How to make Your Business Thrive in the Quiet Times.

There’s no ignoring the fact that when running your own business you may well experience times when business is quiet and you’re not getting the clients through your door. Outdoor photography is certainly one of those businesses. Now with a few years of running my own business under my belt, I’ve  learnt not only when to expect these times of year, but also to enjoy them and see them as an opportunity to achieve. So here are my  Top 10 Tips for how to identify and make the most of these periods in your business which should ensure that you’re just as busy even when the phone isn’t ringing and your inbox is empty.

Number 1: Identify the Quiet Times.

Suffolk Family and Commercial Photographer Your business diary

Firstly, get yourself a WORK diary. I don’t mean just combine your family diary with your business appointments. I mean get a separate diary to track when the busy periods are in your business year.  You need to identify when the slow periods are. If you’re in touch with other people in your industry then find out if there are similar quiet times in their calendar. This will show  you whether this is ‘normal’ for your industry or if this is just your own business that seems to be slow.

Once you’ve identified these quiet times you’ll have a time frame knowing how long you have to work with before business picks up again. This could be a couple of weeks or a few months and will vary depending on which industry you’re in. For example, outdoor family photographers will have a quieter spell in the winter months as do landscapers. It will also enable you to plan your finances so that you can get through the sleepier times without worrying about your cash flow. Now it’s time to get to work on the ‘behind the scenes’ of your business.

Number 2: Do a Business Performance Review.

Belinda Grant Photography Sudbury Photographer. Review your business

A great way to start the quiet spell is to do a business  performance review of your last year in business. This may be the time that you swallow a few frogs! Get to grips with your finances, including the dreaded tax return and your CODB (Cost of Doing Business). Make note of the peaks and troughs in your businesses cash flow. Having already discovered when and how long your quiet times are, you can start to budget for these times as well as knowing that when business is good, you can afford to put a little bit more aside for rainy days and further training and business development. Before moving forwards you need to really gauge how your business is doing. Here are a few pointers to get you going with this:

  1. Celebrate the good bits and be proud of your achievements! What were your 3 big wins last year?
  2. Now what were the 3 things you found difficult in your business?
  3. Name 3 things that you’ve feared in business that have held you back.

Of course your business life will be affected by your personal life and this is where some of the frustration of running your own business can be found. Now is the time to be realistic about how the two have worked and collided in the past year. It’s very easy for your life to become off-balance if you don’t consider both.

  1. How did your business affect your personal life? (Good ways and bad!)
  2. What changes can you make to give you the balance you’d like?

But take your time, don’t hit this too hard. Just swallow one frog a day. Keep the balance between doing those things you love and those things that don’t taste quite so good. Otherwise, you’ll just want to throw the towel in!

Include in your review, not just the operational side but also look at yourself and how you’re performing in your business. Don’t be too harsh on yourself but equally, be honest. If you have a close friend who you know will be straight with you, ask them to give you some feedback. Even better, ask a client for some feedback. We all love a great testimonial, but if you have a client that would be happy to be approached for feedback then now is the time to ask. This can be a brave move for some, but very rewarding and beneficial to your business in the long run.

Number 3: Make a Plan.

Belinda Grant Photography Suffolk Photographer. Plan your business

Once you’ve reviewed your business, it’s now time to make a plan to get over the expected hurdles of the year to come. You’ve already identified what your wins were, your fears and how you’d like to balance your personal and business life. Now how can you build on these?

Take time to choose  just 3 things that you can do and that are achievable in the next year. Some may be a quick win and others may take longer. Make them SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Repeatable and Time Specific) and then HOW you will achieve the goal AND how you’ll measure your success! For Example: ‘To double the number of spring family photo shoot bookings in 2019’.

If a yearly plan just too daunting then try to break it down into chunks that suit your business. For example, outdoor family photographers work with the seasons. Just planning the next season is a great way to start. Again, taking bite sized pieces out of your plan can be much easier to deal with.

Number 4: Branding & Marketing.

Belinda Grant Photography Suffolk photographer. Brand and Market your business

Now branding and marketing is a biggie! When you’re coming out of your quieter time it’s great to be able to re-launch a fresh new brand and create your visual identity. So take the opportunity to spend some time on your brand if you haven’t reviewed it for a while or have fallen out of love with it.

It’s easy to recognise in other businesses what makes their brand recognisable to you and your brand needs to be just as prominent in your industry for your clients.  It’s easy to get complacent about our branding. Large companies often review their branding and make small changes that keep their audience engaged. Ask yourself the following questions:

1: Do I have an identifiable brand?

2: Who are my ideal clients?

3: What are the unique qualities my business has?

4: Does my brand represent who I am?

These are just a few starter questions to kick start your review of your branding and help you fall back in love with our brand.

Belinda Grant Photographer Essex photographer. Love your business

There are plenty of books and tutorials on-line to help you with your branding. I love Fiona Humberstones book ‘How to Style your Brand’ which guides you through everything you need to know to create a distinctive brand identity. She walks you through the process of creating your brand vision to moving your brand. Making branding not such a scary thing! https://www.amazon.co.uk/How-Style-Your-Brand-Distinctive/dp/0956454534/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1548785958&sr=8-3&keywords=fiona+humberstone

Belinda Grant Photography Suffolk Photographer Branding. how to style your business

Once you have your reviewed your branding, take the time to do a marketing review. Why? Because good marketing leads to sales and that’s what you want. To attract new clients and make them want to be loyal to you and recommend you! There’s no better marketeer than a loyal customer and it’s free!

So ask yourself a few questions:

1: Has your target market changed?

2: Did you only achieve some of your goals last year?

3: Is your brand consistent across all platforms?

4: How did your marketing perform last year?

I know from bitter experience that marketing is one of the hardest elements to having a successful business and successful marketing has to evolve and change with changes in the client market.

Number 5: Get your ‘ducks in a row’ with your  SEO.

Belinda Grant Photography SEO guide. SEO for your business

This is another HUGE topic and I’m just going to skim the surface. Your website presence is crucial, particularly in industries such as photography.  You need to review and refresh your website regularly and make it work for your clients so they can find you, see you, connect with you and reach out to you.

There’s a lot of help out there with this so use this quiet time to get yourself familiar with SEO or find someone who can support you with this. YouTube can be an invaluable tool for guiding you through the jungle of SEO. It can take a long time for changes to make a difference to your Google ranking but be patient and your hard work will pay off.

If you aren’t using Google Analytics for your website then get signed up. It’s a great way to track the traffic and activity on your website and will give you an idea of when potential clients are showing interest in your site.

Plan, plan, plan! As the year progresses and you return to your busy period of the year, you’ll find the amount of time available to address SEO will drop off. So if you can make a plan in your work diary of scheduling blog posts, Facebook Ads, Instagram posts etc. when you’re in your busy period, you’ll not only be busy with clients but your website will also be busy. So whilst you’re quiet, write those blogs and plan when you’ll publish.

There are plenty of apps which allow you to schedule your posts. Not only deciding on which day, but also what TIME of day. This is when you’re sign up to Google Analytics becomes really helpful. Once you’ve got your ducks in a row, you can get on with business and let the wheels of your SEO just keep turning in the background like a well oiled machine!

Number 6: Social Media; Be Cautious and Canny.

Social media and your business

Don’t be fooled by social media into thinking that others in your industry are busier than you are. Remember that we only see what others want to show! Most business owners love to show that they are busy. Busy means that your service/product is attracting clients and high sales and ‘suggests’ you’re successful. Most business owners experience quiet periods and when this happens they try to drum up more business by suggesting that they ARE busy! As you get to know your industry more, you’ll realise you’re not alone when it comes to having quiet times. So be cautious with social media and if you’re having a bad day avoid it all together!

Social media is a powerful platform to show case your business plans for the coming year including what’s ‘new and improved’ . Getting to grips with Facebook Ads and all things Instagram can really help your presence on social media and direct your business to your ideal client. I can thoroughly recommend  Smarter Facebook Ads course by The Design Space https://thedesignspace.co/get-smarter/. which will guide you through the daunting process of running a Facebook Ad.

As a canny business person you can guide your ideal clients towards your website and target them with ‘call to actions’ and exciting developments and changes you’re making to your business. Use social media to get you and your website noticed.

Number 7: Time to Decorate!

Decorating the office Belinda Grant Photography. Re-vamp your business

You may think I’m going off at a complete tangent but believe me, this can be one of the best things you do in your quiet time. Making changes to your working environment, having a clear out and over hauling your work space can give you that positive boost you need to kick start your approach to your business. Last year when business was slow, I gave my office a total re-vamp. New paint, new shelves and a larger PC monitor. It was just the therapy I needed to give my business a new look for the new year. Instead of returning to the same old yukky magnolia on the walls with piles of paper around me, I turned my office into a place I love.

Makeover your business

Now I find myself being far more productive and positive towards my business. The office is a clearly defined work space where I keep little around me that is related to my other life of being a wife and mum. I promise you that this is a great time to get the paint brushes out.

Belinda Grant Photography Essex photographer. Your business environment

Number 8: Be a Caterpillar not a Bear.

It’s really easy to hide away like a hibernating bear in the quiet periods of your business in the hope that no one will notice and you’ll just muddle your way through it. As a business owner, you’ll know that your industry is probably highly competitive and there are plenty of people just waiting to jostle you out of the market. So don’t hide away when it’s quiet. If quiet times are the norm for your industry then no doubt there will be training and networking events going on.

Belinda Grant Photography Sudbury Photographer. Networking for your business

Just like a caterpillar who appears to be sleeping but is busy morphing into something beautiful, you can use this time productively.  Use the time to find out how you can make connections with others in your industry.  Getting your face out there and attending events is a great way to share ideas and even get referrals. You are the face of your business and the harsh reality is that if you’re not seen, people with soon forget about you and your business. Consider your business performance review. You may have identified an area that you could do with some training. Now is the time to get that training done and prepare to come out shining and ready for the busy season.

Number 9: Take a Break!

Barbados Belinda Grant Photography. Take a holiday from your business

Yes, you heard me! We all need a break from time to time and if you’re in your quiet period then now is a really good time to give yourself some time off just for you before the busy time starts. So if you’re not quite able to take  2 weeks to ly under a coconut tree, take some time off just for a couple of nights away. As I said, you need to have a good balance between your personal and business life and it’s all too easy to work long hours as your business is your passion. But you can only give to your business when your own personal needs have been met.

If you can get away that’s great, but even if you can’t, closing your office door and doing something you love will allow you to have that break you’ll be craving when your business is busier. Don’t feel guilty about having some time off, it’ll be worth it when you return to work feeling raring to go!

Number 10: Consider Branching Out.

Now I’m not suggesting that you change your business completely. This is more about considering whether you need to diversify. If you’ve been honest with yourself, you’ll have an understanding whether you can afford to have a quiet period in your business year. If yes, that’s great. But if you know that you really need to bring in the pennies during this quiet time as well, perhaps looking into another area of your industry is an option.

For example, it’s not uncommon for outdoor photographers to supplement their income with offering training/mentoring, commercial work, studio work or marketing and branding support. Outdoor photographers work can be as unpredictable as the weather! So with another branch to their businesses, they have another steady stream of business coming their way. The second branch of my business has become commercial work and film. I now offer head shots and filming to businesses, including photographers, across the UK which is a great supplement to my outdoor family photography work. Here is the fabulous Emily Fairweather https://www.emilyfairweatherphotography.co.uk/ who I photographed at her home during filming for her website .

Belinda Grant Photography Head shots Suffolk. Head shots for your business

There’s not only a financial benefit to this strategy. Having another branch to your business can bring more clients to your website and drive your SEO in the right direction. It also brings variety to your work which is never a bad thing! So consider what other areas of your industry you may be interested in and what you can offer to clients and/or others in your field. You may find it brings huge benefits to your existing business.

My Final Thoughts.

When you set up a business on your own, family and friends are always very supportive and one of the first questions they’ll ask you is “How’s your business going?”. I know that in the past I used to dread this question as there’s an expectation that as a photographer they’ll think I’m busy shooting every day and rushed off my feet. This was a particularly difficult question to avoid during the slow periods when my camera would stay on the shelf only to be picked up to photograph my own family.

When you have an understanding of how important it is to have these quieter periods in your business, you can deal with peoples expectations better. Now I know how much work needs to be done ‘behind the scenes’ of my photography business I can be honest with those around me. I can explain to them how most outdoor photographers can expect to have a quieter period but that it doesn’t mean that  I’m not busy.

Your business is like an iceberg. Only 10% is visible to the world and this is what your clients see.  The other 90% is the behind the scenes work and effort that you put into it, to enable your business to stay afloat and move with the ever changing currents. When you use these quieter times in your business effectively you’ll be working to keep that top 10%  prominent in your industry.

So when you hit these quieter times in your business year, it’s not time to take your foot of the pedal; just change gear! You’ll be amazed how valuable this time can be.

Belinda Grant Photography Suffolk Photographer. Personalise your business

If you’d like to hear more about my strategies for managing my business, or just want to run a few ideas past me, just drop me a line! https://www.belindagrantphotography.co.uk/contact/


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