There are many businesses that experience slow seasons, and the photography industry is no different. And while these can be troublesome, there are things you can do to mitigate the expected loss of profits.
Adjust your business staffing model
If your slow season is a regular occurrence rather than a one-off, then you need to build that into your business structure.
Your staff needs paying, no matter how busy your business is. But rather than dipping into your company coffers to keep your staff during the slow season, consider investing in freelancers instead.
Employing freelancers full-time during your on-season frees you from the commitments of paying off-season salaries. You can still keep on a few essential employees as a skeleton staff, and there’s always the choice of employing more freelancers should business suddenly pick up too.
In the same vein, consider adjusting where your business is located too. A nice office in the heart of the business district is fine if you’re busy all year-round, but rents can get expensive.
Consider renting a cheaper office space elsewhere. If you need a good space to meet clients, rent out a second office during the up season. The cost of this will be mitigated by the money you save during the subsequent slow season.
Focus on your blogging — and monetize it
Your business likely already has a blog, full of content that serves your customers’ needs: how-to guides, equipment reviews, camera comparison charts, and so on. It’s a vital part of customer acquisition and engagement, and it’s something consumers increasingly expect from the brands they shop with. And while this has a value all year round, your slow season is the perfect time to focus your energies on your blog for profit.
There are a number of ways you can monetize your blog. You could introduce ads onto your blog through Google AdSense — this lets related (but non-competing) businesses advertise on your blog – without costing you a cent.
And signing up to an affiliate scheme is a good way of boosting profits while capitalizing on your niche readership. Find a non-competing photography business and sign up as an affiliate partner, then create content that links to their websites. For every visitor you direct to their website that converts, you get a portion of the sale — it’s a win-win.
Blogging requires little financial investment on your part but can reap you financial gain during your off-season.
Diversify your services as a photography business
One of the best ways to stay profitable throughout the year, even in your slow season, is by diversifying your services.
Find another business offering that has demand all year round, and you’ll have a steady source of income to keep you running — even if the sales are relatively negligible compared to your usual offering.
The key to this is finding a channel that you can capitalize on using your existing resources. The staff and equipment you currently have should be able to easily transfer across to this new business avenue.
For example, if you specialize in school photography, then your business will likely be restricted by seasonal school photo opportunities. But you could easily diversify by offering portraiture services to businesses, wedding planners, and so on.
Diversifying doesn’t need to be costly either. There are plenty of e-commerce platforms that let you quickly create an affordable and easy-to-manage online store.
That said, it is worth finding one that supports the visual nature of your business. Shopify, for example, combines a user-friendly dashboard with strong Instagram integrations. This lets you reach prospective leads on social and sell products on a populous social platform. It’s a low-cost way of exploring new commercial channels, expanding your business beyond your web presence.
As well as physical products, consider selling less tangible products too. Online photography courses are easy to create using your existing resources — Northpass is a great app that you can use to record and share courses that are intuitive and user-friendly into the bargain.
Look at the resources you currently have to hand and consider how you can capitalize on them to diversify your business further. It will require a little time and effort, but is worth it for the mitigating effect on your business during the slow season.
Partner up with a non-competitor to mitigate impacts
This might seem like an unattractive option at first, but bear with me. By partnering up with a non-competing business that offers similar products or services, you can limit the negative impact of your slow season.
Businesses that offer complementary products or services can work together to mitigate their losses in their respective slow seasons, piggybacking off each other to stay profitable. Many businesses collaborate with similar brands in this industry, and it’s a valid channel for your business’s growth as well.
For example, let’s say you provide courses for amateurs and advanced photographers seeking to up their skill. You could hook up with a camera equipment retailer and direct your clients to them as part of your course.
You could even take this further by collaborating on other things too, such as sharing staff, office space, and other resources. This requires more of a commitment on your part, but when both businesses need to mitigate their losses during the off-season, it’s a partnership that makes sense.
Don’t let slow seasons drag your business down. There are ways that you can batten down the hatches and stay profitable, even without your usual peak sales. Follow the tips above and you’ll weather the storm until business picks up again.
A writer and small business owner, Alexandra is an expert in all things content, freelance, marketing, and commercial strategy.