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How to survive as a small business in the Covid-19 outbreak.

How to survive as a small business in the Covid-19 outbreak. Friends, this is frustrating. And frightening. The Covid-19 pandemic is bringing the world to a standstill and small businesses are but some of the casualties.

As a Camp Hill, PA Photographer, I’ve been effected in many ways.  Weddings and sports are canceled, hospitals are prohibiting birth and Fresh 48 sessions. Clients are canceling high school senior, maternity & newborn photo sessions themselves as a precaution. This is income I rely on and now it’s delayed at best or gone for this year at worst. So what can YOU do to survive as a small business in the Covid-19 outbreak? I have some ideas to help. These ideas can’t bring those jobs back, but maybe, just maybe, they can help you hit the ground running when the world is ready to open up again.

Take Some Time To Grieve

This is a devastating time for photographers right now. In fact, thousands of small business owners and self-employed folks are struggling. It’s perfectly okay to be mad, frustrated, scared or sad. Acknowledge those feelings and let them wash over you so you can process them and begin to come to terms with them. It can be tempting to tell yourself “But so many people have it worse. I’m selfish for feeling this way when it’s so much worse for so many other people.” You might even hear that from family and friends. I know I have. And I call bullshit.

Your fear & frustration is very valid. Just because others ‘have it worse” does not take away from your feelings. Allowing yourself to be mad or sad or scared doesn’t make you ungrateful for what you have; it simply makes you human. You can also be grateful for other things in your life and still experience suffering and pain. Feelings aren’t mutually exclusive. Your frustration, your fear, your pain…it’s real. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad for grieving the loss of this season and what it means for YOUR business. If all of this is too overwhelming, please seek professional help. It’s just as important to protect your mental health through this crisis as it is your physical health. Know you aren’t alone.

Connect With Other Businesses On Social Media

The entire WORLD has been turned UPSIDE DOWN. Every type of small business is suffering, all the world over. So please don’t feel like this is just you or your clients. This is literally happening everywhere. And it sucks. If it helps to talk with others facing your situation, consider joining some FB groups with other small businesses. Central Pa Supports Small Businesses is a great group to help support each other.  Other ones I’ve found to be great for information about how to apply for benefits is Pennsylvania Small Business Owners Seeking Rational Action to support one another right now.

Will the industry look the same as it did even a week ago? Probably not. But people will want and need our services once again when these restrictions are lifted and we start defining what “normal life” is again. Your concerns about the short-term are warranted. But I really don’t believe the need for what we have to offer ends right now. We Will Survive!

So What Can You Do?

Focus on the short-term first. Get in touch with clients you have on the books for the next few weeks and discuss how to proceed. Start the discussion yourself and focus on postponing or rescheduling sessions. For Photographers, Weddings will still take place. Families will still want family photos (maybe more so later on!) The class of 2021 will want senior pictures. True, some of your sessions can’t be rescheduled. Birth photographers, for example, are locked into a specific moment in time. But can you still serve that client even if you can’t be at their birth? Can you provide them with milestone sessions? A lifestyle session documenting a day in their life?

Think creatively about how you can still serve your clients!
Consult An Attorney About Your Contracts.

I’m seeing a lot of information passed around about what to do with deposits. Are they refundable? I’m not an attorney. These are unchartered waters, friend. No one knows how these will be viewed by the courts because we’ve never had to navigate this situation. This is a public health crisis. The point is, you might be getting some really bad, and incorrect, advice. If you want to know what part of your contract is enforceable, contact an attorney. They’ll need to see your contract and get the specifics to give you good solid advice. As much as Karen from facebook wants to hold herself out as the expert here, she’s not. (My apologies to all of you named Karen. I’m sure you’re all quite lovely.) I know the last thing you want to spend money on is an attorney. But a small fee right now might save you big down the road if you’re considering enforcing your retainers or deposits.

Survive As A Small Business Owner In The Covid-19 Outbreak.

Take a break from social media.  I realized I might need a break from social media. If all the stories and fighting and incorrect information are causing you stress, walk away from them. Answer questions through your business accounts but stop your feed. I installed this “Kill News Feed” Google Extension that blocks my feed so I could be more productive. But it’s also really helpful for when you need to take a break from it all. Keeping your spirits and morale intact will help you survive as a small business owner in the Covid-19 outbreak as much as anything.

Don’t Stress What You Don’t Know.

Focus on the here and now. You can worry about June & July soon enough if it comes to it. Take things one week at a time. Or one day at a time if that’s all you have in your right now. It’s much more manageable that way.  Don’t borrow trouble right now. I myeslf have been wondering, should I take on small sessions? Outdoor sessions? What’s okay to shoot right now? Honestly? I don’t know. I can only tell you what’s right for ME right now. And that might not be right for You.

Educate Yourself

The first step is to educate yourself about health risks and your social responsibilities. Educate yourself from reputable sources. See what your local health department is saying about continuing to conduct business. Then make your decisions. Don’t consult your local FB group because they really won’t be any help. You’ll get the gamut of answers from “Sure, it’s no big deal” to “You’re going to Kill Us All.” Again, consult the experts and make the decisions based on their guidance and what’s best for YOUR business.

Creative Ideas To Generate Some Income

A few ideas for income include: Sell gift certificates.  Offer an incentive to buy and pay for them now, such as buy one get one get one free or a buy one get a free later, etc. Anything to get some income coming in now, when you need it most. Contact old clients  and see if they are interested in purchasing things they didn’t before. Again, a great deal or incentive might help them move off-center. Try offering virtual sales.  There are plenty of ways to get the word out there with your offerings via facebook lives & instagram stories.  Take initiative to at least try.  You never know who might be interested. Add new friends & get new follows & likes!  This won’t generate huge income right away but it will give you something to do and hopefully grow a passive income stream you can use in the future. Use your related skills to generate some income. See if you can pick up some freelance writing jobs, website design, marketing consulting, etc.

Grow Your Virtual Community

During the coronavirus scare focus on growing your virtual community.  We will ALL be using social media more and more in the coming weeks as we look to stay connected to one another. Not only can you stay in touch with your existing clients, but this might also be a prime opportunity to connect, virtually, with new clients. So use this time to focusing on connecting and serving a virtual community. Offer some virtual services to your community. If you can’t get out to work, what can you do to serve your community, virtually, right now? We’ve got technology on our side! This is the time to use it and be creative. Host a Facebook live!  Put together a virtual class via Zoom on DIY.

Write a lesson plan moms can use with elementary school.   This is the time stand out from your peers by being part of the solution!

Blog

Catch your blog up with business related content. Or, and I know this sounds crazy, get ahead on your blogging! Write enough content to post for the next six weeks to six months and really crush it!  Work on your social media feeds. People will appreciate seeing “normal” posts. In fact, we are so inundated with Covid-19 posts and shares right now that your posts will probably stand out even more!! Get to work planning your social media posts for the next several weeks. Block out a few hours right now to plan your content through the end of May. What can you share if you aren’t generating new business? Share different business aspects from old stuff. Business tips. Funny memes. Uplifting stories. Share old blog posts. You still have content to share, even if you don’t have clients right now!

Update your marketing material

This might not be the time to advertise or market your services. But you can definitely get all your material in place for when the time is right. That welcome guide you’ve been putting off? Build it! Need to overhaul your pricing sheet? Do it now! This is a great opportunity to work on things like: price sheets, welcome guides, what’s next cards, referral program material, FAQs, magazines, brochures, rack cards, business cards, etc.

Update your website

Add new images (following best SEO practices of course). Freshen up your about me page. Add new backlinks to existing content. Or completely redesign it, if that’s been on your to-do list.

Work On/Start Your Email Marketing List

If you haven’t already started an e-mail marketing list, this is a great time to do so! If you have a marketing list, set aside some time to make new content for it!

Create/Revise Client Templates

I use templates to speed up my workflow when communicating with clients. If you don’t use templates, make some now. If you have templates, review them. Do they still meet your needs? Feel like you? Communicate your brand?

Brainstorm And Plan

If you didn’t take some time to plan out your year in December or January, now is the time. The next few months are still very much uncertain. But it won’t hurt to sketch out a plan for summer, fall and winter. What would you WANT your schedule to look like then? Do you want to offer a new type of product? Go after new clients? Get new accounts? Start planning for that now and work on your supporting material.

Reach Out To Other Small Businesses Or The Self-Employed

Have you ever wanted to collaborate with a vendor but you weren’t sure how? Reach out now and have some virtual meetings! Other small business owners stuck on the sidelines are probably every bit as frustrated as you are. Put your heads together to come up with some cool co-projects or co-marketing strategies to implement when we get the all-clear.

Take some online courses There are so many online resources available right now to help you grow.

Helpful Links;

Filing for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)

PA CORONA VIRUS NUMBERS

JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY CORONA VIRUS WORLD MAP

Plan for Pennsylvania

Contact Tisha For More Information On How To Support Small Businesses.

My goal is to keep posting positivity.  As your local Camp Hill, PA Photographer I want to help out and practice what I’m preaching!  Click here to contact me & or connect! 

XOXOXO, Tisha

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