After almost 20 years in the business, plenty of busy times, slow times, crazy and quiet times, I've learned a couple things. While there's tons of MUST DO'S for every photographer, here are a few:
1. Network, network, network. You don't get away from this one. As a matter of fact, for us artist, we must network even more. We've got to be in front of people, constantly reminding them of our services. Not just at networking meetings, but also with robust marketing campaigns, advertisements, social media, etc. Remember, on average, you need to make 5+ impressions before a person remembers you, in today's overly graphic world.
2. Put the camera down! Sounds weird, I know...but...ask a successful attorney or businessperson how much time they actually spend in a courtroom, versus the time they spend working with paperwork, consultations, prep, and building their businesses. It is so incredibly imperative that you spend a significant amount of time actually tending to ALL portions of your business...not just the camera in hand part. Which leads me to...
3. Then pick the camera up! This is what makes it challenging to be a photographer. We must be businesspeople, and artist. All the time a shop owner, salesperson, doctor or attorney devote to building and maintaining their business, we must do as well; but it is important to remember to make some camera time for yourself. You've got to keep the creative part of your brain moving.
4. Don't be a slave! Look, our industry has been taken over by manufacturers who have tried so hard to convince us that we need to have the latest, greatest, biggest, fattest camera and lenses, and the newest tech. We try to convince ourselves that we need to have all these other things...we don't. Get equipment that works for you, that satisfies your customers needs...by all means don't turn into a dinosaur, but don't get caught up in the consumerism.
5. Invest. Invest your money correctly(back to #4.) Invest your time wisely. Invest in educating yourself. Take some business/finance courses. Open a retirement account.
There's no handbook, or instruction manual, but these basic points should keep you pretty much clear. Do any of you have any other good suggestions? I'd love to hear some!