I want to start by saying that if you or your family and friends are impacted by the current events of COVID-19, I send my sincerest condolences. The tragedy, pain and suffering that the world is going through is immensely saddening and should not be taken lightly, so we should all be taking the necessary precautions to help prevent the spread through social distancing.
I personally haven't left my home in over 10 days. To some, staying home this long can be depressing, stressful, and make you feel powerless. This tragedy has kept us at home, physically away from our families, our jobs, our clients, and the things that bring us joy. But this provides us with an immense opportunity that many of us usually don't have. Time.
This extra time gives us the opportunity to learn and grow... to come out of this tragedy with a plan in place to move forward to try new creative techniques, gain more clients, and beat your goals going into 2021.
Firstly, I'll be honest, I'm not a full-time wedding photographer, even though I would like to be. I'm very lucky during this time to be a Creative Director at a small marketing agency in Los Angeles which has kept me busy working from home for the past three weeks. This means I typically have a bit less time on my hands than many freelance photographers due to looming projects & deadlines for work clients. The difference now that social distancing is in place is that I'm not stuck in traffic for two hours every day, and I'm not taking a traditional lunch break. That's almost an extra three hours per day that I've never had before.
Here's what I've been doing with all the extra time that I've come across and some ideas of how you can use your extra time as opportunity, not waste.
1) Learn something new about photography every day.
I know this sounds obvious, but hear me out. We're living in the age of information. There's no reason to not take advantage of these resources while you're stuck at home. There are literally hundreds of thousands of incredible courses and tutorials available for you to take from the comfort of your couch via LinkedIn Learning (formerly Lynda.com), Patreon, and even from YouTube. The fact that you’re reading blog posts about photography is a good sign! Find photographers that inspire you and see if they have a Youtube, Patreon or other learning service to watch and learn from.
For me, I've subscribed to Sam Hurd's Patreon account to learn a bunch of awesome things. He's been teaching creative techniques, posing techniques & how to run a successful wedding photography business. This has provided an excellent opportunity for me to grow my skills from Sam's teachings.
I've also been watching a ton of LinkedIn Learning. If you've been to college recently, see if your college provides a LinkedIn Learning account via your college email login credentials. Mine still works and I graduated almost six years ago! If yours doesn't, just grab a free month on their LinkedIn Learning page and start watching! Top tip: LinkedIn Learning has an app that lets you cast to your TV! I did this for their FAA Part 107 Training, which made it super easy for me to take notes & study for the FAA Part 107 test.
2) Test & play around with different ways to process your photos.
I say this because many of us are stuck in our ways when it comes to editing. Go back to photos you've taken and try to re-edit them in ways you normally wouldn't. Especially try new techniques if it's something you’ve learned from taking a course or watching a tutorial. Get inspired by other photographers and try to copy their editing style. Through experimentation, you get to learn how to edit beyond your favorite one-click-edit preset in Lightroom. Practicing editing without presets will teach you how to face editing different lighting situations in the future. In this process, you may just come across something new and different that you absolutely love.
This is also a great time to try other editing solutions. Affinity Photo is having a 50% off sale, while Adobe is giving 2 months of Creative Cloud away for free and Luminar by Skylum software is donating $5 towards the fight of coronavirus for every license sold.
3) Set goals for what you want to accomplish over the next weeks, months, and year. Start with small, easy-to-accomplish goals that work up to larger goals.
To give you an example, this week, my goal was to develop a plan to rank higher on Google. Next week, I'm going to focus on my website speed and website content, following this week's plan. My goal for the month is to have a finalized advertising and business strategy to help boost my social media and gain clients moving forward. My overall goal for the next year is to book ten clients just through my social media presence & search engine rankings.
Set goals that are easily accomplished on a daily and weekly basis, but have these goals all build up to one large goal. For instance, changing the entire strategy for your website isn't going to take a day, it's probably going to take a considerable number of tasks of a considerable number of days. Set your goals in relation to your daily tasks and goals. Once you make your goals for the next few weeks, month, and year, don't forget to keep setting these weekly goals once this month passes. Keep your goals up-to-date, and mark them off as you go. The key to success is repetition and steadfastness. You'll get there.
4) Find ways to help your business online through research.
Research what your competitors are doing during this time. If they aren’t doing anything to boost their online presence, now is an especially good time for you to swoop in and take their business.
What are your competitors doing online that you aren’t? Are there any opportunities that you're taking advantage of that they aren't? In what ways can you improve your online experience to provide more value to your potential customers? How can you improve your current processes to help gain more customers?
These are all really important questions to be asking yourself and figuring out during this time. Whatever you aren’t doing that your competitors are and vice versa, are opportunities to be taken advantage of.
The first thing that I did when comparing my own website to my competitors was an audit. Use free tools like Google Lighthouse, WooRank, and The Hoth to find opportunities and gaps on both your own site, and your competitor’s for things like website load times and SEO. Dig deep into their websites to see what services that your competitor offers that you don’t and try to gauge how much they charge for those services.
Remember, where your competitor has a gap, you have an opportunity. Do a ton of research and make changes to give you an edge in quality & cost over your competitors.
5) Connect with people and build your network.
Even though you can't meet with people in person, doesn't mean that you can't reach out and start conversations to build your business. Hop on LinkedIn and start reaching out to people relevant to your industry. Connect with them and see how they're handling this pandemic. As photographers, we don't have to be alone during this time.
Since I'm in the wedding industry, I've spent my time connecting with wedding coordinators, event designers, bridal boutiques, dress designers and more through LinkedIn and email to help build my network of industry professionals. Building this network will help me connect with people for referrals and partnership opportunities. No matter what kind of photographer you are, you can reach out to brands to build connections and give a vision of how you help capture their brand’s story. It's a no-brainer to build your network and authority, which will undoubtedly lead to jobs in your future.
These are just a few ideas of steps you can take to prepare for when this is blows over. Remember that today is a day of opportunity, so don't just sit in bed scrolling through Facebook, Instagram, or Netflix. Now is an awesome time to learn and grow as an individual and as a business! All the information in the world is at your fingertips. Now go get it!