Photography and Covid-19 don't mix! This post shows how we survived the lockdown period and continue to build our business.
Some of you may know that I was hospitalised last Christmas with a condition that in hindsight was almost certainly Covid-19. It was possibly the scariest thing that's ever happened to me.
A so called flu that left me feverish and sweating in bed to the point where I collapsed in the middle of the night. Ambulance, Emergency clinic, Oxygen and intravenous liquids for 24 hours in total isolation. The ambulance crew told my partner that I was minutes away from sinking into a coma. The aftermath was little better, no energy, unable to work a full day for several months. Not good.
When lockdown was announced the phone started ringing. With cancellations. We were fully booked for two months and looking at our best ever quarter. Within a couple of hours we had every drop of income cancelled. Today, we're back to where we were before lockdown, so how did we cope?
It was immediately obvious that anything involving people was not going to work so we did two things. Firstly we opened an account with Zoom and concentrated on our product photography business. That worked, no human contact. We shared galleries on Pixieset for approval, started a more rigorous pre-shoot routine involving shared galleries in Pinterest and took delivery of the products at a proper distance. The photography business was alive. The Video business was impossible to sustain through lockdown, however we leveraged those skills in a different context to great advantage.
I have spent most of my commercial career in the context of digital marketing - web sites, social media and e-commerce and we had started to get requests from our photography clients to help them market their products. We had two web based projects already set up so I launched a companion site to Helter Skelter Studios called Helter Skelter Design and started to actively promote a new set of services. Web Design, Digital Marketing & SEO. This works better than I had expected and today we have 13 websites under our management. Six of which we designed and built. We have also designed and delivered six digital marketing campaigns for clients and an online learning site for a Teacher Training organisation. From a standing start, that has surpassed expectations.
The slowdown in my photography work means that I can devote time to development and personal projects. I have a website, chriswright.photography specifically for personal projects and found very quickly that I was rediscovering my photography mojo. Better still, the money brought in by Helter Skelter Design pays to upgrade my cameras! I never forget that my early commercial work was dominated by clients who were attracted by the drama of my landscape photography, so I know that there is a crossover. I also use the time to improve my photoshop skills and to re-assess the software I use for processing.
The result has been that I have discovered a new suite of tools that I use in my personal projects - DXO Photolab, the best RAW Processor I've come across. I've started to explore different styles of photography too, isolation is an opportunity to learn new tricks and to perform old ones better. So in addition to landscape, I'm developing a more cinematic style to add to the portfolio, feeding back in to the digital marketing work.
We're leveraging our video skills in the context of digital marketing. Editing short sharp pieces for our clients to use on LinkedIn and Social Media. A piece we created entirely from user generated content has recently attracted over 3000 views on the Funky Frankwell facebook page. These are skills that are hard to acquire, post-Covid it's a matter of finding the right context to use them in.
Photography and Covid-19
Today, we're looking at a continuing downturn in the economy and a dramatic rise in the number of infections recorded in the UK. It's doubtful that things will ever be the same. Yet as a business, we are in a stronger position than we were before lockdown. We have a whole new string to our bow and the photography business is picking up again. So much so that we may have to recruit new staff.
What are the core lessons?
- Don't Give Up!
- Leverage existing skills. Learn new ones. Get Better at what you already do. Be humble, there is always something to improve!
- Pivot. You don't have to be defined by your current job. You've invested a lot of time and money making yourself the creative you are - be the creative you could be.
- Don't worry about competition, build your business based on your strengths, skills and experience.
- Don't go down the road of special offers - instead of reducing prices add more value.
- Keep it real. I've seen businesses promote crazy offers that they cannot possibly make a living from. Don't go down this road, you'll end up hating yourself and your customers.
- Don't be afraid of competing with established companies. You'll be surprised how much of a differentiator your track record is.
I hope this is useful, if it is you might also enjoy..