We continue our series on making money in photography. Last session, stock photography was covered and this week's column covers an interview with someone who is not even in the photography business, yet provides some valuable lessons for anyone wanting to start or expand a business venture.
I recently interviewed Lori, the owner of a boutique stationery store for my upcoming book for photographers and photo enthusiasts that covers how to start and sustain a greeting card business, and creating cards using your own images. Lori buys custom photographic greeting cards for her store, and she gave very good information on the whole process of how she buys them, how to price them, the best methods of making contact, and what store owners look for in purchasing greeting cards,etc. (The book will be released in December).
Though the store has been part of a family business in their community since 1926, Lori and her husband have owned their share of the family business for the past two years. We had a chance to talk about the challenges they are facing with consequences of management decisions made before they took over, the effect of big box stores moving into the area, and the economy.
Lori exemplifies what it takes to successfully start and run any type of business, and I’ll relate these to starting and running a photography venture. Even though the store has been established for years, change is needed to meet the varied challenges the retail sector is facing in today’s world. Therefore, in putting a “new face” on their store, it is parallel to starting a new venture.
3 Vital Things You Must Start with to have a Successful Photography Venture
Vision -"Without a vision the people perish" (Proverbs 29:18 KJV ).
Lori’s vision for the store goes beyond stationery. The vision is to offer the community more lifestyle choices in what they carry, such as recycled and fair trade products,and products made locally and in the USA. They offer much more than stationery as customers can purchase products for their home and office, for their children, for school, and even for their appetites with the gourmet food selections they offer.
What does your ” finished product” look like? What is your vision? In other words, what goal do you have for your photography venture? Is your goal to have a full-service boutique- style studio that caters to expectant mothers and their children? Or is it a weekend wedding business where you are booked three weekends a month? Perhaps it’s the art market where you want your images displayed in fine art stores in your city, or across the country. And then again, you may only be interested in having good images for your own personal reasons, such as documenting family history that can be passed down to generations to come. Solidify your vision. “See” your end result from the start.
Craft a Plan-"Write the vision and make it plain on tablets,that he may run who reads it"(Habakkuh 2:2 NKJV).
Lori is attending a 26-week ““Business Builders Boot Camp” where she is crafting her plan to reach her vision for the store.
Once you have your vision, you then need to craft your road map, your plan, to get there. This is the time to do research and gather the resources that you need. It’s a common joke that creative people don’t like taking care of the business end of things in learning the left-brain parts of launching a successful venture. . .like creating business plans and setting up and accounting system. You don’t necessarily have to create a full-blown business plan, but business acumen is necessary. Small Business Development Centers can be found in most cities, with business classes available for nominal fees. They also have counselors that can help guide you to beneficial resources. You can also seek the assistance of professional photographers who offer consulting services. When you have a written plan, others can catch your vision to help you fulfill it.
Work the Plan - "He who has a slack hand becomes poor, But the hand of the diligent makes rich" (Proverbs 10:4 NKJV).
Even while she’s going through the business boot camp, Lori is simultaneously working her plan, by supplying her store with products and services that match the vision she has for the store.
One of the challenges of being in business is the follow-through on the different aspects of a plan. At times though things will seem to not be working, diligence and perseverance are key to fulfilling your vision. You may have to make adjustments in your plan, as conditions arise that call for adjustments to be made, however by staying focused and working towards your goal, you will be richer in experience, satisfaction, and finances. Keep moving forward and stick with it. You can do it!
If you haven't already subscribed to my photoblog, Picture Your Success, I invite you to do so. And if you have a photo of a beautiful sunset, come share it on the October 7th post.