By Michael Anthony
Well, we survived, 2020 was a bitch, there is no getting around it. For those of you that are wedding photographers, especially in the coastal states, you no doubt experienced a business disruption unlike anything that you had ever seen before.
But like I have been saying since the beginning of the pandemic....there is not just light at the end of the tunnel.....there is a supernova of shining opportunity. The pandemic cleared the way for the businesses that were able to adapt and hang on, however all of the clients that have been waiting for it to end have been quietly fighting for dates in the latter half of 2021.
So the opportunity is there for those of you that are willing to wait for it. But as with any other year, if we want to succeed we have to have a plan. So today I am going to help you write your 2021 business plan if you haven’t had a chance to do it.
I am a creative, why should I write a plan?
Simple.....just as the old adage goes....what gets measured, gets improved. If we are able to write down our goals and continuously track them, we are much more likely to take the actions necessary to hit them. Being a business owner means you are ALWAYS at a work on your business.....so knowing where your goals are can help you more easily hit them.
So that being said, here are the steps you need to create an effective business plan for 2021.
Step 1: Decide on your services, volume, & revenue goals
I love using Evernote to jot down notes or write out long-form business plans
Every year we evaluate our services for the year....what worked and what didn’t. I have been in business for 10 years come this April, and our core offerings to this day remain at Weddings, Boudoir, & Family Portraits. Those of you that have been in business for a while can make this decision as well, but those of you who are new to the industry may just opt to work on the areas they want to serve.
So before you start adding new services, you want to make sure that you are tracking progress towards the goals you have to hit.
Once you have your core services down, now you can consider capacity and see if you want to add more services.
So we will typically list out two objectives, a revenue objective, and a volume objective. our goals will typically look something like this:
Weddings: 65 @ $650,000
Boudoir: 75 @ $125,000
Family Portraits: 35 @ $55,000
Commercial (Real estate, Headshots) - $100,000
Quince or Seniors - 15 @ $25,000
****A note about 2021 - A good rule of thumb for those of you in business for a long time is to aim to grow at 5-10% per year. Now we obviously are not going to use 2020 as a normal “year,” but those of you that are wedding photographers and are still under some form of restrictions also need to be realistic. This year will likely not see wedding photographers in California go back to 100% capacity, however those in Florida or other states with less restrictive rules may end up seeing these numbers.
Here is the important part….for each service, you have to put together a buyer persona. This persona is what you are going to to use in the next step, marketing.
The buyer persona is an extremely important way you should identify your target client, we used Karen as an example client here, although in real life you want to avoid her
Step 2: Put together Your Marketing Plan
This is the part of your plan that will take the longest, because you want to take a methodical approach to marketing.
For those of you that have been in business for a while, you may have a pretty good idea of your numbers. A long time ago one of my mentors that owns a very successful entertainment company told me this.....”If you know your lead conversion rate is 20%, and you want 10 more jobs, than the answer is simple, get 50 more leads.”
Learn more about marketing roulette in our free training as part of our course The Booking Blueprint
Seems stupid simple right? It really is. So what you need to do is figure out how to diversify your lead sources to a point where you can make a measurable return on each one of them. From there, just dial up the volume until you get to your numbers.
This is why I like things like bridal shows or online advertising so much, because once you do a few shows, you can put together the formula to be successful and tweak it to the point of diminishing returns.
There are so many different ways to obtain leads, but all of them require some effort on your part. This year, because of the pandemic, we have taken our entire ad budget from years prior for bridal shows, and put it into online sources like YouTube, Facebook, Yelp, & Google Ads.
While these lead sources are not excellent by themselves, they ALL offer a way to track metrics so you can tweak your listings until they work.
You will also want to use this time to build your relationships. Relationship marketing (referrals) is still our number 1 source of new leads, even during this time, so spend your free time marketing and networking with local vendors.
Remember this: The key to successful marketing is CONSISTENCY. So create your marketing calendar and stick to it every single week.
Step 3: Complete Your Swot Analysis
Your SWOT analysis is the most crucial thing you can create when putting together a new business plan.
The SWOT analysis stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, & Threats.
This is a very easy way to determine where you business stands. If you have a team, even a single employee, they should be involved in helping you plan this. The SWOT analysis was invented by a man named Albert Humphrey back in the 1960’s, and to this day serves as a framework for many businesses around the world.
This will help you visualize your goals, as well as the things standing in the way of them.
Step 4: Determine Your Resources
Now, once we have these numbers down, we have to figure out what we will need to hit these numbers. In the example above, I know for a fact that if I were trying to do 65 weddings a year, that I would 100% need an editor or an editing service.
Perhaps you need to hire an employee to manage your sales sessions, or to help with on shoots.
Tave is one of our favorite tools for managing many aspects of our business
You may need to use new software to host images, or you may need a graphic designer to create an entirely new brand. Each different line of work may require new resources.
Step 5: Plan out your budget
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If I could go back to 2011 and tell myself 1 thing, it would be to plan a budget and STICK to it every year. My dad once told me that the simplest secret to success in business is to keep your overhead as low as possible. At the time, I laughed, because my new photography business had no overhead aside from a few subscriptions.
Quickbooks is an amazing way to manage your books, I can't recommend it enough.
Overtime however, those costs can get out of control. Once you have employees and a physical studio, things can add up fast. That’s not to say you should stay away from them, but you should just be aware that your goal is to save money wherever you can.
So use your previous year expenses to set your budgets, cut where you can, and invest more back into your marketing or the things that will bring you more money.
Making a budget doesn’t have to be hard, and if you are unsure where to start you can make adjustments as you go forward, but be sure to use expense tracking software like Quickbooks to manage all of your costs weekly so that when you are getting off track, you can quickly get caught up.
Step 6: Put it Into Action
I know inevitably there will be some that read this blog that are excellent at planning, and poor at execution. I hate to break it to you, but the people that are the best at business are usually the ones that are the best at executing a plan.
I have found the best way to do this is to use project management software like Asana or Monday to manage due dates to hold yourself accountable. Our studio uses Asana to plan project deadlines, and after using it for 3 years now, couldn’t imagine working without it.
At the end of the day, there is only one person in charge of your success (or of your failure), and that is you. So hold yourself accountable and make 2021 the beginning of the life and business that you have always dreamed of.