Where did The Game Plan come from?
It feels very strange to be finally putting this out into the world, because the truth is, initially I just made it for myself :)
A reactive passenger in my own business
When I started created this, I’d been working as a successful photographer for a number of years but felt very much like a passenger in my business – that it was driving me, rather than the other way around. I had no strategy for gaining clients and no routine or system. My clumsy ‘marketing’ consisted of posting the odd image on Facebook, blogging shoots when I remembered, passively waiting for enquiries to come in with my fingers crossed, relieved if they did and panicked if they didn’t. I was happy with my photography, but I lacked confidence communicating the value of my work and had no idea about marketing. I relentlessly went round in circles tweaking my editing/website/brochure and spent most days chaotically and reactively fire-fighting my workload, haphazardly completing tasks without any purpose or focus. I was constantly busy but felt like I was spinning my wheels and going nowhere. It was overwhelming and exhausting.
Time for a change
About three years ago, just after the birth of my second son, with less disposable time than ever, I decided things had to change - crossing my fingers and hoping for clients was clearly not a business strategy. I made it my mission to stop faffing around, to learn and improve as much as possible, to use my precious time more productively and, most of all, beat the overwhelm. I invested a huge amount of time and money on self-development. I worked with a mentor, a business coach and completed branding, marketing and productivity courses and diplomas, as well as devouring articles, books, videos, blogs and podcasts… It was all completely invaluable and easily the best thing I’ve ever done for my business. But the irony was the more I learned, the more things were randomly piled onto my ‘to do’ list and the more overwhelmed I felt.
Tired of trying to piece together a strategy from so many different sources and random articles and advice on the internet, I realised what I needed was a one-stop-shop, a system that drew together everything I’d learned into a single, step-by-step, comprehensive plan that I could follow each year. I couldn’t find anything similar anywhere for me to buy, so I decided to make it myself, and The Game Plan was born :) It was a game changer. My salary increased, my productivity increased, I had the confidence to stop shooting weddings to focus on family photography, enjoyed a consistent stream of ideal clients and finally felt in control of my business.
A simple system to help photographers grow and breathe easier
Connecting with other photographers through running workshops and 1-1 mentoring, I started to hear SO many others voice the exact same struggles that I’d experienced myself. I see so many photographers who are such lovely people with such crazy talent, yet who work themselves into the ground, sacrificing time with their own family and friends because they lack confidence in the 'business' side of things and get tangled up with organisation. They've had the grit and courage to set up their own creative business but then feel so overwhelmed by the range of tasks facing them that they freeze and start to doubt themselves.
Once I realised that others needed the ‘Game Plan’ as much as me, it became a complete no-brainer to share it. It's what I wish I'd had when I first started out and would have saved me a LOT of blood, sweat and tears :) It’s taken over a year to formalise it all and transcribe my private scribblings into clear slides, videos, worksheets, templates and resources that others can understand, use and learn from… But finally I’m so proud to say that The Photographer’s Game Plan is here! If I can help even one other frazzled photographer to breathe easier and feel more confident, fulfilled and in control of their business then it’s been worth every second :)
The root(s) of problems and successes
During the past few years, learning how to more efficiently grow my own business and supporting other photographers to do the same, it's become clear to me that to move forward you need a clear strategy that rides on mastering three crucial areas:
BRANDING Clarity on your business' unique personality and vision
MARKETING Magnetising your ideal client through valuable and genuine connection
PRODUCTIVITY Clear focus, planning, organisation and efficiency
The problem with this? They also happen to be the three areas that come up time and time again when photographers say what they most struggle with:
BRANDING "There are so many of us and I don't know how to stand out" "I struggle to explain what's unique about me and my business" "I'm struggling to attract the right clients / I'm attracting the wrong type of clients and don't know why" "I always end up feeling that I just have to compete on price" "I spend a lot of time obsessing about what other photographers are doing and feel dragged in a million different directions"
MARKETING "I lack confidence putting myself out there" "I hate marketing" "I'm just not a businessperson and struggle with that side of things" "I don't want to sell out or be too 'salesy' but I really want to start earning a decent wage from this" "I've no idea how to juggle all the different types of marketing and social media"
PRODUCTIVITY "I just can't get myself organised, I feel like I'm chasing my tail all the time" "I've a massive 'to do' list but have no idea where to start or what order to do things in" "I'm knackered and overwhelmed" "I want to drive my business forward but still want to have time for my family and friends" "I feel like I have no time for fun or creativity as I'm spending all my time buried in all the other aspects of running a business"
It's geeky Venn Diagram time!
Yes, I clearly need to get out more, but I bloody love a good Venn Diagram, and creating this was the ultimate in maximum dorky satisfaction :) It's the perfect way to illustrate the 'holy trinity' of branding, marketing and productivity so please excuse my embarrassingly geeky joy in sharing this with you :)
What I've realised over the years is that most photographers' problems, including my own, stem from neglecting or struggling with one or more of these three key areas (see diagram above). Many photographers are strong in at least one of them, which gives them the momentum to get their business off the ground. Some photographers are strong in two, which carries them further and enables them to grow their business, but usually while experiencing struggles that aren't sustainable or desirable. It's when they're strong in all three that the lightning bolt strikes and the magic happens.
Another problem with not working on all three is that neglecting one area can actually derail the others. Weak branding damages marketing, as it lacks impact on others or attracts the wrong clients, and reduces productivity as there's no deeper purpose, passion or vision to drive goals and give direction. Weak productivity cause you to burn-out which can damage your own faith in your brand and make marketing seem too overwhelming to attempt. Poor marketing weakens your brand by neglecting connection with your 'tribe' and damages your productivity by running you ragged with a 'hit and hope' approach to gaining business.
Enter... The Game Plan (and a mega-dorky car analogy)
The Game Plan was specifically designed to assess and fix all three of these areas, and to be reused each year
Life changes, your family changes, the photography industry changes, society changes, technology changes, you change, and your business has to change and grow alongside all of this. So it's not enough to look at these areas above once, and then forget about them - they need regular reappraisal and maintenance to keep them all running properly. Personal development and changing values or priorities might demand a rebrand... A new or discontinued social media platform might mean rethinking your marketing... A new baby or unexpected illness can throw productivity right out the window. Also, unless you're completely insane, NO-ONE creates a detailed plan for further than one year ahead - so you'll always have new goals and want to create a new plan each year, and this system is designed to help you do exactly that.
If there's one thing my embarrassing old brain likes more than a good Venn Diagram it's a good analogy, so 'buckle up' (see what I did there) for yes, you guessed it, a CAR ANALOGY 🚗 (please don't hate me).
Your business is like a car - it needs to be reviewed each year. It runs best with an annual MOT (to check there's nothing glaringly wrong that needs fixing) and service (to ensure all key parts are in optimum working condition). Yes, it can run without them, but not reliably and it's more likely to break down, and you'd have far less confidence to take it on long or adventurous trips. Your business is no different - if you regularly ensure there's nothing negative going on and that all its essential components are working as well as they can, you'll have the tools and confidence to plan bigger journeys and drive it further into new territory. All you then need is a roadmap (to show you the route to the exciting destinations you want to go).
SO WHAT EXACTLY DOES THE GAME PLAN COVER?
The Game Plan covers the following 10 areas - and yes, I couldn't help myself, I'm continuing the car analogy 🤓 because the easiest way to think of the Game Plan is like your business' annual MOT, service and roadmap :) Every area listed below is broken down into step-by-step, easily digestible, bite-size units... each containing simple exercises, templates and workbooks to guide you through it.
THE 'MOT' BIT
1) An assessment of your current brand's strengths and weaknesses, so that moving forward you understand exactly what needs to be kept, developed or changed (branding)
THE 'SERVICE' BIT
2) Discovery of your 'WHY', so that you develop a unique, fulfilling, memorable brand, intrinsically connected with the things you value most in life - differentiating yourself in a crowded marketplace with an individual and authentic offering and vision, rather than competing on price (branding)
3) A clear plan and simple techniques to magnetise your ideal clients (your 'tribe') - passionate, loyal, ideal clients who 'get' and value what you do (branding/marketing)
4) A system to consistently generate powerful and engaging online content that your 'tribe' will love and that connects you to them (branding/marketing)
5) Create captivating and efficient online 'shop fronts', with an effective blogging and social media plan for the year ahead that's easy to follow and maintain (branding/marketing)
6) Design compelling products and services built around exactly what your ideal clients want and love, with simple and effective pricing strategies (branding/marketing)
THE 'PLAN AN EXCITING TRIP / ROADMAP' BIT
7) Set aspirational annual goals for the year ahead, with clarity on how they can translate into focused quarterly goals (productivity)
8) Formulate a focused 12 week strategy for the next quarter, intrinsically linked to your annual goals, with a clear written plan for how to achieve them (productivity)
9) Craft solid, focused and achievable annual and quarterly marketing strategies, with trusted, effective, gentle and accessible marketing techniques - marketing doesn't have to be scary! (marketing/productivity)
10) Enjoy calm, focused and productive working weeks and days, knowing you're always concentrating you energy on what's most important (productivity)