The coronavirus has sent photographers scrambling. The immediate impact is unavoidable, but there are ways we can embrace what's happening and prepare for the better days ahead by doing everything we can to ensure that our businesses survive this pandemic.
Here are 10 things wedding photographers can do right now:
1. List everything you have to do in order of importance. Include all the things you'd doing normally be doing, like managing your finances, in addition to new things that you'll have to implement, like revising your budget.
2. Communicate with clients. Couples are cancelling or postponing weddings. Some are eloping or have a virtual ceremony. Many will want a celebration, reception, or even another ceremony at a later date. Help them think through their options and adjust their timelines. You will show your value by being there for your couples as they revise their plan. Be available to them through virtual meetings, phone calls, and emails.
3. Revise client agreements. Clients who have prepaid a portion of your fees will want to know what's next. Refund? Transfer? Credit? Will there be additional fees for changes? You'll need to handle these case by case since each client is at a different phase in their planning. It will depend on what they've paid so far and if they're able to reschedule with you. Obviously, we don't want to create a financial hardship for couples. I'm typically offering no fees or penalties for reschedules due to the pandemic, but each photographer has to be comfortable with what they offer.
4. Find other ways to make money. We can't photograph weddings or events, but there may be other opportunities. There are businesses that need product photographs for online sales, for example. If you're passionate about your photography business, now is the time to think creatively, work hard, and plan ahead.
5. Work on your business. Make a list of everything you can be doing right now to help your business. If you had clients who never ordered their album, now's a good time to follow up. Don't forget about prospective couples who are considering dates in 2021 or 2022. Couples not directly impacted by the pandemic can pay retainers that can help your cash flow right now.
6. Follow up with venues and vendors. We're all in this together. Fostering relationships with cohorts in the wedding business will help you build brand loyalty for the future. And be good to your competition: Wedding photographers may need to help each other when this is all over and there's an excess of couples wanting photography services.
7. Track your losses. Track all of your scheduled and rescheduled jobs. Add up all the revenue you expected but did not get because jobs were postponed or cancelled. Make a spreadsheet of your total decreased revenue, then figure how much you anticipate getting back at a later date from reschedules versus how much will be lost from cancellations. Some small businesses are getting grants based on lost revenue so it's important to have this information.
8. Forecast 2021. If a lot of couples postpone their weddings to later in 2020 or into 2021, this could mean a surge in your business. Can you handle twice the workload without compromising quality?
9. Refresh and organize. Audit your current brand and see if you can elevate it. Add photographs to your website and your Yelp page, and continue posting uplifting images on social media. Organize images and clean out files. Continue your education by reading Professional Photographer articles and watching PPA videos. You shouldn't have downtime right now. Use each day to think of one thing that you can do to build your business.
10. Support your community. We need to work together. Find something that you can do in your community to help others at this time.
Faye Dawdy is the owner of Dawdy Photography in Burlingame, California.