What do we do now? Tips for small businesses during COVID-19

I will be posting #coronamemes throughout because we desperately need humor right now.

Holy crap, what a month we are having. I don’t know about you but I am on high alert, my nerves are shot and I feel like I have to brace myself every time I turn on the TV. Our clients are rescheduling, no one is shopping, nothing new is being booked. No one is spending money. Everyone is in panic mode. Small business income has just come to a screeching hault. I know what we are all thinking, “How will we survive this?”

First of all. Do not panic. I know everyone says this but it is true. Take a deep breathe. Panic doesn’t help us at all. Not one bit. It muddy’s our thoughts and puts us in an attempt to react when what we need to do is handle what we can control… we need to be proactive.

So, what can we actually control? What can be done now? 

As as small business owner, if you are at all like me then you know there is ALWAYS a running to do list. It just grows longer and longer and you never get around to stuff. It stinks. Well guess what, THAT is what you should be doing now.

I go over this in a video at the bottom of this post. That video goes into a few industry’s other than just photography so if you are retail or food related, you might check that out below. Otherwise, these are tips that I have for all my fellow photographers out there.

1. Get your taxes ready to file. Yep, I said it. Dig into your 2019 finances deep. Get all the docs ready to file. If you end up owing a ton and don’t have the discretionary income set aside then file with a deferment. At least you will have gotten this big task done.

2. Now that your taxes are filed and you have all your 2019 year end numbers together, review them! Then run numbers for 2020 year to date and review them. Before covid-19 hit, were they trending the way you had hoped? Had you been reaching your biz goals so far? If not, start drafting a plan to make that happen in 4th quarter of this year when things *hopefully* begin to settle. (praying big here)

3. Update your website. This is always at the bottom of our list and it shouldn’t be! Update pictures, galleries, listings, your about me page, etc. 

4. Along with updating your website, BLOG! Y’all most of us are SO bad at this but it is so important for website SEO. Use this “time off” to write write write. If I were you I would be writing as many posts as possible and having them set to auto post in the future. Y’all with 2+ weeks off and no clients, you could write your blogs for the rest of the year if you wanted! (dreaming big here)

5. Plan ahead your social media posts. Go as far out as you can. Look at the calendar and pay special attention to holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, etc. Don’t be afraid to be honest in what you write about. Your customers and followers want to relate to you now more than ever.

6. Start a newsletter. (Or continue to send one out). BUT make sure that you are not pushing sales in it. I understand we all need money right now but do you want to be sold to? Instead be encouraging, understanding, and supportive of one another. Voice that you know times are hard for everyone and that you want to just remind them that you will be there when this is all over. Maybe use this time to promote other small business, what you are doing to stay sane, life hacks from your own home, etc. Now more than ever we need to get personal because we have all be separated from society.

7. Practice daily shooting in home. Yep, now is the time to start a 365.

8. Pull out old images to edit and share before/afters. People LOVE before and afters. If you don’t have enough current work to do, pull out old ones. I personally LOVE an excuse to pull out old images of my kiddos from when they were itty bitty.

9. Share your old work. Content is content and just because the image has been seen before doesn’t mean that you can’t write something new to go along with it. And plus most people don’t remember seeing an image from the past.

10. Catch up on all client work. This will be that one time that we have 100% caught up on all editing, blogging, invoicing, communication, etc. Enjoy it.

11. Update your online galleries. This is high on my to-do list. My online galleries are WAAAY too old. It is quite embarrassing.

12. Play with creative techniques that you are always wanting to try like motion blur, freelens-ing, low light and film. We have time, so why not get creative with different techniques.

So, I gave you a small to do list and hopefully seeing that you have a LOT to focus on will help you breathe a bit easier. If you can’t tell, I am a do-er and staying busy helps keep my anxiety away.

A few more quick points: When you are in conversation with your clients, show empathy and understanding when they reschedule. Honor their request with grace and understanding. The fact of the matter is, we are all scared and we all need to be saving money right now. For most of us photography can wait. It stinks. And they are probably disappointed too. If you treat them right, THEY WILL COME BACK when things are settled. I promise.

For all you Moms out there, now is not the time to try and be a screen free home. I mean it. Just let your kids have the TV and their ipads. We are in a scary situation that we have not navigated before. We are in survival mode. Survival mode is not the same as “pinterest mom” mode. Will I be trying a few activities with my kids? Of course. Will I allow them way more than normal screen time? Yes to this too. There are a lot of hours in the day to fill and when we need to actively work and parent at the same time, something has to give. Don’t try to be a hero here. Give yourself grace.

When you have the choice, support a small business over a big corporation. If you cannot afford to now, please keep them in mind and choose too when things begin to rebound and you can later. 

Lastly, I know that this post may not have touched on anything for your particular business. If you have concerns or questions that I did not address, I want to try and help you. Feel free to email me your situation and questions and I will try my best to come up with some ideas for you. There is no charge for this and I promise I won’t try to sell you anything, I just want to make sure that as many small businesses as possible make it through this. You can reach me here.