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For photographers, the first few months of the year are typically very slow. This can be frustrating and, well, really disheartening.  

What if you were so busy this year that you didn’t plan for the slow season? What if you find yourself in mid-January with an empty calendar? 

Below are a few ways to plan accordingly and suggestions to make it through the slow season without losing your mind!

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Add Sessions

Look at the seasonality of your business. When do you find business slowing down? Consider adding sessions that will appeal to your clients to soften the seasonality. 

If you’re a mini session photographer, try adding year-round mini sessions. Even if you aren’t a mini session photographer, this type of photoshoot can help you drum up business during the slow season.

Mini sessions are shorter shoots that produce fewer final images at a more affordable rate. You can book several shoots back-to-back, completing several shoots at one location in one day. With fun themes and creative marketing, you can use mini photo sessions to increase bookings when business is slow. 

For example in January, offer sparkler minis or New Year’s baby minis. In February, offer Valentine’s Day mini sessions, followed by spring-themed garden center minis in March. Check out our 12 Months of Mini Sessions Calendar for more fun ideas!

If you are interested in more information check out our ebook,  Mini Session 101,

Pro Tip

If you find you are slower in the beginning of the calendar year, set a reminder to market your business to book sessions during January-April.

Increase Sales

When you need to increase bookings fast, there are several powerful marketing strategies you can use, including:

  • Create urgency in your messaging (e.g., saying you only have X number of slots available for the rest of the month or using a strong call-to-action message like “last minute openings—book now”.)
  •  Emphasize a clear, urgent call to action in all messaging. This can be something like, “my calendar is filling up fast, so secure your shoot NOW.”
  •  Share beautiful example images via your website and social media
  •  Respond to previous inquiries that are sitting in your inbox, explain that you now have last-minute openings available
  •  Send exclusive  “first dibs” emails with a specific offer to existing clients
  • Posting in local Facebook groups about your limited-edition mini sessions or the last-minute openings you’re trying to fill for the month
  • Always ask family and friends to share your posts
  •  Run ads on social media and/or Google

For in-depth information and advice about these strategies, read our post How to Book Clients for This Weekend.

And whatever you do, don’t give in to the temptation to discount your rates. Discounts undervalue your work and can lead to confusion about your pricing, encouraging clients to haggle or question your prices later. In addition, if you offer frequent discounts, some clients may even wait to book sessions because they expect you to offer lower prices in the future. 

Pro Tip

During your busy season, make sure that you are budgeting a cushion in your finances to support yourself and business during the slow period.

Woman at desk working on calculator.

Review Your Business

Extra free time isn’t always a bad thing! So take advantage of the opportunity to review the last year of your business. 

Start by reflecting on everything you’ve achieved. Make a list of all your accomplishments. This will give you encouragement and a confidence boost if you start feeling down during the slow season. Plus, you can get ideas and inspiration for the year to come!

Next, look for ways to improve in the year ahead. What sold well and what didn’t? Are there any processes you can manage more efficiently? How can you improve your marketing and client communication? Review your photography as well. Do you need to improve certain aspects of your work?

It’s a great idea to review your business annually. Take stock of what you’re doing well and what areas can be improved upon. This way, you’ll go into the new year with clear ideas about how to continue growing your business.

Woman at desk look at 2022 goals notepad.

Set Goals for the New Year

After reviewing your business, it’s time to set goals for the new year. Break your goals into three areas: Professional, Personal, and Financial.

Think about what you would like to achieve with your business. What should you focus on to continue growing?

Personal goals are equally important because it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, overworked, and exhausted when running a small business. Think about your ideal schedule, how you’d like to manage seasonality in the future, and whether you’re clear on your boundaries. Consider connecting with the local photography community or other small businesses so you have a like-minded support system to talk shop with.

Suppose you haven’t nailed down your pricing, mastered some of your financial goals, or created a financial system for your photography business. In that case, financial goal setting should also be a major priority. Make sure you’re legally set up correctly. Review your income for the year and brainstorm strategies to increase revenue.

Make sure every goal you set is both manageable and measurable. Start with a big vision, then break it down into the smaller steps you must accomplish along the way. 

Final Thoughts

The slow season is a tough time for photographers. Brainstorm engaging, non-seasonal sessions you can add to increase bookings and revenue while business is slow. Use marketing best practices like including an urgent call-to-action, making it quick and easy to book, and including high-quality images. Leverage email, social media, paid ads, and word-of-mouth to reach more people.

If business is still a bit slow, take advantage of the extra time to review the last year of your business to set strategic goals for the year ahead. We’re often so caught up in the day-to-day frenzy of running a small business that strategizing slips off the radar. The slow season is an excellent time to analyze what you’ve done so far, what you should continue doing, and what you’d like to improve on for the future.

If you didn’t plan for this slow season, consider how you can manage better next time around. Make sure to budget and save and plan strategies to book sessions in advance for your slowest months.

Before you know it, business will be booming once again. By using your slow season to strategize and set goals, you’ll be ready to handle all seasons successfully!

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