This virus has affected everyone in some way, shape, and form.
Some of us have lost jobs.
Some of us have lost relationships.
Some of us are losing houses.
And a lot of us are losing money.
There’s a lot going on right now. And unfortunately, I firmly believe our economy and health globally as a whole is still going to get a lot worse before it gets better.
I know too many people getting laid off, losing their businesses, and struggling to pay for essentials. And it’s such a hard time to be thinking positively, and how we are going to come out of this in the end.
Let me say this: Life post-coronavirus will be different.
Our world, economy, families, and lives will not be the way they were before this.
We’re going to be in a season of uncomfortable circumstance.
Unless we begin to prepare.
While I’m optimistic to believe that the economy will make a huge comeback, there is just no telling at this point what will happen.
But when we resume our lives, are you ready for it?
I want to chat about how all of this has personally affected me as a business owner and wedding photographer so far.
First, I want to start with the obvious.
Unfortunately, as a wedding photographer who only makes income based on the amount of weddings I book in a year, when most of these big events get cancelled or postponed (and now even the smaller elopements too), my income takes a big hit.
And while that’s great news that I’m not technically losing work, I’m actually getting my money for these weddings in 2021 AND I’m working more next year as well.
So basically, I won’t be taking any income of money for the next 3 months (and possibly longer), and I’ll be working more than I want to next year in 2021, which is something I intentionally try to avoid.
But here’s the thing: in this time, we have to be EXTREMELY flexible, and quite possibly uncomfortable.
Taking on 30 weddings again next year even though I’ve taken a vow to only take 15 is something I know I need to do in order to make up for the income I know I’m going to lose this year.
Being quarantined with a house full of people (James and I are fortunate to live at my parent’s house to save money), as well as having to cancel so much – including my most recent Rooted Workshop in Palm Springs – I’ve seen myself spiraling into a place of possible depression.
I’ve lost motivation.
I’m beginning to feel overwhelmed and lazy.
I find myself getting frustrated/angry/and sad all at once.
And guys, if you’re feeling this too, THIS IS NOT SOMETHING TO IGNORE.
But guess what?
I didn’t want to. And I knew that I had to listen to what my body was telling me.
I took 4 days to literally sit and deal with what I was feeling.
I didn’t work, I didn’t really do anything productive, and I didn’t really take time to devote to my business and education.
Instead, I literally unplugged and RESTED.
And it was just what I needed.
After listening to a lot, and I mean a LOT of praise music, worshipping Jesus in a time where I felt out of control, and resting/playing games with my family (thank God Nintendo released Animal Crossing in this time, am I right?), I was able to lift myself up and get motivated again.
I came out of those days of rest ready to answer the 120 emails I had from brides asking to reschedule, cancel, and answer questions about contracts moving forward.
Now, I’m not saying this is everyone. Some people feel they need to be productive all the time, and that’s a-okay with me. You do what’s best for YOU.
We’ve never navigated this before. A pandemic that literally shuts down the entire world?
Holy mackerel people – how are we supposed to truly know what to do here?
So before I dive into how to start preparing for this,
Because if you don’t, you really don’t want to continue down a bad mental state when everything else is crumbling too.
Take care of yourself if you’re feeling overwhelmed by it all. Don’t just dive into working if you’re not ready for it.
And once you’re ready and have a good head to look at your business and get back to it, take these tips below use them as you see fit.
So let’s get to it. Here are some things that I’m doing to prepare myself and my business for these next 2 years:
As mentioned before, I took a vow to only take on 15 weddings and 15 elopements this year.
Well, that number has quickly dwindled to 10 weddings and now 5 elopements – and I have a feeling these numbers will get lower, unfortunately. Thankfully, most have them have rescheduled for 2021 and haven’t cancelled altogether. But as for my income this year, I know it’s going to be low.
This year SHOULD NOT be compared financially to what you did last year. Because this year is different, and it’s an *ish show financially for a lot of businesses.
Do NOT feel bad or unsuccessful or incompetent because you’re not making more money this year than you did last year.
And when I say enough, I mean enough to pay the bills, stay afloat, and still sustain your family home life.
Figure out what that number is (what you absolutely HAVE to make this year to continue to live), and start strategizing a way to make that for the remainder of the year.
One thing I’m doing is continuing to market myself (as much as I can) on all platforms: social media, SEO, facebook advertising, etc. Get your exposure to keep booking.
Keep in mind that when a bride books you as their wedding photographer for 2021, the deposit they pay you will be something you receive THIS YEAR, even though their wedding may be next year.
Brides are still getting married in 2021 and planning as normal. Do not discount that and think that all wedding planning has halted.
Keep your healthy limits with your business, but be okay and start preparing for the fact that you will have a LOT to make up for when things go back to normal.
And yet, there are still some things you can be doing to prepare for the time that is coming. Here’s what you can do in this time to stay proactive:
Don’t stop sharing your content. And if you’re running out, use some of this quarantine time to re-edit old shoots. Keep going, keep marketing, and keep showing that beautiful work of yours.
If there’s one thing I learned before all this virus-madness happened, it’s that all your eggs SHOULD NOT be in one basket when it comes to marketing.
For those that don’t know, my Instagram account (complete with over 23k followers) was hacked and held for ransom – literally a WEEK before this all broke. Luckily, I was able to retrieve it back, but I learned that I shouldn’t be banking ONLY on social media to bring my influx of inquiries.
Focus on building up your web presence. Start blogging and adding keywords to blogs, growing your SEO presence and getting more of your name on Google for those brides that are searching.
Have a user friendly, state of the art website that’s EASY to navigate.
Make it easy for people to get to your contact form. Make sure they can browse through your site and get to where they need to go to learn more about YOU and what you offer. What makes you different. What they can expect from you as their photographer.
Blog NOT ONLY gallery work. Blog tips for brides, educational blogs that also EXHIBIT more of your work. Education blogs are a GREAT way for your SEO presence to grow. (ahem, this post you’re reading right here friends is a good example!!).
For help on what to blog about, use tools like Google Keywords and Keyword Search Planner tools. Use those words to formulate blogs and get more brides to your website. High search volume phrases and words with low competition will help you get close to page 1 of Google (and let’s be real, no one goes past page 1).
There are LOTS of other SEO tips – and I’d recommend chatting with me more in a mentor session if you’d like to learn how we can make your specific website better for SEO and people finding you on Google/other search platforms. For more info, head to my mentorships page here.
Facebook ads are a game-changer if you know how to use them.
Most people give up on these because they don’t know how to set them up properly for the best success.
While it does take knowledge and practice to truly understand how to make Facebook ads work for you, I’ve seen FIRST HAND with some of my mentees that it works, and I’ve seen them book over 25+ weddings for THIS YEAR just on Facebook ads alone.
They work – and if you don’t even know where to start, check out this helpful article.
If you’ve shot weddings this year, last year, or even the year before and these clients haven’t left you a review, now’s your chance.
While Google Reviews are currently down at the moment (because they don’t want anyone leaving bad reviews because of Corona right now), you can still get them to easily reply to a quick email, and use their words for your purpose.
All you have to do is use wording similar to this to get them to help ya out:
I hope you and your boo have been staying healthy and safe in this CRAZY time!
I wanted to reach out and see if you’d be willing to help me out.
As you know, this time has been really hard on small businesses, and mine isn’t exempt from that.
One thing that you can do to help if you really enjoyed my services and would like to give back is leaving me a kind review.
While Google Reviews are down at the moment, I’d love if you could give me some sweet words in a reply to this email that I could post to my website and social platforms.
Nothing truly helps marketing like looking at the words from past clients, and I would be SO appreciative if you’d like to take 5-10 minutes to put together a nice little review for me.
Thank you again SO SO much! I had an absolute blast capturing your day, and I hope to hear from you soon. <3”
^^ The literal template I’ve been sending to my clients recently.
Use this template to send to your clients, get their reviews, and POST THEM EVERYWHERE. On your social media pages (create a highlight on Instagram!), on your website for a “Reviews” page. Get them out there. Get people to trust you.
I promise- your clients would LOVE to help you in any way they can, and this a free and easy option for them to truly help you out.
If you’re in a bind with money right now, a quick way to possibly get some cashflow is by offering a discount promotion on prints and albums to your clients.
I currently use Pic-Time for all my print and album sales, and they have a GREAT marketing program that allows you to send out campaigns to your clients, as well as EVERYONE that the gallery has been shared with. That includes parents, grandparents, aunts, vendors, and so on.
This is a great opportunity to send out a campaign and use the same messaging of supporting you, a small business owner, amidst a crazy time.
Along with this, you can send multiple emails over an extended amount of time, and they can order their prints and albums directly through the Pic-Time software.
The prints and albums are also of the highest quality, and you can choose which lab you would like to work with as the photographer on the back end.
**Note, some labs have shut down during this time, like RedTree Albums, but others are still open. Make sure to promote your prints with labs that are still running.
Here’s a video I put together to send to my clients about how they can create their own album and order prints.
I’m still marketing as usual, being authentic and real where I can about things, and doing what I can to continue booking the work I’m going to need for 2021.
Don’t mistake continuing to market yourself as irrelevant right now – this is the time to continue to be PROACTIVE for when this passes.
As mentioned above, most of my weddings are being rescheduled for 2021, meaning that my I will have a LOT more work than planned next year, as well as delayed income being paid to me later.
And on the bride’s side, I actually support this decision for those who are looking to postpone to 2021 for many reasons.
One of them being that if they were to reschedule for this fall, books are already full and I cannot take on any more work anyways.
The second being if this does last longer than 3 months and carries over into the end of the year (assuming the worst here), it would be emotionally draining to again have to postpone your wedding for 2021, and by then it may be too late to do so because every vendor will already be booked.
But while the postponing to 2021 is a better option for brides, it does affect my cashflow for the remainder of the year.
So, here are a few things that I’m implementing to combat that along with some suggestions for you:
Instead of collecting the final payment for your weddings being rescheduled (outside of the deposit they put down), ask if your clients would be open to setting up a “monthly payment plan” to pay off the rest of their balance.
and your clients won’t have to pay a lump sum of cash a month out from their wedding.
Luckily, I’ve already installed this practice in most of my clients for this year.
So, if you don’t already have this happening, then this may be an option for you to help with money for the immediate future.
Trust me when I say though: most EVERYONE is hurting financially. So by offering the opportunity to spread out some funds over a larger period of time, most of your clients might find this appealing.
Speaking from experience, I know that almost 90% of my clients are on the monthly payment plan and have no issues with it.
To set this up is easy if you have a tool like Honeybook or Quickbooks accepting your funds. With Honeybook, you can send monthly payment reminders to your clients, and with Quickbooks you can set up monthly invoicing.
This is just one way that you can a keep consistent cashflow when you don’t have many weddings happening at the moment.
Next, while most of the time I don’t like to exceed more than 30 weddings/elopements in total for a year, I understand that next year I will need to take on more work to make up for this year.
Meaning, next year, while I was planning on booking 15 weddings & 15 elopements, and also ALL of my rescheduled weddings, I also plan on taking on more weddings, if needed to support. I know that my actual limit for a healthy amount of big weddings is 30 – so if that’s what it takes to make up for lost finances, then I know I can do that.
I understand that I may have more work than planned (and quite possibly could even be having my summer and fall weddings rescheduled to next year as well), but I believe that it is necessary amidst such unusual circumstances.
And I know that this might be hard to hear, but in order for us to continue in our beloved businesses that we’ve poured so much into, we need to understand that there are some things we are going to need to change in order to make up for this loss of time, content, and finances.
Understand what your priorities are, but also understand that in order to make ends meet with your business, there may have to be some changes that affect what your normal routine might have been pre-COVID.
Please understand that by NO means should you compromise your mental health only to support a business. Your health should always come first.
What I am suggesting is possibly having to push the luxury that you might have right now of saying “no”, but instead being willing to take on a reasonable amount of work that you know will still keep you healthy and also help your business recover from this.
Please note that I’m merely suggesting all of this as I see it playing out in my personal business. There is still a lot that could be said about this, and I really hope that more people take part in this conversation.
Another quick point to consider: Right now, I charge an average of $5,700. After this blows over, I’m truly not sure who will be able to afford this luxury in good faith.
While some photographers would normally say “charge what your worth” in a healthy economy (and I’ve honestly advised my mentees pre-COVID with this same advice), there are some new things we have to consider because of this giant change in our economy.
I’m not saying people won’t pay that amount after this, but you have to think about where the rest of the world is going to be financially – and what we also need to do to compensate for that and make the money we need as well.
People are losing their jobs. Their finances are going to more essential things like house payments, food, and living essentials. Paying $4-5k for a photographer may seem a bit unfeasible for some.
Now, I know this will be different for everyone, please understand that again, this is only a suggestion of an idea of how I know I need to be preparing for how this will affect our world when this is over.
While most are saying this should be over by May/June, the reality is it could be longer than this. And we need to be prepared for this.
I so so wish that I could tell you everything will go back to normal very soon. But the reality we have to face if we’re smart is that it won’t. Our entire world will truly be different when this is over – and we need to prepare for that.
I don’t mean to scare anyone, I’m just here trying to be the voice that some might need to hear right now.
Pray for the Lord’s providence over this situation.
Pray for God’s will to play out in our nation, our world, and even our businesses.
And most of all, trust in the Lord and his plan in this time.
It’s gonna be hard to see why he’s allowing these things to happen, and why the world is suffering. But if it brings more people to him, then why wouldn’t he do something so drastic like this to get our attention?
I hope that these tips here will help you plan and prepare for what’s possibly coming with your business in this time as well.
And please know, I’m here for you amidst it all.
If you want to have a further conversation, let’s hop on a quick consultation call and see if a mentor session would make sense to help you out with your specific situation. I’m more than happy to chat. <3
You’ve got this babe. You can do it, I know it.
And we will get through this.
Don’t lose hope. <3
I get it. There’s still a LOT to uncover with this.
I’m doing my best to navigate it, and I’d love to offer any advice I can right now to help you up-level your business with some essential tools.
If this sounds good, let’s chat!
This was so insightful and so helpful! I appreciate you lending free tips and resources to other photographers, especially during this COVID season. Best of luck in this 2021 wedding season!