Between New Years and when the weather finally gets warmer, business tends to be slow for most photographers depending on where you live. However, no matter when you are slow, waiting for busier times can be detrimental and depressing. Here are four things that you can do right now to make business go better and to help your mind think more clearly and more optimistically.
(1) Exercise, (2) Read, (3) Market, (4) Avoid TV.
I know that for me and my business, if things are going or feeling slow, it has everything to do with how I’m spending my time. How I spend my time affects my outlook and my outlook affects my business both now and in the future.
Give all four of these a try for the next 30 days.
When business is slower, we sometimes don’t feel like exercising. But if I can start off my day with 30 minutes of jogging, swimming, lifting, or even going outside for a walk, I feel better afterwards and my mind is more active, solutions come, and problems don’t seem as big.
And once this daily exercise becomes a habit, your body will crave that 30 minutes and you’ll look forward to the time when you can get away from everything and go for a run.
If daily exercise is not yet a habit, make a decision to do something active every day for 30 minutes, no matter what it is, even if it’s slow a walk. Don’t worry about your speed or breaking any records, simply focus on doing something every day for 30 minutes to make it a habit. And it’s especially important to do something outside at least every other day I think too. No matter the weather, regular time outside is important for mood and well-being.
This week while I was doing a business consultation with a photographer, I challenged her to make it her new goal to read one sales or marketing book every month. She responded, “I can’t do that; I don’t have the time.”
Successful people are readers and learners, and it’s up to us to make time. I can get people excited at an event by showing them exactly what to do, but when they go home, some will get tired and exhausted by life, sometimes forget what I taught, and then look for the next new quick fix. This is why personal reading is important. As Zig Ziglar used to say, “motivation doesn’t last, neither does bathing. That’s why we recommend both daily.”
Take 20 minutes daily (possibly after you exercise) to read out of some business books. I recommend sales and marketing books because they focus on the money side of your business and give you ideas on what you can do better. By reading, you get motivated to do better.
I have written some books on sales and business (on sale this week) that are very specific to photographers, because what we as photographers sell is a weird mix of both a service and a product where most sales books focus on just one or the other. But whatever you read, make a schedule to read and re-read them all often.
Here’s a short Q&A video where Trajan and I talk about some of our favorite books. A full list with links to the books can be found in on this reading list.
There are many who sell marketing kits for photographers, or tell you that “this one thing” will make your business better – but I do not believe it and am yet to be convinced.
I’ve been a full-time portrait photographer now for over 20 years and I have yet to find one thing that really works or a system that would work for me and also for you. We are all different, our personalities are different, our towns are different, our clients are different, our specialties are different, our individual gifts are different, our social circles are different, our styles are different, our products are different, …and on and on. And each of these has something to do with your personal success in your marketing plan.
The one thing I do know to be true however, is that if I personally focus some time each day on marketing no matter what, business is better. Instead of having one plan, instead I create 5, 10, or even 20 different plans to get people in front of my camera, and when I do that business is better.
If I take one hour or two hours each day to work on my plans, to plot, to make calls, to schedule and send blast emails, to design postcards, to visit big clients, to write about shoots on my blog, etc. If I spend time each day working on multiple plans of marketing, then business is better.
What I do or what someone else does for marketing will probably not work for you exactly, but the main principles of marketing remain true and do work for everyone. These core principles can be learned through personal reading and though there are too many to list here, I feel that the biggest ones are to expand your social circles, be excited about your business, work for referrals, and find ways to make phone calls rather than waiting for your phone to ring.
The average American spends more time watching TV in their lifetime than they do working in all of their jobs combined. That’s a sad fact because it means that the images and messages of television (and now social media) becomes our view of what the outside world is like. That view distorts our outlook because of a few main problems inherent with this type of media.
With more and more channels (and social media too) all competing for our attention, nothing grabs our attention more than a constant focus on dysfunction. The old news mantra, “If it bleeds, it leads,” means that we don’t get an accurate view of the outside world, but rather a sharp focus on the small minority of disfunction that happens somewhere. And with information being able to travel so quickly, it means news agencies will find disfunction somewhere, anywhere, and then focus on it from all angles, and then feed that to you daily. Add to that TV shows and movies that are written around the disfunction of failing families, violence, and lifestyle choices that most people don’t live or believe in.
Like most photographers, I love movies. But it’s not the quality of the messages that’s harmful but rather the sheer quantity. A daily intake on dysfunction and negativity will undo the other three positive things listed above. It is hard to be successful in business when we are metaphorically eating fattening food more than we are working out. We need to change the balance in our lives to more positive inputs and less negative ones.
TV is also about comparisons, and not in a good way. Advertisements and TV shows are designed to show us a lifestyle that is different than ours, one that we should want right now. It’s about creating impatience, making us feel inadequate so we’ll spend money on the next thing.
Now growth is a good thing and wanting more can be a great motivator for working harder, but that is different than the message of needing it now, using debt to get it now, and wanting others to admire us for it. That is a different kind of wanting that is more akin to coveting. Wanting something is fine, but wanting something and not wanting others to have it is different. That’s called coveting.
Coveting and envy is about levels: What level am I on compared to what level are you on? Who’s higher ? How can I be above you or have more than you so that you’ll envy or covet what I have? How can I get above you so that you’ll look up to me?
There are too many examples to mention, but one I hear a lot as a political junkie is the constant news and political narratives. For instance, if everyone in the US did better this year and the economy grew and everyone earned 50% more, that’d be a wonderful thing for everyone. But it would be reported on in a negative way, using this negative type of comparison saying, “The gap between rich and poor has increased,” or “The richer just keep getting richer.” Anytime someone uses the phrase “the gap,” (as in the wage gap, the price gap, the internet access gap, the cell phone gap, the education gap, etc) they’re making a negative comparison that isn’t helpful.
This type of comparison is always harmful because there is always someone doing better or who has more, and constantly breaking people into groups for comparisons creates a victim mentality, which isn’t healthy.
3 – Negative Social Agendas
We’re used to movies and people in Holly-weird preaching to us. We look past it, and we enjoy movies anyway despite knowing that those in the media are a small minority making fun of the vast majority of Americans.
For instance, you’ll never see a successful businessman in a movie who’s a hero. Nope, if they have an office building or wear a suit or trade stocks, or own a bank, or run an industry, you can bet they’ll be the villain.
You’ll never see someone who’s religious on a TV show or movie who isn’t a hateful, judgmental, odd-ball. Yet the vast majority of Americans say they attend church or synagogue weekly. And any gun owner in a movie that isn’t a bad guy, will surely be portrayed as un-educated, un-enlighted, or an accident-prone hick, despite the fact that there are more gun owners than doctors, golfers, or even doctors and golfers combined.
The point is that if you let these media social agendas affect you, it will affect your business as the media will become your window to the word. You’ll begin to believe the agendas and feel like a victim, segmented into groups, and un-empowerd.
To be successful, we need to see business as a good thing, as a service to others. Success is not a finite pie where there are only so many pieces, and if you get a larger piece than I get a smaller piece. Success is more like a candle that can spread light to other candles while retaining its own light. That means, if you or my neighbor does really well, then it means that I too can do well.
The only true comparison we can make I think, is to compare where we are now to where we have been or where our previous generations have been. By far I think most of us can say that compared to our parents and grandparents, we are doing better financially, we have more possessions and comforts, we have more opportunities, more ways to learn, and we have more ways to improve ourselves. That’s a great thing.
A Happier & More Positive View
Try all four of these things for the next 30 days: exercise, read, market, and avoid TV. See for yourself if a jog through your neighborhood doesn’t creates a better window of the outside world than a TV screen does. See if you feel better about your business when you exercise your body and feed your mind with reading. See if your marketing goes better if you spend a little time on it every day while also working to expand your social circles.
Remember that you are in business to serve others and make them happy. If they feel properly served, they will thank you in dollars. Work to be the person that is more upbeat and happy by trying the four things above for 30 days and see how thing change. I know you will have a better outlook, will be more motivated and optimistic, and clients will be more attracted to you.
Happy shooting, and until next time, America.