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You started (or are planning to start) your photography business because you are confident you have the technical skills and experiences to compete in the marketplace. Developing business skills is another necessary component of a successful business. Granted, learning those may not be as appealing as learning the latest photo technique, but improving your business knowledge can’t be avoided.
This PhotographyTalk.com article presents some ideas you can use to create a well-rounded professional/business learning process for yourself. The first of these ideas is not to rely on one source for information and guidance. Instead, seek a diversity of professional education content and advisors.
Creating a process that will help you improve your professional development and business knowledge starts with first setting goals. Your goal could be to complete your college degree; to earn a business or marketing certification by studying a specific body of knowledge, and passing an exam; or to learn a set of skills that will allow you to manage and market your photo business better.
Step One: Work on the Self
As a professional photographer that interacts with people every day, manages a business and maintains a family life, it’s important that your personality, attitude and spirit are strong and well anchored. You can accomplish by working on the self.
There are many speakers, books and recordings in the self-help genre. That’s a good thing because you are more likely to find a person or materials that strongly connects with you. It’s also a bad thing because there are more opportunities to spend your money on the wrong source and some that are simply re-cycled and re-packaged to sell you something.
Commit to reading one “self-help” book per quarter, as a starter. Do some research. It’s easy to find reviews of the top-selling books. Ask your friends and associates which authors and books they’ve read. If you join a community or civic organization, then ask other members. That will cost much less than attending a seminar or buying a CD series. You can even find many of the best titles at your public library. If you find an author and a message that resonates with you, then your investment in his or her seminar or other materials will likely help you the most.
Inspiration is just one part of working on the self. There are also personality assessment programs that will help you understand yourself better, and then make improvements where needed. These, and similar, programs are often presented in a step-by-step structure, so you can set goals and work through the materials to accomplish those goals.
The Small-Business Model that Works
Improving your practical business knowledge can take many forms. The seminar circuit and bookstores are inundated with speakers, books and other materials about what you need to know to operate a successful small business. Again, be selective and choose the contents that help to solve specific problems or challenges you are experiencing as a small business owner.
Do you need to develop a different mindset and process to find and attract more customers? Then, seek information about how to do that.
Does setting and following a strict operating budget every month, year challenge you? Look less for business inspiration and more for practical strategies to control your spending and to boost sales.
Another solution is to consider the great diversity of business courses offered at local community, junior or four-year colleges as well as online higher-learning institutions.
Seek a Mentor
Mentoring is not just for wayward teens. Mentoring within a profession or industry is also a common practice. Regardless of your age or the number of years you’ve operated a photography business, seeking the support and guidance of a mentor may be the best strategy to improve your professional and business development.
Your mentor could be another commercial photographer or a local small business owner that has successfully operated his or her business for years, even decades. An excellent source of a mentor is a community or civic group (Elks, Kiwanis, etc.). Many communities also have programs with retired businesspeople providing free consultation.
Caution: When you seek personal, professional and/or business development programs in the marketplace, thoroughly research your potential sources. Read the companies’ or individuals’ Web sites. Look for Web search listings with reviews and comments about the programs and contents. Ask for the names of people who may have attended a seminar or bought a book or a CD series and had positive and negative experiences. Then, contact them to learn why you should or should not rely on the information being presented and/or sold.