5 Quick steps to making a business plan that works: Business planning for photographers
Sailing through as a business owner without a plan is a bad idea. Flat out. Bad. I can’t even express how bad.
Get my point?
The business plan is a map for where you want to go, obstacles to navigate and barriers to break through. Business plans can be as easy or as complicated as you want them to be. Most simply, put your end goal on paper and work your way backward, identifying the ways to get there. If you want to get a little more in-depth, you can create a formal business plan. Business owners should allow this document to be a living, breathing document that changes as the marketing, business and you grow.
So how do we create one anyways?
Write it down. Evaluate these 5 quick steps and just get something on paper!
I promise I’m not going to give a business lecture. This is a super quick way of identifying and compartmentalizing the different paths your business can take. SWOT stands for Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.
Strengths – these are the advantages that you or your business possess that can provide a step up over competitors.
Weaknesses – these are the disadvantages that put you or your business at a detriment against competitors.
Opportunities – these are aspects of your business (including surrounding business relationships, locale, etc) that provide a path to cultivate for forward motion.
Threats – these are aspects of your self, business, or surrounding environment that can be a detriment to the business.
Even if you write just ONE thing under each you will be farther ahead than before you wrote down anything at all.
Break It Down
You can’t jump from nothing to booming. You have to work incrementally to get yourself where you want to be. Pick a large goal and a timeline on which you want to accomplish it. Identify where you are and fill in the gaps in between.
Here’s a good example: Say my goal is that in a year I want to have 8 sessions per month at $500 each. But I also know that right now I only have one session per month at $100. This is what an incremental increase of my pricing and goal number of sessions would look like.
12 months: 8 sessions per month at $500 each <~ My main goal
9 months: 7 sessions at $400/ea
6 months: 5 sessions at $300/ea
3 months: 3 sessions at $200/ea
Now: 1 session at $100/ea <~ This is what I’m currently bringing in.
The reason for this is that you can’t just decide to be an astronaut and go to the moon. You have to take the steps along the way. Identify the number of sessions to help boost yourself on your marketing per month. You can get your behind in gear if you see you’re not making your goal number of sessions. Also, you can incrementally increase your prices as not to provide sticker shock to any returning clients or previous inquiries.
You can even have a goal that is NOT money or client based. Say you want to blog more, make it a goal to blog on a regular schedule.
For example: Every Wednesday I will blog a client session (after they have paid).
Know Your Cost of Doing Business
How much does your business really cost you to run? Do you really know? This number is so important to know how much you are expending so that you know if you’re actually making any money. This should be the very least that you are making per month. You need to know your cost of doing business (CODB).
CODB Expenses include (but not limited to):
- Professional Org Dues
Writing down ALL expenses will reveal all of the leaks and give you a real idea of what is going on. You can plug any leaks and identify which areas are giving you the highest return on investment.
Think of it this way. It’s sort of like dieting. There are tracker apps and websites for food for a reason. When you commit to writing down calories, you can see how many you are actually eating. Tracking your CODB works the same way.
Keep track of your CODB and expenses with a program or an excel spreadsheet. Your CODB is an outgoing cash flow, and you should always know how much is exactly leaving your pocket!
Need help with organizing your CODB? Check out the organizational tools available in TheLawTog shop!
Commit To It
Just keep in mind “succeed” IS and IS NOT a goal. Sure, we want to succeed. But what is the definition of that? It is whatever YOU consider success. Not everyone has the same definition. Just commit to it. Writing out your goals on a timeline will help keep you on track and make adjustments as needed. Talk to someone else and ask them to be your accountability partner.
Stay True to You
Always make sure whatever your goal is, it is true to you. Don’t adapt someone else’s goals. Look outside for inspiration but don’t hang your hat on what someone else is doing. Applying another’s business model may work. Blinding applying their business plan won’t. Everyone has their own SWOT, CODB, and goals.
This is just touching a tip of the business planning iceberg but it is a good starting point. Your business plan can include things other than the number of sessions, income goal, and your cost of running a business. It includes anything and everything you want to do with your business (including marketing campaigns and other goals: newsletter subscribers, inquiry conversions, website hits, etc.).
Make a goal. Make a plan. Go for it.