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3 Steps to Own the Slow This Season

For many professional photographers and creatives, there is an inevitable “slow season” where there’s nothing on the calendar. Whether that slow period falls reliably on the first quarter of the year or shifts per the nature of your niche, these stretches without constant work sound like a good thing in terms of needed rest, but can often become an overwhelming stretch of trying a million different things at once and you end up buried under an avalanche of good ideas that ends in changing nothing at all. Here we’ll offer 3 steps you can take to ensure you mindfully invest empty calendar hours during your slow season(s) to avoid burnout in your busiest. 

1. Create SMART Goals

Consider what you want to see for your business in the coming year. Make clear goals in SMART terms (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound). Example: "I want to secure [x amount] of bookings through [my site/social media] each [week]." Start with 1-3 of these that most align with where you want to see your business by the end of the year and write them down. 

2. Identify & Learn from Pain Points

With your new SMART goals in mind, think back over your last year and consider your biggest pain points that got in the way of meeting these goals.

• Got memorable constructive (or negative) feedback from clients or peers?
• Find yourself constantly backlogged with work?
• Can't get your edits where you want them?
• Want to change your niche or try something new?
• Does your workflow feel clunky or inefficient?
• Are you pricing too low or offering too much to maintain a sustainable business?
• Do you struggle with advertising or visibility?
• Do you struggle to explain your offerings or communicate value to clients?

Take these pain points, write them down, acknowledge them, and circle 3 that you know you can change/improve toward meeting a goal and use them to narrow your focus toward creating an achievable action plan.

3. Create an Achievable Action Plan 

To start, consider the first goal you made (ex: "I want to secure 3 new bookings through Instagram each week"). Then consider the pain points you identified related to that goal. (ex: You are struggling with visibility on social media AND you don't have a clear path to booking from Instagram.) Then consider the actionable steps you can take to resolve this pain point and actively move toward your goals. (ex: You take some of the recommendations for updating and boosting your brand and suggestions for social media education and create a short list of things you'll accomplish during this slow season to meet your goals in the next!) 

Need some help coming up with achievable actions you can take? We've complied some suggestions for great time investments and updates you can make across three spaces: business, education, and community below!


Boost your Business 

You don’t need “all new everything” to powerfully refresh your business and set yourself up for seamless success in your busiest seasons! Using slower months to implement strategic and thoughtful updates that target the parts of your brand and business that you don’t want to have to worry about when you are in the trenches of your busiest season(s) is one of the best investments you make of the time and flexibility of the first quarter lull.

Pro tip: When considering updates to site and socials, pretend to be a potential client (or ask a fellow photographer or friend to pretend to be a potential client) and navigate through your site and social media to see if 1. It's easy to tell what you're offering and what your work looks like 2. There's a clear path to booking. 

    Branding Updates:

    • Update your logo to reflect your current brand and focus.
    • Love your logo? Make sure to have it available in different formats for specific uses and consistent but different versions (primary, secondary, watermark, and submark logos) for all the unique situations and platforms you'll regularly mark with these.   
    • Create or refresh your brand kit - that unique toolbox of assets that define your brand and can easily be passed along for outsourcing. Decide on a cohesive color palette and general theme that reflects the unique personality of your business and narrow in on font pair or two that you will use consistently across all branding, socials, and materials. Throw in any logos or other key resources and keep these all in one easy to access location. 
    • Update your portfolio! Consider your niche, consider what you’d like to do more of, and consider what best speaks the unique experience of working with YOU!

    Website Updates:

    • Update headshots, profile photos, and featured images across your site to reflect who you are now and your goals for your business.
    • Review and revise copy/info across site for clarity and consistency. It never hurts to get a second pair of eyes for this bit! 
    • Remove outdated info or promotions.
    • Have a website, logo, or content that feels dated? This is the perfect time to cull the old, invest in the new and update away! Can't outsource? Tackle these in pieces to avoid overwhelm. 
    • Catch up on your blog! Caught up on sessions? There are other great topics you can cover that will increase visibility to your site. Are you a specialist at something in your niche that people search for? Write a blog about it. Do you have a unique skillset when it comes to working with clients? Write a blog about it. Need to feature more of your work for potential clients? Blog it.

    Business Workflow:

    • Calculate your current cost of doing business!! 
    • Make sure your pricing and packages reflect your cost of doing business, the market (local to you) for what you do, and your skill level. Then update where needed! 
    • Review, revise, and amend your contract templates to reflect current business policy, outline procedure for special circumstances, protect your business, and protect your intellectual property. If you haven’t yet, we recommend doing this with the help of a lawyer with knowledge of your business/niche.
    • Review, update, or create email templates. Streamline communication with clients and avoid ever having to stress over just the right thing to say! 
    • Create or refine welcome, session, or pricing guides for your clients based around real client feedback to streamline experience and answer common questions focused around your niche and unique workflow. 

    Social Media:

    • Update profile images, bio info, links to reflect the most up-to-date information.
    • Review, revise, or remove outdated info, service pricing, or promotions.
    • Don't have a social media calendar? Create one - have copy, hashtags, and media content all lined up. 
    • Use Reels? Create a backlog of ready-to-go bite-sized content.
    • Make sure there is a clear line to contact/book. 


    Learn New Tricks

    At Luxe, we are all about education and believe that there's always something new to be learned, whether you've been doing this for days or decades. One of the best investments you can make in your business or personal brand is in education toward your goals. 

    For business we recommend investing in SEO, Social Media, and Marketing education. Even if you have studied either in the past, in an ever-evolving social media landscape it really pays to know current rules and best practice! You likely spend a lot of time on social media for your business, so don't let that time be wasted effort! From paid courses from people you follow to free courses on sites like Coursera, there are so many great resources for this and it is such a worthwhile investment.

    Tired of endless backlogs or are you spending so long on galleries that you've found your business unsustainable? Level up your editing workflow or replace old inefficient processes with new up-to-date digital resources and tools built to maximize the potential of the latest software updates! In the last year, many photographers moved on from manually brushing on local adjustments to AI Adaptive Presets for rapid retouching. Others replaced manually adding light leaks and snow in Photoshop with Overlays with special effects presets! We know big software changes can be daunting, so we like to highlight and break down the latest feature updates here on the blog so you can confidently try new things! Overwhelmed by the amount of things out there to learn in a sea of video tutorials and articles - consider your personal workflow and write down 3 things you'd like to learn or improve and focus on those! (ex: learning to swap a happy smile onto a crying face, senior or newborn skin retouching, sky replacement). 

    Photography education may seem redundant as an established professional, but tuning into courses or mentorships from those you admire within your existing or target niche can be a great way to reignite passion for what you do and introduce you to new or faster ways to get the results you've always wanted. Need more hands-on learning or want to explore the ins and outs of a new niche with real practice? You can sign up for in-person "shoot-outs", styled shoots, or workshops local to you! There may also be entire educational communities within your niche, which brings us to our next recommendation - make new connections! 


    Make New Connections

    Often creatives can feel like they're drowning in an oversaturated market and focus so much on competition that they don't see the buoying potential of community. 

    Listen, everyone deserves a cheerleader (hello imposter syndrome). One confident connection with a fellow photographer can often blossom into a beautiful network of opportunity. From mentorships to friendships and beyond - one of the greatest investments you can make is in cultivating community. 

    Not sure where to start? Join a Facebook group of local photographers or photographers in your specific niche, become a member of an established photography community online, get involved in inspirational loops or challenges on social media, find a forum to ask your most burning questions, attend photography conferences or retreats, and/or register with a local photography association to start networking! There are so many amazing opportunities out there that are designed to connect you with resources, referrals, information, education, inspiration, and support! 

    While you may be nervous to put yourself out there (if you haven't already) there are so many really fruitful benefits for both you and your business! From answers and anecdotes covering the trickiest of client situations and crucial advice come tax time, to finding second shooting gigs and getting on the right referral lists, finding a photography best friend to meet up with for coffee and edit with late into the night come busy season and beyond!

    Want to chat with others who edit with Luxe and get answers to workflow questions? You can find the Luxe community over on Instagram and Facebook


    Go Forth and Own the Slow! 

    We hope we've equipped you with some direction and helpful suggestions to stop simply surviving your slow seasons and set your business up to thrive! Obviously, don't try for everything - take what will help you the most and work through one objective at a time. If you have an established business, updates can make for easy wins and rewarding checks off your goal list! If your business is new, or you are just stepping your toe into professional photography, you may not have anything established that you can update so your focus will naturally lean toward education and building community.

    Whatever steps you take, and whatever seeds you plant during your slow seasons, we hope you see success bloom in the seasons to come! At Luxe, we're invested in your journey, and want to see you win!