Each photography business is unique, and the many ways we can operate our businesses are as diverse as the art of photography itself. Because there are so many styles, concepts, mediums, and genres of photography, there’s truly no limit to the way we can choose to structure our entrepreneurial dream. However, I believe that to maintain a profitable, sustainable, and satisfying business in a creative field, there are some key elements that will keep business owners on a track to success no matter how their business is structured.
These tried-and-true concepts have proven themselves over time, and the small businesses that choose to create and sell photography have found them to be the path to meeting personal, business, and financial goals. Roads have curves and hills and valleys, it’s true. If small creative business owners map their journey using best practices, their trip will be much smoother than if they choose to get on the road without a clue as to how they’re going to make the trip.
This doesn’t mean that there will not be challenges for business owners to confront. Let’s face it, shift happens, and we often find ourselves in a situation that demands we modify, simplify, or amplify our existing business plan or particular practices. But that doesn’t mean that the key concepts of sound business practices should be thrown out. It simply means that the key concepts need to be looked over and redesigned to address trends, new technologies, and business opportunities.
Remember that mainstream portrait, wedding, and event photographers had to embrace digital photography many years ago to maintain a viable business. And today, most of us small business owners have to modify our entire advertising and marketing plans every few years to attract the next generation of potential new clients. For example, to stay relevant in the marketplace and attract Generation X clients, small businesses had to create websites and blogs; we had to get an understanding of search engine optimization. As soon as we mastered that, or at least started to grasp it, then along came the millennials, and it became crucial that we got wise to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, SnapChat, and every other social media platform that came along. And don’t even get me started on Gen Z because they present a whole new set of challenges for us to address.
When a business is built on sound foundational concepts, there’s room to grow it through flexibility and creativity while ensuring a customer base that’s stable enough to provide us a sustainable livelihood.Mary Fisk-Taylor
Every single generation needs a unique marketing and sales plan along with specific tactics; however, what they have in common is that there needs to be a concept or brand for the individuals in that generation to embrace and desire. If we maintain a brand identity that continues to pinpoint a problem that consumers have and a product or service of ours that provides their solution, then they’ll continue to seek us out.
The elements in a small creative business that don’t change are the virtual foundation of the business itself. When a business is built on sound foundational concepts, there’s room to grow it through flexibility and creativity while ensuring a customer base that’s stable enough to provide us a sustainable livelihood.
All successful businesses must have an established brand name with a substantial consumer reach. They need to strive to give platinum customer service 100% of the time and offer unique and custom products. All of this has to be done in the simplest of systems that don’t provide any hint of friction for the customer. I find that clients are extremely busy, and while we need to stay true to the foundation of our business, we also need to be flexible enough to accommodate clients’ busy lives. We need them to believe that we can give them exactly what they didn’t even know they wanted and photograph it to perfection. Then it’s up to us to literally deliver the goods with all of the excitement and approval they could ever dream of.
Mary Fisk-Taylor co-owns Hayes & Fisk Photography, located in Richmond, Virginia.