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Complacency is risky: 7 signs that it’s time to redefine your photography business

Too many photographers feel stuck in a photography niche that they don’t love anymore, or with a photography website that doesn’t do them justice.

I want to empower you to change the status quo, to get out of the rut and redefine your photography business. Because being complacent will hold you back from success.

complacency: “a feeling of calm satisfaction with your own abilities or situation that prevents you from trying harder”
(source: Cambridge Dictionary)

To make a change, you must first understand the “warning signs” that tell you when it’s time for a change:

1. Has your business stagnated in recent years?

Technology improves constantly. Your clients’ needs change over time.

So what’s relevant to your business now might not be in a few years, you need to stay current to have continued success.

Here’s a snippet from my two-part article on Digital Photography School: “The Future of Photography Websites – Understanding and Adapting to Trends”

You should embark on the long process of defining your target audience and figuring out their likes and needs:

  • Read industry blogs (What shifts are there in the industry? What tools are popular these days?).
  • Get inspiration from other successful sites in your niche (How are other photographers writing to their audience?)
  • Continually get feedback from your readers/clients (Can you see some patterns in the contact messages you get from readers? Can you ask a few clients why they chose you?)
  • Understand the process a client goes through to find a photographer like you, and draw conclusions to inform your website copy and marketing efforts (Where do my target clients go looking for photographers? What are their most common questions and concerns?).
  • Think about what visitors on a page are most likely looking for, and make sure that’s front and center (Does a reader come to your About page to vaguely see if you’re passionate about photography, or in fact to quickly view your experience and location?)

Answering questions like this should, in time, create a strong new mindset for building a site that’s useful and appealing to your audience.

2. Do you no longer enjoy your work?

If your life goals have changed, you need to ask yourself the hard business questions that allow you to pivot. Only then can you try to re-align your website with your goals (maybe you need promote different types of images, or maybe you need to have new photography services for your target audience).

And if you’ve grown tired of your current photography niche, it will be difficult to transition to something else, but it’s not impossible. There might be an overlap period (where you’re still paying the bills with the old type of work, but trying to grow your new line of business in the meantime). Your website should reflect that transition accordingly, you might want to put everything under the same roof for a while.

3. Does your site have big functionality and security issues?

If you’ve had really bad experiences with web-designers in the past, you might be at the end of your rope. Read this heart-wrenching story from photographer Chris Dei to see what she went through.

Or it’s just that you’re using an outdated tool or service that’s no longer right for your online business.

New platforms and technologies might be around – that you can use to better showcase and sell your images.

Staying in touch with the current industry standards (or asking your friends or a web-designer for advice) might show you new options for your online presence going forward.

4. Do you feel there’s no way you can compete in the over-saturated market?

Maybe you’re playing the wrong game.

If you’re trying to beat others on price, you’re in a race to the bottom. Micro-stock sites have one the battle many years ago already.

Or if you’re still trying to win the “SEO game”, you’re out of luck again. SEO is no longer a game you can “win” with tags & keywords; Google cares more instead about user satisfaction.

If you feel that you can’t differentiate yourself in your crowded market, you might need to:

  • specialize (choose a market vertical, research their photographic needs, and shoot those types of projects)
  • be more remarkable (doing things out of the ordinary, taking bigger risks with your photography projects)
  • make your site more trustworthy (if you have quality work but you’re not presenting it in the right way)

5. Were you expecting things to become easier by now?

Many photographers believe that once they do the initial work of launching a website, they can just sit back and wait for the “machine” to bring in money automatically.

Of course, that’s not the case. The secret is in the leg-work after the launch. The level of work that goes into a photography business only goes up over time, you need to be prepared for it. Hard work is the only way to get ahead in the industry.

Overconfidence will backfire. Instead, you should anticipate hidden costs and little setbacks along the way, and prepare as much as possible for what’s to come. Your online presence will be a continuous investment of your time & money: fresh new images, blogging, optimizing, adapting to industry trends, etc.

The expression should be: “Built it, continue working hard, and they will come.” :-)

6. Do you have a passion project that you’ve been postponing for a long time?

I don’t need to tell you that life is short.

If something is important, you need to put it on your calendar, otherwise, it won’t get done.

There’s no such thing as “not enough time”, it’s just a matter of priorities. It’s simply not important enough for you to act on it.

So if you feel that a big change is needed in your photography career, you need to muster up the courage to make the leap.

7. Are you simply not getting any results?

Benchmarking your current situation can be eye-opening. If your current stats show you that you’re not getting any traffic on your site, or people are not converting at all (they’re not contacting you or buying your images), it’s time to go back to the drawing board.

Do some market research and see if you are indeed in a viable market and if there are successful competitors in your field (which is a good sign that there’s enough demand for what you’re offering as a photographer). Try to gauge what they’re doing differently (not to copy them, but to see where you can do even better).

Or try surveying your past clients to learn what they (dis)like about your business, what they wish you offered instead.

 

Further reading:
Seth Godin – inspired articles from the FGWeb newsletter:

 

Conclusion

If you’ve answered “No” to all of the questions above, congrats! It means you’re on top of things and you’re constantly trying to reinvent yourself and find meaningful projects. The self-awareness needed to do that is no small feat, keep up the good work.

But for any “Yes” answer, maybe it’s time for a change. Staying where you are and doing nothing might be the riskiest thing you can do!

And don’t be afraid to tackle hard business decisions, that’s where the key is. Redesigning your site should not just be about getting a fresh look, but instead about helping you reach your (new) specific goals.

So, are you content with the current state of your photography business?

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