How I Structure “Off-Season” Success In My Business

Mar 6, 2017

I’ve said it before, but off season can be a blessing and a curse. Anyone who is not a photographer or small business owner in the wedding industry often has their jaw on the floor when they hear that we “work” 6 months out of the year and spend another 6 “off.” Here in Minnesota, we experience 4 season’s so the “on” season takes place between the Summer & Fall months and November-April are considered “off” as the winter rolls through!

I remember my first year as a full time photographer – I  had just finished photographing 90 Seniors and I thought off season was BEST time of my life. I went from running around like a chicken with their head cut off to a vegetable in bed. The two seasons felt like polar opposites. Physically, mentally, and in every way! I went from trekking hills and fields which amounted to at least a few miles a day to hardly moving from my bed to the couch. My editing list went from 5-10 in the queue at a time to 1 a week if that! I even remember this time of year last year thinking, “I am so bored – maybe I’ll go get a seasonal job just for fun.” What, Whitley?! I had taken “off” season so literally that I thought folding clothes or becoming a barista for a month or two was the only way I could use my time. I didn’t even realize that this was the time of year where entrepreneurs work on the back end of their business and prepare for the upcoming season! Thankfully, I never actually applied for that barista job, but to say I “utilized” my first off season to advance, grow, or better my business would be the biggest fib of my life.

Let’s face it, I was 17, a full time photographer who survived her first big season, and I thought I was living the dream.

I went into the 2016 with over 20 weddings and 70 Seniors to plan for, so there were plenty of things I could’ve been doing to prepare for the next on season – but I didn’t. My business didn’t fail or fall apart by any means, but it certainly could’ve been planned for in a better way! It’s hard for me to admit that I could’ve done more, but it’s true! There were many aspects of my business I didn’t touch on in that first off season.

Coming into this “off” season, I did just about everything but sit in bed and it’s totally paid off! I am jumping in my skin waiting for May to roll around and I cannot wait continue to elevate my business and personal wellness from top to bottom!

There’s still just a couple months left of “off” season ahead, so I thought I’d and share with you guys a few things I have done this past off season that may help you if you’re gearing up for a successful 2017 season (or if you’re

Establish Your Work Schedule in Advance:

GUYS. This is huge. If you do not plan days “off” or days dedicated to the administrative side of your business (emails, invoices, editing, etc.) you will never have the time for them. Last year I worked nearly 7 days a week because my calendar said I could – and I get it, it’s our business and we are desperate to work on it all hours of the day, but that comes with the sacrifice of time with family, friends, loved ones, and your own adventures. This year, I have my schedule blocked out all the way up until the end of 2017. I shoot exclusively on Tuesday-Thursday. Any Friday I do not have a wedding, I can spend relaxing, doing administrative, and preparing for Saturday weddings! Sundays the big “me” day – this is when I get to spend my mornings with the Lord, alongside those I care about and the rest of the day at my complete disposer!

Hiring & Outsourcing:

Change your life. Free up your life. Hire SOMEONE for SOMETHING! I still have the white knuckles on the steering wheel of my business, but one thing I happily outsourced was my Taxes, Book Keeping, and Financial Planning! Let’s remember, I’m 19 and I never went to college. Even the thought of sitting down and running through my books and working through my taxes gives me anxiety. I outsourced this at the very beginning of my business and it one of the best decisions I have ever made! I work with a Christian Finance Firm called Nuance Financial and they are the best (and if you’re a finance freak like me and listen to Dave Ramsey in the car, you’ll love them all the more. They follow his principals!)

Creating New Avenues for Your Business:

This one in huge for all of you entrepreneurial minded readers! Everyone who knows me personally knows I have always been an entrepreneur at heart. Before I was a photographer, I actually made hand made Decor for all my classmates dorm rooms. I’ve always looked for ways to fuel my passion to create, so this year I introduced Intimates by Whitley B. to all of my Whitley B. Brides and their friends! It has grown so quickly over the past 4 months since I launched and it is something I work on growing everyday! It’s like my little baby that brings me all kinds of joy and allows me to further serve my wedding clients!

Network & Connect with Others:

 My first year, this looked a lot like establishing connections with fellow photographers and like minded entrepreneurs. This is one of the best ways I spent my time last year (outside of vegg-ing in my bed!) and because of it I have so many talented creatives I am able to call my friends now! I still meet with new people nearly every week, but this year I set the intention of connecting with YOU! When Instagram Live came about, I was so excited! We all know I’m using it all of the time but that is because it has turned my followers into friends! We interact on a daily basis and I’m able to respond to your comments and questions. Finally, we’re able to break that wall that makes me feel far away. So whether its connecting with fellow creatives or your following base, you can’t go wrong! Start putting yourself out there!

PLAN for your PERSONAL Wellness:

I’m ending with this one because it is huge and directly effects the success of your business, and even more so, the enjoyment of your success! This is something I neglected for the first year and a half of my business. Completely. I didn’t take care of myself in any way. It was business first, business last, business always.

Hear me here, friends:

My business was booming and it was something that I will always count as my biggest blessing – I know without a shadow of a doubt that this is the Lord’s calling for me and what He has put on and in my heart from the very beginning. I’ve been a loving servant since the moment I picked up a camera and followed His call, but, it wasn’t until this past year that I realized that through my business I needed to be a SERVANT to Him and not a SLAVE to my business.

I’m still working through this and it is something I plan to talk more about in a future blog post dedicated solely to this topic. It’s just a whole new can of worms. BUT, this year I finally established a system that works so well for me and I am extremely excited to share this with my fellow photographers! I used to wake up and check my  emails first thing in the morning and hammer away at emails and business throughout my entire day, only for night to fall and for another day to have past without a healthy meal, a good workout, or even a moment of prayer. My new way is completely “unconventional” but spend my entire morning of everyday from the moment I wake up to 11:00 am to myself. I wake up around 7:30 everyday and my workout classes typically all around go until 9:30 or 10:30. I’ve realized that this is something that can be sustainable not only in off season, but in on season too! Evenings get messy in the off season, sessions start late into the night for that golden sun and its hard to establish any kind of long lasting routine that time of year. But, I realized one thing that can always remain constant is my mornings to myself! So, now a days I spent 3.5-4 hours of my day reading my Bible, getting in a good sweat, fueling myself with a nice breakfast, and setting my whole day up for Wellness. If you’ve never though to arrange your day this way, try it!! You are a hardworking boss lady and you deserve some you time, everyday!!

I hope this long winded blog post gives you a few ideas of ways you can better your business and prepare for a killer year! Take each day one step at a time and tackle that to do list sitting next you with grace! Happy Monday, my friends!!

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