Several years ago, I was working as a second shooter for a dear friend of mine; we were photographing an elopement together that day, and it was going to be beautiful!
We planned to drive a few hours to the base of a mountain, where the bride and groom would gather with a few family members and tie the knot, all while taking in the view of an incredible panorama.
The wedding party got together in their cars and began to caravan up toward the mountain. The excitement was palpable; we were all abuzz just thinking of this incredible moment we would share later.
As we approached the intersection of a road, each slowly came to a stop and waited their turn to continue. It was then that the father of the groom thought he saw the car in front of him accelerate. Without a second thought, he put his foot to the gas pedal. The metal of his bumper met with the vehicle just ahead with an ungodly screech — it was his son, the groom, whose car he had collided with.
Shocked and alarmed, the groom accelerated.
He lost control of his vehicle and swerved to the side of the road, ultimately careening into a small ditch.
None of us knew what to do at that moment.
What do you do when your plans go awry? How do you recover?
As a photographer, I always thought I knew what I was destined to do with my life: taking beautiful photos and capturing memories for incredible people, of course. Yet, I had so much trouble translating that confidence and understanding into my business. I knew what I wanted to be doing, I simply didn’t know how to consistently get clients, or how to run a business once I had them for that matter!
What I learned years later (after admittedly making many, many mistakes) was that my business was simply lacking a plan. No, I don’t mean a dense, 30-page, MBA-worthy business plan! I mean something useful that would help me clearly remember why I served my clients, what jobs needed to get done, and how I would sustain things!
A Plan Changes Everything
Alan Lakein – an incredible author on personal time management – once wrote, “Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.”
From photographers to interior designers, creative entrepreneurs know exactly where they want to be in the future. While creating and keeping a plan for our businesses can feel like a daunting task, doing so helps us identify an achievable path toward our desired future that we can work on now.
Your plan can be incredibly simple – even just one page will do the trick. As long as you’re answering the right questions, you can create one of the single most useful tools for running and growing your business.
Start with why.
In 2009, Simon Sinek gave a now-infamous TED Talk entitled “How great leaders inspire action”. The talk, now bearing a staggering 53 million views since it was first published, centers around the concept of “Why”.
“The inspired leaders and the inspired organizations – regardless of their size, regardless of their industry – all think, act, and communicate from the inside out.”
“Why” we do something is an intimate part of who we are. At its core, asking ourselves “Why” forces us to dig deeper into our vision for the future. When it comes to running a business, asking “Why” enables us to be better communicators, better leaders, and better creators.
When crafting your plan, start by asking yourself the following questions; why does your business exist? Why is your business different from others like it? Why will your business succeed?
Establishing a deeply felt understanding of yourself as a creative entrepreneur gives you the foundation that you need to create an exceptional business.
Talk about what?
Creatives are some of the most uniquely and widely talented people in the world. Plenty of videographers make for brilliant photographers as well and graphic designers often make for impeccable interior decorators, too.
But, what specifically is your business built for? What can only you do?
Identifying a specific niche that you wish to serve allows you to truly focus and effectively communicate to specific clients why they should work with you. If you’re a photographer, what kind of photography do you specialize in, and what type of client do you work with?
Besides clearly defining what your business does, ask yourself also what jobs need to be done in order to keep it running smoothly! Creative entrepreneurs wear many hats when operating a business. You’re never just a photographer: you are the sales and marketing departments, the finance team, you handle customer service, and more. Listing out and defining each of these specific roles helps you as the wearer of many hats to understand all the jobs that need to be done in your business. This way, you can easily understand what needs to be worked on!
Finally, identify what you need help with when it comes to running your business. It’s not always necessary to hire someone full-time, and many creative businesses can’t sustain such a big financial burden! Hiring a marketing agency to help with social media or a bookkeeper to take care of your finances can be a cost-effective way of freeing up your time to focus on what’s important.
This is how it all comes together.
Once you’ve defined why your business exists and what needs to be done, it’s time to define how. Asking these questions is incredibly impactful, as it truly lays out the strategies that your business uses to bring your future plans into the present.
How exactly does your business make money? By charging per hour, per session, will you sell physical products or digital items?
Along those same lines, how much money do you need to make each year to sustain yourself and grow your business? Unfortunately, tons of creative entrepreneurs fail to ask themselves this question and simply walk the path of growing their passion blindly, which can lead to some serious consequences.
Finally, how will you get clients? There are so many strategies when it comes to marketing your business. From social media to email marketing, how will you engage with your ideal customers?
Through writing and creating a Better Business Plan, you can easily set yourself up for success by understanding all aspects of your business. A plan helps you bring your vision for the future into the present – it is the foundation for your success!