By applying the same management techniques that are used by successful businesses, you can move your stock photography operation forward. Here are some self-management principles for the small business entrepreneur:
ASK AROUND. Don't reinvent the wheel. There's a goldmine waiting for you in the neighbor or friend or acquaintance who's already been there. He knows the pitfalls, barriers, and obstacles, especially if he's failed. Everyone loves to be an expert. Weigh their opinions against others’, and then come to a consensus. If you don't want to consult a local competitor, phone someone in another like-sized city who is traveling the same highway.
ELIMINATE THE LOSERS. Take time to analyze what's working for your business and what's not. Parts of your business are moneymakers, others are not. Don't let sentiment or the tired phrase, "We've always done it this way," drag you down.
LOOK LIKE A PRO. Too many entrepreneurs feel that because their product is good, it should sell. Not so. A "better mousetrap" will not insure your product's success. Employ packaging techniques. You don't get a second chance at a first impression. If you want first class sales to your clients, give them first class treatment. Build a quality website. Invest in deluxe stationery, labels, and product packaging.
DO YOUR HOMEWORK. Jumping in with two feet and enthusiasm is fun and romantic, but unless you've checked to see if water is in the pool, you're in for some disappointments. If your enthusiasm is still high after you've done your research, you've got a winner.
UNDERSTAND MARKETING. Your product will sell if you position yourself effectively. Super umbrellas won't sell on a sunny day, but even poor ones will sell easily in the rain. Your success today will reflect not only your product's worth to a customer, but your ability to find that customer's need and fill it.
SPECIALIZE. In the last century, the keyword was 'versatile'. In this century, the markets are too fragmented to be able to be all things to all markets. Choose your corner of the market and develop it. Become an important resource only to certain consumers.
BE BUDGET MINDED. You'll see your product in national circulation if you have the cash flow available to pay the production, phone, office, and other bills. Don't fall into the Madison Avenue trap of buying a new car, new clothes, new office equipment, over the counter drugs, high-calorie 'goodies', and other creature comforts that are supposed to make your life fulfilling. If you donate your cash to these dollar-gobblers, you have no cause to say, "The cost of getting into business on my own is too high."
FAIL BUT DON'T QUIT. Are you afraid you are not going to make it? Fear of failing is one of the greatest deterrents to beginning entrepreneurs. That's why not too many succeed; they never get up after they've been knocked down. Most successful people in any field have failed many times. The difference between you and them is that they never quit.
UNDERSTAND BRANDING. Develop a “style” about your stock photo business – and stick to it. That includes your actual photos right down to your stationery. Develop a logo and a simple “catch-phrase” you can use in your promotions and advertising.*
PLAY NOT WORK. There's a saying, "The luckiest people sweat the most." Yes, it's going to require long hours. But don't translate that to mean work. If you love what you're doing, it's all play. Choose your area of stock photography interest first by asking yourself, "What area do I love most?" Then do your research and find out if there's a market for that area. If there is, it'll be all play.
START TODAY. Most people spend their time preparing, rather than doing. "One for the money, two for the show, three to get ready, four to get ready, five to get ready..." Start today.
- - - - - - - - - - - -Rohn Engh is director of PhotoSource International and publisher of PhotoStockNotes. Pine Lake Farm, 1910 35th Road, Osceola, WI 54020 USA. 1 800 624 0266; Fax: 1 715 248 7394. http://www.photosource.com
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