Today (10th June 2020) marks 1 year since I registered as a sole trader! It's unbelievable just how quickly that year has gone!
A year to remember
As if starting a business isn't difficult enough, certainly so in the highly competitive industry that is photography, having Covid thrown in certainly threw a spanner in the works.
If you speak to any business manager when planning to launch a business, they will typically tell you to have sufficient funds to cover things for the first 18-24 months of trading.
Due to redundancy, unfortunately, I only had sufficient funds to get me through 12 months, therefore the pressure was on from the get-go.
Because of this lack of funding, and not wanting to take a business loan (I didn't want to start a business already being in debt!) I had minimal (like zero) money to throw at marketing.
First 6 months
The first 3 months was primarily spent putting together my website. Learning about SEO and copyrighting to try get my website noticed as much as possible.
I also started using LinkedIn in a serious way to build my network and start creating meaningful relationships with people there.
I attended a few face to face network meetings but didn't find much value in those for a photographer. If you are a photographer and have found network groups to work for you, I'd love to hear which networking groups you have tried. I tried two local BNI chapters, neither of which had a photographer which in itself suggests to me that they don't work for certain service providers.
Months 6 - 9
I started getting some traction. People were becoming aware of me and EmC Photography. I was starting to get more regular inbound enquiries and bookings!
By Feb 2020, I was getting to the point of breaking even monthly. Which was such a relief for me because the saving I had were starting to run out.
Months 9 - 12
Then Covid struck.
I had to cancel and refund all my existing bookings. I've heard of stories of photographers not returning deposits claiming 'an act of god'. Whilst my T&Cs covers me for this, I did what I believe to be the morally correct thing and refunded my clients. Despite this meaning, I was in deep poo financially. I'd rather those clients came back to me when photoshoots are possible again than have them telling people how I 'stole their deposit'.
Since lockdown, it's been an unbelievable challenge trying to keep my head above water financially. Due to my asthma I should be shielding which means I'm unable to go out and seek 0-hour contract type work packing shelves or delivery driver etc which were highly sought after in the early days of lockdown.
In an attempt to try to get some cash flow in, I fell back on my 28 years of IT experience to offer various other services. Including website design, LinkedIn training, Pinterest training and management, Proofreading and project management services. But 'pivoting' is not as simple as that. You are basically starting from day 1 and needing to market a whole new service.
I did manage to pick up a couple of website design jobs and continue to offer this service whilst lockdown restrictions still mean full photoshoots are not possible.
I also started online headshot photography and online newborn photography sessions. Where the client and I jump onto a video call and I direct them remotely on best lighting area, direct them into poses and then edit the images for them. The headshot service has been proving rather popular and has meant I'm able to get some money in which is great.
I've now also decided to provide online personal brand photography where I will direct my clients to take images of themselves undertaking their day to day roles within their office.
Here's to the next year!
I can only hope that year 2 is going to be a little less stressful and that as we come out of lockdown I'll be able to start picking up face to face photoshoots again.
If you are considering a photoshoot here are my current services and offers. Some of this can be undertaken now.
I am still able to provide product photography for clients. You can either drop your products off at my home studio in Haverhill, or you can post them to me. I will photograph them according to the agreed brief and then post them back/arrange for you to collect them once you have signed off on the images.
I come to your office with a full mobile studio set up and photograph your staff providing consistent imagery for use in your internal directories, about pages on your website, LinkedIn profile images etc.
We jump on a video call and I direct you remotely to find the best lighting, a complimentary pose and then edit the images for you. All for a ridiculously low price of £29!
As above, I jump onto a video call and remotely direct you on lighting, posing baby and camera settings and angle from where to take the images. You have the option for me to edit the images if you would like.
These take place on certain dates at specific parks around East Anglia. For £49 you get a 20-minute photoshoot which includes 3 high-quality images of your choice.
Whilst lockdown measures are in place I'm offering socially distanced photoshoots which can either take place in your back garden if it's suitable or in a local park.
I take you through the 3 aspects of Exposure, Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO. Understanding these 3 fundamentals will have you immediately taking better and more creative images.
(locations within 15 miles of CB9 7 incur no travel costs)
Haverhill, Kedington, Linton, Balsham, Little Wratting, Great Wratting, Withersfield, Sturmer, Steeple Bumpstead, Birdbrook, Castle Camps, Horseheath, Bartlow, Barnadiston, Clare, Stoke by Clare, Fulbourn, Sawston, Bartlow, Ipswich, Norwich, London, Royston.
(other locations also covered, mileage is charged at 45p per mile for locations in excess of the 15-mile radius)