Wednesday, February 6, 2008

More business building steps

Today we continue with some more action steps, some building blocks to get my business out of the ethereal realm of "I wish" and into the concrete reality of "I am." The things I'm writing today are things that I am doing. I haven't done them all, or even started them all, but they are all tasks I must accomplish, processes to be completed. Many are simple daily things like keeping up with my contacts, as outlined yesterday, and many are far more involved and complex. I'll try to keep the descriptions brief, because I'm developing this on the fly and I tend to get wordy when I do that. Let's see how many things I can think of, right off the top of my head. Start counting, after the jump.

  1. I need to talk to a tax person, regarding my 2007 expenditures, and whether my hobby already may count as a Sole proprietorship in California. From an article on "Sole proprietorships are so easy to set up and maintain that you may already own one without knowing it."
  2. Write an actual business plan. This one will spawn about a hundred more of it's own little action steps, so it will definitely warrant a post or two by itself. I am again using as one of my resources, thanks StanfordPhoto for the link.
  3. Obtain the necessary paperwork from the City of Dublin (in California, where I live) to officialize my business. (My word processor doesn't think officialize is a word, but I say it is.) I remember looking into this before for a different business idea, and the process was going to total about three months and around $800. Time to get going on this.
  4. Thoroughly investigate the commercial viability of several different genres of photography, and cross-check this to what I enjoy doing, and what I am capable of doing at a professional level. If these lists don't line up, I need to either focus on my skills in a viable area of photography, or find a way to make a niche all my own. I personally prefer a combination of both.
  5. Develop some type of physical marketing media that I can carry with me and hand out to people as I have the opportunity. (Like, maybe a business card?) Yes, but I'm thinking something a bit more eye-catching. Photography is all visual, after all, and a 3"x5" promo card with some contact info on the back would catch my eye much more than another business card. Something like what Paul Treacy has here. I may need a few different versions, depending on who's getting them.
  6. Tie my online presence together much more cohesively. Right now I have this blog, my gallery site at Zenfolio, and a bunch of pictures on Flickr. I'm looking into moving to Photoshelter for my gallery hosting, they're much more customizable as far as integration, but I don't really have a website to integrate into. Maybe I'm putting the cart before the horse here, but I'm expecting a LOT of traffic in a couple of days. More on that in a day or so.
  7. Canvas the people and organizations I'm in contact with every day for possible leads or assignments. I can sell myself to a stranger, but it's more difficult when talking to family or friends. The kids' school may want staff pictures. My cousin is in a semi-professional theater group, I shot for them last year and may get to again next month. The wife of one of my co-workers' shoots weddings professionally. I need to pursue these.
  8. Tell the people who are close to me what I'm doing. This sounds silly, but as of right now, I'm only really accountable to you, mostly a bunch of strangers. I could give up, walk away, and pretty much never hear about it again. But I won't. Very few of my co-workers know about this whole thing yet. Most of my family doesn't know either. My wife, whose life may be profoundly affected by this, is only vaguely aware. My boss probably won't know until I tell him that I'm stepping down from the supervisor position he got me into last year, because it takes too many hours out of my week.
  9. Keep getting my name out there. I need your support to make this happen. In just the last week, traffic here has taken off, and I've gotten messages from several people I never would have expected to hear from. This is part of grassroots marketing, viral marketing, word of mouth, whatever. If we launch this blog onto Google's first search page for "Photography business" because a ton of you think this is inspiring, and link to my site, that's going to be awesome.
  10. Craigslist. I'm going to start advertising on Craigslist regularly. It's free, it's incredibly well-trafficked, and people use it for everything. I wrecked a car and then blew up the motor as well. Sold it to a buddy, he's rebuilding it with about 90% CL parts, and will probably turn a decent profit when he sells. High end businesses use CL because they know that's where people look. My brother in law has a moving company up in Seattle that's grown into a $500k per year operation on 2 factors: Consistent CL advertising, and excellent customer service.
Okay, my mind's spinning free now, and I'm about out of coherent ideas that relate to business building for now. More stuff tomorrow, topic to be determined by the events of the next 23 hours...


StockPhotoJourney said...

If you keep dropping "something big is happening at PhotoShelter" quips without kicking down the info, I might have a heart attack.

PBY said...

As I thought a little in recent time of going pro myself (but in a far future), your blog is very interesting for having ideas of what is really needed for doing the jump.

For point 5, I always thought that Moo MiniCard are very great as business card for a photographer. 100 different photos with info in the back for 20 $ is very cheap I think. Sure, printing 100 card of the same photo can be a lot cheaper, but it is lot less cool. Think of letting the potential client choose the card he wants, or distributing to a group different photos cards. After your world domination success, it will be collector!
But I never ordered these, therefore I don't know the quality.

Sean said...

Good for you for going all-out to make sure things get done.

Oh, and dude, you gotta tell your wife ASAP!

Paul Treacy said...

Man, you are really getting your head around this stuff. I wish I'd thought about this stuff in a more in depth way a long time ago. Good on you. I'm learning my lesson hard now. And I've been at this for more than fifteen years.

With the web, however, I'm getting better. Using PayPal for invoicing so that I can maintain better records and what not. However, I may switch to Google's facility at some point. E-banking also makes life less complicated.

Blah blah blah.

One area I'm experimenting with at the moment is print sales. However, collector prints are pricey so I'm selling large posters right now of some of my work. This is a short term experiment but depending on results I will expand this project enormously to cover more collections of my work.

I also need to ramp up my endeavours at PhotoShelter. I think this is a good area for you to develop too. They really have their act together in my opinion.

I'm also thinking of getting a "Green" certification too. This could really open up new markets eventually. This is an issue I care about a great deal even to the extent that all my screen backround colors online are black. Supposedly this reduces energy consumption.

I hope to use solar panels to do all my charging within the next few months. I will not use studio lights as exceptional lighting can be achieved with strobes. I will again use a motor cycle as my main vehicle when I return to London. It's full efficient and timely. I already deliver all my work online and all contracts and invoices are delivered electronically as well.

These are some of the things I'm factoring into my business plans.

Now, enough yap from me as it's time to make dinner.

Night night.

Paul Treacy said...

That should have been "fuel" efficient, of course.

Also, here's a clickable link to some of the POSTERS I'M SELLING.