Preparing for Your Annual Retreat

In the past we've talked about the idea of an annual retreat for your photography studio. Are you going to do it?  Don't know where to start? Here some things you can do to prepare for your annual retreat. The more preparation, the more you'll get out of it. Actually, this is just good to do at the end of each business year if you want to grow your studio. In order to see more clearly how things are going with your business, you need to take a step back from the day to day operations, and conduct a higher level review of your studio from top to bottom.

Review the current year budget:

  • Where has been your biggest expenses?
  • Any ways you can reduce those expenses? (One year we saw we were spending over $7,000 on proofs alone! We cut those from the packages the following year, no one noticed).
  • What areas of after sales are dismal? What can you do next year to improve those areas? (We cut the digital negatives from sessions and instead offer a $100 print credit with each session. Now we get nice after sales from our engagement sessions).
  • Are you actually making a salary this year?

Start putting together next year's budget:

  • Can you afford to invest in studio management software like Shootq, Studio Cloud or Tave? If you are starting to feel like you could really use some part time help, invest in studio software instead. It's much more affordable.
  • Do you need to invest in any new equipment?
  • What kind of marketing do you need to invest in, to meet your income goals for next year?
  • Have you allocated enough for sample albums?

Gather booking stats:

  • How many total bookings did you have?
  • Where did they come from, how did they find you? (don't guesstimate, count each and every one)
  • Average package amount

Identify bottleneck  and trouble areas:

  • How long does it take you to deliver a wedding to a client?
  • Does it take forever to finish and ship a client album?
  • Does customer service take a hit during the busy summer months when you can barely remember your own name?
  • Are your prices so low you feel you are being taken advantage of by clients?
  • for partnerships, are roles clearly defined?

This is by no means an exhaustive list, just some ideas to get you started. Your photography studio deserves your attention and focus. Take the time at least once a year to take a step back and reflect on the improvements you want to make, set goals for yourself, and better understand your finances. If you want to take your business to the next level, you need to get your financial house in order so you can see what's going on. Then, you decide if you like what's going on, and where you need to make changes. Marketing is something you need to do every year. If marketing doesn't happen, most likely business is not going to happen.

Here are a few posts that you should review in thinking about strategic changes to make in order to streamline your photography business and improve your sales and marketing:

Photography Marketing: Figuring It Out

Wedding Marketing: Best Tips and Tricks

Photo Editing: Tight is Right

Remember, it's about the process. Help us create a more complete list. Let me know in the comments what else to add to this list.

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Shannon Rosan November 21, 2011 at 5:32 pm

This is such a great article! I really need to do this for my business.

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Lara White November 22, 2011 at 9:30 am

Shannon,

I could honestly say the retreats are the reason our business grew each year. We were able to identify the problem areas and see where we needed to make changes, and then focus on that area all year. we also discovered where all our leads were coming from and then increased those areas the following year. It’s really the best thing you can do for your photography business.

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