The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago … what this Chinese Proverb means to you now
You've heard the saying “fight or flight”, right?
Similar (and perhaps related) is the other popular saying “when it rains it pours”.
As a photographer, you know exactly what I'm talking about. If you're like most photographers, you're probably smack-dab in the middle of the busy season right now. No matter what you photograph, right now is likely the time-of-the-year when you are most booked.
And … when you're not shooting, your day is filled with culling, retouching, designing albums, sorting out print orders, emailing clients, and so on. You're focused on the here and now; you only really care about what you need to get done today and this week.
What you have going on in 3 months from now is probably the farthest thing from your mind. And 6 months from now? Yeah right! That's a pipe-dream. You're just trying to survive busy season!
But … do you know the best time to guarantee growth in 6 months? Today.
There's a popular Chinese proverb that says:
“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”
– Chinese Proverb
Basically in the context of the conversation here today, this means that if you want success and growth in the future, the best time to act is now.
I know, you're probably saying “but Bryan, you just acknowledged how busy I am right now, how am I supposed to think about success and growth in the slow season when I'm here, right now, in the busy season?”
My rebuttal is that you don't have a choice.
If you want sustainability and constant growth, you have to be constantly moving and thinking. You have to always keep the future top-of-mind. If you wait until the slow season to start drumming up business or act on new promotions and plans, it's too late. You must act now.
This doesn’t mean you have to stop shooting now in the busy season to plan out promotions for the off-season. It just means you need to get the wheels in motion sooner than later, and you need to do things now that will get you on the right foot come off-season.
Here are 7 ideas that you can implement right now!
These ideas take next to no time now, but will garner great results in the long-term.
- Don’t talk about how busy you are, talk about how happy you are. People (your clients and your potential clients) pick up on subtle social cues. If you're constantly complaining about how busy you are or making it seem like you’re drowning, you’ll turn them off. They’ll subconsciously make the connection to booking you equals making you busy equals making you unhappy. Stay positive. Being busy and booked is a good thing, remember!
- Make people happy and focus on the experience. You'll get more word-of-mouth and repeat business by having happy clients than anything else you can do in your business. Always focus on giving a great experience to your clients if you want them to refer you and come back in the future.
- If you’re a wedding photographer, do same-day slideshows. This has been something I've done for almost every single wedding I've ever photographed, and it’s been one of the most effective forms of word-of-mouth and marketing that I’ve done. Do them for every wedding from now on and you’ll fill up your calendar next year before you know it.
- Do Facebook “sneak peeks” as close after your session/weddings as you can; capitalize on the emotional high and share with your clients while they're excited. This will keep the energy high and they're much more likely to share the sneak peeks (therefore increasing word-of-mouth) if you do so.
- Use Edgar or Buffer to keep a steady stream of content and images in your social stream. This will keep you top-of-mind and relevant even when you're busy doing other things.
- Dedicate 1 day per week to have a networking lunch with someone. Everyone has to eat, so might as well make it productive.
- Have your assistant or 2nd shooter take behind-the-scenes photos while you're shooting. This will give you more content to share and will give a much more human touch to the experience you give.
There's so much more that you could do (and so much more I could write about), but these will get you going in the right direction. They all require very little work now, but will give you a great payoff in the future.
Plant those seeds now and you'll eventually grow trees. You'll thank yourself.