How to Start a Photography Business: Creating the Business Plan, Part III
Welcome to part three of this three-part series on how to start your photography business! If you’ve followed the steps I’ve given in the series thus far, your business plan should be coming together nicely!
In part one of this three-part series, I covered the first three steps, which includes selecting your focus, researching the market, and identifying your direct competitors. In part two of this series, we looked at studying your competitors, finding your strengths, continuing your education, and defining your target market.
In this round, I’ll discuss how to use your values to create your vision and mission statements, as well as how to create short and longterm goals and outline your business plan!
- Select Your Focus
- Research The Market
- Identify Your Direct Competitors
- Study Your Direct Competitors
- Determine Your Strengths And Weaknesses
- Respect Yourself, Start With Education
- Define Your Target Market
8. Create your Values/Vision/Mission
You have defined your focus. You know what your competitors are doing. You have a good idea of where you’re strong and where you’re weak. You’ve also educated yourself. You’ve been going through the steps and now you need to start piecing together what you believe as a business. This may sound odd, but it’s crucial. I want you to create your values, your vision, and your mission statement for your business.
Knowing your core values, vision, and mission statement will help guide your overall business. On a day-to-day basis, these statement pieces will guide your every action, the opportunities you take, and those that you leave alone. Opportunities that don’t fall in line with the values, vision, and mission for your company need to be ignored! In addition, these statements will be your compass when the waters get rough and they will indeed get rough. Without these statements, it’s easy to get lost in busy work and decision making that goes against the intended direction and goals.
Core Values are essentially who we are. It’s what we believe, it’s what we strive for, and I’m going to give you an example of one within the business course. One of our Core Values is ownership. These Core Values are just as important within a one-person studio as it is within a multi-person studio. I’m going to explain why in just a moment. Our Core Value statement for ownership goes as follows:
We adopt extreme ownership. We understand that leadership is a two-way street going up and down the chain of command. Each individual of the team takes ownership over his or her actions as well as the actions of the team.
For our studio, we practice the principles of looking out the window with success, and into the mirror with each failure. The point of this, even on a one-person team, is to help guide your thoughts and decisions when you are emotionally compromised.
For example, let’s say a client complains about your work. As artists, we will naturally feel hurt. We have strong emotional ties to our work. The images we create are much like our children, and we are emotionally wired to defend that work. It’s easy to fall into these emotions and respond negatively to an already negative situation. We push back and resist instead of working to acknowledge and understand our client’s concern or complaint. However, in these moments our Core Values act as a compass or guide. Core Values like ownership can help us to pause and instead ask ourselves, “Where was it that I went wrong in this process? Was it something that I did? What could I do better going forward?” Core Values encourage you to approach each situation with the mindset that’s aligned to your business goals. They help us to guide our behavior, responses, and decisions; particularly when we aren’t seeing a certain situation clearly.
Now, let’s talk about a Vision Statement. A Vision Statement is similar to a future-thinking statement of your aspirations. It represents your aspirational future in the form of a short phrase. For Lin & Jirsa, we wrote the following:
We are the world’s foremost creative family historians, artfully documenting moments throughout our universal lenses.
You’ll notice in that statement we don’t mention photography because we don’t see ourselves simply as photographers. We see ourselves as historians and artists. We’ve written these words with intention. When photography is essentially taken over by the camera, we haven’t identified ourselves as photographers.
Photographers are the people that point and shoot, they click, they rely on their technical knowledge of lighting and all those things that are essentially being outsourced to the camera itself. The knowledge and skills you needed twenty years ago have now been outsourced to the smartphone, which is a better camera today than what we were using just a few years ago. Photographers will find themselves in a vulnerable position as technology continues to simplify the technical aspects of taking a photograph. However, as artists and historians, we identify ourselves as something that will never be outdated or replaced by technology.
Finally, a Mission Statement is essentially your commander’s intent in a single word or phrase. You’re going to sum up exactly who and what you are. For example, I love TED’s Mission Statement: “Spread Ideas.” That’s it.
Patagonia’s is a little bit longer, but it’s crystal clear: “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire, and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.” I love that. Let’s say you are a Patagonia supply representative. You are in the middle of seeking suppliers for your product in a place with no communication back to headquarters. There’s a supplier offering a product at a great price, but you know their business practices cause harm to the environment. Patagonia’s Mission Statement is a perfect guide and statement of the commander’s intent.
Your Mission Statement should guide your entire team whenever direction is unclear or emotionally compromised.
9. Create Short & Long-Term Goals
Once we have determined our core values and drafted our vision and mission statements, we’re going to create our short-term and our long-term goals. While creating goals, it is important to stick to your Core Values and not create goals based on what others have achieved. Another’s success may not be ideal for you if the pathway for attaining that level of success does not correlate well with your values.
Short-term goals should be those goals that are basically measurable and identifiable things that you can get done within the next month. Long-term goals are going to be more tied to your organizational objectives within a year. For example, maybe you want to reach a certain revenue point within five years. Learn to create those goals because you need to schedule and set your time accordingly.
Creating too many goals can be hard to track, especially if they’re convoluted. Instead, here is how to plan for long-term goals:
- 2-3 years in length
- Designed to steer
- Max 3-5 goals
10. Outline Your Business Plan
Finally, we need to have a place where we have summarized all of the details covered in steps 1-9 because we need to reference that information. That’s where a business plan comes in handy. A business plan doesn’t need to be complicated when you’re not going out and looking for outside investors, but it’s still a critical piece of information to document your entire plan for your business. There will be other opportunities and distractions that come up, and having quick access to all of the documentation and all the parts of your plan, including your short-term and your long-term goals, will help keep you focused on what you’re doing.
For those that wish to download the Executive Summary, which outlines everything in Part I through Part III of this article series, download the PDF for free by signing up for our newsletter:
Now that we’ve completed the ten steps to launch a business, we can actually start considering a name, creating our website, and putting together a portfolio. Take the Executive Summary and fill it out to fit your specific goals and business aspirations.
This is a small sample from our Complete Business Workshop Series on SLR Lounge. It’s a 40-hour course that acts as a complete roadmap to launching and creating the photography business of your dreams. This series is the complete operating manual for Lin and Jirsa Photography. It’s a roadmap and guide that we can promise will make you money. Give me your time, attention and effort, and I will return you a successful and thriving business.