Doldrums. That dreaded seasonal shift in business where anyone and everyone related to your ability to stay busy and profitable seems to completely disappear. Due to the demand on our mental energy and the necessity of a constant state of intense focus, they seem to come from nowhere and hit us full force before we have a chance to alter course to fend them off.
Then they are here. Days and nights are spent scrolling through social media, going further and further down the YouTube rabbit hole, or catching up on The Walking Dead. Our gear sits on the shelf, our creativity loses IQ points, our marketing stalls, blogs lay dormant, and all sorts of other productive benchmarks seem to hover out of reach.
Understandably, there are seasons where business is predictably going to slow down. (Unless you live in California or down South.) We have a unique opportunity to use this time to make progress in our craft, or we can allow time to slip into the future unredeemed and make no progress in the meantime.
How do we combat this?
That answer can be quite broad and can be endlessly debated. Today, I’m just going to provide a quick list of 15 ways you can spend your time more profitably than lounging on the couch catching up on Game of Thrones.
1. UpdatE SEO
The elusive Search Engine Optimization process is constantly evolving, and if you would like to be positively reflected in search results, it is important to apply yourself in this area. There are countless resources that can help with this. I recommend starting with the SLR Lounge SEO Handbook to get the ball rolling and expand your education from there. It will certainly get you started. It helped me quite a bit and is still something that I refer back to.
2. CreatE a Marketing Calendar
Marketing, marketing, marketing. It never ends, and it is all too easy to become distracted and allow the days to slip past without ensuring your marketing is on point. Take some time to check out what the successful photographers and are doing, adapt it to fit your target market, and give it a shot. I’m finding that it’s best to start with a high-level look at the year and then drill down to monthly, then weekly tasks to make sure you are covering everything. Also, create some actionable tasks that you can implement.
3. Attend a Conference or Workshop
There are so many opportunities for learning and other benefits at industry conferences. You can meet a mentor, learn some technical skills, get some business tips, and come away with some marketing ideas. Pick a reputable conference that is going to feature educators that you want to learn from and then go. Get out of your comfort zone, network, take notes, and then implement what you’ve learned!
4. Put Together a Local Photographer Meetup
I’ve heard it put this way, “a photographer is only your competition if they aren’t booked.” Are you a wedding photographer? If your competitor is booked, they can either refer that potential client to you or not. Getting to know the other local photographers you work near is simply good business. If you are concerned about competing with other shutterbugs, work on stepping up your game and offerings rather than playing the “aloof” game. You might be surprised at the positive impact this can have on your business!
5. Meet Another Photographer for Coffee
This is pretty similar to my point above but on an obviously more personal level. Taking time to build relationships with other photographers can not only result in referrals, but it can also result in your finding a valuable a mentor, finding a business partner, or simply making a connection that can be a valuable resource in countless different ways.
6. Update Your Headshots
Everyone wants to see what you look like. You can either go the “old-fashioned” route and play around with some self-portraits, or you can take the advice I left you above and meet up with another local photographer to trade headshots. Win-win!
7. Educate Yourself
Want to learn but lack the time or budget for a conference? Check out our offerings here on SLR Lounge, hop over to our partner, CreativeLive, for one of their amazing classes, or even take some time to browse YouTube for tutorials on any number of topics ranging from Photoshop to posing.
8. Plan Your Editorial Calendar
Similar to your marketing calendar, it is genuinely helpful to plan out your blog posts well in advance. I’m a confessed procrastinator. Working a week, month, or months in advance would help me keep my woefully inconsistent blog running smoothly and consistently. Tell you what, I’ll work on doing better with this if you will!
9. Plan a Styled Shoot
A styled shoot helps on so many levels. You get to flex your creative muscles, network with other vendors in your area and industry, create incredible images, and you end up with content for your blog and social media feeds.
10. Update Your Website
It’s an age-old dilemma. The painter’s house is the last to be painted, the chef doesn’t want to cook at home, etc. How many photographers’ websites have you seen that don’t look like they’ve been updated in ages? Don’t be that person! Take some time to update your site with some recent photos, that updated headshot, and a blog post or two.
11. Run a Social Media Contest
It’s ironic. If you don’t look busy, you might never become busy. Putting together a contest that creates engagement, new followers, and results in at least one session (session giveaway, anyone?) is a great way to make yourself busy while staying in front of your target market.
12. Make Vendor Connections
Get out there and beat the streets! Go door to door and introduce yourself to local business owners. Make a connection, offer services, and get to know your neighbors. You might be surprised what can come of taking a few minutes once or twice a week to actually talk to people!
13. engage in a personal project
Putting some effort into learning a new type of photography, updating a technique, or perfecting something you already enjoy is certainly valuable. You’ll grow as a photographer and end up with some great stuff to show your followers.
14. Examine and Update Your Portfolio
Again, it’s important to have recent photos in your portfolio. Anything less could be misconstrued or confusing to your potential clients. Don’t make that mistake!
15. Volunteer Time and Talent
Giving back is one of the enjoyable sides of this photographic industry. There are so many valuable causes out there that lack the budget for great photography. While I’m not a proponent of shooting for “exposure,” I’m more than happy to help out occasionally with a pro-bono photo shoot for a worthy cause. The added benefit is that there are times where you do get to meet new clients, get some great exposure, and have a great time in the process.
What about you?
What are some of the steps you take to fill the down time in a productive fashion? I’d love to hear some of your favorite tips!