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Anonymous asked:
Hi Zack, If your business was experience the following sales losses, would you say it's time to close the doors? The numbers are like this: This year - sales down 25%; last year - sales down 60%; year before that - sales down 25%; year before that - sales down 12%. Basically four years of large sales losses. Prior to all those losses I was steadily climbing. So, is it time to shut it down and move on to something else? Or, what would you do to recover from these losses?

I can’t say if you should close the business but it is time to find the leaks in your boat and figure out how to patch them ASAP because with those numbers the doors will close for you.

I’m in a weird spot. I interact with A LOT of photographers. I see some growing their business. I see others filling out applications and getting a day job again. I see some buying new gear and others selling cars. 

Part of me says you should have started patching two years ago. Maybe you did. Maybe they didn’t work. Maybe you didn’t find the right patch. I don’t want to armchair quarterback your business since I know nothing about it.

In this industry, right now, you’ve got to be ready to diversify and make some shifts in 30 days time. My music work fell out from under my feet about five years ago due to gas prices, the industry, and the economy as a whole. A perfect storm hit the musicians I was working with and my business dried up. I immediately shifted to headshots. I was also teaching more back then and that helped fill in the gaps. As I was teaching I was repositioning myself to shoot commercial work. The music work is slowly coming back. The commercial work grew to the point that I could shift away from teaching and concentrate on shooting more.

I’m not too proud to throw myself back into weddings or family portraits if I had to. I want to stay rock steady on my course but the world throws you sucker punches and you have to react and react as quickly as you can. Sometimes that reaction is shedding expenses. If I had to walk away from my studio and let my studio manager go I’d have to do that to stay alive. If I had to sell some gear, I’d sell gear. 

I do have contingency plans in place. If things got bad again I could sell my Phase, most of my lights and grip, and strip down to two Fuji cameras, three lenses, two speedlights, one Alien Bee, and liquidate the rest. That could give me a couple of months of breathing room as I was hustling my ass off 14 hours a day to drum up new work from my dining room table.

I’m really sorry you’re in this position. I know damn good photographers closing shop right now because of the flood of weekend warriors, the economy in general, and other outside forces that are eroding their work away. It sucks but you as an individual can’t stop these forces. Even we as an industry can’t stop the weekend warriors and the pop-up overnight and gone in the morning photographers.

You have to be nimble and ready to move and shake and knock on new doors. You have to shoot better. You have to deliver a better experience. You have to maintain the buzz. You’ve got to run circles around the weekend warriors. You have to become a better photographer and a better business person. It’s hard hard hard work. As, I’m sure, you know.

I hope you find those holes and I hope you find the right patch. Or I hope you can make a clean break from all of this. Step away for a few years. Catch your breath. And come back and kick a lot of ass. 

IF…. IF that is what is going to happen for you….


Keep shooting. Now just shoot for you. Build a new body of work while you are “out of the office” for the next year or two or whatever. Shoot for you. Make it really personal. Stay in the game with the craft so when you do make a return it’s with a new vision.

Ya know… that sounds like an awesome thing to do.


PS - For everyone who reads this blog with questions about getting started in the professional side of this craft…. This is the reality you need to face. You can go out there. You can build a business. You can start to turn a profit. And… it can start to crumble and it’s a scary place to be.

Watch this video about Todd Sanders of Roadhouse Relics in Austin. Pay special attention around the 2 minute mark.

"If you’re living your life where you scare yourself a lot that’s really living."

"You’re going to die anyway whether you take the chances or not. You’re still not getting out of here alive so you might as well scare the crap out of yourself and do the things that are really important to you."

Easy to say.

Easy to agree with.

Hard as shit to do.

56 Notes

  1. dimsumdaily said: My studio has zero clients right now.I have to get a part time job to pay for that space and my focus right now is on headshots but since the rule is ” if you don’t have it don’t show it” I’ve been hustlin’ this month working for free to get it done.
  2. amillerfoto said: This has been a great post Z