How I Sold A Half Million Dollars in Photographic Art Online During A Pandemic
To Say It’s Been A Rough Year Would Be an Understatement. My heart goes out to each and every one of you who have lost a loved one, family member or friend to this terrible health crisis. While nothing compares to this tragic loss of life, Covid-19 has caused a ripple effect of financial hardship across America and around the world. In one way or another the pandemic has affected each and every person on this planet.
The Struggle of Small Business
The writing has been on the wall. For decades small businesses have fought to maintain a footing in an economy dominated by large corporations. In the 1980s, half of retail shopping took place in independent stores; today, it is less than one quarter. From 2002 to 2017, Home Depot and Lowes almost doubled their joint share of the home-improvement retail market, from 42 to 81 percent. Even before the coronavirus struck, in 43 metropolitan areas more than half of all groceries were bought at Walmart. Many small businesses won’t outlast the pandemic. Yelp reports that 140,000 business on its site closed between March 1 and June 15, with 40 percent of the closures being permanent.
The Power of Hope & Dedication
When reports of the pandemic began to reach the public, I, like many of you was immediately concerned for the future. As a father of two young children, I thought of what this meant for them. How this would change them and the world they live in forever. As a small business owner, I thought of the steps I would need to take to adapt and survive and at the same time, how the pandemic may change the lives and needs of my clients around the world. I walked away from my professional career six weeks before our youngest child was born in an effort to follow my dreams as an artist and build a better life for our family. I have been fortunate to spend every day since, at home by his side.
The Facts of Life
In this life, the only constant is change. Those who choose to fight the current often end up tired, beat down or worse. In contrast, changing direction and focusing on opportunity when facing adversity can build strength and facilitate future growth. The one thing I was sure of was that there was a storm coming and I didn’t want to get caught out in the rain.
Forks in The Road
When I began this journey back in 2013, I knew that building a business based on my passion for photography wouldn’t be easy. It takes dedication, intuition and willingness to find new and creative ways to succeed. Whenever I reach a fork in the road, I often find myself going straight. By the end of my first year in business I had already achieved success in my own mind. By the fourth year, I had achieved success in the eyes of those closest to me and by 2019 I had built a brand that was highly successful by any measurement. With the arrival of the Tasmanian devil known as 2020, I knew I needed to shift gears again if I was going to make it safely through to the other side. It was time to get back to business.
Whatever You Do Don’t Panic
In business, as in life, bad things happen. The product that I provide to my clients is a luxury, not a necessity. With shadows of economic uncertainty, luxury products will typically be the first to see decreased sales. Where others may have pulled back, I doubled down.
Successful marketing takes both time and money. Cutting off the supply to these channels will only further reduce your revenue. Regardless of the challenges you will inevitably face on your journey, the worst thing you can do is panic. The courage to push through, against your better judgement, can be the difference between success and of failure.
Always Have A Plan
When you have your own business, you always need to have a plan. In fact, you need a plan A, a plan B and a contingency plan…. for when it all hits the fan. One of my greatest strengths is my ability to stay two steps ahead at all times. With many companies working from home I saw an opportunity to fulfill a need as families across America were spending day in and day out staring at the blank walls of their homes. Many of us are missing out on time spent in the outdoors in nature and traveling. What better way to bring the outside in and invest in the beauty of their homes than through dynamic nature photography.
Provide Greater Value
There are very few industries where the product or service you provide is truly unique. If you and your competition offer the same, or similar products, the way to set yourself apart is by providing value. In the world of high-end art, I offer a product that is often times superior to my competition with a cost of investment that is considerably less. I provide exceptional levels of personal support before, during and after the sale. I offer incentives for both new customers and return clients that show that I understand their needs and care about the outcome of their decision to work with me.
Expand Your Offerings
With changing times come a shift in needs as well. The products and services that you currently offer may need to be modified, expanded on or redeveloped to meet this need. When there has been an economic disruption, new products that fit into a different price point may be beneficial. While change can be uncomfortable, it can also bring new opportunities and increased exposure as well. Everything changes. Embrace it.
Reinvest in Yourself
While we are many times our own worst critics, we are also our biggest fans. No one cares about the success of your business more than you do. This is why, with each success, it is critical to reinvest a portion of your time, energy and capital back into the business. In uncertain times, when your competition may step back or reduce their efforts out of fear, these investments in yourself can have greater impact and stronger returns.
Give Back & Lend A Hand
Successful businesses rarely exist in a vacuum. The strength of the products and services you provide are dependent on strong business and customer relationships. Cultivating and nurturing these relationships in good times will ensure that people are there for you when times are tough. Reaching out to this support group when you are able, in an effort to return the favor will go a long way in strengthening these partnerships.
At the same time, it is important to reach a hand back to those following in your footsteps. This principle only builds upon the good name you have worked so hard to create for yourself. Many small businesses attempt to safeguard their success through secrecy. The truth is that there is much to be gained by helping those who look to you for inspiration.
Throughout my career I have helped countless fellow artists in all areas of business and photography in general. Over the past six months, due to the changing times brought about by the pandemic, I have seen a significant increase in the number of clients looking to participate in my mentoring program. It has been very rewarding working with fellow photographers and a joy to see them succeed as well.
The Future Is Now
There is no question that Covid-19 will impact and influence vast areas of our lives going forward. One of these areas at the top of the list is commerce. Consumers will continue to shop online in increasing numbers. Retail companies will need to focus on digital connections first. Post-Covid, the travel industry and anything related to it will see a massive spike. Consumers will want a more visual retail experience, with AR/VR and other online experiences leading the way and more dynamic shopping experiences in person. For those in business, especially small business, eyes wide open is the only way forward in these changing times.
Aaron Reed Luxury Fine Art
I consider myself fortunate that I have been able to build my passion into a successful brand and even more so that I have been able to increase my sales by more than 20% in the middle of a pandemic. While many choose to focus on the negative during these difficult times, I believe that we need to share more stories of hope, of success and of inspiration. If you have enjoyed this article and would like to learn more about the work I produce and how I have become one of the most successful fine art nature photographers in the world today, I invite you to browse my website or find more informative and inspirational stories on my blog.