Written by Meghan J. Ward
Feature photo by Paul Zizka

You had ideas, dreams, business plans. You had a bucket list of places you wanted to photograph, some gigs booked, a conference you were looking forward to attending. You had a sense of possibility, of growth, of a bright future; that all your hard work was coming to fruition.

Then, COVID-19 changed everything. Everything.

What’s a photographer to do?

Like every business, OFFBEAT has been called to change our plans and pivot our business around travel restrictions, business closures and more. Our team is made up of passionate photographers who are all dealing with the pandemic in their own lives and businesses. Like all of you, we are trying to figure out how to manage things while we’re on “pause” – waiting for someone to press the “play” button again.

In addition to that we’re concerned about loved ones. Some of us have children in our care at home, which is compromising on our abilities to attend to other aspects of life. We’re figuring out what “normal” is while the headlines leave us reeling from a quickly evolving global situation.

We don’t have all the answers or any for that matter, but we thought we’d share how we’re choosing to weather this storm with COVID-19. At least, for now.

1/ Focus on high-priority items

Spend some time glancing through your usual task list and highlight the items that will have the greatest impact on your work and business, even amidst all the unknowns today. For some, this will be organizing tax documents, for others it will be creating social media content or communicating with clients. If you’ve got less time to work with, you’ll have a clear sense of direction. If you’ve got more time to work with, you won’t be overwhelmed by all the possibilities.

2/ Maintain a presence online

More than ever, people are communicating and connecting online. Make sure you’re there, and be mindful of what your presence brings into people’s experience when they log in. How can you brighten their day? How can you support your client base or online community during these uncertain times? Can you use this time when other parts of your business and usual photo activities are inactive to increase your online presence?

3/ Accept the “not knowing”

These are extremely unusual times. You can speculate and wonder until the cows come home, but the reality is that not even experts can agree on when this will all be “over.” Even when it’s over, we’ll be living in a new world, and one we’ll need to learn how to operate in. As hard as it is, save your mental energy for what you do know and what you can focus on. What we do in the here and now matters now. How it’ll impact the future is something we can’t be certain of with this pandemic.

4/ Pivot your business

For those of you running a photography business, you’re very aware that nothing is the same and many income streams have dried up, at least for now. But, this is still not a time to make rash decisions, especially while we’re in a “wait and see” phase of the pandemic. For now, pivot your business to focus on community-building, client care (where you can) and content creation. It may be difficult to create new images right now, but have fun creating content for your blog, website and social media out of images sitting in your catalogue. Focus on what you can do to be ready when “normalcy” returns.

5/ Consider new products

A number of revenue streams are on hold right now while the whole world is on hold. This might be a time to be creative about offering free or paid products that you can disseminate online or from a physical distance. Some photographers have turned to webinar platforms to move their content online. Others aren’t doing anything “new” and that’s OK, too. It’s alright to wait and see how things unfold.

6/ Keep up-to-date on government programs

We have members around the world, who each will need to consult with their respective government initiatives to see what types of financial aid can help carry them through this period of uncertainty. Even those who are normally ineligible for employment insurance may find some relief through programs like the Emergency Care Benefit, to be unrolled on April 1. Canadians can consult this listing for guidance.

7/ Keep learning, when you can

The world won’t be at a standstill forever. You can keep growing in your craft and learning more about photography, even if things feel like they are in limbo right now. Many of you find yourselves with more time than ever, isolated at home. Your mental health will benefit from you being stimulated and engaged. Check out OFFBEAT’s Webinars to keep you creatively fuelled – we’re adding new ones every few weeks!

8/ Take care of you

Browsing your Facebook feed can be overwhelming as you’re bombarded with news about COVID-19. You might find yourself comparing to other photographers and how they are handling this crisis. We’re all better off taking care of our basic needs right now. Stay healthy, eat nutritious food, get light exercise, prioritize sleep, and stay in good communication with your friends and family. This might mean aspects of your photography or business slide, but what’s most important is that you’re taking care of yourself.

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