When you run a real estate or architectural photography business it's easy to get caught up in the creative side of things, but you'll only find real success when you focus long-term on the business.
In this live event I shared the core activities you need to be working on each week if you want to grow. I walked through the process of defining what you need to be doing, who is going to do it and when you'll do it, and I wrap it all up in an activity checklist that you can refer to every week to help you stay on top of things and become a better business owner.
Download your activity checklist:
Click here to download this Weekly Activity Checklist as a Word document that you can customize for your own business.
Photographers: Here's your weekly activity checklist to build your business
My journey as a photographer started pretty slow, and for a couple of years I was only doing about $20,000 per year, but I made some changes and that’s how I got to doing $300,000 per year. So, how do you do that? Well, you need to work on your core activities every week, and I’ll go through what they are in a moment.
You see, being a photographer is a journey with so many choices in front of you. Some people will want to focus on the photography side of things and not commit much at all to the business side, and if the creativity is what is so appealing to you, then you can absolutely commit yourself to that and really enjoy it.
All I'd say is, just be aware of the cost of going down that path because you are almost certainly going to be less successful, and that’s because the path to success is not entirely focused on the creativity. That will have a role, for sure, but speaking from experience, it was when I switched to the path I’m going to talk about today that things changed for me, and the foundation of that success is in seeing what you do as a business, not a creative outlet.
That’s not to say that you can’t be creative – you can, you absolutely can, but you maximize your opportunities for growth when you build on a business foundation and a marketing foundation, rather than a purely creative foundation.
"Why do you do what you do?"
So, let’s go through this now and look at what you need to be doing each and every week, and it all starts with why. So, why did you start this photography business of yours? Why do you want to run your own business when you could be working for someone else, or doing some other job?
If it’s because you love the idea of running your own photography business then you need to commit yourself to the business, and that means putting in 100%. If you don’t like that, if you can’t be fully immersed in the business side of things, then you will probably not be as successful as you would otherwise be.
So imagine that here’s you, and here’s success and there’s a wall in the way that’s stopping you from getting there, and that wall is a 100% commitment to the business side of what you do. There’s no shortcut way to get from one side to the other without climbing over that wall and being absolutely committed to the business side of things. Going through that process, and it's the kind of stuff we’re talking about today, that’s how you get to success.
But let’s assume you are absolutely clear on the reason why you do this, and you’re committed to seeing this as a business that you’re going to work on and not just something you’ll do on the side.
"What do you need to do?"
So now we need to look at what you need to do, and there are certain things that you’ll want to be working on each week, and that means you need to know where you’re going. What’s the direction you’re heading in? What's the path you'll take? Once you've planned the journey you want to walk that's when you can start working on things.
So here’s what that looks like, and it’s built around these five core areas of your business:
- Your products & services
- Finances & pricing
- The customer experience
- Business operations
- And getting more clients.
Then what you need to do is to get clear on what your journey looks like for each of those categories so you know where you want to go. Then each week you'll want to make some progress in each of those five core activities, and the more you and your team can do, the faster you’ll grow. The problem with a lot of photographers is that they focus on the products and services category, because that’s what interests them.
But when you commit to working on all five of those areas, that’s how you grow from $20,000 per year to $300,000 per year. It’s all about your commitment to those core activities.
So to start things off, define the path that you want to take for each area of your business.
In other words, where do you want to end up? What do you want to be doing in terms of that core activity in a year or two from now? That’s what I’m talking about.
To help you with all of this I’ve created a weekly action checklist document that you'll be able to download from my website and customize – it’s a Word document, so super easy to edit.
So what you would do is under each column you would write down what the journey ahead looks like for that category. So when it comes to your products and services, what do you want to do in that category over the next few months, or even the next year or two?
Obviously it’s going to be different for all of you, and you’ll want to be super detailed about it for your own business, but basically it will cover things like:
Learn these particular skills -> Build a portfolio -> Train others to fulfill those functions.
So that’s a really basic overview and you’ll add more details than that, but that’s pretty much what we’re looking for. You would just need to define what those individual skills are for you and your team.
Now once you learn the skills and you’re comfortable with that, it’s easy to cruise along and go no further with it. But I think this is something you need to revisit every week, track what you’re doing, and look for any gaps in terms of skills and making sure your standards and those of your team if you have others working for you, make sure the standards stay up there.
Now when it comes to the customer experience, we’re talking about a customer’s overall perception of your company, based on their interactions with you. So what do you want that to look like? Now your journey down that path might be:
- Create an online booking process.
- Deliver exceptional customer service at all times.
- Seek customer feedback on our performance.
So whatever that journey looks like for you, write it down here so you have a framework for moving forward and getting stuff done.
Ok, the next one involves planning the path ahead for your business operations, so that’s covering things like business systems and processes, legal issues, business planning and human resources. So this journey might be:
- Define all tasks and processes in a Manual.
- Create systems for hiring new team members.
- Create training procedures for team members.
- Hire team members.
- Review work delivered by team members.
To give another example, your finances journey might look like:
- Know your expenses
- Set your prices
- Set your revenue goals
- Track your weekly revenue
- Plan ahead for future price changes and revenue goals.
So every week you’ll want to be coming back to review all of this, even if you aren’t thinking of changing your pricing any time soon, at the very least you can track your incomings and outgoings so you know where you stand, check your cash flow to make sure you have enough on hand, and then think about where your pricing might change and what needs to happen for that to be a success. Again, this is something you’ll want to do every week so you’re always on top of things.
Finally let’s think about your marketing journey and what that could be. Again, from a big picture point of view, and you’d want to be more detailed than this, but your basic marketing plan could be:
- Define your marketing message
- Create your marketing content
- Build connections with new prospects
- Build trust with those connections
- Present those connections with an offer to work with you.
So then every week you would want to be contributing to this marketing journey as you work your way through each of those five areas of your business.
Then in your activity checklist you can write down what you’ve done so far, and that way you can track your progress. So where it says “Here’s what I’ve done so far”, write down your progress and say something like, “October 15th: finalized the creation of a portfolio of commercial office buildings.”
"Who is going to do this?"
Alright, so next inside this action checklist you need to define who is going to deliver your services or any other functions within your business, and it doesn’t have to be you.
Of course, there will be some things only you can do, but some things could be done by others. So what you’ll want to do is to get clear on what you can do and what others can do, and then pass off as much as you can, even the things you love if they can be done by other people.
Now I know that can be hard, but bringing in other people is what you need to do to give yourself time to work on those five core activities because otherwise it just won't happen. And again, you can write that down inside your weekly action checklist document so then you can see what you need to do, and perhaps where others can take on certain roles, and that's going to free you up to get all of this done.
"When will you do this?"
So the final thing you can do is you can define when you’ll put time into those five areas of your business, and ideally you want to get a little done each week.
Of course, you could work on things whenever time becomes available, but I think a better way to go is to intentionally block time out to work on at least one of those core activities each day, and again, write it down inside our weekly action checklist where it says, “When will I review this function each week?”
So maybe each Monday at 4pm you block time out to review your products & services, and then write down in that column that you’ll do that at 4pm each Monday.
Maybe on Tuesdays you take a look at your customer experience and see how you’re progressing and whether you need to make any changes there.
Maybe on Wednesday you look at your operations and look to run things more efficiently if you can.
Perhaps each Thursday you get busy planning and working on your marketing, and part of that might mean scheduling social media posts and planning when you’ll reach out to certain individuals.
Then maybe at the end of each day on Friday you schedule time to review your numbers for the week, how many sales did you make, what were your expenses for the week, and do you need to make any upcoming changes to your prices?
By doing that every single week you’re focusing on the core activities, you’re staying on top of your business, and you’re not going to miss too many opportunities for growing because you’re constantly alert to what’s going on.
Does that all make sense?
So, you start off by getting clear on why you run your own photography business.
Next, define what you’re going to do and what the journey ahead looks like for you across those five areas of your business.
Then you need to define who is going to take on certain roles, because you need to open up more time for you to work on your business instead of being stuck doing everything yourself.
Then the final step is to work out when you’ll do all that you need to do, so you might like to set time aside in your calendar to address one core activity each day.
And to help you with all of that we’ve got this checklist that you’ll be able to download from my website as a Word document, or you could create your own version – it’s up to you.
Now, would that process work for you? Do you think you could do that?
Look, I understand that this might involve some fairly significant changes to your business, especially if you spend most of your days shooting and editing instead of setting time aside to work on things like business operations, marketing and developing your customer experience, but this is all stuff that you need to be doing each week so you know what’s going on and what needs improving.
If you can get on top of this and commit time each week to all of those five core activities then your business is going to move ahead in leaps and bounds, and if you have any questions at all about how that might look for you then please leave a comment below – I’d love to help you out.