Some of you are saying– there IS no off season, I still am shooting 100 family mini sessions, etc! Well, for the majority of us, shooting does slow down for the most part because of the cold weather. That is, if you’re here in grand ol’ wild weathered Virginia where it snows one day and the next week I’m on the beach in a bikini. Happens all the time, lol!
So while things are slowing down, of course it’s a healthy idea to sit back a little and rest and take a break. I DO however not believe in, for myself, taking a break where I’m just not doing anything for weeks. When you’re a small business owner and you stop blogging, posting, connecting to social media, etc– I feel like it equals a ton of missed opportunities to keep your name out there and active. Remember…a lot of people are getting ENGAGED over the holidays! 🙂 If you need a mental break though and you’re really burned out or stressed, of course, you come first and do what you need to do. BUT, if you are able to sit down one full day and pre-blog a bunch of topics and things to at least have two being featured a week, I think that’s a good idea! It’s all about planning ahead baby, ALL about planning ahead.
But if you’re not shooting anything– what can you blog about? ANYTHING!!!!!! That’s the freedom of it! I remember last year when it was cold posting a picture of my Key West wedding on my business page saying I sure did miss that weather, and the wedding was months before that, but just little snippets like that keep your images popping up in news feeds and make you appear active and working. You can blog about your favorite images from the year from weddings, and another blog post about sessions. You can blog what you learned from weddings, sessions, etc. You can do a “what to wear” blog for your 2014 clients! Girlfriend, if you wanted to- you could do an entire blog post on your favorite details/ring shots/etc from weddings from the year, anything! THINK THINK THINK AHEAD!!!!!! How can you make your 2014 better than your 2013???
It’s November 12 and I’ve started my “Off Season Goals and Duties” list already. I even listed dates for what my off season will consist of, December 15-February 15, and remember to throw in “having a baby” somewhere in there, too 🙂 My off season and maternity leave are perfectly timed thank GOODNESS! We have winter babies for a reason! 🙂 There is ONE thing you may want to consider doing before starting your list however, and I got it from Justin and Mary and Katelyn James. Consider, no matter how much it makes you feel kinda BLAH to write out a list, sit quietly in a room and make two columns on your paper. One named What Didn’t Work and What Did Work for your year 2013. Basically, you wanna think of everything that really seemed to rock out this year and things that were more aspirations and dreams that dwindled or never fully came to life.
Two examples I’ll throw out and totally call myself out: What Didn’t Work- my wedding welcome packets. I didn’t have enough money to make them the way I wanted but ADDITIONALLY I know all of my brides didn’t get one because I left that off my organizational system and workflow. Epic fail, and redoing bigger better and RIGHT this time in 2014! Mike and I are working on them now! What Did Work- using a BEAUTIFUL online magazine layout for my pricing guide for wedding inquiries! I LOVED the professionalism of sending this to inquiries complete with design, images and the main details they need to know with my wedding package and information!
Okay so let’s get that list written up soon. Once you have your What Worked and What Didn’t list written up…the second part should be BRILLIANTLY EASY 🙂 Now, you have an idea of what needs to be taken care of in the off season, right? Yes! And additionally, consider things like setting aside a day to calculate tax stuff, record mileage, etc. Give yourself THREE GOOD GOALS for next year, too! Consider having your equipment cleaned. Establish a new workflow that fits your upcoming year and any changes coming along (newborn baby anyone?:)) and make sure you have SYSTEMS for everything. For each session/wedding you shoot, you should have a systematic list that covers what needs to be done from beginning to end. NOT because you’re not capable of remembering, but because you are human and very capable of forgetting something along the way. The longer you’re in the business, the more you will add to this list. Three years ago, for me, it was show up, shoot session, edit and mail a disc. Now??? You should see my session workflow! It’s a full page long. Answer inquiry, book session and rain date, get retainer fee and contract, send session info sheet with outfit ideas and how to find locations, google map and print directions in case of GPS failure, clear cards and clean lenses before session, line up babysitter, shoot session, come home, post sneak, cull session, edit…ETC! LOTS more even after that nowadays! The more detail you give yourself and list it physically in front of your face, the less stressed you will be because you’re keeping up with things and stay organized. You’re not falling behind, not forgetting that one small step you can’t recall. Motherhood takes a huge toll on your memory and so does pregnancy so remember that this off season is the best best best time to make these cute little Word docs for yourself and get organized!
Some more ideas besides the above to add?
Update your website’s images/portfolio
Make sure your blog and website have all working links and are both properly branded
Brainstorm how to enhance client experience
Consider making template questionnaires for session and wedding inquiries
Go over your wedding/session contracts
Journal some blog ideas
Read wedding magazines/your favorite photogs blogs for inspiration and advice!
Revisit things you think you “have down”– just stopping to watch a YouTube video about Lightroom, aperture, ISO, etc every now and then will surprise you how much we still have yet to learn and understand
And lastly– DO NOT STOP SHOOTING! Keep practicing!!!!!!! Last year, I was trying to understand the 600ex flashes I purchased..and it was snowing outside one evening BIG flakes. I took my off camera flash, put a freezer bag over it and on it’s lightstand, got my other flash on the camera and put a freezer bag over that, too. Got my husband to bounce the on camera off the side of house and stood in front of the other speed light and got the most AMAZING image of my daughter and I that we will always cherish and gained a new understanding of equipment that night!
Get to work babies it’s getting cold outside!