Julie Kulbago Photography is a nationally published photographer who is trained in newborn safety practices and has mastered the technical knowledge & experience to use advanced photoshop techniques to capture challenging poses safely.
Her full service boutique photography studio works with families to capture fleeting moments so they last a lifetime. Let’s plan your perfect session!
You survived the photographer busy season – – yahoo!! I feel like it was July and then I blinked and it was December. Let’s all collectively inhale and exhale! Ok, now that you enjoyed 2 seconds of downtime are you panicking about the upcoming slow / off season? Hold up – I’ve got you covered because this week I am sharing all about how you, as a photographer, can stay busy during the off season!!
Let’s dive in!
If you’re anything like me, sometimes you look at your calendar and the contrast from the three to four nights a week during the busy season to the three to four sessions for the entire month can sometimes be a little scary! So here today I want to talk about six very simple ways you can keep yourself busy and sane and productive during the off season.
So my first idea for you on staying busy during the off season is actually to NOT stay busy at all! I encourage you just to take a break! As photographers, I know we tend to glorify being busy. When you are busy you feel like clients want you . . . you’re really good . . . you’ve kind of made it. I truly believe we need to stop glorifying being busy because in any business there needs to be an ebb and a flow. You can’t always function at 110 percent capacity. It’s just not good for you, not good for your family and not good for your business. I highly highly encourage you to take the down time and enjoy the non-busy season and just relax.
When I looked at my calendar over the last few months, I worked three Saturdays every month from August through now. I haven’t had a lot of time to do relaxing activities with my kids, my husband or just hang out by myself! I highly encourage you to just allow some white space in your calendar and to truly enjoy your down time.
When I say “best clients” I don’t necessarily mean the ones this year that have spent the most money with you. Those are definitely at the top of the list for people you want to be staying in contact with. However, maybe there’s some people who are great referral sources for you. I know in my business I have some clients who don’t spend a ton of money with me but they share my name with A LOT of their friends / co-workers / colleagues. And that, in turn, is a great revenue source for me! You can bet I’m also reaching out to those people during my off season!
To easily generate this list, I use my client management software, 17hats to run a quick report to find my top revenue producing clients. I pretty much know who refers me a lot, but I could also run a report on “referred by” to see who has sent the most clients to me.
When I do reach out to them, I don’t make it an email that says “hey come back” it’s more of a casual connection with a friend. Something along the lines of “It’s January – how was your holiday season – thinking about you”
I intentionally don’t gift my clients things at holiday times because it’s a really busy time of year for everyone. I found that gifts sent in December tend to get lost in the hustle and bustle of everything else they’re receiving. When I gift my clients, it’s always in my my down time of January through March.
You don’t have to spend a lot to let your clients know that you appreciate them. It could be an extra image from their session with a nice email saying, “I hope you had a great holiday season and enjoyed time with your family! I was going back through all my images and I just loved this one from your session”.
I also take a lot of notes when I’m working with my clients so i know which of my clients love starbucks, or love a certain color or something random like a TV show. If i see something in the year that reminds me of those clients, I’m grabbing it and holding it aside until this time of year when I have time to deal with it. Again, I don’t make it a difficult process – I just send it off to them with a quick note saying “I saw this and thought of you – hope you’re doing well”. It doesn’t have to be complicated or cost a lot of money. Anything to let your top clients know that you’re thinking about them.
It could even be as simple as a hand written thank you card. Because people don’t get a lot of handwritten mail, even a simple personalized “thank you so much for making this year a great year – I really appreciate you” note goes a long way. That’s all. You’re not asking them to come back. Rather, you’re just letting them know that you appreciate them.
As photographers, all year long we’re shooting for other people. We are always worried about what they want to see and what they love.
At this time of year, it’s refreshing to reconnect with your creative side and figure out what it is that brought you to photography in the first place. Is it light? Is it shadows? Or maybe finding the ordinary and making it interesting?
Whatever it is, really reconnect with that. This is a great time to focus on your creativity and just letting your voice shine through your work. It doesn’t have to be anything that you ever post publicly – unless you want to. Nothing sparks my creativity more than just shooting for me.
Another great way to stay busy as a photographer in the off season is by doing model calls. If you’re newer to photography and still need to practice, a model call is a great low pressure and low stress way to practice something that that you need work on. At this point in my career, I’m not doing model calls, but when I started, I would do an occasional model call. Model calls can be great for personal growth.
I always encourage photographers to be growing. A great way to stay busy as a photographer in the off season is to learn something new. This could be something in Photoshop or Lightroom or an actual aspect of photography. There are a lot of opportunities for free learning on Youtube. Creative live and The Click Community also offer really affordable classes.
By using the off season for learning, when work starts to pick up, you will have something new to offer your clients to really keep your work fresh.
This one is a little boring . . . but setting new goals (both financially and professionally) for your business is a great idea. I know when I am busy, I tend to forget the big picture. The slow season is a really great time of year for both personal and professional reflection to take a deep dive into your business. Start by looking at all your expenses. Analyze where all your money is going, where all your time is going and really figure out what’s working for your business and what’s not working for your business. How how did it go financially? Did you hit your target revenue? Don’t just let last year roll into next year without looking at your income statement.
Also, outside of financial goals, think about your professional goals. What what do you want to do more of? What do you want to do less of?
Remember, this is a business. That’s one of the main points I try to talk with all of my mentees about. You have to treat your photography business like a business. You can’t just wing it. That’s the quickest way to fail.
Use this time of year to really do a deep dive on the whole inner workings of your business.
Hopefully you have a website . . . if not . . . that’s the first thing I want you to do! I know a lot of people are relying heavily on social media like Instagram, Facebook & Tick Tock to market their business. And that’s great – those channels are definitely a piece of someone’s marketing campaign. But that should not be your main / only source.
You absolutely need to have a website. Relying solely on social media platforms is like building a house on rented land. We don’t own those platforms. They can change the rules on us at any time. They could go away at any time. By building a website, you own that space. You can make it yours. That piece of the internet is something that you’ll always.
Ok, for those of you who do have a website, I encourage you to take this time to refresh your site. Update the images. Refresh the verbiage. Review your policies your procedures. Take a look at the customer experience from beginning to end. Double check the links to make sure that everything is still working. You can also start writing and drafting blog posts. I know so many photographers (myself included) say that they don’t have time to write blog posts during the year. Use the down time to get ahead!!
As you can see, there are plenty of ways to stay busy as a photographer in the off season! If you start to feel nervous that you aren’t working enough just remember how exhausting the busy season can be . . . and then relax!
If you would like to learn more about the business of photography, subscribe to my YouTube Chanel. I will be posting videos every Friday on business, newborn posing, newborn lighting and more.
If you are interested in learning more about what it takes to be a professional photographer you may want to check out these posts:
What it Takes to be a Professional Photographer
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