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Doing an annual review of your business is something I highly recommend as so many useful insights can be gained from this process!

Now with my own business review done, I’m sharing some of my reflections, learnings and plans for 2021.

If you’re doing your own annual review, feel free to use the basic structure I’m using here which includes:

  • mapping out wins
  • outlining what could have gone better
  • and, making plans for the year ahead!

Related reading: How and why to set strategic goals for your photography business

2020 Review: What went well for me in 2020?

1. Industry collaborations

2020 was the year that I made stronger bonds with others in the photography community and it’s something I absolutely plan to do more of next year.

I delivered training workshops and shared tips and advice on how to leverage the power of PR and content to attract photography clients in several thriving photography groups. I was also interviewed for the first time on a photography podcast – woo!

a) Shoot Edit Chat Repeat podcast

In January, I took part in Vicki Knights and Eddie Judd’s Shoot Edit Chat Repeat Live event in London in January.

As one of the guest speakers, I spoke on the topic of how to become irresistible to dream photography clients in front of 80 photographers – the biggest live audience I’ve spoken in front of to date. The interview was recorded live for their podcast, which was published a couple of weeks later.

It was an honour to have met Vicki and Eddie and to have taken part in this brilliant event and be featured on this well-loved photography podcast.

Shoot Edit Chat Repeat Live episode 63

I also collaborated with Vicki Knights of the ‘Shoot Edit Chat Repeat’ podcast a second time in the summer. She invited me to provide a PR training focused on the essential steps to securing powerful media publicity for her new group coaching programme for family photographers.

b) Nina Mace Photography

During the first Covid-19 lockdown in April 2020, I was invited by the renowned family portrait photographer, Nina Mace, to take part in her popular ‘Stay At Home’ training series.

It was brilliant to go live in her Facebook group of some 1800 photographers and deliver a PR training! My talk encouraged her community of photographers to pursue some of the many opportunities there are to secure publicity to build their online visibility and to attract clients.

c) RISE – Ambassadorship

This year, I also become an ambassador of RISE – a membership organisation for female professional photographers.

As an Ambassador of RISE I’ve supplied training on how to secure valuable free publicity in the media and joined a brilliant community of photography experts and photographers. In 2021, I look forward to continuing to play a part in RISE and to providing more PR and marketing tips to this fab group of women.

Related reading: PR and content marketing training for photographers

2. Client Work

a) New clients secured including my first international client

In 2020, I also had the pleasure of working with some incredible photographers on a 1-2-1 basis, providing done-for-you PR and content marketing consultancy support. I also secured my first international client, working with a highly regarded family portrait photographer based in Israel.

b) Simplified my offers

The done-for-you consultancy has been my core service for seven years now, but 2020 was the year that I deliberately scaled back on the number of clients I worked with so that I could provide a more in-depth service to fewer clients. I also stopped promoting one-hour consultancy sessions and this helped me to streamline and simplify my offers.

Zoe Hiljemark

c) Secured national and international press coverage for clients

I continued to secure magazine features and mentions in newspaper articles for clients in local, national and international publications. This free valuable publicity provided a huge boost to their brand awareness and helped to drive traffic to their websites and generate enquiries and sales.

d) SEO gains leading to enquiries and sales

My work creating strategic marketing content for my clients as part of the service also helped to boost their SEO – and secure top-ranking positions in Google – and helped them to consistently show up for their audience, providing useful, informative or engaging content that helped to build know-like-trust.

I continue to love the PR  and marketing consultancy work I do. There’s nothing that can beat the rush of securing great PR and marketing results for my photography clients!

Related reading: Five reasons to outsource your photography marketing

3. Launched my group coaching programme

In the Autumn of 2020, I also launched my signature group coaching programme, the ‘Content Confidence Accelerator’. This is something I’ve been wanting to do for some time, as I am only able to work with a limited number of clients 1-2-1 but do want to be able to help more photographers with their PR and content marketing.

Initially run as a beta programme in the Autumn, the Content Confidence Accelerator will re-run in January 2021. I’m ecstatic about the feedback I received from my beta students and really enjoyed working with photographers in this way – it proved to be incredibly satisfying to see the transformation in their confidence around marketing and to be able to share my knowledge, educate and provide the support that will impact their photography businesses long-term.

I’m really looking forward to working with more photographers on a coaching basis next year. I think this will prove to become a key part of my offering in the future. Interested? There’s more information here. Do get in touch to see if it could be a good fit for you!

Content Confidence Accelerator

4. Audience growth

In 2020, I continued to practice what I preach about creating marketing content to build an audience. My visibility in Google – thanks to the content I’ve created and the SEO work I’ve done to optimise my website – has drawn many hundreds of photographers to me for the first time.

This year, my free Facebook group – PR-Savvy Photographers – has grown to well over 500 members including photographers based in the UK but also North America, South Africa, the UAE, Iceland and Japan! My email list has also grown significantly this year which has been a long-term focus for me.

The group and the email list allow me to connect with photographers all around the world. I’m able to get an ever-deeper insight into the challenges my audience is facing regarding PR and marketing, which is informing my products and services for the future. Watch this space for new downloads, courses and programmes!

5. Professional development

I’m a bit of a junkie for professional development and again prioritised this in 2020. I invested in coaching and in several business and marketing membership communities which help me to continue learning and developing into an ever-better marketeer and business owner.

I read lots of business and marketing books and also learnt tons this year just by trying out new things. For example, through developing my group coaching programme, I used an online tool called Membervault for hosting my training materials, and created video content and shared tutorials on YouTube for the first time, with more to come next year.

My 2020 Review and 2021 Prioirites

2020 Review: What didn’t go so well in 2020?

While it’s easy to talk about what went well though, I can assure you that not everything went to plan. Through both the triumphs and the challenges of 2020, I’ve certainly learnt lots about myself and what kind of business I wish to run in 2021.

1. Covid-19

Of course, Covid-19 impacted all of us.

While I was fortunate to still have some client work to do throughout the national lockdowns we had here in the UK, I found the period of home-schooling in the spring and summer stressful! I have three infant/primary school-age children and they didn’t attend school from March through to September.  I was solely responsible for their education while also trying to run my business. Juggling everything was tricky and it was a relief when schools opened again!

Lockdown meant that many photographers were suddenly out of work during this time and the smart ones were keen to focus on their marketing. I wanted to help, but I had limited time outside of client work and managing the family to provide additional support or trainings. On reflection, I think I did all I could considering the circumstances but I couldn’t shake the frustration of not being able to have done more to help photographers to market themselves at that time.

If anything, it’s made me want to prioritise creating self-study courses in 2021 that I can offer photographers all year round, regardless of my own time constraints.

The pandemic also led to a lot of stress and a sense of isolation. On one hand, friendships and connections were established and strengthened thanks to all the online Zoom calls I took part in. #ZoomFatigue anyone?! But, I’ve got to admit, it was wonderful when the restrictions eased in the summer and I could see friends and family in the flesh again. Having that level of contact with people is something I look forward to having more of in 2021 (hopefully!).

2. Consistency

Naturally, I prioritise my paid client work but I didn’t always find the time to market my own business as consistently as I would have liked this year.

I produced a LOT of content in 2020 – writing tens of thousands of words for clients, for my own business and for my new programme – but the knock-on effect of this was that I sometimes didn’t then feel excited about having to create more for social media, so it fell down the priority list.

In 2021, I plan to show up more on social and email my list more often so that I can provide more value and help more of my audience. Having transitioned to working with fewer clients I’m hoping that this will be easier for me to achieve.

3. Getting the work-life balance right proved tricky

Covid aside, there have been other pressures and distractions in my life during 2020 including a 13-week house extension project and a husband working from home with me for the first time! For these and other reasons, I found that I spent more evenings working than was ideal. I plan to try to get the balance better next year.

While I love my work, I’m totally guilty of prioritising it over and above switching off and relaxing which I know is important for my health and sanity!

The problem is also that the school day just doesn’t ever seem long enough! I work weekdays between 9-2.30pm, and it was always the plan to have Fridays off.  I know that to stop working in the evening, I need to get better at prioritising things and setting myself realistic, achievable goals that fit in with the lifestyle I want. Perhaps if you’re a working parent too, you can relate?

Related reading: Why and how to set strategic goals for your photography business

In 2021, I also know that I need to exercise more and finally make this a priority in my life. I want to find the time for other things that I want to get better at such as playing the piano and improving my cooking too! I rediscovered my love of music when I introduced the keyboard to my children during April’s lockdown. Although I hated having lessons as a child, it’s a big regret now that I didn’t embrace the opportunity to learn and I’d love to improve next year.

Zoe Hiljemark

Looking ahead: My plans for 2021

After some reflection, I’ve decided that my guiding principles in my business in 2021 will be all the C’s:

  • Clients
  • Coaching
  • Content
  • Community
  • Collaboration
  • Connection
  • Commitment
  • (moving out of my) Comfort zone

1. Clients

Clients will always be my top priority and I hope to continue working on a 1-2-1 basis with my current photography clients, delivering impactful content and publicity. My hope is to deliver even better results, more press coverage and continue to provide great value.

My plan is to keep the number of clients I work with on a done-for-you basis limited but hope to help greater numbers of photographers through my coaching programmes and through courses which I hope to develop in the very near future.

At the moment, on a 1-2-1 basis, I’m working with photographers specialising in family photography, boudoir photography and commercial photography. I really enjoy this diversity within my niche of photography PR and marketing and hope to keep working with photographers across a variety of genres in 2021.

2. Coaching

Another of my 2021 priorities is to focus on coaching photographers. I plan to re-run my content marketing programme, the ‘Content Confidence Accelerator’ and to create and launch a PR-focused coaching programme too, as I already know there is the demand for this within my community.

3. Content

Content will continue to be a key focus for me in the coming year. For me, it’s the lifeblood of my business and I highly recommend you prioritise this in your business too. I’m planning to produce more blog content, focus more on guest blogging and also to create audio and video content to enhance the written content library I’ve developed to date.

As well as creating new content, I’ll also be updating older content and aiming to leverage what I have better on social platforms and in emails. I realise that I’ve got already tons of content but haven’t fully used it to its full potential in the past.

4. Community

I plan to continue to grow my Facebook community and aim to get to know members even better and to support them as much as possible through free content as well as helpful paid offers. I’m also planning more regular tutorials for my group and have plans to start featuring guest experts and to publish photographer interviews.

PR-Savvy Photographers Facebook group

5. Collaboration

I’ll be looking to collaborate with more photography associations and groups in 2021. I also plan to get more visible in other photography communities and to give more support to the photography groups I’m already part of. Guest blogging, podcasting and more Facebook Lives are on the cards hopefully!

6. Connection

Through my social, web and email content, I’m hoping to strengthen and build further and deeper relationships with photographers in my community.

Opt-in Freebie

7. Commitment

A really important focus for 2021 for me is also making a time-based commitment to myself and to my business to move certain projects forward.

I’ve learnt over the past year that if you don’t do this, time runs away all too soon and things don’t get done. I’m publishing my intentions here as a means of staying accountable too.

In the same way, having an accountability partner this year has also been great and has helped me to move things forward which might otherwise have stalled.

8. Moving out of my comfort zone

Finally, linked to the above, one of my 2021 priorities is to keep pushing myself out of my comfort zone.

When I’ve done this in 2020, there have been awkward learning curves but a great sense of personal satisfaction and achievement when I’ve mastered something for the first time. I plan to up the stakes on myself more next year to keep progressing in the direction I want to go.

What are your plans for 2021?

Now you’ve read my review and intentions for next year, I’d love to hear what you’ve learnt from the past twelve months and about what you’re going to be focusing on. What are your 2021 priorities? Comment below or email me!