Making the time to reflect on the past 12 months and work ‘on’ my business rather than just work ‘in’ the business is something that I’ve done consistently for the last few years.
I find it really beneficial. It helps to me assess and evaluate what’s working and what isn’t. And, to decide how and what I should change in the future.
Do you also do this? Are you taking the time to review and plan ahead?
If not, I’d highly recommend that you try it out.
I realise that conducting an annual review of your photography business may sound boring. But, I really believe it’s fundamental to your future success!
After all, if you’ve not had a great year, doing more of the same simply isn’t going to bring you the growth you’re after.
In order to grow and improve, and to avoid the same mistakes in the future, you need to know what went wrong and what needs to change.
How to conduct an annual review in three steps
STEP 1: REVIEW THE YEAR THROUGHOUT THE YEAR
The first step in the annual review process is to assess the good, the bad and the ugly in your photography business. You’ll need to schedule some time into your diary to perform a thorough critique and to document the highs and the lows.
The importance of regular journaling
Now, you can do this just at the end of the year. But, in order to make this part so much quicker and easier, – and to ensure that the annual review gives an accurate picture of how the year padded out – a habit that I’ve found to be crucial is journaling regularly throughout the year.
Journaling consistently, once a day, means that I have the information at my fingertips when I come to doing monthly, quarterly and annual reviews. It makes the whole process so much less overwhelming, much quicker and easier.
Therefore, the process I recommend is this:
- Keep a daily journal throughout the year.
- Conduct a monthly review at the end of every calendar month.
- Conduct a quarterly review at the end of every three months.
- Complete an annual review of the year.
In my daily journal, I document what went well and what didn’t that day, and how I was feeling about the work I’d done.
Monthly reviews include a summary of these thoughts, along with the numbers for that month. These include income, of course, but also marketing-related numbers such as new client enquiries and conversions, monthly website traffic, email list subscriber numbers, and social media followers, to name a few.
You can pick whatever metrics matter most to you.
Quarterly reviews summarise the highlights and lowlights of each of the three-month blocks throughout the year.
Related reading: Quarterly Reviews: Goal setting and planning tips for photographers
Now, if you haven’t been journaling throughout the year, don’t give up on me yet! You can still do an annual review based on what you recall from the year.
Perhaps you kept notes but weren’t as consistent as I’m suggesting here. That’s better than nothing! I’m simply highlighting that if you can aim to journal regularly next year, you’ll find doing an annual review of your photography business in twelve months time, soooooo much easier!
OK, so now you know that I recommend daily journaling. At this point, you may well be thinking, ‘Who’s got time for all that?!’. But, honestly, this process needn’t take long.
Personally, journaling has just become the norm for me. It’s part of my process now and as well as being useful for the annual review process, it’s also very cathartic.
- My daily journal takes 10 minutes max. each day.
- The monthly reviews, which I complete religiously at the end of every month take me about 30 minutes to complete.
- The quarterly reviews are done in even less time, at the end of March, June, September and December.
This needn’t take over your life or become a huge pain in the a***!
STEP 2: THE ANNUAL REVIEW
So, having refreshed your memory about what happened during the year by reading these monthly and quarterly reviews, you can then start the annual review process.
The goal is to end up with an informed summary of overall performance and lessons learnt.
When reflecting on the year, answer these three questions:
- What were my achievements? / What worked well and why?
- In what areas did I not succeed? / What didn’t work so well and why?
- What was holding me back? / What could I do better or change next year?
You can do this on old-fashioned pen and paper, on a spreadsheet, in Trello, Evernote or whatever works for you.
Things to consider during the annual review of your photography business
Now, during the annual review process, it’s crucial that you’re honest about your successes and your failures, and the reasons for these.
Maybe you let yourself down in some areas? Perhaps you weren’t focussed on the right things (hello, shiny object syndrome!). Or, perhaps you weren’t as consistent with your marketing as you would have liked to have been?
Maybe, there were mitigating circumstances that you could never have foreseen, and these impacted your business performance this past year? Perhaps health issues or family issues that meant you weren’t working in the business as much.
Or perhaps you experienced slower growth because of clients tightening their purse strings? I know this year has been a challenge for many photographers.
Do also remind yourself of what you learnt throughout the year. About you or your work, or business in general.
For example, maybe you finally defined who your ideal client is and now only want to market to that person next year? Or you realised that you want to work fewer days every week to get a better work-life balance?
Keep these learnings in the forefront of your mind as you go into the new year so that you can move forward in a positive way and don’t risk replicating actions and behaviours that don’t serve you or your business.
If you know who your ideal client is, make sure you’re marketing ONLY to them. If you want Fridays off from now on, make sure you make it happen!
STEP 3: SET INTENTIONS & DEFINE YOUR WORD FOR THE YEAR
Once you have fully reviewed the current year and have a long list of learning points, you can now set out how you want the next year to pan out.
So, the final step in the process is all about setting positive intentions for the year ahead. I also highly recommend coming up with a word that encapsulates these, to give you a focus for the year.
What are committed to achieving in your business in 2019?
- Are you going to be more consistent with your marketing?
- Perhaps you’re going to try a new sales approach or change up your packages and pricing?
- Maybe you’ll refine the services you offer or stop offering something that isn’t attracting much interest?
- Do you want to try out different marketing channels – Facebook Lives, Facebook Ads, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn?
Whatever your intentions, write these down. But these shouldn’t be vague New Year’s resolutions that you’ll forget about by February, like ‘do more marketing’.
Get really specific and create S.M.A.R.T. (Smart, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, Time-bound) goals that reflect actionable themes or steps that you’re committed to taking. For example, ‘I’ll grow my email list by 50% by 31st March’.
Then map these goals and the steps you’ll need to take to achieve them actually into your calendar, being sure to assign completion dates to them if they are specific tasks you need to complete.
What’s your word for 2019?
Then, come up with a word that encapsulates the general intention that you’re setting for yourself. This will help you to keep focussed on what you are trying to achieve as you progress throughout the year.
For example, in 2017, my word was ‘FOCUS’. That was because by 2016 I had decided to niche down to only serving photographers– I wanted to focus only on that market going forward.
In 2018 my word was ‘VISIBILITY’. With a defined niche, this was the year I had wanted to get more well-known within the industry. I deliberately set about raising my profile. I continued to create niche content on my blog, hosted talks and started my Facebook Group for photographers – ‘PR-Savvy Photographers’ (click below to join if you haven’t already).
In 2019, my word is ‘INTENTIONAL’. I plan to be more intentional with every aspect of my life and work; to plan and keep focussed on the things that are serving me and to do less of what is not. I hope to have a successful year ahead, growing my business further and diversifying my income streams. I plan to exercise more, connect with others more, unplug more often and to achieve a better work-life balance.
What ‘word’ of intention will you choose?
Flourish? Thrive? Grow? Balance? Nurture? Freedom? Consistency? Action?
Once you’ve completed the annual review of your photography business and chosen a word for 2019, do please share with me in the comments. I’d love to hear what it is!