and mentor guidance.
Get good advice! Finally, don't believe everything you're told by so-called experts.
Many of the peoplegiving out advice on YouTube were breastfeeding when I was shootingcampaigns and making a living from photography.
The Internet is abundantwith filmmakers that have never actually made a film and the only money they'veever made is from a YouTube sponsor.
There are photographers that make youthink that the shot of the 'discerning, cultured guy, gazing down pensively athis man-bag on the top of a mountain' is going to get you there.
Did it get them there? – Probably not! Now that's not to say that some of thesepeople haven't made a good business just be aware that it might not be in thebusiness they're offering advice on.
So choose advice carefully.
What are theyreally selling and what real experience do they actually have? Look for evidencethat those offering advice have the real world skills to match it.
Social media isnot the real world – it's not where the real paid shoots start and, if anything, much of it is looking to me more like the last dot-com bubble than a solidfuture.
People that talk about the hustle, the coffee and the lifestyle are tryingto sell you a dream rather than set you up for reality.
I can tell you now thatreality is much tougher and it's tougher to actually make it in business.
If youreally want to know how other successful professional photographers have made ittake a look at my guest interviews on Karl Taylor Education you'll learn thetruth and gain the insight needed to put your best foot forwards.
And finally, remember working for yourself isn't for everyone.
Many photographers produce their best work when they're just doing it forpleasure but if you do want to go into business, try to stay balanced, whilst business can be difficult it doesn't all have tocut throat.
Some very successful photographers that I know alsocontribute immensely with charity projects or giving their time back tothe community.
Don't let business turn you intosomething that you don't want to be.
Now hopefully this video has given you someinsight, some food for thought, and maybe even a necessary reality check but ifyou are truly passionate and willing to put in the work you can create a patchfor yourself even in a crowded market and running a business can be extremelysatisfying and a rewarding career path – I wouldn't have it any other way.
Thanks for listening.