It most certainly goes without saying that 2020 has been one of the hardest years in recent history. I know in my short time on this planet I haven’t ever experienced anything like this and I imagine most of us are in the same storm, in varying sizes of boats. As a small business owner in the wedding industry, I wanted to share with you how I pivoted my business during COVID-19 and continue to navigate this season of existence. From how I educated my clients on current events, to using my downtime to my advantage and all the way to launching new products to serve the demand that was emerging. It doesn’t work for every single business, in every single capacity, but if you get scrappy, stay vigilant, and hopeful, you can do amazing things. Let’s dive in.
01. PUT OUT THE FIRES
Communication and education were the names of the game with COVID-19 first hit. It began with educating myself as a photographer in a pandemic with what regulations my state was implementing. This allowed me to know what was and was not possible for my clients ranging from weddings to families. I created guides specifying what my safety protocols would be for shoots (when they could resume), as well as what the next steps for clients should be. These were sent out via email along with discussions for reschedules.
Nearly everyone in every industry (including myself!) started reviewing their contracts and making the necessary updates for the pandemic. When clients rescheduled, I ensured my new contract for them added protections for both them and myself. What exactly does that mean? Glad you asked. I ensured that I had a very specific cancellation and reschedule policy for moving forward to protect my income. For my clients, any and all reschedule fees would be waived for clients who had to cancel or reschedule due to state legal mandates. If the situation was out of both of our hands, it wasn’t fair for them to pay more money.
Lastly, I kept my eyes on my inbox. I preemptively sent out all this information so that when people started to question, they already had the answers in their inboxes. Communication was key in keeping the trust between me and all my clients while providing the best experience I could.
02. USE DOWNTIME WISELY
This might be a touchy subject, so let me set the scene. I was and am in a very fortunate situation in which my husband has a full-time job that he was able to work remotely. His paycheck covered all our expenses and we had a rainy day fund we could pull from if needed. We had the ability to stay home without any recourse and with the stimulus package passed by congress, I could file for unemployment. That being said, I did use my downtime to my advantage. Here’s what I did.
Almost immediately, I decided to revamp my website. My brand and personality weren’t really visible on my prior site, so I used my downtime to find a new platform and template. I chose ShowIt’s platform in particular because it was straightforward to use (as someone who has experience in website design) and had a robust SEO component. I boosted my Google Ranking for Seattle Wedding Photographerand other important keywords while creating a better user experience for my clients.
By creating targeted guides for my clients to answer commonly asked questions, I not only provided a great service to my current clients but offered high value to my potential new clients.. I could send information about how to prep for shoots, location guides, and how to plan elopements. By making these web-based instead of PDFs, Google is able to crawl them and add them to my site authority.
In addition, I continued to have a presence on my social media platforms. Showing up for my audience and my friends felt like the right thing to do. I expressed my frustrations, sadness, hopefulness, and overall human reaction to what was happening around us. People don’t like to feel alone and it was nice to be able to connect in some form.
Again and lastly, I kept an eye on my inbox. Communication during my downtime may have been tough but it was critical in continuing to build trust with my clients.
03. PREPPED THE LAUNCHPAD
This downtime also gave me the ability to adapt to the demand that was on the horizon. Many families had been home with no hair cuts, no first day of school photos, and with the new importance of family, I knew family photos would be important. This was a key observation to help navigate how I pivoted my business during COVID-19.
Prior to this year, I primarily shot weddings and engagements with a few families, newborn and maternity shoots sprinkled in from past clients. This year, the flood gates to family photos opened and I jumped in headfirst. Knowing that family budgets would be tight, I created multiple ‘mini day’ session options. These are short family sessions that are shot back-to-back at a designated location, allowing for efficiency and consistency. Families get a 20-minute slot allowing me to shoot multiple families in a day. I photographed over 30 families this way. Mini sessions allowed me to serve my community and regain some of my lost income from the wedding season.
The success of mini sessions has permanently added a new sector to my business. I plan on launching mini sessions every quarter so that my families have multiple options throughout the year. It even allows me to take on fewer weddings while still maintaining my income level.
While I hope to never experience a pandemic again, I will always be grateful for the lessons it has taught me and the time it has given me. I know that not everyone had the opportunity to stay home and do what I did, but I think everyone was capable of adapting in some capacity. Adapting to these situations always begins with ourselves. How we chose our mindset, how we react to circumstances and most importantly, how we lead. Educating myself, my clients, updating systems, preparing for new demand, all these things worked in tandem to give me the results I had. One of my favorite quotes is “Fortune favors the prepared mind” by Louis Pasteur. I didn’t even know who said that quote till today, but somewhere along the way I heard it and it stuck with me.
When we finally emerge as a post-pandemic society, I know that I will have used the time that I was given, the resources that I found, and the large supply of elbow grease to do all that I could to survive. Humans are capable of so much more than we believe, don’t be afraid to push yourself.
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p.s. If you liked this blog post I think you’ll also really love “The Top 5 Applications I Use to Grow My Business”.