Business Review January 2016 – SWOT

I am giving myself ten 20 minutes to write this post, starting now. The purpose is to review the previous month quickly, while evaluating my progress and what I could have done better. I think it’s important to reflect, it helps us to grow.

Let’s go.

Strengths

Getting organized
This has been huge for me. I’ve batched my days by tasks & I’ve implemented accounting software for the first time ever. I’ve found that generated reports are an AMAZING thing to keep my freelance business on track.

The idea of batching is something I learned vicariously from Ev Williams on Medium — each day should have a focus; Mondays for me are management days, Tuesdays are product, and so on… it helps you stay on track and when you get taken away, just remember what day it is and go back to that sort of work. It is also an easy answer to fires that crop up — no I can’t deal with that today, I’ll deal with that Thursday.

Finally, I’ve subscribed to a SaaS CRM to help with customer management and reminders. This gets things off my personal calendar and allows me to track emails with metrics – perfect for productivity and cold connecting.

Weaknesses

Learning Curve
I feel like all the software is really killing my vibe. There is a lot of learning and it’s hard to manage. For the first time this year I am realizing the need to slow my pace down or I will quite literally suffer a panic attack and die. Okay that might be a little melodramatic, but I see so many people going grey at the beginning of their 30s and I don’t want this for myself.

Cold calling
I hate doing it, enough said. But I need to shift to this method. I think it will increase conversion and really boost my game in the market. It’s how the decision makers do business. I used to cold call for State Farm. I developed my own call script and modified it with A/B type testing to watch my conversion ratios. For me cold calling sucked then and it will still suck now. But it’s a price I need to pay to be in business — at least a moderate amount.

Establishing myself in the food photography market during 2016 is one of my goals.
Establishing myself in the food photography market during 2016 is one of my goals.

Opportunities

Brand recognition
This has to do with everyone’s favorite thing–money. Let’s celebrate the fact that I made triple what I made last year in January! But the reality is that this is just allowing me to pay myself a normal salary for the month. January is typically a slow month in my business — plus I cut out weddings, so I am not closing on retainers.

The big take away here is that people are seeing my work, enjoying it, actualizing it, and calling me to do more of it. I feel blessed to have the opportunity to continue positioning myself as a commercial photographer in the Central PA area.

Threats

Other photographers
And I’m not talking about the young kids with the iPhones or the mom-togs with their cameras who snap their kids at soccer games. I’m talking to you, the photographer reading this and is bringing their A game! It’s so easy to learn in today’s market and the gap is closing quickly. I’m not fully set up with a studio — but I see the effects of this. People can operate on a close margin, but not quite yours, and they are taking work. It’s bad for the market, but good to keep the hustle.

I recently had this conversation with a photographer whom I respect. They lost work to me this year and I feel really bad about that. I wasn’t and am not out to cannibalize the market and I’m not out sniping clients. I promise, it’s not how I do business and it doesn’t fit my beliefs to do that. The fact is that clients change vendors to accommodate their own needs and we all have to hustle!

Not focusing
This is a huge danger to my business. I’m learning that I need to be less of a generalist and more of a specialist. I must choose a desired focus for my work and absolutely kill it! This doesn’t mean just one style — you can see what I’m trying to focus on in 2016 — but it does mean doubling down, putting in the work, and limiting my breadth or I will lose.

Working in the business, and not on the business
Read The E-Myth Revisited.
Read Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future.
Heck, read Medium.
Just read and get ahead.

Commercial head shots and portraiture are another  focus of mine this year.
Commercial head shots and portraiture are another focus of mine this year.

Summing it up

There’s a lot of work to be done this year. Getting organized and focused is really helping me stay in business. Posts like this help. Transparency helps. How can you help?

I would love to hear your insights, advice, and musings on how to do business and what worked for you when you were just starting out. Please consider sending me an email at sethnenstiel@gmail.com — I am always willing to gain wisdom and will get back to you!


*The header image is a group shot that I made for Royal Square Development and Property Management companies.

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