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There is no worse feeling in the world than being in business and have the phone stop ringing. It happens. It almost has to happen. Very few of us in life get to remain on a linear trajectory upwards; winter always follows summer and fallow periods invariably beget spring planting. There are just going to be downtimes in your photography business and creative life. The real question is not how to avoid them, because you can’t, but how to make best use of them personally, professionally, and more importantly, creatively.

For most photography businesses, the holidays can be a regular downtime. Since you’re always working months ahead of the real world (you’re doing your winter holiday work in the fall, for example), while the holidays are in full swing, you might be in a slow period. The end-of-the-year holidays are not only a time to enjoy friends and family, they are also a great time to give thanks.

Gratitude

When the phone stops ringing in November and December, take the time to give thanks, not just by sending out promotional material posing as greeting cards, but to seek out your clients and find ways to thank them for their business throughout the year. Even more importantly, seek out clients who didn’t hire you and thank them for giving you the opportunity to potentially work for them. You never know when your gratitude will turn into work down the road.

Giving Back

And speaking of gratitude, finding a way to give back to the community you work in is a very good way to show your appreciation for the life you have, especially if your business is struggling. Giving to people who have less than you will put things in perspective. The holidays are a great time to do something good without getting recognition for it. The one person who will benefit most is you.

See more: How to Give Back as a Photographer

Taking Stock

After the holidays are over, it might get real quiet. That is the best time to take stock of where you are as a photographer. Ask yourself some questions like:

  • How did I do this past year? 
  • Did I meet my goals? Did I set any goals?
  • What do I want to accomplish in the new year?

Taking stock and setting goals are two vitally important parts of your life as a photographer and a business person. If you don’t know where you are, chances are you don’t know where you’re going, and if you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll wind up nowhere. Take the time to take inventory:

  • What’s working? 
  • What’s not working?
  • What can you get rid of?
  • What can you improve on?

photographer-working-on-floor

The Creative Side

Most importantly, what do you want to do creatively? Ask yourself if you are happy with the work you’ve been doing. Determine if there is an area where you’d like to be doing more work. Now is a good time to plan on creating a portfolio of work that you’d like to do in the future. The more questions you can ask yourself, the better the chances you’ll have to move forward as the year progresses.

Taking stock is something that should be done on a regular basis if you want your work as a creative business to continue to grow, and if you want to grow personally, professionally and creatively. If you are one of those rare birds who doesn’t have any downtime, good for you! Just be sure and take the time, make the time, find the time, to weave into your work life a period of reflection and inventory every year. Don’t wait until the phone stops ringing to catch up on life for yourself. Taking the time for a break or even regular vacation, and taking time to look within and around you without the pressures of work hanging over your head each day will provide you with some much needed rest and offer you a chance at some perspective in life. It is your sense of perspective that makes you a creative artist, and no one can be completely creative and open to new worlds when the world you’re engaged in is always placing demands on you, or just as bad, the demands you might be placing on yourself. So, step back now and again. If your business is slow, give thanks. Use the time wisely. Business will be back soon enough. You want to be ready for it when it does, so that you can take it where you want to go, and not let it drag you around. This is your life, your business, and you get to decide where you want to go.

James Schuck

James Schuck is a writer and photographer working in Southern California. He is a graduate of the School of Visual Arts in New York City and has photographed everything from Architecture to Auto Parts to Cookies to Portraits and Weddings.

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