Thursday, 3 January 2013

The Business Plan

There are two fundamental sides to most small businesses, including a photography businesses: the photography side and the business side. Most of our energy goes into the photography side (improving skills, learning about new equipment… basically just trying to get better at what we do). The business side is often overlooked, and that can be the Achilles heel of any photographer looking at starting a new business. Not to sound harsh, but just because you are a good photographer doesn’t mean you will be successful.

Step one has to be the creation of a “Business Plan”. Even if you change it a hundred times, write one anyway. A good business plan includes a thorough financial and pricing analysis, but that will need to be a topic for another discussion.

Step Two… develop a strategy. Some of the following questions may seem elementary but you should answer them, let your intuition guide you, don’t over analyse, and then write down your thoughts. These items will establish a foundation for your strategy.

The first question should be, “What type of photography do I like?” Ideally your business would be built around your passion; but realistically, that may not always be possible, at least not in the short-term. To help you answer this, you should also consider what aspect of photography you think you are particularly good at. Be honest. It may help to solicit the opinions of some people whose input you value.

Consider what type of photography you don’t like, and what you feel you are not so good at. Say for example you want to do wedding portraits, but upon this analysis, you realise that you don’t particularly like large crowds. You’ll then know that is an issue which might affect your ability to be successful, and it may result in a change of direction. Or, you may need to address this issue and find a solution around it.

The next question you need to ask yourself is, “What am I selling?” Am I selling photography services? Family Photographs? Fine Art? Memories? Workshops?

Conduct a competitive market analysis. Start by looking at what segments are already being serviced in your area. Then, try to determine segments that might be under-served. Next, look for some “possible needs that are not being serviced”. ie… These are opportunities that no one is currently addressing.

Now you need to define what success is for you? When you are successful what does that feel like? What does that mean? X number of clients, X amount of revenue?

A SWOT Analysis

From the foundation of what we discussed already, you can now develop a SWOT Analysis: Make a grid and in the upper left put Strengths, upper right put Weaknesses, lower left put Opportunities, and lower right put Threats.
Strengths – simply put, what are you good at?
Weaknesses – what are you not very good at?
Opportunities – what are the under-serviced segments or unmet needs in your area?
Threats – what are the internal factors (that’s you) or external factors (that’s the outside world) that might limit your ability to be successful?

For each category, list as many items as possible. Really try to scrape the bottom of the barrel.

Once you have that done, come back next Thursday and we will discuss how to put this all together to make a proper business and focus your sales and marketing efforts to complete your plan.
If you want some personal mentoring on creating and implementing your business plan, please see the mentoring program at the Photographer's Lounge.