October is my favorite time to start “slow planning” what the next year will look like for my business. There’s just enough downtime for me to dive in before the holiday season.
But, if you’re anything like most of my clients, October is your busy season. Downtime is a dream for you right now and, like most photographers, you can’t even entertain the idea of pausing to plan the future.
Does that sound about right?
If so, keep reading to see why the busy season is the best time to get the business insights you need to plan for the next year.
Why photographers need to plan their year in October
As a business owner, you’re allowed to start and stop your year when you want. Even though it’s customary for photographers to wait until January, after the busy season, it’s not actually ideal.
Waiting until a slow season leaves you with fewer chances to tinker with things that require real-world feedback, like:
- Finding gaps in your current workflow
- Testing new workflows on clients
- Raising your rates
- Or being reminded of questions you get asked frequently
Even if you can’t dedicate an entire weekend to planning, it’s good to start making little moves each week. 2023 is only getting closer, so the more little moments you steal away, the more likely you are to hit the ground running in January and finally work on growing your business.
If you’re ready to try slow planning, I’m going to share the 5 steps to slowly plan your BIG impact next yet. Each step can be done in 10-30 minutes.
Step One: Assess your current year
You can’t move the needle forward unless you take the time to understand why it hasn’t already moved. So, the first step in planning your 2023 is to assess how your business has done this year. Let’s call it an end-of-year assessment.
To do an end-of-year assessment, simply ask yourself how different areas of your business performed. Evaluate everything from lead generation to client experience.
Be sure to include how you felt about your business and schedule too. It’s easy to forget that you deserve things like sick days, vacations, and not to work 24/7. Use this time to check in with yourself to ensure your business still aligns with how you want to live your life. And if it doesn’t – ask yourself what needs to change.
That’s the beauty of having your own business, right?
If you’ve never done an end-of-year assessment, let me get you started with some questions I like to ask my 1:1 clients.
Ask yourself questions, like:
- What felt right?
- What did you not enjoy?
- Who were your favorite clients this year and why?
- Which services, products, subscriptions, or add-ons sold the most?
- Which services, products, subscriptions, mini-session themes, or add-ons sold the least?
- What made the most money? (This isn’t always the same as what sold the most.)
- What marketing platform brought in the most leads? Which platform converted the most leads to paying clients?
- What areas of your business did you struggle with (personally or professionally)?
Once you’re done, re-look at your answers and see if you can identify areas that you can focus on improving in 2023.
Step Two: Define the vision for your photography business
When we talk about vision, we’re talking about where you want your business to go. It’s a very personal path that you choose. Your vision may be to make $500k/year by 2028 or to ditch engagement photography for destination weddings.
Whatever your vision is, it’s important to check in with it every year. Reminding yourself allows you to see if you’re on track or if there are things that need to change. And it’s ok to mix business with personal goals into your vision. We’re building a business around your life, not the other way around.
Take 10 minutes to write down what you want your business to look like a year from now, three years from now, or even five years.
Go BIG. No one’s going to judge you.
Once you have your vision, ask yourself:
- Did your overall goal change?
- Are your current services and packages in line to get you there?
- How much do you want to make in 2023, in 3 years, and in 5 years?
- What time off do you want to take?
- Do you need to raise prices or reduce the number of clients you take?
- How does your business need to adjust to create the life and business in your vision?
Step Three: Define your focus area
Most of us wear too many hats in our business. Marketing, sales, customer support, photographer, editor, personal assistant, and even delivery person. It can create quite a to-do list.
That’s a problem because in order to grow you need to be able to let go of tasks that anyone can do and focus more on what only you can do as the head of your company. Maybe that means doing all the marketing or perhaps it means doing all the sales calls.
If you have a team, defining your focus area is easy because you can simply focus on business growth tasks and shooting, then sub out the rest. It usually takes some trial and error, and a heck of a lot of letting go…but you’ll get there.
If you’re a solopreneur, there’s no such thing as “letting go” yet. This is the step where you have to define what to focus on to grow your business (and team) and how you’ll prioritize that list.
Everyone’s business looks different, so our focus areas will look different too. Here are some questions to help you discover your own areas.
- Re-look at your short and long-term vision. What do you need help with to accomplish your goals?
- New skills/education?
- Updated pricing guides, branding, systems, or marketing materials?
- More leads from marketing?
- Do you need to pivot services, add payment plans, or add products?
- What can you try that’s new?
- What are some tasks that can be automated?
- What tasks can be outsourced, if you find the right person?
- What tasks absolutely need your touch to succeed?
Remember, you don’t have to make huge leaps every year. Plan to do what is realistic and build on it.
That’s what I do for Tografy. I personally made moves to grow my team this year based on defining my focus areas and needs last year. It’s been amazing! I’ll dive more into the details in December when I share my own end-of-year review.
Step Four: Map your year on the calendar
Now that you know what’s happening in your business, what you want to change for next year, and how it fits into the bigger picture it’s time to map out your year. Open up your Google calendar (or a paper planner like the one that I’m using next year) and get ready.
Set start dates and deadlines to work on tasks for your business. Block out time for a vacation. Create reminders to clock out by 5 daily. Whatever’s on your goals list, mark out time to make it happen. It’s ok to stagger things throughout the year so you don’t feel overwhelmed.
If you need some examples of what to put on your calendar, I’ve created a list of my must-have items to block off.
4 things to add to your calendar:
- Block time for your vacations
- Plan your campaigns
- Think about what mini-sessions you want to do and when
- Making significant personal life changes or having kiddos with school break? Plan when your schedule needs to increase or ease up.
- Plan when you’ll sit down to refine your packages and products
- Set start dates to learn new skills or upgrade your equipment
Step Five: Implementation
Putting your to-dos on the calendar is a great feeling, but it’s not the end of your yearly planning. The final step in slow planning is to implement. Not now, but when it comes up in your calendar.
Most people never see great growth because they don’t take the time to work on their business. It’s easy to get swept away in client work or working on your Instagram marketing. But you have to set aside time and follow through in order to make your goals a reality.
I’ve been guilty of this too in the past.
So this last step is important to remember as you see tasks pop up. Put the camera down and put time into attaining your goals. You’ll thank yourself later.
Need help making your 2023 goals a reality?
This is not a pitch, but it may be a lifeline. If working on your client experience, workflows, website, or reworking your packages is in your plan for 2023, keep reading. I have a ton of templates, services, and courses in the Tografy shop to help photographers at all levels of business.
I can’t give too much away yet, but you should also sign up for my email list right now so you don’t miss out on some exciting stuff happening in the next 2 weeks.
You never know, it may be just what you need to accomplish your goals for 2023.
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