How much time and effort have you dedicated to setting up your business plan?

ZenBrianZenBrian Administrator Posts: 1,689
In a world where “everyone’s a photographer”, knowing the trade and having clearly defined goals and resources is becoming increasingly important to keep a photography business out of the red. Having a detailed business plan is a great way to keep things tasked and on pace with how you want to grow or maintain your business. Looking at the points in the Photographers Corner blog post on creating a business plan, it breaks things down into 6 main steps, from Defining your Focus to Getting Discovered…and everything in between. Taking an introspective look, how much time and effort have you dedicated to setting up your business plan? How do you think it has helped your business?

How much time and effort have you dedicated to setting up your business plan? 66 votes

I haven’t done one yet, I’ve just been winging it!
39% 26 votes
I have a few ideas down, but it’s only what I would consider “halfway”
30% 20 votes
It’s pretty complete, at least I have a good basis to go off of
21% 14 votes
Detailed, complete, and I re-evaluate it once a year!
9% 6 votes

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  • I do plan my business, but I also choose to "go with the flow" to an extent. It allows me to be flexible to what my customers want. Plus, I'm a wildlife photographer not a wedding photographer which I imagine requires something more rigid.
  • kthompsonkthompson Member Posts: 2,473
    I did not create a business plan, and honestly would not know where to begin. I don't even know what my particular 'goals' are for my business, not specifically anyways. I would like to get to where I have the ability to support myself without an 'employee position' at another company being required to make ends meet. But I also want the freedom to do what I feel I want or need at any time so I can take care of the many things I feel passionate about taking care of. To really sum it up, I just don't know that much about business plans, I just want to shoot with reliable equipment, and afford to live. That's my plan.
  • When I started my business in 2009 and registered with the State of Ohio, they actually sent me a business plan packet. In the packet was a very detailed questionnaire for your business plan and goals. It took a long time to complete all the information but every year when I do my taxes, I look it over and reevaluate if need be.
  • shazshaz Member Posts: 2
    I don't have a written plan, but I have a detailed plan in my head and I am more open to changing the plan this way.
  • Kevin KrowsKevin Krows United StatesMember Posts: 1,462
    edited August 2013
    Most business owners don't have a plan because they simply don't understand what a business plan is for or how to implement one. For large businesses, a comprehensive business plan including sales projections and financial pro-forma's are required. Why? Because that's what banker's and investors want to see in order to make lending and investment decisions from. From an operational standpoint, they worth no more than the paper they are printed on because people simply can't execute them due to their complexity.

    The better approach is a to create a "Perpetual Strategic Plan" that is limited to one or two pages. Perpetual means it's a live working document that you are using every day and is frequently updated. Strategic means the document includes metrics (keys to success) that are measurable and will keep you on task and accountable for results. I've been crafting business plans for over 30 years for both large and small business. The only successful plan is one that is easy to understand and execute by those that have the most influence over them.

    Vision / Mission - Skip the flowery stuff. Your Vision or Mission Statement is a single sentence that describes what you are trying to build, how you're going to do it, and when it will be done.

    "Build a $100,000 portrait photography company by January 1, 2015 by focusing on mom's with special reoccurring needs for individual and family portraits."

    Objectives / Goals - These are the metrics of success. Again, forget the puffy stuff and get down to what matters most. These are long term metrics that support your Vision Statement.

    1. Develop a client base of 400 clients who are willing to spend an average of $500.00 on family portraits every two years.
    2. Add 50 new clients each year to replace former clients through referrals only.
    3. Maintain operational expense at no more than 10% of revenues.

    Strategies - What are your specific strategies between now and January 1, 2015, that will allow you to reach your objectives systematically and on-time? Strategies are long-term and rarely change except when you are adding new services or your vision statement and objectives have changed.

    1. Join professional and civic groups where the circle of influence is primarily working mothers. Develop strong relationships with those that appear passionate about their kids (always talking about them).
    2. Ask current customers for permission to use their testimonials and a sample portrait on my company blog.
    3. All marketing materials are immediately delivered via our company web site including CURRENT portfolios featuring CURRENT clients and written content that is personal, honest, and believable. (Don't write in the third person and don't start your bio off with... "When I was 5 years old I fell in love with photography...bla..bla..bla."
    4. Always give 100% of the credit to the subjects you are photographing and thank your clients by rewarding those she cares about the most ... her kids. (You would be surprised how cooperative kids will be if they know they will get a small reward. Make having their pictures taken fun (as opposed to a chore) and mom will be yours for life!

    Tactics - These are your current activities that you are involved with today, this week, this month, or this quarter. Every activity needs to line-up behind a strategy. If it doesn't, don't do it!!! Again, DON"T DO IT!!

    1. Call Carol Smith from my Kiwanis Club to see if she would like to go to lunch. Carol is very well liked in our club and I believe that shooting her family portrait would bring others in our club to me.
    2. Call Jen Howard and thank her for the nice thank you note. Ask her if it would be ok to use it on my blog with a picture of her two girls.
    3. Take down any portrait older than one year off my web site and replace it with current portraits shot within the last 60 days.
    4. Pick up iTunes gift cards for Johnson family teenagers for next month's photo shoot.
    5. Send out a hand written Thank You card to the Baker family. Make sure to point out that new baby Samie is what made these photographs great!

    Score Card - Month to Month Tracking of your Objectives (Metrics). Easy to do with a spreadsheet.

    Current Clients
    January 115
    February 118
    March 119

    New Clients (Year to Date)
    January 3
    February 13
    March 15

    Sales / Expense Ratio (Year to Date)
    January - 23%
    February - 17%
    March - 13%

    As you can see, a great business plan is a working document that never leaves your side. You refer to it daily, monthly, and yearly. It's not stuck in a folder to be filed away. It's on your desk ready for you 24/7. So, set your stop watch to 60 minutes, use my outline or create one of your own, and get to work. I think you'll be very surprised with what you come up with in one hour (uninterrupted so shut off your cell phone, email, radio, and television).

    Perpetual Strategic Business Plans are a process .... not an event. They need to be functional (for you) and they don't need to be pretty or wordy so as to impress others.

    No more excuses.. get it done.

    Good luck!
    Post edited by Kevin Krows on
  • Erica, I love your boudoir photography! I'm planning to do an outdoor bridal boudoir shoot of my daughter before her wedding, complete with white lace corset and garter, red heels, antique lace parasol, and antique crocheted lace gloves. I definitely need some posing ideas.
  • Thank you Tresa! Sorry I'm just now seeing this. The most important posing tip I can give is to put what you don't want to be seen as much further away from the camera, especially in boudoir. Have fun!
  • I'm probably a bit unique, but I look at myself first as a business owner and second as a photographer. Honestly, I have as much fun running the business (marketing, sales, etc.) as I do taking and processing photos. As such, I definitely do have a pretty clear annual business plan and budget. I love setting the plan, executing on it and then measuring the results. Oh, and taking photos, too!
  • Pete FerlingPete Ferling Member Posts: 26
    The reason for a business plan is because you need to learn more about running a business and not about shooting. Taxes, overhead and cost of doing business, etc. Things that are universal across all types of services. The site will provide a good foundation with a small investment of your time in reading it.

    A solid business plan may even suggest that your initial hunches won't pay off.

    You also have to consider change, and I've worked for a firm that made their money hand over fist based on a profit for print model, and then recently fail because they refused to switch to sitting fees when the prints declined.

    Business plans also take time, typically 3-5 years to know for certain. You'll learn things in application and have to make adjustments. It's very common for most folks to hold jobs doing other things in order to fund their ventures. I know of successful vendors whom take on jobs and other work in slow seasons. Me, I've taken work with production companies setting up stages and running venues. All for getting my face in front of corporate and entertainment types.

    A business plan, if for nothing else, forces you to go from the fence into the field. Execution is critical, even if you plan to throw mud in hopes some sticks, at least your doing something about it. Getting busy puts you front of folks, gets your name out and establishes reputation.

    I've held a day job for over a decade before going freelance two years ago, and it's been a learning process. So far I went from a studio model to mobile. Dumping the overhead, having a leaner CODB. I had to retool and rethink, dropping generalized work and specializing.

    Finally, if you've got no business in planning, then you've got no business. :)
    Commercial and Product Photography
    This was a great idea!
  • Karen MaysKaren Mays Member Posts: 3
    I"m a disability carer for one of my children so I have limited funds and limited time and certain restrictions that i need to wok around. The photography is only meant to be a part time business only, however I treat it the same way as a million dollar top level business would. I'm not half-way harry with my approach. I spent a year researching everything- including my limitations (eg I have Aspergers so wheeling and dealing is out of the question- turning invisible and quietly shooting then getting web based orders- perfect). I looked at what everyone else was doing, what I could do to improve on what they were doing, what i would want if i was a customer, where the customers are, what do they want, how to get exposure to those customers, where is the best value in me promoting myself. What makes a good website, what is important to focus on and what is a distraction eg if potential customers can't see images because they are tiny or covered in graffiti to deter "theft" or your website rants and raves about people stealing photo's or expecting "freebies", you might just be scaring off the wrong people!
    I also set a realistic goal knowing that it will take at least a year to get established in a competitive market. I'm getting referrals and repeat business after 6 months, and have already exceeded my 12 month $ goals.
    I'm very happy with myself.
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