By far, my most popular blog post ever was on the photography business SWOT analysis. So… being that today, July 1st, 2015, is our 16th anniversary as a photography business, and also the first day of the 3rd quarter, I think it’s fitting to revisit the ever popular photography business SWOT.
In the fast paced industry of professional photography, where advances in imaging are occurring daily, and where more and more people are being attracted to becoming photographers themselves, a SWOT analysis is an invaluable tool for your photography business success! A SWOT analysis examines the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats for your photography business.
Strengths: Or as I like to think of them, your unique selling proposition (USP), MUST be discovered, articulated and communicated clearly to your potential clients, and your current clients for your business to become, and stay, strong.
What makes you and your photography business different, special, unique? You do not have to be “better” than your competition, but you do have to stand out from them. Your photography business has to have something that calls to the clients who share your values. It’s not enough to be able to attract clients who “like pictures”, “value photography” or “enjoy fine art”. A huge percentage of the population likes pictures. That’s why cell phone cameras are so incredibly popular. You need to attract clients who value “professional photography”… pictures that they cannot capture themselves. You need to have a discernible style, so that your images stand out as unique to you. And you need to stand for something. What do you stand for? Do you stand for the belief that every person should be able to afford you and get great pictures? While I completely understand the intent of this stand (making a difference and serving your art and your fellow man) it is a recipe for disaster financially. Why? Because affordability is different for each and every person. You will never be able to have every single person be able to afford you. You can’t stay in business that way.
SWOT Analysis Step 1: So what are your Strengths? What skills, talents, passions, values, do you have going for you in your photography business? What makes you different? Why should a potential client come to you instead of the photographer two doors down?
Weaknesses: I would bet you can come up with a lot more of these than you can your photography business strengths. Why? Because, as humans, we are harder on ourselves than we need to be. It’s easier for us to see our weaknesses than our strengths. We often take for granted the things we are good at, because they come easy to us, but we constantly struggle with our weaknesses, so they are easier to see.
SWOT Analysis Step 2: What are your Weaknesses? How can you put steps in place to improve on your weaknesses? Where you can stop trying to do everything yourself, and hire out your weaknesses?
Opportunities: We all have opportunities that we are missing out on in our photography businesses. This is often due to overwhelm, and/or a refusal to let go of some of the jobs that we ought to be delegating. Opportunities arise every day. So sometimes we are taken by surprise by them, and don’t have our systems in place to be able to switch mid-stream… even if we wanted or needed to. Look around your business and see what can be improved, and where you can capitalize on your strengths to improve productivity, fulfillment and profit.
SWOT Analysis Step 3: What opportunities would you like to follow if you had the time? What can you delegate so that you can capitalize on those opportunities? What systems does your business need? What can you automate? Make a LIST.
Threats: Here’s an easy one. Right now, in the photography industry, sometimes all I think I can see are threats. Some of these are real, and some of them are imagined and created from my own fears and insecurities. You need to sort out the difference and make a list. Here are a few that you probably already know well about. 1. We are being inundated with new photographers entering the market… increasing competition, and driving down pricing. 2. Software has created a way for relatively inexperienced and unskilled photographers to create relatively good images… rather inexpensively (when compared to the time, effort and money that those of us with 25 years were up against). Again… more competition… lower pricing in the market 3. Everyone has a camera. Ugh! 4. The trend is moving more and more away from obtaining your photographs from professionals, and more and more toward taking them on your own. OK… this is the same as #3… but it’s a Biggie! 5. Instant gratification is growing in popularity over quality and craftsmanship. The general population seems to be more willing to accept “good enough” and less willing to pay for “professional”.
I won’t go on, because I will get myself going in the wrong direction. The point is that there are some very real threats out there. You may not agree that the examples I gave are even real… and maybe they aren’t. But they are on my list. Why? Because it is easier to overcome the evil we know, than it is to overcome the evil we don’t know about. Examining your photography businesses threats, and potential threats, is an important part of making a plan for business stability. I’m not going to lie to you. Being a professional photographer today is MUCH harder than it used to be! But that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. It does mean that you are going to have to work harder, smarter, and most importantly… more strategically.
SWOT Analysis Step 4: What are the threats your photography business is facing today? What threats are facing the photography industry… locally, nationally and internationally? What steps can you take in your photography business to deal with these threats?
Being a photography business owner today is not for the faint of heart. It is extremely competitive out there, and it requires commitment, determination, discipline, and passion. If you don’t love photography… get out. There are easier ways to earn a living. If you do… then decide if you are willing to fight hard for it. You CAN succeed in this industry! Doing a quarterly SWOT analysis of your business (maybe even monthly during these challenging times) will help keep you focused, and on the right path.
As always… Here’s to Your Success!