Hello again! It has been a while since my last post. With the busy season starting up and taking care of my 4 kids during he summer, things have been crazy around here! Now that I have my 2 older ones in school full-time, I have been able to catch my breath and get caught up on my life. That includes updating this blog!
Back in the middle of summer, we took a road trip 4 hours away. I love Freakonomics, but with my busy life, I haven’t had a chance to stay up-to-date on their podcasts. So, I had the brilliant idea to listen to their podcasts on the drive there and back. I certainly felt much smarter and more cultured after the car rides. 🙂
This finally brings me to why I wrote this blog entry. One of the podcasts was titled The Upside of Quitting, which begs the question: when is following through with a life decision a poor socioeconomic decision?
A good example given in their podcast was that of minor league baseball players. Most baseball players who enter the minor leagues have one goal: make it to the majors. Very few actually make this jump. So, when do you decide that this is a waste of your time and time to devote your time and energy into something else?
While this applies across the board to many different career paths, I immediately thought about how this applies to current owners of photography businesses. This is mostly due to the false idea that owning a photography business doesn’t have many expenses, beyond a fancy digital SLR camera. Throw up a website, Facebook page, buy a nice camera and lens, register your name with the state, and now you have a photography business.
Some are very successful right away. Others take a few years, find their niche, and then take off. Others continue to struggle year after year with the impression that they are running a successful photography business.
While this may seem like a negative and brutal topic for a blog entry, those who know me well know I am a practical and logical person. This translates into being a very honest individual who will tell you how it is. Just call me Simon Cowell. 🙂
So, are you one of these people? Read my list below and see if you relate to most or all of the following:
#1 – You are losing money every year.
This one is a no-brainer. And, this is if you have made the obvious changes like charging more and cutting back on expenses. If you still can’t get your business in the green after readjusting your business model, you need to assess whether or not your photography business is worth it.
While I’m at it…
#2 – You are not making any money.
In addition to losing money, not making much money isn’t worth it either. And, on that small profit, you still have to pay the government 35-40% of that amount.
Think about it this way… if you are a married mom of 3, would it be more financially beneficial if you were a dependent vs. paying in taxes as a business owner? If you are not making much of a profit, how much is this business worth to you to devote your time and money into it.
If you are having trouble figuring out your numbers, check out my Photography Pricing Workbooks to help you sort through your expenses, income, and taxes.
#3 – You are feeling burnt out.
This is not the normal “burnt out” feeling you get when you are in the middle of the busy season.
Feeling burnt out can quickly lead to what I bring up in the next indicator…
#4 – You are not enjoying photography anymore.
Granted you can be burnt out, but still love and enjoy photography. However, if you are burnt out for long enough, the love you once had will soon fizzle out. If this is you, it is possible you just need a short break. Or, you might need a lot longer of a break in order to get back the love you once had. Or, it could be a strong sign that this business is not the right place for you.
#5 – You are not attracting new clients.
You have tried every marketing strategy to attract new clients, and it still hasn’t worked. Many e-books, online courses and workshops promise to turn your photography business around and get more clients. I am in no way endorsing these tools for your business (see why there is no magic answer to a successful photography business).
#6 – You cannot raise your prices.
Every photography business expert out there is telling you to “raise your prices” and “charge what you are worth.” However, when you tried to do that with your business, it fell flat. Crickets. Either you raised them too high for your market, or your prices cannot be justified based on the quality of your work.
#7 – You are having trouble finding your style.
Are you bouncing around between modern and classic or whimsical and traditional? Or all 4??
Sure, many new photographers have a difficult time finding their true photography style. If you have been consistently shooting for a few years, you should have an idea of your true style. Not being able to identify with a specific style can spell trouble for your photography business down the road.
#8 – You are not getting referral business.
No referrals is a bad sign for any business. No referrals mean that people are not talking about your business. If people aren’t talking about their business, they aren’t enthusiastic or loyal enough to talk about you to their friends and family. This could mean a simple fix within your business model and process, say like your turnaround time or how you present yourself and your business. However, if it is the quality of your work, that may not be so easily improved.
#9 – You can’t keep up with changes in the industry.
I’ve seen it happen in both the photography industry and other larger industries. Look at the retail world. Online retailers are changing the face of how consumers shop, and the larger brick and mortar stores are having a difficult time keeping up. Those that have managed to adapt and change with the industry changes are still in the game. Others, unfortunately, are about to get pushed out, unless something changes.
The same thing goes for the photography industry. Photographers who have been established for the past 20 years and are very profitable are finding themselves in an awkward position these days. With the emergence of more and more newbie photographers, the market share for all of these photographers is shrinking. If you are one of these established photographers, you have 1 of 3 choices. You can either a) find a way to adapt and evolve your business for success, b) complain about it, until your business goes under, and c) realize that it is time to throw in the towel and move on to something else.
The more innovative we become, the more the industries will keep improving upon itself. And, the photography one is certainly no exception.
#10 – You are having doubts.
It is very, very common for a small business owner to have doubts about business decisions and whether or not this is a good path. However, if you were to couple these doubts with the other factors listed above, your instincts could be trying to tell you something.
If you found yourself nodding to nearly every one, you have some reflection to do about your photography business. It is possible that you just need to take a step back and look at how you can improve what you are doing as a photographer and business owner. However, these could all signs that you need to gracefully bow out of the photography industry all together.
I really hate to be a Debbie Downer and not project positive feelings. However, like I mentioned above, I’m a practical and logical person. If you are investing time and money into something that isn’t going to pay off in the end, you are wasting your time and money. If you can relate to all of the indicators above, maybe it is time to downgrade your photography business to a hobby. It might feel like you are a quitter and a failure for right now, but in the long-run, it will open up new opportunities for you that is your true calling.