One thing is certain, normal life as we know it has changed. These are unprecedented times.
Here in the UK, as I write this on 24th March 2020, most of us are confined to our homes, schools and shops are closed, public gatherings are prohibited. Those organising events, including weddings, have been ordered to cancel their plans.
As an independent photographer, you’re likely to be wondering where this leaves you.
Up until recently, you were perhaps running a busy, thriving photography business. But as clients postpone their weddings, as corporate events, fashion shoots and studio appointments are cancelled, your income is drying up overnight. So, you may well be wondering…now what?!
It’s going to be a huge challenge in the coming weeks and months to ride this wave. And, what’s worse is that the end-point is currently unknown, making it even harder to understand how we may all be affected in the longer-term.
While the situation may well feel pretty hopeless, I do believe though that you can and should be taking action now. This will help you to ensure that you’re in the strongest position possible in your business once this has all blown over (and, it will).
Three things to prioritise during the pandemic
Looking after yourself is particularly important at times like these. While it’s completely natural to be fearful, worried and scared, try to reduce the amount of time you’re spending thinking about the pandemic.
By all means, take some time out. Reflect, ponder and allow yourself some time to take it all in. No doubt you’ve felt all the emotions these past few days (I know I have!). But, don’t leave it too long before you pick yourself up and dust yourself off.
Aim to reframe any negativity that pops into your head and focus on the things you can control. Be as positive as possible. Seek out opportunities rather than focus on what has been lost.
2. Your audience
Although you may not feel that you have all the answers right now, show up for your audience anyway. Be there for them. Show you care and give your time and attention as generously as you can.
Ask them what help they need and aim to provide that help. Even if you don’t know what to say sometimes or how to say it, just do it anyway! Communication is always important, but particularly in times of crisis.
Keeping in contact with others will help you to feel connected. And, you know what? You could be helping people more than you realise just by showing up with a listening ear and being there for them.
While the situation has changed dramatically in the past week or so, people who’ve opted to follow you on social media, who are in your Facebook group or who have signed up to receive your emails do still want to hear from you.
They’re feeling as confused and overwhelmed as you. But your regular presence in their newsfeed, or in their email inbox, may be just what they need to retain a sense of normality!
So, what I’m suggesting is, communicate. Share information, advice, resources. Reassure clients who have bookings with you. Clarify your short-term plans and keep them in the loop as things change.
3. Your (future) business
Your photography business may be quite different in the future to what it has been. Now is the time to accept this, look ahead and adapt as well as you can.
Whatever you decide to do for the sake of your business, do keep marketing.
- Use any spare time you have to review your website. Add new images and copy
- Write more content to add value for your audience, boost your SEO and help potential customers to find you online
- Pitch yourself to podcasts and propose blogs that you could write for other websites where your target audience hangs out
- Source reviews from past clients and ask them to add their kind words to your Google My Business listing and Facebook page. Seeing your glowing reviews will help future potential customers to have faith in your service
- Create an enticing lead magnet to attract people to sign up to your email marketing. Send out regular emails
- You can still also find PR opportunities out there. Not every journalist in the world is writing about Coronavirus, believe it or not! There is still a big demand for evergreen stories and content. Pitch stories now to magazines and, if successful, you won’t see coverage for a few months at least anyway.
Related reading: PR 101: Using the media to promote your photography business
When it comes to marketing, think long-term and act now to reap the benefits later.
And in the short-term, think about how you can assure the longevity of your photography business. Can you be taking aspects of it online? Can you offer photography training courses to other professionals or aspiring amateurs? Can you pivot in a way that makes your business viable in these uncertain times? Can you secure revenue now by pre-selling shoots for later in the year?
If you need help and ideas, reach out to other photographers in online communities including my own group, PR-Savvy Photographers. In there, we have a weekly video call on Zoom on Friday mornings which you’re welcome to join, and anytime in the group you can ask questions or seek the advice and support of me and fellow group members.
How to show up in your photography business during the Coronavirus pandemic
As I’ve already said above, showing up for your audience should be a major priority. By that I mean your photography clients and prospective clients, other businesses you work with (wedding venues etc.), and your online audiences.
Build relationships. Be there to listen, to offer advice and be of service.
Don’t just add to the ‘noise’ but consider how you could help, whether that’s through providing information/resources, discounted or free services, a forum for people to get together, perhaps even just humour to lighten their day!
If you don’t know what to say, start with ‘How can I help you?’ / ‘What do you need from me?’ / ‘What resources can I create that would benefit you?’ / ‘What’s your biggest challenge right now?’
Listening to the responses, and acting on them, will ensure that you are helping them in a way that matters at this time. This will build trust.
What your audience tells you they need from you may well be different to what you’d planned to be doing this year, but you’re not alone in facing these unchartered waters. We’re all having to adapt and pivot to survive!
Make offering value a key focus, in whatever shape or form that comes in for your audience.
Provide regular updates
Don’t go quiet on your audience now. Keep them informed about the practical implications of all this.
For example, tell them how bookings are being handled within your business – whether there is anything they need to do in regards to their booked session with you. Customers and clients are bound to have lots of questions about how their bookings with you are affected by the current crisis.
Be proactive in sharing details of your postponement and cancellation policies. Tell them of any changes you’re making in the business in the short-term and how they can still get in contact with you, not forgetting to also share how people can book you in the future! Selling vouchers now for future sessions is one way to keep money coming into your photography business.
Also, share how you are feeling. Be prepared to be vulnerable. Talk as you would to them in person, and don’t be afraid to admit you don’t have all the answers.
We’re are all in this together and we are all just as nervous and concerned as each other. Trying to show otherwise will do you no favours. Now is the time to show your human side. Be real, be relatable and you’ll be loved all the more for it.
Keep a dialogue going. This will not only help you to build your visibility but also the know-like-and-trust factor. This will stand you in great stead for the future, as people remember how you make them feel, particularly in difficult times. Those people who show up and demonstrate that they genuinely care will be the ones who are remembered most vividly.
Practical ways to look after yourself and your mental health
I also wanted to share some practical tips for how you can look after yourself and your mental health. If you are feeling anxious or overwhelmed, it’s especially important to do the following:
Snooze social media
Be selective about the pages, groups and the people you are following on social media. Unfollow or snooze those who are sharing content that you’re not finding helpful.
Stick to following credible news sources
Speculation is rife on the internet, so stick to credible news sources, and don’t get involved in conversations online that are based on hearsay rather than fact.
Still trying to work? Check the news and social media only a few times a day, and unsubscribe from emails that aren’t providing you with any value.
Everyone is providing a ton of free content right now. While this is incredibly generous of those concerned, it can get overwhelming. So, pick just a handful of resources you want to refer to and ignore the rest.
Use online video conferencing tool such as Zoom, Google Hangouts or apps like Houseparty to have face-to-face conversations with friends and family, colleagues and customers. Voice messaging tools like Voxer are also useful for sending voice messages.
Thankfully, in this day and age, despite the social distancing restrictions, we can still remain connected with others
Related reading: Recommended (and mostly free) digital marketing tools I use
Schedule your day
Plan out your days and spend focused time on tasks that will move your business forward, making sure to have regular breaks. You’ll feel more productive and in control if you are intentional about what you do. I recommend planning a maximum of three tasks per day. Anything more is a bonus!
Related reading: Eight habits to boost your productivity
Make time for exercise
Although you might be stuck at home for the foreseeable, do get out in the fresh air every day if possible. Try to get some quality sleep too. Make the most of not having to get up and out of the house!
Prioritise doing things you love
It’s really important to not just think about work but to also find time for pleasure. Whether that’s starting a personal photography project, knitting, crafting or any other creative hobby, make the most of having some more time than usual at home.
If meditation works for you, do that. New to meditation? Try apps like Calm and Headspace if you’re in need of some inner peace. Keeping your mental health and physical health a priority will help you to navigate these tricky times.
If you find it helpful, keep a written or video diary. Use it to keep track of your thoughts and emotions, and acknowledge the things you are grateful for.