We had a good December last year, receiving two to three inquiries a day, many of which turned into bookings. We were loving being busy. With business temporarily booming, we could finally start chipping away at our credit card and putting some money away for a rainy day. Glorious day! We were ready to take 2015 by the horns. In December, there wasn't a cloud in site.
But unfortunately, in the coming weeks our luck would take a turn towards reality. January came - the beginning of our first full year spent breaking into a new market in a new country, and we felt ready. Inquiries dwindled, but that was okay, we'd had a great December, remember? February arrived, and our inbox was barren. I found myself subscribing to e-mail lists just to have something to read when I made my morning coffee and settled int to he office chair. Even spam made for some good reading!
So, what happened?
We'd raised our prices slightly to accommodate our new package offerings... was that extra $150 alienating potential clients? I sure hoped not, because living in Maui and running a business right isn't cheap so we couldn't afford to drop them. We moved here with very little savings - oh wow, that wasn't smart, was it?
Okay, I don't recommend it but until Slow February it didn't seem to matter. Worse yet, did our work suddenly suck so bad that we weren't even worthy of a two line e-mail asking how much, when, and where? Not likely... or was it?! Deflated, Adam and I spent many sleepless nights wondering where we went wrong. What we knew was that we were experiencing radio silence. What we didn't know is that sometimes, it happens.
Being our first year spent in a new area we were unsure when or if business would pick up again. I'll admit we became a bit sulky, worried we'd started 2015 a bit too keen by both going full time in our own business.
Then I looked back on an e-mail from a friend and fellow photographer named Caitlin who warned that February can be a bit silent. We decided nothing had gone terribly wrong, but in order to not completely lose heart, we needed to fill the blank space with something meaningful. Reality check: running your own business, especially when you're establishing in a new area, does not come easy. While we are free to be our own boss, with the positive comes the inevitable negative that sometimes work won't be flowing like a fondue fountain.
So here's what we did.
Slow February gave us some free time that we usually don't have during the busy seasons. We surfed every day, sometimes twice. The inbox remained empty, but I was too busy rubbing aloe on my sunburn to notice.
Having not visited my mom in a year we decided to use our savings to purchase two round trip tickets to Chicago to see them.We brewed coffee at home instead of treating ourselves. We made plans to shoot a trash the dress session, one we had been dreaming of for ages but was something we might not have been able to pull off during busy times. It ended up being our favorite shoot to date and injected new life into our business.
Here are a few suggestions if you feel business is a bit slow. I know everyone's situation is different, but hopefully you can relate to some of them.
- Catch up on paperwork. You know all that stuff that is boring as hell but you have no time to do it in the busy periods? Do it now! Talk to your accountant to map out the year ahead and search around for more economical insurance policies.
- Take care of yourself. If you can afford to at this time, visit your physician, dentist, gyno, whatever, and get all the checkups you're due for but have been pushing to the side because there's not enough time in the day when you have shoots stacked to the roof.
- Blog daily. If you're good with words, dig through the photo archives and try to create a blog post about your favorite images. Or maybe write something that would be relevant to your clients, like an article about what to expect on your wedding day or during a portrait session with you.
- Update your portfolio. Have you looked at your website lately? Are the images SEO friendly? Is your text proofread and your content easy to read? Update your portfolio and delete the shots that don't make you warm and fuzzy because chances are, your potential clients will be thinking the same.
- Watch Creative Live. They have streaming photography courses that are free, and you can also purchase lectures to watch whenever you wish. I bought Sal Cincotta's wedding photography boot camp course a year ago and still watch and re-watch it - the way he speaks, in my opinion, is entirely motivating and pushes me to value our business.
- Go on an adventure! Get outdoors - seriously, e-mails have this weird way of not showing up until you actually step away from your computer. Try it.
- Ask why you're slow. Are you suddenly not receiving anything in your inbox, despite having not made any extreme changes to your business structure? It might be that the market is just slow. If you've recently upped your pricing, be patient and wait a bit longer before dropping it back down again if you can afford to. We've experienced a lull after every completely necessary price increase but ultimately the lull gives way to bookings.
- Talk to fellow photographer friends in your area. You may find they have been experiencing something similar, and you can work together to find a solution or at least provide encouragement.
For us, our friend who told us that February would be slow was right and in March inquiries began to slowly creep in once more, and I had more than Spam to read in my inbox each day.
So if you're experiencing a bit of Radio Silence for what appears to be no apparent reason, just know you're not alone - it's just part of it. Keep creating beautiful work and believing in yourself, because ultimately, the value you place on your work will show.