I realise that conducting an annual review of your photography business may sound boring. But, I assure you, it’ll be well worth the effort!
After all, if you’ve not had a great year in 2019, I bet that you’re hoping for better in 2020, yes? Of course, you are!
You’re ambitious and determined. You want to help more of your ideal photography clients and to build awareness of your work and your brand. Your photography business is not only your passion but your livelihood. You NEED to make it a success.
But, if you don’t have an understanding of how the past year has panned out, there’s a very real danger that you may continue to miss opportunities and not make the necessary changes in the year ahead that will boost your business.
As an established business owner you’ll know that no two years in business are the same, and that time stands still for no-one.
While it can be easier to keep using tried and tested methods for securing more photography clients and winning new business, what’s comfortable to you – and what you did this year – is not necessarily what is going to drive traffic to your website or generate more leads and sales next year.
So, I believe that you need to take the time to reflect on the past 12 months.
This will help you to;
- Evaluate what’s working and what isn’t (without a review, do you really have a clear understanding of this?),
- Recognise that you need to make changes if you want different results (the insights you’ll gain will confirm that doing more of the same is not a strategy for growth),
- and, decide how and what you should change in the future (aim to highlight missed opportunities but also anticipate future changes that could impact your business).
By carrying out an annual review – working ‘on’ your business rather than just working ‘in’ the business – could ultimately become the difference between decline and growth, between failure and success.
So, if you’re now convinced and are ready to conduct an annual review of your photography business, read on. I’m about to go over how to assess your performance so you’re in a stronger position for making plans for next year.
How to conduct an annual review of your photography business
An annual review will aim 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.
In order to make doing an annual review so much quicker and easier, a habit that I’ve found to be helpful is keeping notes regularly throughout the year, and this is the approach I’m suggesting you follow too.
So, while you’ll do the annual review in your final month (perhaps in December, or in whichever is the final month of your business’ tax year), you’ll save yourself a lot of time and effort by having kept notes as the year has progressed.
Therefore, the process I recommend is this:
- Keep a weekly (if not daily) journal throughout the year,
- Do a monthly review at the end of every calendar month,
- Do a quarterly review at the end of every three months,
- Then, complete an annual review of the year.
STEP 1: GATHER INSIGHTS FOR YOUR ANNUAL REVIEW THROUGHOUT THE YEAR
In your daily or weekly journal, note down what went well and what didn’t that day, how you were feeling about the work you’d done, and what strategies you tried. Finding a few things to be grateful for is really important to maintain a positive mindset and celebrate your successes, however small.
Related reading: How to love your photography business again in ten simple steps
Monthly reviews include a summary of these daily/weekly notes, along with the numerical data relating to that month. Think about:
- your overall revenue,
- the number of new client enquiries received,
- the number (or percentage) of conversions to sales,
- monthly website traffic,
- amount of website traffic generated from i) organic search, ii) social media and iii) your marketing content, and iv) other sources.
- email list subscriber numbers
- social media followers.
You can pick whatever metrics matter most to you, but these would be a good starting point.
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
Annual reviews then bring all of these insights together and are a complete, succinct summary of how the year panned out.
Regular reviews don’t need to be a time-suck
Now, if you’re reading this but you haven’t been keeping notes about your business performance throughout the year, do stick with me!
You can still do an annual review based on what you recall. Plus, you can always go back to look at historical social media insights, Google Analytics stats and customer emails to pull out some of the key data you’ll need.
But, going forward, if you can aim to keep notes regularly next year, you’ll find doing an annual review of your photography business in twelve months time, soooooo much easier. And it won’t take as much time as you might imagine.
- My daily journal takes 10 minutes max. each day
- The monthly reviews 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: SUMMARISE YOUR YEAR
So, having refreshed your memory about what happened during the year by re-reading your monthly and quarterly reviews (if you have them), 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
During the annual review process, it’s crucial that you’re honest with yourself about your successes and your failures and, with the benefit of hindsight, the reasons for these.
Chances are you excelled in some areas, but maybe you also let yourself down in some ways? You’re only human so it’s likely that not everything went to plan.
- Perhaps you weren’t focused 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?
Do also remind yourself of what you learnt throughout the year – about you, your work, or business in general.
- Maybe you’ve defined (or redefined) who your ideal client is and now only want to market to that person from next year?
- You may have decided to niche down, or to add in a new genre of photography to your range of services?
- Or, you’ve 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 plan to focus only on a niche, then stop accepting work that is pulling you away from that focus!
- If you want Fridays off from now on, make sure you block off that day in your diary and 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. When doing this, consider what you are committed to achieving in your business in the year ahead:
- Do you plan to do more, or perhaps less, content creation? (Fewer pieces of quality content is far better than more poor-quality content)
- 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 build a presence on Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn?
- Will you tackle video marketing, do regular Facebook Lives or create videos for YouTube? Host workshops, start a podcast etc?
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’ or ‘be more consistent’.
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’.
Related reading: Why and how to set strategic goals for your photography business
Then map out these goals and the steps you’ll need to take to achieve them. Actually put them into your calendar, being sure to assign completion dates to them.
By working backwards from the goal, and being specific about the individual tasks you need to complete, you’re effectively creating yourself a roadmap to success.
Aim to plan out the first 90 days of the year ahead and to plan in quarters as you go. This is a great approach since it’ll help you make a short-term plan in advance, without having to complete a plan for the full year which will no doubt need to change over time.
Related reading: Quarterly Reviews: Goal setting and planning tips for photographers
Choose a word of intention
I also highly recommend that you come up with a word that summarises the general intention that you’re setting for yourself. If you keep it top-of-mind, this will help you to keep focused on what you are trying to achieve as you progress throughout the year.
Over the past few years, my words of intention have included ‘FOCUS’, ‘CONSISTENCY’, and ‘VISIBILITY’. I tend to share this publicly on social media to keep myself accountable and I also mount it on the wall of my office so it’s always visible.
Some popular options for a word of the year that you may wish to consider for your own business are Flourish, Thrive, Grow, Balance, Nurture, Freedom, Action.
Complete an annual review of your photography business
Now it’s time to do your annual review. When you have, what insights have you gained? Which word of intention will you choose for 2020? I’d love to know, so comment below or share it in the PR-Savvy Photographers Facebook group. Request to join here if you aren’t already a member.