The “B” Plan – what is that?
Well I shy away from writing the words “Business Plan” because I know as soon as most people read that, they run for the hills or suddenly remember an urgent email they need to respond to.
Truth is, that many, many photographers who are in business never made the time to create a business plan of any sorts. And many of these photographers are still struggling. They wouldn’t likely admit that it’s because there was no plan, but blame instead the economy, their competition, the ease of entry to our industry, the list goes on.
Learning from my own mistakes
I don’t mind sharing that in the early days of my business, I just spun my wheels for a few years because I lacked the focus and direction of a good business plan. I was a graduate of a college photography program with a decent amount of camera gear and a dream.
That was the passion side of what I needed but I was trying to be everything to everyone and ended up doing every kind of photography whether I enjoyed it or not. Let’s be realistic. No one puts 110% into something they don’t enjoy. I soon began to procrastinate on certain jobs and lost a few clients along the way because of it.
When I became more focused about the kind of photography I wanted to do, it became easier to promote who I was and what I offered. When I implemented solid workflows and repeatable systems, my work weeks became more enjoyable, more efficient and my client base grew exponentially.
The compass to your success
Most successful entrepreneurs would advise starting a business with a solid business plan. Think of it as the roadmap that is your only guide for a long and unpredictable trip into the unknown. Existing businesses who struggle with workflow, customer satisfaction, profitability etc would greatly benefit from having a compass to point them in a better direction to reach their goals. A plan can be that compass.
I think most photographers avoid starting a business plan because they think it needs to be a long and complicated document and don’t feel they are qualified to make one. I think it needs to be simple, direct to the point and without a lot of fluff added to try to make it look good.
Whether you are just starting a photography business or if you have been making money with your camera for a while, I’d like to suggest that the time for a plan (incase you haven’t got one yet) is right now. Today, I mean. Make this a priority!
The basics to a strong business plan
There are 4 steps in setting up a strong successful business plan:
- Defining your goals
- Identifying strategies to achieve your goals
- Creating an action plan and determining timelines
- Analyzing your results
Here are some questions that you should ask yourself in order to get started on the right path with your business plan:
- Who you are and what you do (i.e. Portraits, Weddings, Pet Photography – focus on what you want to be doing)
- What will you charge?
- Full Time or Part time? How many hours do you want to work per week? Is it just you or do you plan on having staff?
- Who will be your advisory team? Consider: a bookkeeper, lawyer and accountant at the very least.
- Who is your ideal client?
- What kind of demographics does that client have in your area?
- What is your Unique Selling Prospective? What makes you stand out from the rest of the photographers in your area? What will be your competitive edge?
- Who are your competition and what do they offer? What price range are they in?
- What are your monthly projected costs, sales and profits going to be for the next six months, year, and the next three years? How will you achieve these numbers?
- What have you or will you implement as a brand for your company?
- What is your marketing Strategy? How will you market? What will it cost? Create a marketing calendar with a plan of it’s own. Web, print, radio, referral, ads, SEO, etc.
- Will you outsource anything? What systems will you implement? What will your workflow look like?
- If you’re just getting started, do you need startup money? How much do you need and where will it come from?
- If you’re already running a business, what do you need to take things to the next level?
I admit that once you make a list of what should go into a solid business plan that it does look like a bit of work. I like to think of it as the best investment of your time you will likely make for the success of your business.
Defining the plan to create your plan
The best way to tackle creating a business plan for your business is to have a plan for the plan.
- Start with a goal, such as “I will have my business plan completed within 30 days.”
- Get some help. Enlist other photographer friends or even someone you know in another business.
- Create a schedule of times to work on the plan so you can tackle small bites at a time.
- Research and have someone (perhaps a family member) look into your competition for you – compile a list of items you want to know about.
- Talk to existing clients and create a survey for them to fill out. Ask them for suggestions for a photography studio, how can you make things easier for clients, what kind of products would they like, whatever will help give you insights into the customer’s wants.
- Contact your local government to find demographics for your area, you can often get great information for business from recent census results. Average household income, number kids in a household etc.
By taking the time to create a Business Plan, you will be positioning yourself to be more aware of what you really want to offer your clients, whether there are enough clients who will likely want to do business with you, how best to reach them and how to have an advantage over your competitors. With solid forecasts and actual results you can begin to strategically make changes in your business year by year in order to increase profits and reward yourself for the real entrepreneur you have become. When you worry less about finances and the admin side of things you can finally start to enjoy the passion for photography that brought you into this business in the first place.