The NAPCP Retreat is a great place to meet amazing photographers and colleagues, gain inspiration, and up your game. However, after meeting at the January 2016 NAPCP Retreat, Kim Tank and Willy Wilson never would have guessed that they’d become one of the most important resources in each other’s photography businesses!
As solo-preneurs, photographers often don’t answer to anyone but their clients. For some, that might mean being on time or even ahead of schedule for client related tasks, but often the other business-related chores get put off or start piling up (blogging, anyone?). What if you had someone to help keep you accountable for those daily tasks that are so important for overall success of your business?
Willy and Kim were both energized and motivated by the planning session Alice led at the 2016 retreat. However, both were executing few of their plans. One day, Kristin Milito and Carolyn Ryan posted photos from a video chat in the NAPCP Facebook group, and Kim was inspired. She had just finished reading Brian Moran’s book The 12 Week Year, and asked if anyone wanted to be her weekly business chat buddy. Willy volunteered. Six months later, both of their businesses have distinctly altered and improved as the result of their weekly Skype conversations.
Willy and Kim put together five reasons for photographers to have an accountability partner:
1) Short Term Goals for Long Term Success – The 12 Week Year talks about setting goals for your business on a quarterly basis, versus an annual basis. It is more difficult to predict outcomes 6-12 months in advance, and typically people fail to act on their goals until the last minute, thinking they still have time. Subsequently, they continually fall short of their objectives. By treating each quarter as a “year”, there is a closer deadline to measure success or failure, so you’re more likely to get those important daily and weekly tasks done to achieve your goals. Kim even hired Jennifer Kapala, who will be teaching at the NAPCP Retreat, to help her with her goal setting. Sharing your goals with someone who you are checking in with each week will increase your likelihood of achieving them.
2) Weekly Accountability – When you’re the only person in your business, having an accountability partner allows you to have weekly check-ins, which help keep you on track for your goals. You tell your accountability partner what you are doing each week so they can hold you accountable for what you want/need to get done. They aren’t going to scold you for not completing your tasks, but the awareness that someone is going to be asking if you completed them is terrific incentive to ensure that details get completed.
3) Marketing Ideas – Choosing an accountability partner who is in the same industry gives you twice the brain power around marketing plans. Sharing ideas and results for new campaigns, addressing and sharing thoughts on unsuccessful marketing in the past, helps both photographers advance their marketing at a much faster pace than simple trial and error, or buying online marketing programs from a stranger.
4) Knowledge Sharing – It’s incredibly helpful to have someone to bounce ideas off of and help you work through decisions or ideas you have. You can’t and don’t know everything, and everyone has their special gifts. Your accountability partner will have resources you don’t and vice versa. From where to get photo boxes, tips on Photoshop, workflow, studio management systems, or presentation skills, you and your partner exchange information to enhance your business every time you talk.
5) Friendship and Connection – Being a photographer can get lonely. A fringe benefit to the development of your weekly chats is that you become involved in each other’s lives. Your support system is expanded and you become true friends. Your photography accountability partner is someone who really understands what you’re going through. Maybe that’s not just a fringe benefit but, rather, one of the biggest values of having an accountability partner.
Ready to have an accountability partner but you aren’t sure where to start? Here are some guidelines for creating a prosperous accountability partner relationship:
1 – Pick Your Partner: A photographer acquaintance or friend would be the first place to start. If you don’t know anyone personally but are a member of a photography community such as NAPCP, try reaching out to someone you think would be a good fit for you. You don’t have to be in the same niche of photography, you are primarily looking for someone who is willing to commit and wants to improve their own photography business. Perhaps even your business coach or mentor could be your accountability partner (although this relationship will be more one-sided).
2 – Plan Your Meetings: Once you find a partner, determine what you’d each like to get out of your check ins. What will you discuss? Will you have a main focus? What will you do if you find yourselves getting off track in your conversations?
3 – Plan Your Check-In Interval: Determine how often you will chat. Will it be weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, or some other interval? Weekly meetings work best to keep things on track, but it all depends on your schedule. Try to meet no less frequently than once a month, though, otherwise you lose the benefit of the check-in.
4 – Commit Your Time: Succeeding in meeting goals requires commitment. Agree with your partner on how long your sessions need to last and carve out the time on your schedule. Think of your weekly check-in as a weekly management or marketing team meeting. That seems pretty important. Commit to sticking with the process and you will see immediate benefits.
5 – Plan Around Interruptions: Life, business, vacations, illness, and clients will eventually mess with your scheduled meetings. Be prepared to have a backup plan. If your schedules don’t align, can you check-in via email? Reschedule for a different day? Skip a week? What kind of priority will your check-ins have?
6 – Spread the Love: Kim also checks in with Jennifer Kapala, her business coach, and Willy talks with Lisa Dowty and Molly Garg almost daily. Contrary to popular fears, connections with other photographers will help your business thrive.
Kim and Willy chat weekly by Skype for 60-90 minutes, which allows time for going through the weekly lists, setting new goals, sharing ideas and personal stories. The main focus of the chats is to share the list of things accomplished from the week and plans for the following week. These items often spur discussions about marketing or creative ideas, how to handle specific situations with clients, editing, pricing, family, and the ever present Cat Named Weenie. When they have a session or important appointment during their usual chat time, they try to reschedule and worst case, email each other their weekly lists. Willy and Kim have never gone more than two weeks without a check-in because they both make it a priority in their schedules.
Having an accountability partner will help you achieve success and prosperity in your business and grow your heart with a new good friend.
Want an accountability buddy and don’t know where to start? Post on the NAPCP Member Community Facebook page (you must be a NAPCP member to do so). You’ll be sure to find a great partner!