The Plateau

Made U Look Photography

May 14, 2013

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I don’t know about you, but I always do my best thinking in the bath. I’m sure it’s something to do with switching off, being away from technology and allowing my mind to wonder. Regardless, as I soaked in the tub one day last week I started to think about business plateaus, or more specifically, what to do about them.

The first few years of running a business are a super exciting. You’re pushing yourself, growing and learning, all while (hopefully!) having a lot of fun as you go. Yes, it’s a scary time but it’s also a super satisfying one. If you’re doing all the right things, you’ll be into a steady flow of getting enquiries, booking clients, then getting too many bookings so putting your prices up a little bit, getting back to a steady flow… and so on and so forth.

But then, and likely around the two or three year mark, something different starts to happen. You, as usual, put your prices up a little bit more to stem the flow (you can only take on so many clients after all and no one wants to work on loads of weddings getting paid a pittance for each one) but the result is different… zilch… nadda… nothing. Suddenly it’s not so easy to get bookings. You ramp up your marketing and you’re still getting enquiries, but after sending out your price list people aren’t immediately coming back to you with the same joyful exuberance about confirming you for their wedding. They’re either trying to haggle or you simply never hear from them again.

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I was chatting to a wedding photographer recently who has put her prices up to what some may consider the top end of the UK market in the last few months. She noted that with the price increase, this year she is shooting about half the number of weddings than she was in 2012. Of course this is not necessarily a bad thing, after all who wouldn’t want to do half the work for the same amount of money? But I caution you, resting on your laurels here is a dangerous game and a sure-fire way to be overtaken by a much more eager and proactive competitorWe all want to be progressing our businesses, right? And if making as big a profit as possible is a goal for you, sticking with 50% of the work for the same money isn’t moving forwards at all, you’re just standing still… with more free time.

This is obviously going to be really frustrating. You feel that you’re at a price that you’re worth but it’s getting harder and harder to confirm those bookings. You’re staring at a crossroads because you still want to be working with the fun and creative couples, but it seems that all the creative couples also have creative budgets…  So how do you stick to your guns and charge what you feel your skills and time are worth without going under in the process?

If I’m being honest, I don’t have a concrete answer for you right now, but as my bath started to get a little chilly, I did begin to think about what you could do. Firstly, you could put your prices back down, or offer discounts to encourage people to book you. It might not be the most thrilling idea but it is viable option, one that many choose to take. While this may initially get you back into the swing of booking clients, it’s never going to be feel good only doing so because you’ve put your prices down. An alternative might be to look at other products that you could offer your existing client base. If you’re a photographer you could work on pushing your album and print sales or offering anniversary or baby photo sessions. A dress designer could start a bridesmaid’s range and a stationer could design greetings cards that, once people are already aware of and love your work, they’d be likely to purchase instead of popping down to Paperchase.

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Another idea is to diversify your income by adding more strings to your bow. This is probably why we’ve seen such an influx of industry professionals hosting workshops, running independent weddings fairs and selling products in the UK recently. Are they all doing these things because they have a strong internal desire to teach/ host events/ create Photoshop actions, or are some people just looking for new ways to earn more money?

At The Blogcademy we talk at length about the importance of diversifying your income as a blogger (and all the different ways to do it!), and I completely believe that other professionals should think about the idea too. Hitting a pricing plateau is often the catalyst, but if you’re not there yet, why wait!? Give yourself a head start and begin thinking of other things you can do to avoid that dreaded slump in bookings having such a detrimental affect on your bottom line.

Obviously this is all going to be hard work and diversifying your income is never easy. Why? Well you’ll probably have to learn a completely new skill set and to start pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, just like when you started out the first time. You’re pressing the restart button and at some point you’re likely to feel the fear all over again too.

So, are you up for a new challenge?