Do you ever feel like your world is spinning out of control? That there’s more on your to-do list to get done than you could ever finish in a lifetime? If you’re looking around at all the piles and feeling shaky about where to even start, this post is definitely for you.
How to Make 2021 the Best Year for Your Photography Business
October, November, December, they’re 100 miles an hour in the world of a portrait photographer. I don’t know how you’re feeling, but with the pandemic, I felt so much pressure to always be catching up. And despite pushing so hard, maybe you fell short of the goals you set for yourself back in January. Not uncommon during a pandemic, right? If that’s you, here’s what I told my coaching students during the busy season.
I told them that if something breaks, you have to put a band-aid on it and keep moving forward. Keep serving your clients and the time will come in January when things slow down, we can take a breath and fix the things that are broken. We can take what we’ve learned and we can make a better plan so this year is better. But in the fourth quarter, you can’t stop to fix most things– you just have to just put a little band-aid on it until you can sit down and work on it in January. Well, hello January.
We created a tool for this exact time of year because I remember all the years of feeling unprepared to “slow down” and fix things in January. This tool will help your year go better. I call it, “Putting the Mower on Turtle.”
How to Slow Down in Your Photography Business
Growing up at my house, we lived on about a one acre lot. One acre is a weird size because it’s small enough to push, but riding a mower would be much nicer. So, I grew up using the push mower. But I remember when my brother went to college, my dad splurged and bought a riding mower. It was so much fun. I think he bought it for himself thinking he would mow. But I got to use it too, which was pretty fun.
The mower had two settings. One was rabbit, and the other was turtle. Rabbit mode was my favorite because I had to do everything as fast as I could. Except for when I tried to weave around the trees… I should have done that in turtle mode. But, I would hang off the mower sideways, trying to counterbalance, and turn the curbs so fast… It didn’t always end well. My dad would always ask, “Why did you miss all these spots?” Well, I was going on rabbit cause I could.
But I realized in business that we can’t possibly do a great job in our lives if our mower is on rabbit mode all the time. Sure, there are times like the end of the year where there’s no other choice. In December that’s when the business is, right? October, November, December, people want holiday cards, gifts for family members. Sometimes we get out the door without even putting lotion on our bodies or we’re in a perpetual state of chaos, right? We’re taking care of our clients. We’re taking care of our families, and we’re doing what we can to really survive and run our business. And let’s face it when the business is there, we want to get it. We want to take care of people. That’s how we pay our bills.
The Peaks and Valleys of Photography Businesses
But, I want you to know that we are in a seasonal industry with peaks and valleys. As photographers, there are seasonal times of year based on what your climate is and what you photograph. If you’re a wedding photographer, you have certain busy seasons, probably the summer. And usually the fall and holiday season is a great gift buying time. So there’s usually more business right then for all photographers.
But we know for the most part, we don’t do the same amount of business in the first three months of the year as we did the last three months of the year. In January, it’s a bit of a slow season, so it’s the perfect time to put your mower on turtle mode. In my Peak Performance coaching program, my top program of students who spend a year with me learning how to navigate the seasonality of a business. That’s why it’s a 12 month minimum program because I know we market differently every single month during the year.
This month, we’re doing something really cool. We’re playing an Escape Game. It’s kind of like an Escape Room, where you have to find clues to get out of the room. We created this game for our students and every single day we give them an activity to do so that they can slow down their mower. They can position themselves for success, and they can escape 2020.
For them to position themselves to have this amazing year, we’ve got to put the mower on turtle. By playing this game, they’re slowing down and they’re fixing all of these things that I’ve used for 23 years to make my business better.
Running Your Photography Business in 2021
I know you might be freaked out by money. You might be saying, but Sarah, I don’t have any clients and I need money. Look, I totally get this. That’s why we give our Peak Performers marketing campaigns so that while they’re slowing down in their fixing, if they need to, they can generate revenue. But it’s easy. It’s not something that’s consuming their lives. They understand that having a successful business is like raising a baby: you’ve got to give that baby lots of love and nurturing. Take a look at the expectations you have on your business. If you’re expecting your new little baby to be producing lots of income right away, it might be an unrealistic expectation. Owning a business and in showing up it isn’t like a job that gives you a guaranteed paycheck. So if you’re expecting that, I want to challenge you. I’ve been doing this and teaching this a lot of years, I’ve seen what does and doesn’t work, and how to change the system.
Since I’ve been doing this for all these years, I have confidence that I will be able to generate what I need in my business to pay my bills, to pay my staff, to pay my mortgage, 401k, benefits, vacation, save for my kids’ college and my future. But that didn’t happen until I slowed down to fix things, figure it out, and invest in coaches who were ahead of me, already doing it. The reality is, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. And once I took notes from others and went through lots of trial and error, I learned that there are natural seasons in a business, and if I didn’t take advantage of the valleys, I couldn’t become a peak performer. I couldn’t always be Mrs.Do-It-All-Super-Super-Fast. I had to learn to slow down long enough to create systems that were repeatable. That’s how we get confidence: by creating great systems, implementing them and realizing what does and doesn’t work.
Positive Photography Business Motivation
If you’re telling yourself that you’re letting your family and yourself down if you slow down, or that you’ve got to push harder, or that you’ve got to work longer and grind, grind, grind… It’s time for you to talk to that bully in your head and say, “No, no. You’re going to push me around like that because I worked so hard last year and this is a slower time in the photography world. I’m going to take this time for myself to make this year better.” I’m giving you permission to put your mower in turtle mode.
Create an empowering statement for yourself. Reinforce that by slowing down and fixing and planning your year is going to be better. It absolutely is. I get it. Managing life and business is stressful. It’s hard. It’s overwhelming at times, but so is managing a life that you’re miserable in. You will end up beating yourself up for thinking you’re not doing a good enough job. Stop! First, give yourself some grace right now and let your mower be on turtle. Take long strolls in the produce section of the grocery store and go shopping for cute containers to do your meal prep in. Take long walks with your people and visit about your life to get your steps in. And when it comes to your business planning, putting your mower on turtle mode will allow you the time to invest in a coach and the resources you need that can help you accomplish your goals this year. Get that mower in turtle mode right now and I can’t wait to meet you this year.
If you’re still at a point where you’re working all the time, missing out on the fun parts of your kids’ lives, or struggling to be present because you’re too tired and stressed about money and work, just know there’s a way to make it work. I’ve partnered with my lab, who I love, White House Custom Color to bring you a completely FREE five-day challenge to ditch the digital files. Together, we’ll work through a plan for you to go from shoot and burn to shoot to making your portrait photography business magic for you and your family. Join me at ditchthedigitals.com, www.ditchthedigitals.com. The challenge starts January 18th. I’ll see you there.