As we saw in Part 5, there are a whole range of pros and cons to either diversification or specialization. So how do you decide when the time is right to either add new services or become more specialized? First, take a good look at how your photography is progressing at present. Are you happily specialized in an area that you are passionate about and don't get bored with? Do you have more than enough work to keep you happily occupied? If so, perhaps there is little need to change at this time. This might change later, either through growing boredom, increased competition, or other factors.
Becoming more diverse: If you have decided to diversify, you must decide how much and how quickly. Remember that you can diversify fully or partly. You can also plan to roll out new products and services slowly over time so as not to disrupt your existing clients and create too much chaos in your studio. If you have studio staff, there may be retraining issues to deal with, as you do not want your quality of service to drop while your staff is getting accustomed to the new demands of different types of clients. When introducing change, you can also hit resistance from staff who really do not want to change what they do and how they do it. This can be a challenging management issue in its own right. Plus, you can also hit resistance from existing clients who may be concerned about a reduction in the quality of the work you will supply them or in the attention they will receive.
Becoming more specialized: If you currently have a fairly diverse photographic business, you may decide to focus more tightly on a smaller range of photographic products and services. You may even choose to specialize in a single field. Again you need to manage this process so as not to cause undue stress on yourself, staff and existing clients. Even as you attempt to wrap up your services to existing clients, keep in mind that it is wise not to upset them. Because everyone changes over time, these clients might need your new photographic services sometime in the future.
Reducing the diversity of your photography can provide you with opportunities to add real depth to your photography. This can be highly rewarding. It can also allow you to brand yourself differently, pursue something you have always wanted to, and perhaps open up passive income streams that will serve you well in the future (we'll be covering passive income in Part 7).
Tightening the focus of your business also gives you an opportunity to improve your time management (as discussed in Part 2) because you will be removing the more time-consuming and less profitable areas of your business. (You do measure profitability and time efficiency of your different products and services, don't you?) Specializing also gives you the opportunity to remove clients or types of clients that you find are more trouble than they are worth.
Managing change: Whether you are diversifying or becoming more specialized, you must manage the change for yourself, staff and existing clients. If you manage change well, you will upset the least number of people. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be willing to upset some people if you really have to. There will always be people who will get upset when you stop offering something they have traditionally been getting from you. Just try to minimise the number of people you upset.
Crafting the scope of your business requires extreme care. Too much diversity can lead to inefficiencies, lower quality, and lower profitability. Too much focus on a single type of business can lead to burnout, missed opportunities, and reduced cash flow. Because it is so critical to your success to offer the right balance of services, you should monitor your mix of services closely and periodically make it the focus of a real review process.
Part 7 of the series will cover Production: Turning Services into Products. Till then, happy and profitable photography.
Wayne Cosshall’s brand-new book, Photography Wisdom: A Practical Guide to Photography and Self-Expression, is now available on Amazon.com