6 Ways to Strengthen Your Photography Business During COVID-19
You might have to stay home but you don't have to slow down. In fact, no matter your circumstances, there are at least six things you can do right now to come out of this crisis stronger than ever as a conservation photographer.
It’s been about four weeks since things really got serious with COVID-19 in the US. There's been a lot of adjustments to make as living situations and financial situations have shifted in unexpected ways. For most of us, our work in the field as local photographers, assignment photographers, or instructors has been put on hold.
However, that doesn't mean everything has to be put on hold.
In fact, there's a lot each of us can work on right now to come out of this crisis stronger than ever.
This period of time will test our mindsets. It will require us to recognize limiting beliefs and flip them into solutions. It will require us to see the opportunity in every hardship.
And that’s what I’m digging into within this episode. We're covering six things to work on right now — whether you are a hobbyist or a pro — that will help you keep motivated, keep moving, and build up your photography work.
1. Building your audience
Now is the perfect time to take advantage of increased social media consumption, and make two smart moves to grow your reach.
2. Getting your finances organized
I know, this is an anxiety-producing activity right now. But it is the time to be brave, take a realistic look, and create systems that allow you to wisely pursue revenue streams that will keep you working in photography. I cover four tasks that will help you get clear on your numbers so you can get clear on decisions about your work.
I guide you through four steps that will help you get this clarity starting right now.
3. Capitalizing on new verticals
This might surprise you but there are indeed plenty of people who have been only minimally affected financially by the COVID-19 pandemic, and they are looking to support small businesses and creatives. So, give them a reason to support YOU. If you've been thinking about launching a new service like portfolio reviews, or a product like an ebook, or a Patreon site, and you’re worried that now is a terrible time to do that… I’m here to flip that on its head. Now is as good a time as any.
4. Optimize your website for searchability
I’m not talking about making your website pretty or doing a big revamp. What I’m talking about is the behind-the-scenes work for your website that helps you get discovered and noticed. I walk you through three really smart updates to make on your website right now, while you have time to tinker with your online presence.
5. Go through your archives and look for stories you can pitch
So, you can’t get out to shoot fresh material right now, but it doesn’t mean that you should stop pitching. I’m willing to bet you have stories in your archive that you’d passed over, put aside, back-burnered… and suddenly they might have a chance to shine.
I outline what to be extra aware of when pitching during COVID-19.
6. Focus on grant applications for your projects and stories
Grants are going to be more important than ever for keeping you funded and out in the field. So, if you haven’t been serious about them before, now is the perfect time to do some research, figure out what grants are available, and start applying.
And to help you out, I've made you a grant tracker that will help you stay organized with all those opportunities waiting for you. You can download it below.
Get Jaymi's “Grant Tracker”
This episode is sponsored by:
Our episode sponsor is Wild Idea Lab, my membership community where conservation visual storytellers find creativity, community and support for their wildest work. Wild Idea Lab is designed specifically for emerging and established photographers, filmmakers, and artists working in conservation and science communication.
With monthly masterclasses, live events, community engagement and so much more, members from around the world accelerate their growth as creatives and find their place in a network of colleagues and friends. Whether just starting out or you’ve been a pro for years, Wild Idea Lab has the resources you need to do more, and go farther with your work.
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Bonus Episode: 6 Ways to Strengthen Your Photography Business During COVID-19
(Digitally transcribed, please forgive any typos)
It's been about four weeks since things really got serious with Cove in 19 here in the United States, when events started getting canceled when tours shut down, workshops were canceled assignments frozen place projects were put on hold.
It's been a lot of adjustment from sheltering in place in dealing with what that looks like for us and our families to navigating systems that a lot of us haven't navigated before, like unemployment or applications for disaster loans. Since Day one, though, I have felt really strongly that despite everything we is, conservation photographers don't need to slow down. We do not need to put what we do entirely on pause.
Yes, there are things we have to deal with, but we do not have to just hit hold on our conservation photography work.
It doesn't matter if you work in this field is a hobby, or if you're trying to build up your portfolio and skills to one day, make a living at it or you're working right now as a professional photographer, all of us have opportunities to stay active and make progress in our work. Even within all the changes and limitations that have been put around us in this episode, I want to highlight six things that you can do to actually strengthen your photography work and business during this time. Because you do not have to slow down the work that you are so passionate about. You can keep moving ahead in areas that will help you do an even better job over time and including when we come out of the COVID-19 Crisis. I mean, that's a pretty amazing opportunity, right? This period of time is going to test our mindsets. It's the perfect opportunity to really recognize you're limiting beliefs, whatever they might be, and pivot them into something much more productive. So if you have been sitting there thinking, Well, I can't work on any of this right now because I can't get outside or I I mean I'd have my funding stalled out or whatever it may be, that's a limiting belief. What you can do is pivot what you're working on and come out of this stronger like right now.
Inside of my membership community, Wild Idea Lab were starting in on six weeks of group coaching sessions where we're gonna be talking about this a lot where you see a barrier, you get to reframe it into opportunity. And that's what I'm talking about in this episode. All of these opportunities that exist for you. Even if you think you can't move forward, you actually could do quite a few incredibly productive things that are going to significantly strengthen your photography work and your business so that you come out of this crisis stronger, smarter, more resilient than ever. And how wonderful is it to know that the conservation issues that we face and that we really care about is going to have an advocate that's even better positioned to fight for it? That's really inspiring, right? So let's talk about what's happening right now and what you can do to stay motivated, keep moving forward and build up your photography work.
Welcome to impact the conservation photography podcast. I'm your host, Jaymi Heimbuch. And if you are a visual storyteller with a love for all things wild, then you're in the right place, from conservation to creativity, from business to marketing and everything in between. This podcast is for you, conservation visual storyteller who is ready to make impact. Let's dive in.
Okay, so I'm outlining six opportunities for you in this episode, but I want to preface it with this. These are just six of many opportunities that exist for you right now. To keep moving forward in your work and to strengthen your photography practice or your business. It doesn't matter if you're a hobbyist or pro. These six opportunities are things that you will want to implement right now, but it's just six of many more. Remember, it's all about your mindset and recognizing limitations as potential opportunities. So I want you to think of these six as your starting point and as you implement them and you see small winds that grow into big wins and you feel your confidence grow, then I want you to think about what other opportunities there are for you right now. No matter if you are stuck at home in quarantine or you are stressed to the max about your finances because everything got canceled on you. I want you to think about what opportunities are ripe for the picking right now because there are more than just six, I promise you, but let's start with these six .
And one more thing before we dive in. I need to take a moment to express some gratitude. See, this podcast has been up and running for just two months, two months that have flown by. And in that time, amazing listeners have been leaving five star ratings and even more encouraging, we've been leaving reviews. See, I have no idea who's listening when I roll out an episode or how it's landing. Other than some stats that tell me how often episodes downloaded, I've got nothing. So the reviews are the best way that I could know that this podcast is helpful or even reaching anyone. So I want to give a shout out to one of my reviewers. So this review comes from bmacfarl and bmacfarl says "Wow. I've already listened to the 1st 3 podcasts, and Jamie's got a great podcast. Siri's going. She's very organized and has very thoroughly thought through some of these challenges we face in conservation photography. It's almost as if she's figured out the next challenge I'm going to face and already has a podcast for that. And she's a positive force to very encouraging. Keep them coming. Jaymi"
Thank you so much bmacfarl for this review. It is so incredible to hear that the podcast is answering. The challenge is that you're facing because that's exactly my goal with this, to inspire, to educate, to encourage listeners, because I think that you, whoever you are, who's listening right now, you are doing one of the most incredible and important things you're using your talents toe Advocate for conservation. Thank you for the way that you are using your talents and passion, and I'm glad that I can provide some help for you and focusing it to be effective. If you are inspired or encouraged by this podcast, please consider leaving a rating or of you because seeing them just reinforces my energy behind creating episodes. And I'm incredibly grateful for every single one of them.
Okay, mushiness put aside, Let's get into these opportunities that I promised.
So Opportunity Number one is building your audience. So right now, social media consumption is up. It is way up something like 37% growth in Facebook consumption. I can't remember the statistic offhand for Instagram, but I think it was something like 22%. But statistics aside, more people are turning to social media for staying, connected, staying, engaged, staying informed and staying entertained. So now is the time to do one thing that all social media marketers agree is the best way to grow and engaged following Get consistent with your content postings. Consistency is key for growing and engaged following, but I don't want you to do this for the reason that you might think. I mean, I am definitely all for growing your audience on social media. Great way to, you know, engage with people toe. Find new audience members to reach more people. But that's just one step for the way I actually want you to grow your audience right now. So Step one is getting consistent on a daily or weekly basis posting on your social media accounts with, you know, great images and thorough captions that people enjoy. But Step two is launching and growing your email list, which is where the real power lies, so you'll get consistent on your social media account in order to strengthen your ability to launch and grow an email list. So doing a more consistent job on social is going to help you grow much more in email, and that is What is so important.
In Episode nine, I talk about why an email list is such a critical tool for a conservation photographer. Whether you are a hobbyist or you are a professional, it doesn't matter, and e mail list is where you can actually reach your audience, where you build riel relationships and where you have the highest possible engagement levels. And all of that matters when something important is going on. So whether you are launching a project or a fundraiser, or you're offering a new service like a workshop, and you need to reach a loyal following in a way that they'll actually see the information act on it. That is where an email list comes into play and an Episode nine I walk you through How to create and grow your email list. I even give you a starter kit for downloading. So what I would love to see you do right now is to head over to Episode nine. If you haven't listened to it yet. Download your starter kit, and if you don't have an email list, start one. And if you do grow it, it is truly the perfect time to build up your audience and connect on a very real level because right now, with social media consumption way up, you have the opportunity to reach people that you might not normally be able to reach. And in conservation, that's huge.
Now what's exciting is that I'm watching conservation photographers do this right now and with great success. So inside my membership community, Wild Idea Lab I did an in-depth masterclass on creating and growing an email list. So Episode nine is thorough, but wow in the email list masterclass we really get into the details, and I'm watching members implement it. And in fact, one member launched his email list. And since launching it, he seen not only his list grow but also more Web site visits and more engagement on his social media platforms. That's a big deal. In other words, that list is indeed helping him to connect with more people, and that's helping his photography business right now.
So Opportunity number one that you can do right now, no matter what is to build your audience, make sure to check out Episode nine and add to your calendar a time each day or each week when you will post to your accounts so that you build up that habit of consistency on social media. The more consistent you get there, the easier it is to promote your email list and grow that.
Okay, Opportunity number two getting your finances organized. Now, I know that this might be stress inducing right now, but this is really critical, and it's something that you can actually focus on right now. So if you didn't know your numbers before, if you didn't have systems in place for understanding your expenses in your income for your photography again whether you do this as a hobby and you use your personal funds for your photography work in conservation or you are a professional conservation photographer if you didn't have systems in place for understanding your expenses and your income for photography, now is a most perfect time to figure it out and get systems in place serious about this. It might be terrifying, and I do not use that word lightly. I understand that nerve wracking scariness of looking at numbers, but look at your numbers. You have to know what they are, and this is the time to be brave. Take a realistic look and create systems that allow you to wisely pursue revenue streams. That will keep you working in photography. And this is true whether conservation photography is a hobby or a business for you.
So here's what I want you to do. First get clear on your reality right now. So what I would love for you to do If you do not already have a QuickBooks online account set up, now is the time to set that up. Yes, it is worth the money for a monthly subscription, because QuickBooks online is a system that allows you to see exactly how you're spending money. Where that money's going, you can run reports, and you can get really clear on everything about your finances and track things thoroughly. So the first thing to do is get very clear on your reality. Right now, using an accounting system like QuickBooks, number two is bring in what funds you can get your hands on. So that might be through adding new revenue streams into your photography, such as print sales or a virtual workshop. But I'm also talking about things like if you need to apply for unemployment, that system is in place exactly for times like these. Now I know several photographers who have had to file for unemployment for the first time right now, and it was something that was tough to do. There's a pride factor. There's extra concern about what it really means for your business, but it also is a resource. You might also apply for the E idea or PPP loans.
There's information about these inside of my free Facebook group conservation photographers. There's a link to join that group in the show notes, and I encourage you to hop in the group, and you can find a post that talks through some of the idea on PPP loans. And you can also look for relief in grants being offered to small businesses. So there are various ways that you can bring in funds right now. So if you're struggling, that's the second thing that I want you to do.
And the third thing I want you to do is plan out a system for checking your numbers every single month. So right now you might be setting up the systems, and now you want to schedule actually checking in on them. So set a time in your calendar. My date is the first Monday of every month. And look at how much is coming in. How much is going out where you're spending money? That's essential, where you're spending money where you could maybe adjust that into something more productive. If you have set up a quick books account than you can simply run reports every month, toe. Look at your profit and loss and the watch your numbers. And this is one reason why QuickBooks is so great. And again I'm talking about. Even if you do this as a hobby, you need to know if you're able to cover your expenses for your photography work through your photography or if you need to bring in some extra funding to cover those expenses so that you can keep up your amazing work. If you're draining your bank account to do what you do, then you run the risk of quitting, and we definitely don't want that. We need you out in the field is a conservation photographer. I fully understand that looking at your numbers can feel really scary. It can bring up a lot of anxiety, but clear eyes on your numbers can actually provide you with clear thinking on what your next move needs to be on what you say yes to or no to in order to make ends meet. And it also provides the motivation to keep moving. Now I am watching a few photographers who did not previously have systems like QuickBooks set up who are starting to do that right now. And I know that they're going to have so much more clarity in figuring out how to fund their photography work, what's bringing in an income and what's not. And that's gonna be so, so super helpful.
Now that's number three, and number four is be forward thinking on new revenue streams if you've lost work because of COVID-19 and that's what I'm gonna talk about next, an opportunity number three. So number one. Get clear on your reality right now. Number two. Bring in what funds you can get your hands on number three. Plan out a system for checking in on your numbers every month. Consistently number four before word thinking about new revenue streams. If you've lost work because of COVID-19 they're our revenue streams out there, so let's get into that.
Opportunity number three Capitalizing on new verticals Now this is huge right now because we're in a time where there are indeed people who are not financially affected by the pandemic. Yes, there are people who are relatively unscathed right now in their financial situation, and they're looking to support people they know are suffering, such as artists and creators, including conservation photographers. So capitalizing on new verticals is something to really think about right now as an opportunity. So if you would like to launch a new service like portfolio reviews or a product like any book or maybe Apache on site and you're worried that now is a terrible time to do that, I'm here. To flip that on its head now is as good a time as any. There is no reason not to offer something of value for sale right now. It's how we keep the economy moving forward. And like I said, there are people out there right now who have disposable income and want to support photographers, artists, small businesses, So give them a reason to support you too.
One of my members inside Wild Idea Lab completed a bonus masteclass that I rolled out last month for members where I walked them through a bunch of revenue stream ideas. So ideas for ways to generate income. And she implemented one of them. She launched a Patrick on site where she's offering exclusive content to her supporters, and this week she got her first supporter. How awesome is that? So someone who basically had all of her tours and workshops canceled on her for the year she got courageous. She implemented a new revenue stream, and she's already seeing a return on that. So, like I said, people want to support you right now. So give them a way to do that by launching new verticals. Whether that's a way to donate to a conservation photography project that you've got going on and that you need funding for. Or if it's a new service or a product that you like to offer, be courageous and had forward with your idea. It is as good a time as any to try. But of course, people need to find you in order to support you, and that leads me to opportunity Number four
Opportunity Number four is to optimize your website for search ability so we are stuck inside. A lot of us are turning to our computers to get things done. And a little bit of website work is a perfect task to have on your to do list right now. Okay. I'm not talking about making Europe sight beautiful or doing a big revamp. You don't need a pretty website to have. It worked wonders for you what I'm talking about with optimizing your website for Serge, ability is really about the behind the scenes work for your Web site that helps you get found in searches. And there's three things that I want you to book time in your calendar to do right now
Number one, add information to your images, so make sure that you have a title, a description, all text and so on, all filled out for every image that you display on your website. Having this metadata filled out helps your images get found much more easily on Google search. And that leads to you being found by photo editors, which results in images being used in publications or helps you be found by organizations looking for images for their brochures or displays. I've had a lot of great licensing opportunities, just land in my lap because of image searches and people reaching out to me asking the license images that I have on my Web site. So it is worth the time that it takes to do this, even if it's boring. So again, what you're doing is going into your image metadata on your website. So if you're on WordPress, it's the images that are in your media folder or if it's on square space. It's when you open that image and you can go in and edit the SEO area of that image you want to fill in all tax descriptions, captions, whatever fields you need to fill in, make sure that those air filled in because that's gonna help you get found by search.
And number two is to customize your metadata on every page, particularly in the title description and tags of that page. That's what's going to show up in Google search. So whether you use squarespace, wordpress, whatever, you have the ability to customize this information for each page that appears on your Web site and you want to make sure that you're doing so. So if you're using WordPress, check out the plug in Yoast S E O. This is a really easy to use plug in that helps to guide you through things like how long your title or your description should be to make Google really happy. And it also has some great training for understanding SEO and getting found in search rankings. Now you don't have to use special plug ins whether you are on WordPress square space or whatever pot form you're using. Every page has an area where you fill out the title, the descriptions, keywords, that sort of thing, and that can really help you show up beautifully, professionally and at the top of Google search results.
So number one get that meta data for every image on your website filled out on the back end number to get that metadata for every page filled out on the back end. And number three update your portfolios, or if you have a blogger on your website, add to it. So inside Wild Idea Lab we just talked with a photo editor of one of the most prestigious stock photo agencies in the world, and she talked about some red flags and pet peeves of hers when she's evaluating photographers and one of those things was getting to a website and seeing that the last time it was updated was years ago. So whether that's old images or a blog, that is from 2017 she said, It shows that you don't really care about your photography that much if you are not active on your website or really taking it seriously. So that's a hot tip for you from inside one of our live events in wild Idea Lab. Update your portfolios, and if you have a blogged, add to it. So number one get that meta data for your image is filled in number to get that metadata for your pages filled in. And number three make sure that your freshest work is on your website. All of those things are gonna help you immensely in getting found on Google Search, and that is going to help you with everything from growing your email list to getting found by editors.
All right, opportunity number five. Go through your archives and look for stories you can pitch so even if you can't get out to shoot fresh material right now, which is very likely because all of us air self quarantining for at least the month of April. It doesn't mean that you should stop pitching. Now. I'm willing to bet that you have stories in your archive that you have passed over or put aside or back Bernard, and suddenly they might have a chance to shine. Right now, publications still need stories, and that includes feel good stories or conservation stories or nature stories that may have nothing to do with COVID-19. And that might be just what you have sitting in your archive ready to go. But it's important not to be tone deaf right now, either. So even though you are going through your archive and figuring out what to pitch to publications, do extra research in what the publications that you want to pitch to our covering right now if they are focusing on the impacts of COVID-19 then a feel good story might make you look oblivious. But on the flip side, some publications might be looking for exactly the kind of feel good story you found in your archive. See, what I'm saying is just be extra extra wear right now of what publications are covering their tone, what they're seeking and use that knowledge to build your pitches, but I am certain that you've got things in your archive right now that you can get in front of editors.
So check out episode number five for editing a portfolio, including figuring out your portfolios purpose, such as pitching a story and on how to decide on which images go into that portfolio. Episode five can help you quite a bit and figuring out how you want to go through your archive and what it is that you're looking for and what you want a pool and how you want to put it together for a pitch right, that is Opportunity number five
And now Opportunity number six. Focus on grant applications for your projects and stories how grants are going to be more important than ever for keeping you funded and out in the fields. So if you haven't been serious about them before, now is the perfect time to get in there and do some research and figure out what grants are available when they open up for applications and start getting your information ready. And I really want to encourage you to look beyond photography grants. There's a lot of organizations that are right now offering grants to small businesses. And you might be able to apply for these in order to get out into the field, working on stories, especially if assignment photography is one of the main ways that you make an income. This fall, I'm opening up a grant that my Wild Idea Lab members can apply for. So if you remember Wild Idea Lab, there's going to be the ability to get some money for your photography work. Starting this fall, the North American Nature Photography Association has the Philip Hyde Conservation grant, and that opens up in late summer. So start now, and finding these opportunities and scheduling the dates into your calendar, getting those applications in and trying for funding is going to help you be poised to hit the ground running late this year and into 2021.
And you can get them all organized, scheduled, starting right now. And in fact, I have a free Grant Tracker spreadsheet for you to use toe, organize all of those opportunities and to keep them updated. I'm going to include a link to download that Grant Tracker spreadsheet in the show notes so you can download it at JaymiH.com/stronger Now, in the show notes, Not only will you find the link to download your Grant Tracker spreadsheet, but you'll also find that link to join the free Facebook group. Conservation photographers and I mentioned that that's where more information about funding and more information about support and all kinds of things exist. And so, if you are not yet a member, I encourage you to head on over and join.
So let's look back at these six opportunities to strengthen your photography work and your photography business right now, even amid COVID-19. Opportunity Number one. Building your audience. Everybody's online, and you can be growing your following on social media, but more importantly, your email list where real work gets done. Opportunity number to getting your finances organized. So that includes getting clear on your financial reality right now. Getting a system in place for staying clear on your numbers every single month, bringing in the funds that you can get your hands on right now, whether that's unemployment or loans and also being forward thinking on new revenue streams in case you have lost work, and that leads me into opportunity. Number three. Capitalizing on new verticals. So if you have been wanting to launch a new service or a new product, now is the time to do so, because there are people who can and want to support small businesses, artists, creatives and, yes, conservation photographers. Opportunity number four Optimize your website for Serge ability, and that includes adding that metadata to your image is your pages and updating your portfolios or your blog opportunity. Number five. Go through our archives and look for stories that you can pitch now Remember, don't be tone deaf. So put in some extra research into publications to make sure that you're on point with what they're covering right now, amid COVID-19. But go through and see what you can get out there and how many more irons you can put in the fire based on your archive of images and finally, opportunity number six. Focus on grant applications for your projects and stories. Figure out what grants are opening when what the qualifications are and get yourself lined up to apply. When that money opens up for availability. This summer in this fall.
All right, I hope that all of this has been really helpful. And I hope that you know that I am here with you right now during this crisis. I know that it is a crazy, stressful, worrisome time. But it is also a time for solutions for forward thinking, for figuring out how to get yourself through all of this. Because that's one of the amazing strengths that conservation photographers have. We are all about silver linings were all about solutions. We are all about dealing with a problem and overcoming, and I know that you are fully capable of this. So whether you are doing conservation, photography part time, whether you do this out of just sheer love and you are supporting non profits in your community, if you are a full time pro at this and really feeling some struggles, please know that I am here with you. And if there is any resource that you think I can provide tell me, please get a hold of me via email on social media D m me on instagram or Facebook and let me know. What is it that you're struggling with? What resource is do you feel would be really helpful because I want to help you as much as possible. All right, my friends, hang in there. We've got this and I'll talk to you next week
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