If you wanted to be a successful pro photographer 20 years ago, you needed to invest heavily in great gear, develop experience taking great pictures in all kinds of environments and find a connection to clients.
But the world has changed, for photographers and anyone else running a small business. The barrier to entry is gone and the landscape is getting a whole lot more competitive. Anyone with an iPhone can take a quality photograph and that puts real pressure on the ability to charge pro rates. However, it doesn’t have to be a race to the bottom. It’s simply time to adapt and thrive.
Last weekend, I spent the morning with 5,000 professional photographers. The advice I shared with them applies to anyone who wants to stay ahead of the competition and grow their small business in 2018. There’s huge opportunity right now for those who are willing to embrace these four ideas.
Initiate Continuous Reinvention
It’s not enough to know your craft. You have to be an agent of change. Conduct experiments. Stay in the learning lane. Keep on top of your technical competency and expand your business acumen. Sales, content marketing, social media, channel partnerships, referral incentives, community management — those are some of the skills and competencies that today’s small-business owner needs to protect margins and drive revenue growth.
Brand the Customer Experience
If the outcome and work product is great but the experience getting there isn’t, you aren’t going to have a successful business. Customer expectations have changed and today you have to deliver a highly customized, personal experience. When what you do becomes a commodity, how you do business becomes the battleground for growth. Knowing that customer experience is where you are going to win or lose, it’s time to get obsessed about customer outcomes! The customer needs to be at the center of everything you do. I’d love to tell you that artistic ability and creative talent are the keys to success, but the reality is that your art is only relevant to the degree that it helps the customer get the outcome they want. Create a process that’s unique to you, centered around the customer, that you can execute consistently.
Deliver Value First
How much should an appendectomy cost? How much should professional photography cost? The truth is, when you’re delivering something customers value, conversations about price diminish. Customers don’t buy photography based on price. But they will default to price in the absence of value and a quality experience.
I know this from experience. My photographer, Dave Puente and I developed a partnership that today rarely includes quotes in advance of a project or conversations about price. How did we get there? Check out my conversation with Dave on getting closer to the customer:
The only difference between where your business is today and where it’s going to be in 12 months is going to be based on the decisions you make and actions you take right now. Take a page from the playbook of the photographer everyone wants to hire and start sharing your personal work with the world. The path to progress is simply to take bold and decisive action, move through the fear and “be more.”
The world needs you!